Having observed high school football for a long, long time, I’ve trained myself to frequently stop and reflect on what has transpired to soften the blow in Week 8 when the reality of the season’s brevity slaps us all in the face.

Randy Whitehouse, Staff Writer

We’re already one-fourth of the way through the high school football regular season, and before long the snack shacks will be selling more hot chocolate than cold soda. So, before we forget, here are a few early observations:

• If it seems like games are taking longer, don’t worry, it isn’t just you. Three of the five games I’ve covered so far this season have hovered around three hours in length, and some of my colleagues here at the Sun Journal are finding games ending later and later.

The most likely culprit is the new play clock. The National Federation of State High School Associations changed the rule from a 25-second play clock that starts when officials spot the ball to 40 seconds at the completion of the play. Some argue that this should shorten games, but next time you are at a game, count the amount of time it takes the officials to spot the ball at the end of the play. The vast majority of the time, it will be done in less than 15 seconds.

Coaches like the new rule because it provides a consistent time and rhythm between plays. There’s nothing wrong with that. But games going later means teams and fans getting home very late Friday night or, in some cases, early Saturday morning. Upcoming road trips include Kittery (Traip) to Ellsworth and Camden Hills to Rumford (Mountain Valley). Perhaps it’s time for more teams to adopt the earlier starts schools in Class B and C South have implemented in recent years.

Most of those teams start their home games at 6 p.m. Admittedly, starting an hour earlier can create another set of issues, particularly for working moms and dads. Perhaps teams can split the difference, as Brunswick has, and start at 6:30.

• I didn’t need any more evidence that eight-man football is the best thing to happen in Maine high school sports in a while, but seeing the looks on the faces of Telstar’s players, and reading the celebratory social media posts from Gray-New Gloucester representatives after both teams won last weekend was more than enough to make even the biggest “Now everyone gets a trophy” cynic smile. As luck would have it, the Rebels and Patriots face-off on Friday night in Gray.

• One of the hazards of using the Crabtree Index for playoff seeding purposes has already reared its head with Dirigo halting its varsity season last week. All of Dirigo’s games, aside from its 34-13 loss to Lake Region in Week 1, will go down as 2-0 forfeit losses. Since the Crabtrees combine a team’s winning percentage with its opponents’ winning percentage, everyone with Dirigo on their schedule will get nothing besides an automatic boost to their own winning percentage when the final Crabtrees are tabulated. That makes it more likely that a team with four wins will earn a higher seed than a team with five wins at the end of the season.

This has long been one of the flaws of the Crabtree system, but it’s also the cost of encouraging teams to create more competitive schedules. The MPA seeded teams based on Heal points in recent years, which discouraged inter-class matchups, such as last week’s A vs. B Thornton Academy-Marshwood classic, or this week’s Leavitt-Foxcroft Academy, Class C vs. Class D showdown.

• Speaking of the Leavitt-Foxcroft tilt, a shout out to the coaching staffs of both teams and at least a dozen others around the state whose sideline attire this weekend will include shirts designed to raise autism awareness. The shirts are colorfully emblazoned with the slogan “You Fit Right In!” Well done. High school football games are among the few remaining community events that draw people from all backgrounds together, so any opportunity to send a positive message should be embraced.

• Another reminder of what high school football means to the community is sure to come Friday night at Caldwell Field, when Mt. Blue hosts Brewer.  Assuming there will be a fitting tribute of some kind for Farmington Fire Rescue Department Capt. Michael Bell, who died in Monday’s explosion in Farmington Falls, and all of the first responders who risked their lives, the people of Farmington and Franklin County also deserve to celebrate, and be celebrated, for their courage and humanity.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.