The 8-man division of Maine high school football is going to grow next fall, and at least two central Maine schools plan to join the league for its second season of play.

Mount View and Waterville are among a group of schools making the move to 8-man football next fall. The list includes Dirigo, Mt. Desert Island, Spruce Mountain, and Camden Hills. Last fall, 10 teams took part in the inaugural season of 8-man football, divided into two divisions based on school size. The small school division included Old Orchard Beach, Boothbay, Sacopee Valley, Traip, and Telstar. The large school division consisted of Mt. Ararat, Maranacook, Yarmouth, Ellsworth, and Gray-New Gloucester.

The Maine Principals’ Association football committee is scheduled to meet Monday morning to discuss changes to high school football alignment for the 2020 season.

Both Waterville and Mount View’s decision to join the 8-man league is pending school board approvals at meetings scheduled for Monday.

“We hope to be able to build up our program to where it used to be and be competitive in 11-man football,” Waterville athletic director Heidi Bernier said.

In 2012, 2013, and 2014, Waterville played in three consecutive conference championship games. In the five seasons since, the Purple Pantthers went 11-31 and saw participation drop. Waterville went 2-6 in the Class C North Big 11 Conference last fall. The Purple Panthers had 26 players in each of the last two season, Bernier said, adding that Waterville faced eventual conference champion Maine Central Institute on Sept. 28 with 17 players dressed.

“That became a safety concern,” Bernier said.

Waterville held an informational meeting Monday, at which players, families, and community members were able to hear firsthand from those who played 8-man football last fall. Representatives from Maranacook Community High School spoke favorably of their experience in 8-man football, including quarterback Garit Laliberte, who was selected as a semifinalist for the James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy, awarded annually to the state’s top senior football player.

Mount View finished the 2019 season with 17 healthy players, Tom Lynch, the school’s athletic director, said. That didn’t give the Mustangs enough players to practice against a scout offense or defense during the week. Mount View finished the season with a 1-7 record in the Class D North Little Ten Conference, winning its final game against Washington Academy.

“Our kids were exhausted by the end of the game, game after game,” Lynch said.

This past season, the Mount View youth football program folded, striking a blow to the Mustangs player development, Lynch said.

“It was either go to 8-man or maybe we needed to discontinue football. Nobody wanted to do that. The players coming back said they wanted football,” Lynch said.

Head coach Rick Leary said he plans to continue on at Mount View. Leary attended the 8-man state championship game at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium, in which Mt. Ararat defeated Old Orchard Beach, and liked what he saw. With low participation, this is the right move for his program.

“The kids played hard and I’m proud of them. We just couldn’t compete with no numbers,” Leary said.

While Waterville’s youth football program did not fold like Mount View’s participation is down. In 2015, there were 68 players in grades one through six in Waterville’s youth program, run by the Alfond Youth and Community Center. In 2019, there were 45 football players representing those six grades.

Bernier said the move to 8-man football will give Waterville the chance to schedule subvarsity games on a more consistent basis, something it has not been able to do over the last few seasons.

“We need to offer that experience in order to build our program,” Bernier said.

 

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

 

 

 

 


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