Anthony Mazza of Mountain Valley takes a handoff from quarterback Dylan Desroches during the first half in Livermore Falls in November 2019. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Add Mountain Valley High School to the growing list of schools considering switching to eight-man football next fall.

The school will be holding a community football forum next Tuesday, Jan. 14, to discuss moving the football program from 11-man to eight-man football for the 2020 season.

The forum will start at 4:30 p.m. with a viewing of the 2019 eight-man state championship game between Old Orchard Beach and Mt. Ararat. At 5 p.m., school officials will make a presentation on eight-man football followed by a question-and-answer session.

Nearby schools such as Dirigo and Spruce Mountain have already declared their intent to play eight-man football next season due to declining numbers of players. Like its Class D South rivals, Mountain Valley needs to consider the future of the program for safety reasons, Mountain Valley athletic director Tom Danylik said.

“At the end of our (2019) football season, we looked at our roster and we ended with somewhere between 23 and 25 in our (Class D South quarterfinal) playoff game,” Danylik said. “We’re going to lose 10 seniors from this year, so that leaves us remaining with 15, and our middle school class coming up is pretty small. If we get around five players to come out and play, I think that’s going to be a good number.”

Last year, Mountain Valley finished 3-6 under first-year head coach Devin Roberts, losing to Spruce Mountain in the first round of the Class D South playoffs.

Danylik said part of evaluating the football program or any sport the school offers involves “what is best for the safety of our athletes, so we’re exploring these opportunities of eight-man football instead of 11-man football.”

The Maine Principals’ Association introduced eight-man football last year as an alternative for schools who wished to continue offering football but didn’t have the numbers to sustain a competitive team throughout the season. In its inaugural season, the statewide eight-man class consisted of 10 teams, including Telstar and Gray-New Gloucester, split into two, five-team divisions, one “small school” and the other “large school.” At the end of the year, the small school champion, OOB, played the large school champion, Mt. Ararat, for the state title.

Spoiler alert: Mt. Ararat won the state championship game, 58-25.

Andrew McDonald of Mountain Valley High School carries the ball to the 1-yard line against Spruce Mountain in Livermore Falls in November 2019. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Eight-man football has been played throughout the country for decades, and there has been an independent league in Aroostook County, but last year was the first time it was sanctioned by the MPA.

In Maine, the game is played on a field that is 100 yards long (120 including end zones), the same as 11-man, but narrower (40 yards wide instead of 53 1/3). The rules are essentially the same as 11-man football, except players are not required to wear specified numbers on their jersey to be considered an eligible receiver.

In addition to Danylik, Roberts and Mountain Valley principal Matt Gilbert, Maranacook varsity coach Jordan DeMillo is expected to be in attendance to help answer questions about eight-man football. Maranacook finished 9-1 and reached the large school division championship game last year.

Danylik said MPA executive director Mike Burnham is also expected to be on hand to give context on the long-term outlook for the Maine high school football landscape.

“I think that’s important because we don’t want to be looking at this as a year-to-year thing,” Danylik said. “We want to figure out what the Maine high school football landscape is going to look like for the next five to 10 years, because that also makes a big difference in what our decision is going to be.”

MPA officials are anticipating an increase in the number of schools that want to participate in eight-man football next season. The MPA’s football committee is meeting Monday and has asked schools to notify it as soon as possible if they want to switch so it can begin work on alignment and related logistics, such as playoff format, for not only the eight-man but also the 11-man classes. Once those are in place, schools can begin formulating their schedules for next fall.

“We understand that we need to make a decision in the very near future,” Danylik said. “I want to be transparent with the public about the process that we’re using.”

“We know that this decision, whatever decision we make, is going to have an affect on our community so we want to make sure that they’re with us during that process,” Danylik added.


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