Spruce Mountain’s Brandon Frey tries to tackle Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale’s Ian Steele during a game last fall in Winthrop. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Sure, Winthrop running back Ian Steele was disappointed when he learned the high football season was canceled, but he also remained positive and wants to make the best of the tough and unfair situation the coronavirus pandemic presented.

“It is our senior year. You always want to play in the fall,” Steele said. “The homecoming is coming around and you always want to play those games under the lights with that brisk weather.

“You know, I am happy. We have a seven-on-seven. I am still going to go out and try to perform for my team. We have been putting a lot of work in, trying to get the younger players up to speed. But we will be ready. If we do play in the spring, we will be ready. We’ll put on a show.”

On Thursday, the Maine Principals’ Association and Gov. Janet Mills’ administration gave the green light for all fall sports to be played except for football and volleyball. 

According to an email sent to member schools: “The MPA will not be able to sponsor tackle football or volleyball this fall. We will continue to work with both sport committees to try and provide a season in the late winter/early spring.”

The MPA is also encouraging schools to find options to keep students active and involved in football this fall, including having 7 vs. 7 flag or touch football programs or things like Punt, Pass, and Kick and Ironman Competition.

Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale coach Dave St. Hilaire was frustrated with the decision process.

“I like what the MPA did as far as looking at everything and coming up with what they had,” St. Hilaire said. “Everything was fine with phase 1, 2, 3 and 4, when it was rolled out for getting back to play. We thought we had everything set, and they just kept prolonging and prolonging, so just the kids were left in limbo.The kids know the risks; the parents know the risks.”

Edward Little senior offensive and defensive lineman Ben Poland felt like he was shortchanged after Friday’s ruling.

“I am a senior, so I want my senior season. So I am upset,” Poland said. “Our EL program, we followed every protocol. We wore a mask, we kept our distance. We have done everything they asked us to do, so I am pretty upset.

“Once I saw the other (sports) were able to proceed with their season, I was surprised because they have done research and it had shown that for instance, soccer has more contact than football does.”

Poland thinks there will be some sort of season in the future, but he added there will still be snow and ice on the ground in the spring.

“They didn’t think about the injuries that us kids can have, like concussions, broken bones,” he said.

Edward Little coach Dave Sterling expressed similar sentiments.

“It is totally against everything they had done logically, with doctors doing research … the MPA consulting with the NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) as well as other states and how they were proceeding,” Sterling said. 

Sterling couldn’t understand that, with all that effort and time that was put into making football safe, the state and MPA decided to pull the plug on football.

Edward Little coach Dave Sterling, middle, yells instructions to his defense during a 2018 contest against Sanford at Walton Field in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“That just smacks of the tyranny that came with politics getting involved in sports,” he said. “Things have been running fine since the beginning of summer. They gave us all standards as well as testing, protocols and we all had to follow that. Well, we have been doing that all along. We have lowest COVID rates in the nation, and now they canned it.” 

Sterling was puzzled that volleyball also suffered the same fate as football.

“That’s a sport where they were all going to be wearing masks,” he said. “They were going to be socially distant. There is no interaction between the two teams really at all. It is the wrong people making the wrong decisions.”

Telstar coach Tim O’Connor was disappointed with the way it was handled by the state and MPA from the get-go.

“I am not really happy because I think the Maine Principals’ Association strung the kids along and made them believe they were going to have a season, and now all of a sudden they pulled the rug out from underneath them,” he said. 

Brayden Stevens of Telstar hauls in a pass at the goal line in front of Sacopee Valley’s Mitchell Thurlow for a first-half touchdown in Bethel last September. Stevens’ catch put the Rebels up 14-0. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

O’Connor is not sure a spring season is feasible, especially in places like Bethel.

“Up in the north country, we get a lot of snow,” he said. “Our fields are barely ready for baseball, softball, to get those games in.”

O’Connor, whose team is coming off a successful first season of eight-man football, also wasn’t happy with each delay before an official decision was made Thursday.

“They said Sept. 8 (for the start of the season) and then they changed it to the 14th,” he added. “They said yesterday and I waited and waited and — nothing.  I’ve got seniors who were disappointed. We did have practice tonight, but mood of the kids was, ‘Geez, what can we do?’ I guess the best we can do is an inter-squad scrimmage, but how many of those can you have?”

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