Members of the Skowhegan football team work out during a practice last year in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file photo

The high school spring sports season is underway in Maine. It’s not going to run smoothly. We’ve already seen games postponed as schools navigate Covid-19 quarantines. Add that to the typically uncooperative weather of early spring in Maine, and you have a season that runs like a Pinto. It’s going to stall and run rough, but with a little care, it will get you there.

The Maine Principals’ Association made the right decision in making spring sports tournaments open to all comers. As teams readjust to playing for state championships after fall and winter seasons of strictly regional competition, playoff spots shouldn’t go to the teams that managed to weave through the season and play the prerequisite number of games simply because it was lucky enough to avoid a Covid-19 outbreak.

There will be teams that are unable to participate in a playoff game because of a Covid-19 situation, that’s almost as much a guarantee as snow in Maine in April.

There’s not a switch we can flip and all of a sudden everything is normal again. Normalcy is going to come in waves, and it’s going to recede too. We hope as more people become fully vaccinated, week by week and day by day, we make up more ground than we lose.

It’s not too early to start talking about fall sports. The hope is the MPA and state officials are working to ensure a full offering of high school sports to Maine students this fall. That starts with transparency on the football issue. With football categorized as a highest risk sport last fall, full contact football in Maine was shelved in favor of 7 on 7 flag football.

Soon, state leaders and the MPA should provide an update on where football stands. What’s the timeline for changing its status? Is there a magic low number of Covid-19 cases the state needs to see to reinstate football, and if so, what is it? State a goal, explain why it’s the goal, and let the football community work towards it. The lack of transparency was a problem last summer, as the MPA formulated a plan for the fall sports season that included playing football, only to be told by the state to go back to drawing board.

The University of Maine football team played a truncated four game season this spring. Good luck explaining to high school players they could lose a second straight season while they watch the Black Bears take the field.

Already, the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl is in danger of being cancelled for a second consecutive year. The annual all-star game of recently graduated seniors raises a lot of money for Shriner’s Hospitals for Children, but without an answer from the state, the game’s organizers can’t start working to have the game in late July.

In Vermont and New Hampshire, Maine’s northern New England neighbors to the west, work is underway for the return of the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, the annual all-star football game pitting players from each state state against each other. Players and coaches have been selected, and the game is scheduled for August 7 at Castleton University. New Hampshire had a high school football season last year, while Vermont played 7 on 7 flag football like Maine. The states acknowledge there’s a long fight against Covid-19 ahead, but also acknowledge the strides made in allowing the game to proceed.

Maine officials should talk to their colleagues in Vermont and New Hampshire, and figure out a way to move forward. Plan, but let us know the plan is tenuous and dependent on certain criteria being met. Study data from states where football was played last fall or this spring. Present a fair blueprint.

We’ve seen a spike in Covid-19 cases in Maine over the last month, as the virus rages through Maine’s younger population. That’s disheartening. At the same time, every week we see how many more people are getting vaccinated. More than 50 percent of the state’s adult population has received at least one dose of vaccine. We’re making progress. We take a couple steps forward, slip a step back, then dig in and take more steps forward.

It’s a process. Giving the Maine high school football community an answer sooner rather than later should be a part of that process.

 

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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