DOVER-FOXCROFT — “Football is football.”

The phrase was uttered by multiple 8-man football players and West head coach Chris Kates when talking about the transition 8-man players have had to make during the week of practices at Foxcroft Academy leading up to Saturday’s Lobster Bowl at Lewiston High School. 

The players, after playing 8-man for upwards of three seasons, depending on the school they attended, have had to recalibrate their brains a bit this week, and in a hurry, to prepare for the 32nd annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic. 

From left, Brayden Stevens of Telstar, Elliot Douglass of Mt. Ararat, Kaiden Getchell of Mt. Ararat, Curtis Errington of Dirigo and Jonah Byam of Mountain Valley will represent the West team during the Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic. The players are shown during media day Tuesday at Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“It’s brought me back to my roots,” Mt. Ararat running back Kaiden Getchell said. “It didn’t take me that long to get back into it. After playing 8-man for two years, it definitely was challenging but football is football.”

Getchell has been a standout running back for the West, according to Kates. The Lisbon head coach said he hasn’t seen much difference in the 8-man players to 11-man players. They all have to learn the same, new scheme. 

“I think it’s no different learning any new scheme for them,” Kates said of the 8-man players on the West. “We also have 11-man players learning schemes the same as 8-man. One thing I’ll say is I think they’re comfortable in open space due to the open fields in 8-man. I think they’ve done very well for us. 


“I think football is football, right,” Kates continued. “It might take an extra second to teach the 8-man guys, as they haven’t seen it all year, but if you’re taking a spread player and teach them a Wing-T offense, there’s a learning curve for them, as well. They’re intelligent and hard-working, and it has been a seamless transition.”

This year, 11 players on the West and 10 on the East come from 8-man football programs. Eight-man football was introduced in Maine in 2019, with Mt. Ararat winning the inaugural state championship over Old Orchard Beach 58-25. 

Last year, Cheverus won the 8-man large school division with a 56-0 win over Waterville. In the small school division, Dexter won on a last-second touchdown in a 34-30 win over Maranacook. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Jonah Byam of Mountain Valley said that playing linebacker in 11-man makes it easier on him. 

“It made it easy at linebacker because it opens everything right up,” Byam said. “Eight-man is such a different game and it’s quicker. There’s much less help and you have to do a lot on your own, so 11-man you can rely on your teammates.”

Byam also said that the transition hasn’t been hard, saying football is “second nature to him.” 


Another player who agreed that the transition has been easy was Dirigo’s Curtis Errington. 

“It brought me back to 11-man,” Errington said. “Eight-man is a lot quicker, but this slows the game down and you can take a second to look at what you’re doing, but I like it.”

Elliot Douglass of Mt. Ararat is happy to have more help on the offensive line. 

“On the offensive line, there is way less open field now. Being a guard, I now have a guy that’s on my outside blocking me and it’s just a lot better,” Douglass said. “There’s a lot of great guys playing with us here and the transition wasn’t hard, because at the end of the day, football is football. We just gotta go out there and do what you know.”

The 8-man players have started to mend fences, as well. 

“I played Elliot and Kaiden and I know I’ve talked a little bit of smack,” Byam said. “We’ve butted heads through the years, so it’s kind of cool to come back here. (Getchell and I) sleep in the same room now so I can’t really punch them in the nose now. We moved through (game film app) Hudl and I showed him a play where he broke my ankles, but then one where I lit him up, so we met in the middle.”


Byam almost didn’t get the opportunity to get to know Getchell as the Mt. Ararat tailback was a late addition to the team. 

“It’s an awesome experience,” Getchell said. “I got the call a couple days ago to come and play ball and I couldn’t turn down the opportunity. I’m having a blast right now. I was not expecting it. I was getting ready to go into work and I got a call from my coach saying, ‘Do you want to play in the Lobster Bowl?’ I said, ‘Hell yeah.’ It’s been awesome. My teammates are awesome, and it’s just been awesome.”

Football is football, and Kates said many of the 8-man players are excited to be playing 11-man football one last time in high school. 

“The talent here is incredible,” Telstar’s Brayden Stevens, another 8-man player, said. “You’re always learning something and it’s a bunch of cool guys here.”

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