Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale fans watch the opening football game of football season on Sept. 2 at Maxwell Field in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Some of the best advice I ever received was also some of the most humbling.

I was only a few weeks into my junior year at the University of Missouri and was reviewing a crucial reporting assignment with one of my professors. In an early draft, I assumed to have known a few things that I didn’t, and he put me in my place.

“Michael, there’s two ways to be a journalist,” he told me on that September day in 2014. “You can pretend to be stupid — which you are — or you can be stupid.”

It’s true; as a reporter, I’ve done some of my best work when I’ve had little or no knowledge of something (or at least pretended I didn’t) and had to work my way from there. It’s something I’ve had to keep in mind throughout a 2022 Maine high school football season that’s been sheer madness.

After finishing my story on Waterville’s game against Spruce Mountain last Friday night, I took a peek at Twitter to see what else was happening around the state. Although you always expect to see one or two surprises when you’re scrolling through scores, what I saw late that night threw me for a loop.

Perennial Class A struggler Lewiston had plastered Scarborough, which had beaten Bonny Eagle and Marshwood; Cony, which had scored just 34 points in three games, scored exactly that many to handily defeat a Windham team that hadn’t lost a league game since 2019; Bonny Eagle had needed a stunning comeback to beat Edward Little, another usual straggler in Class A; Foxcroft, which had won 13 straight and was fresh off a bye, lost at home to Lisbon.


One of these results alone would have been a surprise to me, but all four of them? It was something that took a few minutes to process, especially given that I had just spent three and a half hours in work mode watching and reporting on my own game. Learning that you didn’t know what you thought you did, after all, takes some time.

Filling out this week’s Varsity Maine football poll, then, was a tough task for me. Lists, after all, are about order, and order has been replaced by chaos in Maine high school football this year. To even get past the first few rankings on that list, I was going to have to rethink the season.

Take, for example, the Cony Rams. Though always formidable, they aren’t a team I’d ever had in my rankings this year — not in the preseason nor after any of their first three games. At 2-2 with both losses coming by a combined 64 points, why would that change?

Well, those losses came against Oxford Hills and Skowhegan, two teams that have firmly established themselves among the state’s elite. As for their wins, the Rams have now beaten Windham, which hadn’t lost a league game since 2019, and Massabesic, which now has wins over South Portland and Marshwood, by double digits. 

If sliding Cony all the way up to fifth in my rankings felt a bit weird, moving Wells up from 10th to ninth after a 36-0 loss to Leavitt felt even weirder. Yet the Warriors’ wins over Cape Elizabeth and Freeport are looking better by the week, and with other teams falling around them, that’s where they’ve ended up.

Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale chases a ball as they run on the field for the first game of the season on Sept. 2 in Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

I still don’t know what to make of Class D. Foxcroft coming off of its bye week and losing to Lisbon at home is the type of thing that makes you rethink everything you thought you knew about the league. Even some of the coaches in the class admit they don’t fully comprehend what is happening.


“I don’t know if we’ve ever had a class where no team is undefeated this early in the season,” said Oak Hill head coach Chad Stowell. “There’s still so much we don’t know yet, and we’re going to have to find answers to a lot of these questions over the next two weeks.”

Then, you’ve got questions about some of the traditional powers in the top classes. Has Marshwood really fallen off? Have Bonny Eagle and 2-2 Thornton Academy? We often just assume these teams will be in the mix because we see them reload every year, but it’s not impossible that something funky is going on with them this season.

As Stowell said, we don’t really have the answers to those questions yet. That’s something we’re going to have to find out over the next few weeks. As we get those answers, there will also be other results that pop up and remind us we don’t know as much as we’d like to think.

That’s the beauty of sports, though: We get the answers to those questions by watching the games, matches, meets and more unfold on the field, in the gym or wherever else they might take place. They’re not played on paper, meaning we frequently get results that don’t align with what we think should or shouldn’t happen.

We’ll get more of that in the coming weeks, and we’ll have to rethink the 2022 high school football season as we do. Yet if we’re to understand it, we can’t be under the illusion that we’re in any way smart.

That’s right: We have to be stupid.

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