High school football will return to the University of Maine for the first time in more than a decade Friday night when John Bapst of Bangor hosts Orono in an LTC clash.
The game, set for a 7 p.m. start, is believed to be the first high school regular-season night game played on Morse Field, as well as the first high school football game of any kind played there since the 1999 Class A state final in which South Portland defeated Oxford Hills of South Paris 24-10.
“We’re trying to provide an opportunity for student-athletes from both schools to have the chance to play on artificial turf at a great venue,” said Orono athletic administrator Mike Archer. “We think it will be a treat for the kids to play there.”
Staging this game on the UMaine campus has been in the works since last spring, when Black Bears’ football coach Jack Cosgrove sent an e-mail to schools indicating the university’s interest in having high school games on campus, according to John Bapst coach Dan O’Connell.
“A lot of credit has to go to coach Cosgrove, he was adamant about making this happen,” said O’Connell. “It’s another way for the university to connect with the high school football community. With Maine playing in the [Colonial Athletic Association], to be successful in that conference he can’t recruit just the Maine kids, but he’s also trying to maintain that contact with the schools in other ways, like with the summer camp they hold, the coaching clinic he helps put on in the spring, and having games like this.”
Discussions among school officials from both Bapst and Orono ensued during the summer, leading to what O’Connell , Archer, John Bapst athletic administrator Rick Sinclair and Orono coach Bob Sinclair hope will become an annual event, either as a regular-season game or as an exhibition contest if the schools are reclassified to difference classes beginning next year.
Both schools play in Eastern Maine Class C, with John Bapst sporting a 5-1 record while Orono is 3-3.
John Bapst is the home team for this year’s matchup, meaning that program will get the proceeds generated from concessions sales. But other money raised during the game, such as the 50-50 contest, gate receipts and proceeds from a T-shirt sale, will be divided equally between the schools.
In addition, Friday night’s game will serve as Senior Night for both football teams, with pregame events including the honoring of seniors from both John Bapst and Orono that will including having them recognized on the stadium’s scoreboard.
The cost of Morse Field for a high school football game is $562.50 plus expenses, according to Will Biberstein, UMaine’s associate athletic director for internal operations, but because of the use of the large scoreboard and other factors, John Bapst and Orono will pay the university approximately $2,200 to hold their game on the Orono campus.
The two schools will split that cost, paying for it by selling a number of “cornerstone” sponsorships of $275 each.
As for John Bapst, it’s a particularly good financial deal, according to O’Connell.
“It was a no-brainer for us,” he said, “because we pay $1,800 a game to the city of Bangor to play at Cameron Stadium.”