Aroostook County is finally getting a chance to host state soccer finals

Posted Aug. 18, 2011, at 6:21 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 21, 2011, at 5 p.m.

I’m aware it takes twice as long to drive north on the interstate as it does to drive south on the same road, especially for a high school state championship game.

I know it’s true because when I was a kid I had to walk uphill both to and from school.

And I’m sure it’s a big reason the Legislature recently voted to increase the speed limit on I-95 to 75 miles per hour on the stretch of the highway north of Old Town.

Despite all that, there may be some hope for Aroostook County soccer teams and fans who long for state finals nearby but are used to driving two or three times the distance of southern Maine rivals to compete for championship games at “neutral” sites.

Or even worse, like last year when the Caribou girls soccer team made the 285-mile trip south to play Falmouth for the Class B state title — on Falmouth’s home field.

This year’s state championship sites have been set, with matches to be played at the same locations as last year. The A and D finals will be at Falmouth High School and the B and C games at Hampden Academy, according to the MPA’s 2011-12 soccer bulletin.

But the following also is included in this year’s bulletin:

“State championship games will rotate from a Western Maine to Eastern Maine site every

year with the 5th year of a rotation looking to schedule games at an Aroostook County

location.”

Here’s hoping The County doesn’t have to wait the full five years. The opportunity to play at least the Class C and D finals in the north is long overdue, and in the Gehrig T. Johnson Athletic Complex in Presque Isle the region has a site worthy of hosting the games.

A recent trip to Presque Isle for a preseason soccer tournament provided a first-hand look at the site, and everything is in place: an artificial-turf field, plenty of bleacher seating, a press box with newly built team rooms attached and fencing around the facility for crowd control.

And don’t think for a second that the local folks wouldn’t turn the games into an event that would entice fans from throughout the region to show up no matter who is playing.

Now it’s certain the Class A games won’t be held in Presque Isle given that Bangor and Brewer are the northernmost big-school teams in the state. It’s also unlikely that the Class B state finalists would travel to The County because Caribou and Presque Isle are the only B teams north of Dover-Foxcroft.

But there are plenty of Class C and D teams in the state’s northernmost county, and the chance to host those finals in Presque Isle would represent some geographic payback for years of travel in the opposite direction, not to mention a rare case of home-region advantage enjoyed so frequently by those Western Maine rivals.

Of course, Murphy’s Law suggests that the year the MPA opts to have any state finals in Presque Isle the Eastern Maine representatives will be the southernmost schools in the region.

And no doubt that year’s Western Maine teams will grouse about travel costs and having to ride several hours to play an opponent that lives much closer to the game site — a fact of sporting life northern schools have dealt with for decades.

But please live with it for once, for the best teams will still win — just remember to leave a little earlier, it takes longer to get there.

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