June 24, 2018
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Blowouts, close calls are both part of high school football’s fabric

By Ernie Clark, BDN Staff

Here come the rumblings, that there are too many blowouts in high school football.

Surely there a fair share of non-competitive games, and there has been as long as the sport has been played.

In one of the first football games I ever attended, Foxcroft Academy beat Greenville 61-0. I remember only because I spent the afternoon playing my own game of kill the guy with the football with some of my buddies right next to the scoreboard at Oakes Field.

And while some blowouts are easily predictable, such as when perennial powers square off against programs in their varsity infancy, others seemingly come out of thin air.

Who would have thought a Lewiston team that came one play from an Eastern Maine Class A championship last fall and had eight starters back on both offense and defense would give up 48 and 50 points in back-to-back losses to Messalonskee of Oakland and Brunswick.

And who predicted that a youngish Bangor team would erupt for 51 points on the road last weekend against an Edward Little of Auburn team that had looked like a contender in its own right.

The state’s football hierarchy can add a fourth class or choose to add program strength as a factor in classifying individual teams, but blowouts will remain part of the fabric of the sport because teams of similar sizes will always be at varying levels of excellence for a myriad of reasons ranging from the number of players in a varsity program to the quality and depth of feeder systems, from the declining enrollments at northern schools to the expertise of the head coach — think John Wolfgram hasn’t made a difference at Cheverus of Portland, or that Paul Withee won’t make a difference at Oxford Hills of South Paris?

And with the changing nature of the sport in Maine, particularly the more wide-open offenses, scoring is up and that serves to magnify the differences between the haves and have-nots.

Yet programs that may be on the bottom of the league standings don’t have to stay there, and they don’t necessarily need outside help.

Take John Bapst of Bangor, which less than a decade ago was riding a 41-game losing streak and near extinction. Now the Crusaders are consistently among the best teams in Class C, having made four straight trips to the LTC championship game and off to a 3-0 start this season.

And some of the Western Maine powers of recent vintage, such as Yarmouth, Cape Elizabeth and Bonny Eagle of Standish, don’t have generations of former hometown players to draw upon, but have used the right combinations to experience rather rapid upward mobility within their classes — Bonny Eagle’s 0-3 start this season not withstanding.

Yes, there may be times when a running clock in the second half of a blowout contest might serve both teams’ interests. And yes, there’s enough schools playing football statewide right now to justify having four classes — though that process won’t happen until individual schools look beyond self-interest to the greater good of the sport.

But just as games decided in the last seconds provide the memories of a lifetime, so, too, will blowouts remain part of the football scene no matter the level of play.

Hopefully those lopsided losses will provide sufficient motivation for teams to rise above their struggles of the moment to build the foundation for championships of the future.

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