AUGUSTA, Maine — Classification changes for varsity sports teams around the state for the next two years will be relatively modest, based on alterations to enrollment cutoffs that await final approval by the Maine Principals’ Association membership on April 27.
But one athletic program that will experience significant change is Brewer High School.
The Witches, perennial Class A participants in most activities, will move to Class B in boys and girls soccer, field hockey, baseball, softball, track and field, swimming and tennis beginning next fall.
With 659 students as of the classification cutoff date of April 1, 2016, Brewer fell just under the new Class A enrollment minimums that range from 660 to 675 for those sports. That means instead of being one of the smallest schools in Class A it now will be among the largest schools in Class B for at least the next two years.
With that change comes other challenges, particularly involving scheduling.
“Anybody that thinks this is an easy move for Brewer High School to go from ‘A’ to ‘B’ would be sadly mistaken,” said Brewer athletic administrator Dave Utterback. “While competitively I think it’s where we belong, it creates some logistical factors that need to be worked out.”
The scheduling issues may be alleviated by talks already underway to develop crossover sports schedules among schools in the central Maine-based Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and the eastern Maine-dominated Penobscot Valley Conference.
Brewer is a member of both conferences, with a long tradition in the PVC before the steady decline in the number of Class A schools in that league. That prompted Brewer, Bangor and Hampden Academy to join the KVAC in 2005 to facilitate generating Class A schedules in multiple sports.
“The easy move would be to get those schedules now out of the PVC for Class B,” said Utterback. “But the other factor is then you drop Bangor and Hampden, two rivals and regional teams. They’re two close games each, or four games total, and then they’re having to fill in the gaps with schools that are more than an hour away from them.
“What we’ve tried to do is talk with both leagues.”
Conference representatives are talking, working on sport-specific crossover scheduling that can help the leagues in sports for which they have a shortage of teams, such as the KVAC in Class B basketball and the PVC in Class B field hockey.
“Hopefully that’s the direction both leagues go in,” said Utterback, “to create schedules that make sense geographically and competitively instead of locking ourselves within classification, a region and a league.”
Other schools that would shift classes in several sports under the statewide proposal approved by the MPA’s classification committee include Lawrence of Fairfield, Washington Academy of East Machias and Maranacook Community School of Readfield.
Lawrence, like Brewer a longtime Class A presence in most sports, will shift to Class B in boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball and indoor track.
Washington Academy, the two-time defending Class C state champion in boys soccer, would move to Class B in that sport as well as girls soccer, cross country, baseball, softball, tennis and cheering.
Maranacook, the 2013 and 2014 Class C boys soccer state champion, will return to Class C in that sport after spending two years in Class B. The Black Bears also will shift from Class B South to Class C South in girls soccer, baseball, softball, girls tennis and nordic skiing.
Among proposed changes in boys and girls basketball, Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston and Waterville would shift from Class A North to Class B North while Central of Corinth, Houlton and Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln would move from Class B North to Class C North and Schenck of East Millinocket would go from Class C North to Class D North.
One North school, Central Aroostook of Mars Hill, would move from Class D to Class C in basketball.
Only two basketball programs would shift in the South, with Lincoln Academy of Newcastle moving from Class B to Class A and Cape Elizabeth shifting from A to B. There is talk that Cape Elizabeth would petition the MPA to remain in Class A.
The classification committee plan also calls for expanding boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse and volleyball from two to three classes statewide while adding a developmental fifth class for high school football.
Schools slated to compete in the developmental Class E football ranks as they seek to rebuild their programs are Camden Hills of Rockport, Maranacook, Sacopee Valley of South Hiram, Traip Academy of Kittery, Boothbay and Telstar of Bethel.
Classification changes in the other four football classes move Gardiner from Class B North to Class C South, Nokomis of Newport from B North to C North, Medomak Valley of Waldoboro from D South to C North, Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield from D North to C North and Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft from C North to D North.
Winslow, which would have been shifted from Class C North to Class D North by enrollment, has applied to remain in Class C, according to the MPA report.
In the South, Morse of Bath, York and Leavitt of Turner Center all would move from Class B to Class C while Poland, Wells, Spruce Mountain of Jay-Livermore Falls and Mountain Valley of Rumford would shift from Class C to Class D.
In addition, the cooperative Madison-Carrabec football program would transfer from C North to D South.