What likely would have been the longest road trip for a regular-season game in Maine high school football history won’t happen this weekend.
Traip Academy of Kittery has forfeited its game scheduled for Saturday at Washington Academy of East Machias, citing insufficient available players.
“We had a student whose grandfather passed away so he’s going to be at a funeral this weekend, we have two students recovering from concussions and their return-to-play protocol will not have them ready for Saturday, and then we have an exchange student who just arrived a week ago and is not ready to play yet,” said Traip activities director Mike Roberge.
“So our numbers would be very low and it would be unsafe for our kids.”
The Rangers fielded “15 or 16” players for their season opener at Sacopee Valley of South Hiram last Friday, Roberge said.
Sacopee Valley, like Traip a member of the developmental Class E division created last spring by the Maine Principals’ Association to help struggling programs around the state, won 25-0.
“We have three upperclassmen (juniors and seniors) and everybody else is a freshman or sophomore and some of them have had very little if any football experience,” said Roberge.
He estimated his team’s game at Washington Academy would have involved a round trip in excess of 500 miles and a bus ride of 5 1/2 hours each way. He contacted Washington Academy officials Wednesday evening to share Traip’s decision to forfeit the contest.
“We’re week-to-week, and in the best interests of our kids and hopefully as we get a little more practice time and some kids back from injuries we’ll be OK for the rest of the season,” said Roberge.
Traip and Maranacook Community School of Readfield voluntarily dropped from Class D to the new Class E this year. They are joined by Boothbay Region, Camden Hills of Rockport, Sacopee Valley of South Hiram and Telstar of Bethel — all of which previously suspended their varsity programs and had been competing at the JV level.
Class E alone does not provide for postseason play but those teams may play countable games against opponents from playoff-eligible classes. The Traip-Washington Academy matchup was one of four Class E-Class D crossover games on the regular-season schedule.
“When the ADs got together to try to create the best schedule they possibly could, some schools had to give and take a little bit to get competitive games and-or complete the schedule and get everybody the number of games that they needed so we were willing to do our part,” said Roberge. “Unfortunately the circumstances we’re in are just not allowing us to do that this weekend.”
Under MPA policy, the forfeiture of any game by a high school team represents noncompletion of the season, resulting in the team being suspended for the remainder of that season and for the next two years before resuming varsity play.
But the MPA football and interscholastic management committees on Thursday granted Traip an exemption for safety reasons without being forced to cancel the remainder of its schedule.
That exception was based on Class E’s status as a developmental effort.
“I think it has to be a case-by-case situation,” said MPA assistant executive director Mike Burnham. “I also think the football committee as it was creating the five-class system and what Class E was going to look like anticipated that this may be an issue we would face knowing that some of those programs that were struggling had low numbers.”
Washington Academy was looking forward to playing its home opener against Traip after beating Orono 32-0 last Friday for its first season-opening win in its seven-year varsity football history.
“We felt real good about the win last week,” said WA head coach Barry Terrill. “After being 0-9 last year to be 1-0 this year is pretty big.
“I’m frustrated, but if they don’t have enough players they don’t have enough.”
WA’s football roster included 21 players Tuesday after only 17 suited up for the Orono game.
“I thought the whole reason for the move to five classes and to do these crossovers was to create more competitive games,” said Terrill.
“But to have this be the first go-around in a crossover game and all of a sudden we’re looking at a forfeit and a bye week, it just doesn’t sit right.”
WA has only three home games this season, beginning Sept. 15 against Foxcroft Academy before the Raiders embark on their own cross-state road trip to play Telstar on Sept. 23.
“I don’t know the exact mileage,” said Terrill, “but I got married in Bethel at Sunday River so I know how far it is. It’s 4 1/2 or 5 hours one way.”