Each new high school football season brings change, with new teams and players eager to vie for championships while others embrace the varsity challenge for the first time.
As Maine’s 2017 regular season kicks off Friday night, such change far transcends individual rosters.
Fourteen football programs are in different classes than last year, including 2016 Class C state champion Wells moving to Class D and reigning Class D titlist Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield switching to Class C.
Two other schools, Maranacook of Readfield and Traip Academy of Kittery, voluntarily moved from Class D South to the new Class E, a developmental division for struggling programs seeking to become more competitive.
They are joined in Class E by four other schools — Boothbay, Camden Hills of Rockport, Sacopee Valley of South Hiram and Telstar of Bethel — that are returning to varsity competition after previously dropping to subvarsity status for competitive reasons.
Class E teams aren’t eligible for postseason play but some are playing Class D opponents in countable games, part of a more collaborative statewide scheduling system that includes crossover games between teams from different regions or classes. That dynamic was employed by conferences around the state to help enhance competitive balance.
And while new state champions won’t be crowned for more than two months, with the Class C final on Nov. 17 at the University of Maine in Orono and the A, B and D games on Nov. 18 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland, Week 1 of the regular season features several matchups that could have postseason implications.
Mount Desert Island at Winslow, 1 p.m. Saturday: These teams last battled in the 2016 Class C North final, with MDI earning a 12-7 victory and the school’s first regional championship in the sport. Both teams are among the favorites in the region again this fall with power-based attacks featuring Ryan Fredette of Winslow and Andrew Phelps, Croix Albee and Colby Lee of MDI.
Madison-Carrabec at Foxcroft Academy, 7 p.m. Friday: Foxcroft’s shift by enrollment from Class C to Class D immediately cast the Ponies as a favorite in the LTC, but a major crossover challenge awaits in their opener. Madison-Carrabec, 7-1 in Class C North in 2016, now is part of Class D South, perhaps the deepest division in the state. The Bulldogs return quarterback Evan Bess and halfback Sean Whalen while Foxcroft is guided by veteran QB Nick Clawson.
Lawrence at Brewer, 7 p.m. Friday: Brewer narrowly missed winning the Class B North final last fall, dropping a two-point decision to eventual state champion Brunswick in the title game. The Witches graduated two standouts, Trey Wood (University of Maine) and Austin Lufkin (Wofford) to Division I college programs. But coach Nick Arthers’ club returns experience along the line of scrimmage, senior quarterback Cody Wood and the collective confidence of a program that has made two straight trips to the regional final. Lawrence of Fairfield also is coming off a solid 2016, with its 6-2 record good for third place in B North. The Bulldogs are led by third-year quarterback Braden Ballard.
Edward Little at Bangor, 7 p.m. Friday: These longtime Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference schools have developed a good rivalry on the gridiron in recent years. Edward Little of Auburn is coming off a 3-5 regular season last fall good for a Class A North playoff appearance, while Bangor is seeking to regroup after a rare winless campaign.
Bucksport at Lisbon-Saint Dominic, 1:30 p.m. Saturday: Another key crossover clash sends the Golden Bucks to Lisbon to face the defending Class D South champions. Bucksport, a Class D North semifinalist last year, is among the favorites in the LTC and features a talented passer in senior quarterback Chase Carmichael. Lisbon, which fell to MCI in last year’s state game, has a new coach in Chris Kates and the addition of players from Saint Dominic of Auburn as the result of a revised cooperative team policy enacted by the Maine Principals’ Association last spring.
MCI at Oceanside, at Rockland, 7 p.m. Friday: What was Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield’s reward for winning its first state championship since 1974? A move from Class D to Class C. A big question mark for the Huskies during preseason involved replacing graduated quarterback Josh Buker, but with six veterans back on both offense and defense MCI looks poised to contend in its new division. Oceanside of Rockland-Thomaston is coming off a solid 6-4 season that earned the Mariners their second straight playoff berth and a C North semifinal berth.
Nokomis at Hampden Academy, 7 p.m. Friday: Two teams seeking fresh starts will clash on the artificial turf at the Weatherbee Complex. Nokomis will make its debut in Class C North under new coach Jake Rogers after dropping down by enrollment from Class B. Hampden remains in Class B North, but the Broncos also have a new leader in first-year coach Shane Rogers, a former standout defensive end and assistant coach at Husson University.