Plans for a reboot of the football program based at Calais High School have been put on hold because of a lack of experience among the potential participants.
The effort would have established a developmental team for the 2019 season as the precursor to an eventual return to varsity play for a cooperative entry involving players from high schools at Calais, Woodland and Shead of Eastport.
Calais athletic administrator Randy Morrison said 23 students from Calais and Woodland had signed up to play football shortly before formal preseason practices began around the state Monday, but only two had any previous organized football experience.
“It’s a safety issue, first, on my part,” Morrison said.
Morrison said the inexperience not only might lead to injuries, but also could hamper the long-term staying power of the program if the new players become discouraged by their introduction to the sport against more experienced opponents.
“If I had 23 kids that had played football from seventh and eighth grade up through, I wouldn’t have a problem trying it,” he said, adding that it might not be a number that would hold up through injuries.
“But if you have 20 kids who have never played before, never had a helmet or shoulder pads on, or never been hit or hit somebody, you don’t know how long those kids are going to last,” Morrison said.
He fears such a situation would likely lead to greater attrition among the players, at least a few of whom would realize football isn’t the right sport for them.
Ian Pratt established the Calais-Woodland Silverados cooperative team that played in the Little Ten Conference varsity ranks for four years until the program was suspended in 2012 because of declining participation.
More recently Pratt has coached football for Down East youngsters in the New Brunswick-based Fundy Football League. It was he who spearheaded the effort this summer to bring the sport to area high schools.
Pratt is disappointed with the decision not to field a developmental high school team this fall, but he plans to continue his efforts to bring varsity football back to the area.
“We’re going to work for 2020,” said Pratt, a former football player at Stearns High School of Millinocket who funded the previous Calais football effort privately and planned to do the same this year while serving as the Silverados’ volunteer head coach.
Morrison and Pratt have discussed working to develop a feeder system beginning at the middle-school level. Ideally, it would provide the foundation for a longer-lasting program than the previous version of Silverados football, which ended with approximately 20 players at the conclusion of the 2011 season.
Morrison envisions offering clinics and workouts focusing on football fundamentals for prospective players in grades 7-11 from the region to begin providing hands-on football experience.
“If we could run some clinics/practices through the fall, then next summer do the same thing, we could look at it again next year,” he said. “And if we had 25 to 30 kids that had at least gone through those clinics, we might start with a club team and play some JV games or play some other club teams,” he said.
If that progression happens, Morrison would hope to take the final step to having a varsity team.
“But the numbers have got to be there,” he said.
Football originally was played in the St. Croix Valley during the late 1800s, according to the St. Croix Historical Society.
Calais Academy football continued through the 1920s before falling victim to the Great Depression, with the team’s last reported season in 1932.
Seventy-six years passed before the Calais-Woodland Silverados joined the LTC in 2008. Many of the core players on that initial varsity squad won the 2006 Maritime provincial championship for ages 14 and 15 while playing for Pratt in the Fundy Football League in Canada.
The Calais-Woodland cooperative entry qualified for postseason play in 2008 and won its LTC Class C quarterfinal before finishing with a 6-4 record.
The Silverados also earned playoff berths in 2009 and 2010.