Orono head football coach Bob Sinclair talks to his team during a game in 2013. School officials on Wednesday withdrew the team from varsity play for this season citing low numbers and inexperience.

One of the tradition-laden high school football programs in eastern Maine will take a year off from varsity play this fall.

Orono High School, citing low numbers and a lack of linemen, will forego its 2019 Little Ten Conference schedule and instead pursue a slate of junior varsity games for this fall.

The final decision followed a meeting Wednesday that involved team personnel and school officials that included principal Reg Ruhlin, athletic administrator Mike Archer and head football coach Bob Sinclair and his staff.

“Our administration feels that this is in the best interest of our current players’ safety and wellbeing and also maintains our ability to retain a varsity schedule for the 2020 season,” Archer said.

“We met with our parents and players and although there is some disappointment, I think there is also some sense of relief and optimism that our players will be placed in a more safe and competitive setting on a weekly basis. We look at this as a great opportunity to keep Orono football alive for our current players as well as our future players at the middle school.”

Orono began the preseason with 15 players, and had 18 on hand for last weekend’s controlled scrimmage against Washington Academy of East Machias.

Of the players on the Red Riots, six were freshmen and the roster included only two linemen.

Archer is optimistic that this is a one-year situation for the program, as 33 players are competing at the middle-school level in Orono, including 20 eighth-graders.

Orono High School plans to resume 11-player competition next fall, he said.

“We apologize for the inconvenience that this creates for our 2019 opponents,” Archer added.

The high school varsity football regular season is scheduled to begin on Sept. 6.

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...