January 13, 2020
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Growth of 8-player division leads to new framework for Maine high school football

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
ELLSWORTH, MAINE — 08/26/2019 — Ellsworth High School football coach Duane Crawford (foreground, center) huddles with players after a discussion during a Monday afternoon practice at the school. Participation in high school sports is on the decline in Maine and nationwide, but Ellsworth is among 10 Maine schools that have joined a growing movement to field an 8-player team. Gabor Degre | BDN

A new framework has been recommended for the rapidly expanding eight-player movement in high school football around the state.

The lingering question remains just how many more schools will make the switch from 11-player football to the eight-player version, which debuted in Maine last year.

The football committee of the Maine Principals’ Association on Monday unanimously passed a recommendation that would retain both a large-school division of eight-player football and a small-school division for the 2020 season, with separate state champions crowned in each division for the first time next November.

The enrollment cutoffs for the divisions would change slightly from 2019, with the small-school division for eight-player schools with enrollments of 374 students or less and the large-school division for schools with enrollments of 375 or more.

Last year schools with 350 or fewer students were in the small-school ranks while schools with 351 or more students competed in the large-school division.

The change was made in anticipation of schools that have expressed interest in joining the eight-player football for the first time this coming fall and seeking to have an even number of schools in both divisions.

In addition, because of the potential of a number of schools to move from Class D to the eight-player ranks next season, the football committee backed retaining a single, statewide Class D division next fall.

The eight-player ranks may double next year, though so far only four schools — Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor, Morse of Bath, Spruce Mountain of Jay and Dirigo of Dixfield — have formally informed the MPA of their intent to make the change beginning next year.

They would join 10 schools that competed in the eight-player ranks last fall, when large-school champion Mt. Ararat of Topsham defeated small-school champion Old Orchard Beach for the single state title awarded in that class.

A number of other schools are still going through the process of determining a potential shift to eight-player football, either through internal discussions, public forums or school board decisions.

Other schools reported to have expressed at least some interest in joining the eight-player football ranks are Camden Hills of Rockport, Mount View of Thorndike, Washington Academy of East Machias, Stearns of Millinocket, Houlton, Orono, Nokomis of Newport, Waterville, Mountain Valley of Rumford and Lake Region of Naples.

Schools have been asked to make a classification commitment to the 2020 season by Feb. 8. The football committee’s recommendation will be considered by the MPA’s classification committee on March 9 and the interscholastic management committee on March 24 before being considered by the association’s general membership for final approval at their annual spring meeting in April.

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