Thoughts on the Weekend - Week Two

September 10, 2017

Thoughts on the weekend

- The quarter pole has been reached in the Maine high school football regular season. There are just six more weeks to go in the regular season and ten weeks total left in the fall season. Want to hear something that’ll really blow your mind. Eleven more weeks to Thanksgiving!

- Lewiston just keeps rolling along. Last week was the 34-21 victory against South Portland, although the Red Riots were able to stage a late but ultimately unsuccessful rally. This time around, the Blue Devils held the Oxford Hills Vikings to just 96 net yards and have locked onto sole possession of first place in Northern Class A.

- To say that the players, coaches, and fans of Scarborough and Thornton Academy didn’t make a note of the September 15th showdown between the Red Storm and the Golden Trojans would be unbelievable. With extremely precious Heal Points going to the winner will add a little bit more to the showdown. Oh, yeah, and there is the still-fresh memories of the Western Class A semifinal game that will get mentioned this week.

- Since the realignment in 2013, Portland’s gone a combined 8-0 against Edward Little and Lewiston. Well, that unblemished run went into a total reversal now. In back-to-back weeks the Bulldogs have gone 0-2. Yes, we understand that they are going through a rebuilding year. The question though is that in Class A with the larger enrollment to draw upon and the larger team squad, such a drop from the top of the conference to the bottom just seems unusual. The season is young though and there is still six weeks for Jim Hartman’s group to find their footing.

- Another team going through a rude 2017 awakening is the Brunswick Dragons. After being knocked around by Messalonskee a week ago, they had they late-game chance on Friday versus Biddeford. They even forced a late Tigers punt with a little over a minute to go. But a roughing the punter penalty and the ensuing yardage put the ball back into Biddeford’s hands and a 35-28 win into their pockets.

- As we mentioned on Friday, Gorham’s win has now ended one of the state’s longest active losing streaks. In just two weeks, three of the state’s four longest losing skids have now come to an end; Sacopee Valley and Nokomis last week and the Rams this week.

- The Kennebec Journal’s picture of the Winslow cheerleader’s banner, "27 years later", was the perfect caption for the return of one of the state’s fiercest regional rivalries - Lawrence against Winslow. A testament to just how close-fought the game was could be viewed in the 21-14 score at the half and the two teams combined for only three points in the second half. It will be interesting to see if this out-of-class game will be allowed to continue on, as this gem should be allowed to continue on across the field instead of in people’s memories.

- Do you still need any further proof that Kennebunk is that good? Is their combined seven points allowed (lowest in Class B) against Greely and Messalonskee enough? There’ll be another chance to see them prove their worth again when they host undefeated Falmouth on Friday.

- Leavitt’s 73-0 victory in Belfast was a win of mathematical precision, a surgical carving up of the Lions. An attack of stunning efficiency. The Hornets offense did not once have a fourth down to contend with. They out gained their opponent by almost an eight-to-one margin. They scored six touchdowns in six plays. And to top it off, they’ve scored more points (128) than any other team in Maine.

- When York head coach Randy Small tries to analyze what his Wildcats can do to stop their early-season slide, it would be reasonable to think it starts with limiting turnovers. York has committed twelve turnovers in their first two games.

- For a half of football, it looked like Old Orchard Beach was going to pull off the surprise win over Winthrop/Monmouth. But that was when Ramblers quarterback Keegan Choate stepped up as he threw two scoring strikes in the third quarter and then helped to seal the victory with a four-yard run with a few minutes remaining in the game.

- Wells has treated their first two games as if they have a lot of things to prove. Last week they blanked the Ramblers, and this week they blanked Spruce Mountain 35-0. One of three teams in the state to have not allowed a single point (and the only one to have done so over two full games), they were also the same ones that allowed the second fewest points in 2016. Whatever the system is that Tim Roche has put together for the Warriors is clearly working. They’ve allowed only 169 points in their last 25 games, the fewest of any Maine team during that same span.

- The Friday noon weather did not look that imposing across much of Maine. But that seemed to change around 3 or 4 pm as some storm clouds flared up around the state. This led to a wave of thunderstorms hitting central Maine causing numerous delays. In one case, a game was called without having completed a full half of football (Orono vs Houlton). In two cases, games that were in progress were postponed to the following day. Storms in the Bar Harbor area forced the rescheduling of the Mount Desert Island vs Old Town game and storms from that same wave also forced a rescheduling in Hermon between the Hawks and John Bapst. The Trojans won their game 41-14 while the Hawks won their contest 27-0.

- Last week we congratulated Sacopee Valley on their first ever MPA varsity victory. On Saturday they took on the "host" Stearns Minutemen at a neutral-site game at Winkin Complex on the Husson University campus. Stearns held the early 12-0 lead until a late first half Sacopee Valley pick-six put the Hawks on the board at 12-8. Running back Janoah Edward made the most of his halfback pass as he tossed a 23-yard scoring streak to give the Hawks a 15-12 lead. The game was all but iced when Decklin Hutton picked off a Stearns third down pass attempt, which gave Sacopee Valley their first ever winning streak.

- After seeing and reading the confusion surrounding Heal Points, we encourage everyone to read the MPA explanation on the ranking system. You don’t have to like the system, but you should understand its mechanics and nuances before commenting -

- In a follow-up to the 17 shutouts from week one, week two featured 12 shutouts. We did not count the Traip Academy forfeiture.

- When we initially heard that the Traip Academy vs Washington Academy game was forfeited due to Rangers having too few players to safely play, two emotions hit us. The first was a sad feeling for the players, coaches, and families of Traip Academy. For years the team from Kittery has done everything they could to keep the Rangers program alive. From the extremely lean years of their 51 game losing streak from 2000-2006, to coming within a game of the 2011 Class C state championship, this community has done everything possible to support the football program. And for that they should be commended for sustaining a program that was lucky to have 20-25 kids on their team. The community of Washington Academy may feel otherwise, but they should read through Traip’s history to understand just how hard the community has worked to keep high school football going.

Our second emotion was anger at a system that continues to force these small teams into the one-size-fits-all approach that is Maine football. When Class E was tossed around, it was to try to provide meaningful football for programs on life support, teams that don’t have the numbers, to play against other similar teams in similar situations. The thought process seemed to be that if these small programs weren’t getting constantly battered and beaten badly week in and week out, it might help convince more kids to give high school football a try. But what do you do when there just aren’t enough kids to play a sport that is big on specialization of the various positions and roles? Not every school is in the ideal situation or location to co-op. And life will happen regardless of what the talking heads and peanut gallery have to say.

We have shared many, many stories here about how the reduced-size game works, and works very well, across the country. States, communities, players, and coaches among others have learned how to make it work. Whether it is the tiny ranch-communities schools in Texas, the old farmstead towns of Montana, the prairies of Kansas and Nebraska, even the inner-city schools in California, instead of turning their nose up at the concept of playing football with less than 11 kids on the field, they have embraced it. Rather than just telling numerous kids that they’ll never play football, over a thousand programs all over the country have embraced 6-man, 8-man, and 9-man football. State athletic associations support and sponsor various classes, divisions, and state championships for the reduced numbers games. Football is football, and that is exactly what those players will tell those that feel too superior to give anything less than the traditional game the time of day.

In 2010 it even made in-roads into Maine. While the MPA and the football committee were going through the thought process, plenty was written about the Aroostook Football League and its 8-man program. Plenty of kids were interviewed, kids who may have otherwise been disinclined to play other sports offerings for any number of reasons. Communities that may not have been able to make the traditional 11-man game work, they made this program and its variation work in a part of the state where varsity football hadn’t been played in 60 years. They did so with only 16 kids on the field and it worked.

But when push came to shove nobody wanted to give it a second thought. The big schools didn’t care because it didn’t effect them. The small schools were going to continue to plug on like the rest of the state because that was their only option. The declining enrollment of the state was something that was on the horizon for a long time. And rather than get ahead of the curve, the MPA, the football committee, and the Maine Football Coaches Association chose to bury their head in the sand (or turf if you will) about trying to help keep the sport surviving in places.

For shame we say. For shame on failing communities through a lack of effort and imagination. For shame on not giving a forum to those truly at risk numbers-wise on what can be done to save them. And for shame on those too stubborn and set in their ways, with blinders fixed firmly in place but can be removed at any time, for seeing the problem but not trying to truly give a long-term solution to the problem.

At the end of the day, "other ways" seems to be interpreted loud and clearly across Maine quite simply as "you can always quit playing football". And if those hypocrites find a reason to make a disparaging comment against Traip Academy Rangers football for what they did, those hypocrites are a big part of the problem.

- Quote of the week
"We worked out every morning, all summer, and it finally paid off (Friday). We played like a family and we won as a team."
Jake Poole, South Portland quarterback

- Unbeaten tracker
There are 23 unbeaten teams in Maine after week two
The longest active winning streak belongs to Bonny Eagle - 13 consecutive wins
The longest active losing streak belongs to Camden Hills - 23 consecutive losses

- First place teams after week two
Class A North - Lewiston
Class A South - Bonny Eagle
Class B North - Brewer
Class B South - Biddeford, Kennebunk, Falmouth, Marshwood
Class C North - Waterville
Class C South - Cape Elizabeth, Fryeburg Academy 
Class D North - Bucksport
Class D South - Wells
Class E - Boothbay, Maranacook

- Games of interest in week three
Thornton Academy at Scarborough
Biddeford at Marshwood
Falmouth at Kennebunk
Cape Elizabeth at Wells
Winslow at Waterville