The top-ranked high school football teams that gained first-round byes are in the first week of a two-week wait before their first playoff games.
While they wait to find out who their playoff opponents will be, the teams are using the time as best they can. They’re brushing up on their regular plays, maybe adding one or two new ones, but most of all they’re enjoying the time to rest up and heal injuries before their semifinal games. That’s the perk with this new setup — to heal injuries, but the majority of coaches, who are accustomed to playing every week until the season is over, want to keep going while their teams are hot. It’s going to be an adjustment for players and coaches.
This is something new with the realignment of high school football to four classes.
“We’re trying to make the best of it,” said veteran coach John Wolfgram of Cheverus.
“We know our opponent will be one of two teams. We’re preparing as best we can. We’re trying to keep things as normal as possible. Every team has injuries at this point. This break gives some healing time.”
But as far as whether he likes it, Wolfgram said: “I really can’t say. Nothing has happened. The proof will be in the pudding.”
Cheverus, Portland, Windham and Deering were moved to Eastern Maine Class A to balance the teams in the East and West. With eight teams in both regions, six teams make the playoffs. Cheverus (8-0) is seeded first, Portland (7-1) second and Windham (4-4) third in Eastern Maine. Cheverus will play the winner of No. 5 Lewiston and No. 4 Bangor on Nov. 9. Portland will play the winner of No. 6 Edward Little and Windham, likely on Nov. 8.
In Western A, Bonny Eagle (7-1) and Thornton Academy (6-2) are the top two seeds and headed to the semifinals. The only classes with the traditional eight-team playoff are Western Class B and D. All others have six teams making the postseason. In Eastern B, Brunswick (6-2) and Cony (6-2) are the top seeds. In Western C, Leavitt (8-1) and Wells (6-2) are ranked 1 and 2. In Eastern C, Winslow (7-1) and Waterville (7-1) have the top seeds while in Eastern D, Bucksport (8-0) and MCI (7-1) are ranked 1 and 2.
All the bye teams will know their opponents by Saturday at the latest. With heavy rain and wind forecast for Friday, some of those games could be played Saturday. South Portland Athletic Director Todd Livingston is not too optimistic about the Red Riots playing Friday night because of the expected weather, but will wait until Friday around noon to make a decision.
“If we get the weather they’re saying we’re going to get, I don’t know what kind of condition our field will be in. A playoff game ought to be played in nice conditions and Saturday is supposed to be nice,” said Livingston.
Edward Little and Windham decided Wednesday to move Friday night’s game to Saturday at 6 p.m. at Windham.
Wolfgram said the extra week is a good time for players to improve individual skills.
“We’ll put in some new things but not much. We’ve been going over the two teams we could play,” he said.
“We’ve played pretty good football but we’re going to have to play better in the playoffs.”
Thornton Coach Kevin Kezal said Saturday that he was looking forward to the week so his team could get healthier. The Golden Trojans have been pretty banged-up this season, both in the line and at the skill positions. Thornton has solidified its line over the last two weeks, and should be getting running back Jesse Meikle and backup quarterback Michael Laverriere back for the semifinals.
Portland Coach Jim Hartman said the first week of a bye is challenging because “you don’t know who you are playing.”
“Defensively, you’re kind of in a limbo. We put in some new stuff, expand on what we have and do some reviewing. We try to keep the kids focused,” he said.
KENNEBUNK, BRUNSWICK and Cony would have easily been playoff teams — and high seeds — had they stayed in Class A, but the move to Class B because of realignment was just what the doctor ordered. In the long haul their programs should prosper. They’re playing against schools of similar enrollments. If they had stayed in Class A, they could have strong teams from time to time but in Class B, they have a chance to be in title contention more often than not.
THE INAUGURAL Portland High Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held Nov. 27 at the Italian Heritage Center. The banquet will start at 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public. Tickets are $25 and available at Siano’s Restaurant on Brentwood Street in Deering Center, Bruno’s Restaurant on Allen Avenue, Forest Gardens on Forest Avenue and Joe’s Smoke Shop on Congress Street. Ticket information is available at [email protected] Being inducted are Ed Bogdanovich, John “Giant” Conroy, James Fitzpatrick, Willie Greenlaw, Shaun Hawkins, Quinton Porter and Mike Rutherford.
Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:[email protected]Twitter: TomChardPPH