The last game of the 2017 boys’ lacrosse season was exactly what players, coaches and fans love to see – exciting, competitive and complete with a thrilling finish as Brunswick beat Scarborough 18-17 to win the Class A championship on Josh Dorr’s overtime goal.

That type of game was exceedingly rare this season. The average margin of victory ranged from 9.7 goals per game in contests involving Class A South teams to 5.8 for Class B North. Class A North had a goal differential of 8.1, and Class B South’s average margin was 9.2.

“This season is probably the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Scarborough Coach Joe Hezlep, who is stepping down after guiding the Red Storm to six state championships in 10 years.

A total of 67 games involving Class A teams (including crossovers with Class B) were decided by 10 or more goals. Just 38 games ended with a margin of five goals or fewer.

That’s why a group of concerned coaches, headed by Cape Elizabeth’s Ben Raymond, is proposing a three-tier, statewide schedule based on strength of program, rather than enrollment or conference affiliation.

“Lopsided games are no good for either team,” Raymond wrote in his appeal to fellow coaches. “We all, as coaches, want competitive games, we want what is best for our student athletes and what is best for lacrosse overall.”

The mismatches were not quite as frequent in Class B South (33 blowouts, 29 close games), but some were exceedingly one-sided. Cape beat Waynflete 22-0. Falmouth beat Lake Region 20-0 and York 27-1.

“One thing about lacrosse, there’s probably no sport crueler for a team that’s not as strong,” said Cheverus Coach Bill Bodwell. “It’s a possession game. (In) lacrosse, when you get scored on, you may not see the ball the rest of the game if you can’t win a faceoff.”

Raymond’s plan would increase the number of competitive regular-season games. It would not impact the MPA’s plan to expand boys’ and girls’ lacrosse to three classes in 2018. Schools would still qualify for playoffs based on Heal points and then play in the Class A, B or C tournaments based on enrollment, unless they petition to play in a higher class.

Right now, the scheduling proposal is only for boys’ lacrosse.

“It’s at a very initial stage,” said Cape Elizabeth Athletic Director Jeff Thoreck. “The athletic directors need education on this issue.”

In Raymond’s plan, Tier 1 would include seven teams: Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Scarborough, Brunswick, Cheverus, South Portland and Thornton Academy. A Class C school based on enrollment, Cape has won 11 state titles in the 20-year history of the MPA sanctioning the sport. Brunswick, which plans to be in Class B next season based on its enrollment, has played in four straight Class A title games, winning two. The other five teams are Class A schools.

Tier 2 would be another seven-team cluster of Yarmouth, Greely, Gorham, Deering, Kennebunk, Lewiston and Messalonskee.

Tier 1 and 2 teams would play each other on a limited basis.

The rest of the teams in the proposal are divided into Tier 3 South (15 teams) and Tier 3 North (16 teams). Each is a combination of Class A, B and C teams.

“Scheduling all comes down to what the athletic directors and the conferences are willing to give us,” said Brunswick Coach Don Glover. Brunswick is in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference. The other main conferences are the Southwestern Maine Activities Association and the Western Maine Conference.

“To say we need a statewide schedule is all well and good, but we have to get it sold to all the conferences,” Glover said. “Four years ago, they tried something like that and boxed out the KVAC teams. We were the orphan league.”

Currently, teams play a 12-game schedule with two crossover games that are designed to create quality matchups.

For powerhouses like Cape and Falmouth, both expected to be in Class A next year, the tiered system would give them more quality opponents. When Cape wasn’t playing Falmouth this season, it outscored opponents by 13.5 goals per game.

The proposal would also help middle-of-the-road teams like Massabesic. A Class A team, Massabesic finished 7-6 this season, with an 18-7 loss to South Portland in a Class A South quarterfinal. Five of its losses were by 10 or more goals. The Mustangs also posted wins by scores of 20-3 and 18-8.

“I think it’s necessary,” said Massabesic Coach Steve Gallo. “For us, there were only two truly competitive games the entire season. We were either the hammer or the nail in every game.”

Class B North, where most of the teams are newer programs on relatively even footing, was the one division with more close games than lopsided contests in 2017. But when it came to the playoffs, traditional power Yarmouth, which went 8-6 in the regular season against a difficult schedule, cruised to its fifth straight regional title. Yarmouth won three regional playoff games by a combined score of 41-5, including a 13-2 win against previously unbeaten Gardiner in the final.

“Lacrosse has always done well in towns that have money. It’s no different this year,” Bodwell said. “I don’t think enrollment has anything to do with strength in lacrosse.

“The days of Gardiner competing against Yarmouth are over in most sports, and I think it comes down to resources and money.”

The idea of a state-wide, tiered schedule does have precedent; hockey is set up in a similar fashion. On a smaller scale, the WMC has had a tiered soccer schedule for years.

“The guys want a revolutionary schedule to go out. Could it be the best schedule ever? It could be,” Glover said. “But the people who have to buy it are the athletic directors.”

Thoreck said if a fully tiered schedule can’t be implemented, the discussion could at least lead to more crossover games.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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