November 18, 2012

State Championship Notebook: Four state finals would give MPA one-day problem

From staff reports

PORTLAND - With the probability of high school football moving to four classes in 2013, the face of Gold Ball Saturday also may change.

click image to enlarge

Andrew Libby of Thornton Academy stretches to get the ball across the goal line as Keenan Scanlin of Lawrence makes the tackle.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The Maine Principals' Association has held the championship games for all three classes at Fitzpatrick Stadium since 2002. And as Mike Haley, the executive secretary of the coaches' association, noted, "We've never had a bad day."

The MPA's classification committee is studying a four-class alignment to begin in 2013. Maine hasn't had four classes in football since 1986.

If the classification committee approves the new alignment, it also would have to be approved by the entire MPA membership at its annual spring meeting in March.

And if the MPA membership approves the plan, the MPA's football committee has work to do.

"I think it would have to be reviewed if we could effectively get four games in on one day," said Dick Durost, the executive director of the MPA. "I think it's a serious conversation we would have to have."

The current schedule calls for three games starting at 11 a.m., then allowing 31/2 hours for each session, finishing up with a 6 p.m. starting time for the final game.

If a fourth class is added, it might be difficult to get all games in at one site.

If a second site is needed, Durost said, "it would make sense that it would be farther north."

Durost said the MPA would look at sites with lights, possibly with artificial turf ("It's an advantage because of the weather this time of year," he said) and with plenty of seating capacity.

Saturday's Class A game between Thornton Academy and Lawrence drew an estimated 9,000.

If, as in other sports, the MPA would rotate the classes at different sites, he said a second stadium would have to be able to accommodate large crowds for the Class A schools.

But, said Durost, "I think it's premature to talk about it just yet." 

THORNTON ACADEMY used a big third quarter to beat Lawrence 37-23 and win the school's first Class A state championship since 1988.

The Golden Trojans also beat Lawrence that year, and ironically, the game began the same way as it did Saturday.

In 1988, Kirk Mathieu of Lawrence returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. This time, Jake Doolan of Lawrence did it, running 89 yards to put the Bulldogs up just 13 seconds into the game.

Doolan had a hole so big a truck could have been driven through.

Lawrence is 1-7 in Class A state finals. Its lone win was 14-13 against Gorham in 2006.

This was Thornton's third state championship since the Class A East-West playoff format began in 1967. The Golden Trojans lost to Waterville in 1974 at Colby College, then won in 1986 and 1988. 

BEFORE THE CLASS A game, Biddeford and Sanford were awarded Maine Principals' Association Western Maine Class A sportsmanship banners. The schools tied in the voting.

Lawrence won the award in Eastern Maine.

Before the Class C game, Sacopee Valley and Washington Academy won sportsmanship banners.

A common practice at basketball state championship games for years, this was the first time the MPA awarded them at football state finals. 

ON ERIC CHRISTENSEN'S first pass of the game, the Thornton Academy quarterback uncorked a 50-yard throw that just missed connecting with Andrew Libby.

Christensen went to the air only seven times, completing one. That one was a big one, a 47-yard pass to tight end Dakota Tarbox in the second quarter that tied the score at 14-14 after Christensen ran for the 2-point conversion.

His 30-yard scoring run early in the third quarter put the Golden Trojans ahead for good.

- Staff writers Mike Lowe and Tom Chard contributed to this report


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