WINDHAM – If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes with the Windham High School football team, check out WPME’s new show, “Varsity,” airing Sundays at 9 p.m.

The show’s producer, Jeff Christenbury, who profiled the heroics of Maine footballers on his now-cancelled show, “The Maine Rundown,” is turning his lens more introspectively onto two teams, the Windham High football team and Cheverus High School’s girl’s field hockey team. The show chronicles each team exclusively, following them not just while they are on the field on Friday nights, but also during the pre- and post-game meetings, during the coach’s pep talks, as well as at practice sessions during the week. Player interviews and interviews with parents and fans will also be featured.

Christenbury’s goal is to take viewers on a half-hour, inside-the-ropes tour of everything related to Windham football each Sunday night. Rather than list scores and game highlights as “The Maine Rundown” did, “Varsity” is delving deeper by following the team through the pre-season and regular season and hopefully playoffs.

“I’ve basically embedded myself with the two teams to paint the whole picture and go beyond the game itself,” Christenbury said.

Christenbury, a Saco city councilor, and WPME are airing at least six episodes of “Varsity” this fall season, and possibly more if Windham or Cheverus make it into the playoffs. The show runs twice for an hour this week starting at 9 p.m. In successive weeks, the previous week’s show will re-run at 9 p.m. followed by a new show at 9:30.

Christenbury is aiming for a “documentary-like” feel to the broadcasts and picked Windham not only because the team won the state championship last year, but also because of the great deal of interest their Cinderella win produced. Windham, which had never won the state title before 2009, had done poorly in previous seasons and generally struggled in its new Class A division.

But, in 2009, that all changed when the team, seasoned with skilled seniors, finally came through.

Windham’s win on Nov. 21 of last year, against the favored Bangor Rams at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland, was followed by an exuberant parade of school buses, cars and police cruisers accompanying the triumphant team back into Windham. That sort of community support made Christenbury realize Windham was special and would interest viewers eager for an inside look.

“Because of the way they won last year and the way the community responded to their win, that’s what drew us to them,” Christenbury said.

Coach Matt Perkins was a little hesitant about Christenbury’s probing lens in preseason practices, but Perkins trusted Christenbury to get the story straight and welcomes the attention on his players and looks forward to seeing the show air Sunday night.

“I would say I was aware at first the camera was there, but now I don’t even notice it. Jeff doesn’t get in the way,” Perkins said.

“I think it’s pretty neat. It’s a neat idea. I just wish we were doing a little better this season,” Perkins said of his 1-3 squad.

Perkins said his team is hardly fazed by Christenbury’s cameras, as well, and since they’re a “quiet bunch,” the players aren’t distracted by the attention.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t even think they know it’s going to be on this weekend,” Perkins said.

That might change, however, as the season progresses and more shows air, making the team known around Maine.

Having to crunch the material into a half-hour time slot has proven to be a little difficult for Christenbury, a 2007 graduate of Boston University with a degree in broadcast journalism. He said his biggest challenge is keeping track of and cramming all his good material into a half-hour show.

“I have 24 to 25 hours of film for six half-hour episodes,” he said. “So there’s a lot to look through to say the least.”

After 114 episodes of “The Maine Rundown,” Christenbury said he became proficient at knowing how the show would play out. With “Varsity” however, he’s in unchartered territory.

“This show is completely different. We have to find a story line. We use music quite a bit. It’s just a whole new approach,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’ll be interesting to see how it works out.”

WPME’s new “Varsity” show, debuting this Sunday night at 9 p.m., follows the Windham High School football team starting with preseason practice and continuing through the regular season. The show’s producer, Jeff Christenbury, “embedded” himself with the team so viewers can get a glimpse behind the scenes. Christenbury also regularly interviewed the players, parents, athletic director and Coach Matt Perkins, standing. (Courtesy photo)

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