High school football playoffs start Friday night with regional quarterfinals, and it’s easy to find matchups that beg the question: Why is this game even being played?

Deering, a 1-7 team in Class A South, plays at Bonny Eagle (7-1). Two weeks ago the Scots beat the Rams, 51-0.

In Class B South, Gorham (3-5) is at Kennebunk (7-1). Kennebunk won the regular-season meeting, 54-8.

But looking only at the glaring mismatches obscures the bigger point – giving teams a chance to get playoff experience.

“It’s a great opportunity for young football teams to have a playoff atmosphere,” said Portland Coach Jim Hartman. “The more games you play, the better for the kids.”

In Class A North, sixth-seeded Portland – the last team in – will be at Oxford Hills. Portland’s 2-6 record doesn’t scream “playoff worthy,” but the Vikings only beat Portland 20-14 during the regular season.

The Bulldogs’ worst loss to a team in its division was by 10 points, and two weeks ago they defeated second-seeded Lewiston.

“And, of course, we’re convinced we can win it all,” Hartman said.

This season the Maine Principals’ Association directed each division to play an eight-game regular-season schedule and decide whether six or eight teams would make the playoffs. That’s why in Class D, eight of the 10 teams are playoff bound in the South and six of the 10 North teams are playing this weekend.

“It depends on each conference individually,” said Massabesic Athletic Director Brendan Scully, who chairs the MPA football committee. “You have different dynamics and that’s why the individual conferences are involved in that.”

An alternative would be to take only the top four teams from each division.

That would produce better immediate matchups. Now followers have to wait an extra week for them to occur.

But dramatically reducing the number of playoff entrants would preclude teams that have made significant progress, such as Gorham and Class C Lake Region (a 5-3 seventh seed).

Gorham is coming off consecutive 0-8 seasons. Lake Region hadn’t won more than two games for five straight seasons. What’s wrong with these teams getting a playoff date?

How about all those No. 5 seeds, teams like Sanford (which gave Thornton all it wanted last week), Biddeford (5-3 in B South), Morse (6-2 in C South), Oceanside (5-3 in C North), and Spruce Mountain (5-3 in D South)?

They may not be on the short list of state title contenders but each has a very real chance of winning this weekend.

This year, 56 of 72 football teams (78 percent) in classes A through D are in the playoffs. The boys’ basketball tournaments last winter included 95 of 137 teams (69 percent). The difference isn’t that great and basketball teams typically play 18 regular-season games.

So let the football teams have their extra game.

WELLS HAS been one of this season’s biggest success stories, going 8-0 after graduating 19 seniors from the 2016 Class C state championship team.

Wells, the top seed in Class D South, will be home against eighth-ranked Oak Hill (3-5) on Friday night. Wells beat Oak Hill 41-21 in the regular season, but it was 14-14 at the half and 28-21 early in the fourth quarter.

Wells senior running back Nolan Potter, a 6-2, 210-pounder, was used in short-yardage situations in 2016. This year Potter has been set loose, scoring 17 touchdowns. Quarterback Michael Wrigley and backs Tyler Bridge and Chad Fitzpatrick also have been productive.

Senior center Sean McCormack-Kuhman, the lone returner up front, has solidified the offensive line and also led a strong group of linebackers.

“He doesn’t get a lot of press because he’s a center/linebacker but you watch on film and you’re blown away,” said Wells Coach Tim Roche. “I think he’s one of the best players in Maine. He can move. He’s fast. He’s strong. He just makes plays.”

Roche said he knows some “naysayers,” think less of Wells’ record because they are playing in Class D. Wells had petitioned up the previous “10 to 15 years,” Roche said, but opted to stay in D for this classification cycle in part because it was joined in the league by Mountain Valley, Spruce Mountain and Madison/Carrabec.

“I think the competition for us has been great,” Roche said. “The only real blowout was Mountain Valley (54-0 last Friday) and I’m not really sure why that happened. They just didn’t play well that night. We’ve had to be ready every week and I’ll tell you, that wasn’t happening last year in Class C.”

THE NEW six-team Class E will have a playoff after all. When the developmental league was formed, it was announced Class E would not play for an official MPA championship. That is still the case but during the season the schools worked with the MPA to coordinate a four-team postseason format, said Camden Hills Athletic Director Steve Alex.

The Class E semifinals will be on Nov. 3 with No. 4 Sacopee Valley (3-5) at No. 1 Boothbay Region (8-0) and No. 3 Camden Hills (5-3) facing Maranacook (6-2) in Readfield. The championship game the following weekend will be at the higher seed. Telstar (1-7) did not qualify and Traip halted its season after the third week.

The winner of the playoffs will receive a plaque from the MPA but not a Gold Ball.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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