The purpose of reclassification is to create more competitive opportunities for more teams.

Based on that rationale, Year One of the Maine Principals’ Association’s move from two to three enrollment classes in lacrosse was a resounding success.

Six of the 12 schools in last weekend’s championship games were first-time finalists: Lincoln Academy, Greely and Thornton for the boys, and Lake Region, St. Dominic and Falmouth for the girls. Two other programs – the Class C champion Waynflete boys and the Class B champion Cape Elizabeth girls – had been to only one previous title game.

“Even if we didn’t win, we made it to states,” said Cape senior Emily Foley, who scored the overtime winner against Yarmouth in Saturday’s final at Fitzpatrick Stadium. “Two years ago we didn’t even make the playoffs. It’s just an incredible feeling, especially as a senior, to be here.”

Those two squads, along with the Falmouth girls (Class A), Lake Region girls (Class C) and Thornton Academy boys (Class A) won their first state title.

“I would classify it as a success,” said Falmouth boys’ coach Dave Barton. “We had some really competitive games. At our coach’s meetings and all-American meetings we found there are still some kinks to work out but there were a lot of overtime games, and Class C: what a great opportunity for Waynflete and Lincoln Academy to battle for a state championship. It was a great benefit for some of the smaller and newer programs.”

The Class C boys’ final exemplified how a third class can help a variety of teams find a better competitive niche.

For Waynflete, a school of 262 students, lacrosse is not a new sport. But the Flyers had previously been stuck in Class B South and had not made the playoffs for two seasons playing in a region loaded with top-tier teams with significant advantage in terms of enrollment.

Lincoln Academy (579 students) was coming from a different vantage point. Three years ago, the Eagles dropped from varsity to club status to stay afloat.

“It was due to numbers and a lack of experience and to just get more stick time for kids,” said Lincoln senior captain Nathan Simmons. “Before that, we had a varsity program but they just got crushed and they’d go like 1-10, 0-12 on the season. We realized this year (in Class C) that a lot of the teams we were playing, we could compete with them. Before it was just hard. Two classes, A and B, there are a lot of southern schools with pure talent and they’ve been playing for a long time.”

Combined with more creative scheduling and being allowed four crossover games instead of two, reclassification also reduced the number of lopsided regular-season contests.

In 2017, the average margin of victory was over nine goals in games involving teams from A South and B South. Coaches said the competitive balance was the worst they had seen. Cape Coach Ben Raymond proposed a three-tier schedule based on strength of program, regardless of class.

The schedule change wasn’t quite that revolutionary. Instead all teams were allowed four crossover games of their own choosing, more competitive games were created.

This season, 53 games involving Class A teams (including crossovers with B and C opponents) finished with a margin of five goals or fewer; 52 with margins of 10 or greater. That’s a marked improvement from 2017 when only 38 games involving Class A teams were close (5 goals or fewer) and 67 were blowouts (10-plus).

The new Class B was even more competitive. Including cross-class games, 65 games involving Class B teams were close and 49 were blowouts.

Class C teams were more prone to be involved in blowouts (53 times) as opposed to close games (42), although several of the blowout victories were earned by the Class C team.

“Overall, we’re very pleased with the first year,” said Yarmouth High Principal Eric Klein, chair of the MPA lacrosse committee.

Klein said the third class also allows better entry points for new teams. In 2019, the Brewer boys and Gray-New Gloucester girls are expected to have varsity teams.

“Like anything else, we’ll look at it and evaluate it going forward,” Klein said.

The flip side of creating competitive balance is that there were odd scheduling inequities within divisions.

For example, Falmouth and Portland finished first and second in Class A North, both with 11-1 records. Both teams are members of the SMAA conference, but they did not play a single common opponent.

Windham, the third-place team in the league at 10-2, played only three games against teams from A North – and two were against Portland.

Windham Coach Pete Small said his team would have benefited from playing teams like Falmouth and he would like teams to play more games against divisional opponents. He also echoed a consensus opinion among coaches that it is time to increase the number of regular- season games from 12 to at least 14. “All the states around us play at least 14,” Small said, noting that the increase in the amount of artificial turf fields would make scheduling two additional games easier.

“I would say it was a big step in the right direction,” said Greely boys’ coach Mike Storey. “It’s not perfected yet. I think we need more games, and a little earlier start for safety reasons, like they do with pitchers and catchers for baseball, but we took a big step. … In terms of creating competition for every level of team, it did do its job from my perspective.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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