CUMBERLAND — Greely High’s football program has become emblematic of the challenges facing many of Maine’s high school teams.

Because of the strong likelihood that its already perilously small roster will shrink further, Greely football will likely have to redefine itself.

That process started publicly on Tuesday as over 30 supporters of the program, including a half-dozen current players, attended an informational meeting. Options and some concerns were addressed. No decisions were made but a promise was given.

“Any of the student-athletes that I’m responsible for in grades 7 through 12 that want to play football can do so next year,” said Greely Athletic Director David Shapiro.

Greely will graduate 10 of its 22 players who went 5-5 in Class B this season. Only three eighth-graders from the Greely school district played on a combined Greely-Yarmouth middle school team.

Shapiro outlined four high school options for 2019: continue with the status quo; shift to eight-man football, which is being promoted as an option by the Maine Principals’ Association; form a co-operative agreement for 11-man football with a neighboring school; or possibly form a co-operative team and play eight-man.

Falmouth and Yarmouth are the only viable options for co-operative partners, Shapiro said, because of the schools’ proximity.

A draft proposal by the MPA Football Committee has a new AA-A-B-C format for 11-man with an eight-man league for school’s with enrollments under 350 students. There is a strong likelihood some larger schools will also ask to play eight-man. The next football committee meeting is Nov. 29.

The football players in attendance remained mostly quiet during the 90-minute meeting, though one player said he wants to “keep it as it is.”

But over the past two years only a handful of players have transitioned from middle school to high school, said Steve Richard, a member and former president of the Greely Football Boosters.

“How do we solve going from 14 eighth-graders down to two playing in high school, like we had this year?” Richard asked. “We have to address that and solve that first.”

“We in the football community have to do a much better job on this concussion issue,” said Greely Coach David Higgins. “We had one documented concussion this year and it’s important to understand the truth of it.”

While there was no consensus of opinion on Greely’s best option, several people expressed that a co-operative team could be beneficial, especially if it created junior varsity opportunities.

“Having that JV level could be a big talking point for some of those people that are on the fence,” said Bill Ross, a youth coach and father of a sixth-grade Greely player. “There’s a huge difference between varsity football and middle school and we just have to bridge that somehow.”

Shapiro said he wants to have a plan for Greely in place by mid-January.

“We need to decide what we need to do for Greely,” Shapiro said. “Then whatever that is, that will get plugged into the MPA numbers.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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