AUGUSTA — Riley Geyer held out hope that a solution was going to be found, that a compromise was going to be reached, and that he’d be able to spend the fall of his senior season on the gridiron with his Cony High teammates.

Those hopes went unfulfilled Thursday, when the Maine Principals’ Association – in a joint release with state officials – announced it wouldn’t offer tackle football for the upcoming season due to COVID-19 safety concerns.

“I think it’s completely outrageous. It’s ridiculous,” said Geyer, the Cony quarterback. “It just drives me insane, to think that other states have a bigger population in one city than we do in the whole state of Maine, and they’re playing football.

“It pretty much brings me to tears. I just want to cry, yell and scream.”

In an e-mail to member schools, the MPA said that football in the fall will be limited to 7-on-7 flag or touch formats, but also stated that there will be an effort to move the tackle football season to either the late winter or early spring.

Still, with hurdles to clear including weather and field availability, some coaches were doubtful that a postponed season would be feasible.

“I was holding out hope that we could look for data from around the country that has indicated that football is perhaps not as dangerous as we thought, in terms of transmission,” Cony Coach B.L. Lippert said. “I was hoping for that, but there must be a reason we can’t pursue that and this is the best option. It’s just unfortunate.”

Lewiston Athletic Director Jason Fuller said the announcement, which also ruled out indoor volleyball and soccer playoffs for the fall, was a blow for all athletes.

“I wouldn’t say anybody got away scot-free in this,” he sad. “I think this is a hard day for a lot of kids and parents.”

Fuller added the football news wasn’t a surprise.

“I kind of had an idea this was coming,” he said. “If you read the community guidelines that were released last week, it kind of spelled out what direction this was heading. It doesn’t make it any easier.”

Some coaches, however, took joy in the season being postponed, rather than shuttered.

“My initial feeling, when they mentioned they might do it in the spring, I thought it was a good idea,” Brunswick Coach Dan Cooper said. “It was going to be a shortened season anyway. I don’t know if we would have been able to have playoffs at this point. … I think the spring is the way to go. Now they’ve got time to plan it and organize it, instead of just kind of winging it here at the end.”

The notion of a season in late winter or early spring, however, raises several question marks. The biggest is finding suitable fields, as northern and smaller schools will have limited access to turf – which likely will be needed as grass fields are mostly unplayable in March and into April because of Maine’s unrelenting winters.

Houlton High School is the northernmost school playing high school football in the state. A spring season would be problematic for the Shiretowners, Coach Jon Solomon said. Solomon also serves as the junior varsity baseball coach at Houlton, and that season always starts late because of persistent snow.

“We’re in the gym until April vacation or even after before we can get on the field,” Solomon said.

The nearest artificial turf fields to Houlton are in the Bangor area, an hour and 45-minute drive south on Interstate 95.

“If we’re talking about March, we have to play at Husson, UMaine or Hampden, if they allow us on their fields,” Solomon said.

Some athletic directors are ready to try to make a postponed season work. If a spring season is deemed viable, Messalonskee AD Chad Foye said his school’s new artificial turf field could be a host for games.

“If that’s what the plan is and that’s what has to be done, we’ll be accessible as possible,” Foye said. “I’ve already heard from a few people asking if they can use our field if there’s a spring season.”

Fuller, the Lewiston AD, said he expects to be busy fielding calls as well.

“I’m sure my door is going to get knocked down,” he said. “I’m sure there will be demand there. As of right now, we’re not renting to outside groups. But that may change, we as a community need to make that determination as we go. … It’s going to be a tall task, but I’m not pessimistic. I think it can happen.”

Fields are only one concern, however. The ability to practice is another. As are frigid temperatures, and the timing of trying to squeeze the football schedule in between traditional winter and spring seasons.

“Honestly, I don’t want to affect the spring season. … They’ve already lost a season,” said Lippert, the Cony football coach. “I personally don’t see a window for football to be played in March and April. But I guess we’ll hold out hope that somehow, somebody smarter than me figures out how we can do that.”

For the fall, coaches were lukewarm about the consolation of 7-on-7 play.

“I’ll be honest with you. Our kids aren’t going to want to do that,” Solomon said. “Our linemen can’t do that. Now we’ve got a whole segment of kids who can’t do that.”

“Cony-Lawrence flag football just is not the same,” Lippert added. “I don’t care if we’re playing at Keyes Field or whatnot, it just isn’t the same feel. It’s not going to replace what we wanted for the season.”

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