Two years ago, eight-man football was an experiment. Now it looks as though it’s here to stay. Eight-man football in Maine has expanded from 10 teams in its inaugural year of 2019 to 25 teams this fall. The teams will compete in two divisions: One for schools with enrollments of 355 and higher, and the other for smaller schools.

Here is a look at some of the notable eight-man teams heading into the fall, with the regional winners of each division advancing to the two state championship games at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium on Nov. 13.

LARGE SCHOOLS DIVISION

Mt. Ararat won the 2019 eight-man championship with a 58-25 victory over Old Orchard Beach. This fall, the Eagles will be challenged by Cheverus and Waterville, newcomers to eight-man football. Mt. Ararat is led by a pair of veterans on the line, Elliot Douglass and Kyle Graffam. Running backs Kaden Getchell and Shea Farrell also will play key roles.

Cheverus is led by a trio of senior captains: center/defensive tackle Braden Smith, running back/linebacker Marshall Fowler, and guard/defensive end Sebastian Merrill.

“I looked at some of the teams from two years ago, and it looks like Mt. Ararat is the team to beat,” Smith said.

Waterville returns a handful of players who saw varsity playing time as freshmen and sophomores when the Purple Panthers played in Class C North in 2019. Among them are quarterback Liam VonOesen, running back Billy Place, wide receivers Spencer Minihan and Julian Naborowsku, and lineman Adam Sirois.

“A lot of (teams) are going through this for the first time. A lot of it is going to be educated guessing,” said Waterville Coach Isaac LeBlanc.

At Yarmouth, junior Jackson Dauphine is a tough runner and strong defender at cornerback but is one of only two starters returning for a program down to 22 players. The Clippers made their eight-man debut in 2019.

Camden Hills, another team making the switch from 11-man to eight-man this fall, is led by running backs Hunter Norton and Lewis Mainella, along with quarterback Ryan Clifford and lineman JJ Harrington.

“We want to create success in our program. We want to fill that stands and we want the community to know our kids,” said Windjammers Coach Chris Christie.

Not being able to play last season hurt Gray-New Gloucester, who had a large senior class that missed out on a tackle football season in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Patriots have been practicing with a roster in the high teens. Mickey Ryan (quarterback/defensive back) and Jason Hart (offensive and defensive line) are among the key players for the Patriots.

SMALL SCHOOLS DIVISION

Old Orchard Beach graduated 17 players who were juniors on the team that reached the state final two years ago. The Seagulls have 24 players, but most are freshmen and sophomores. Running back/defensive end Jacob Payea is the main cog for OOB. The other three seniors – tight end/safety Isaac Lachance, and offensive linemen Gavin Reed and Keegan Furtado – have limited experience.

Maranacook is moving from the big schools division to the small and has to replace quarterback Garit Laliberte, the first finalist for the Fitzpatrick Trophy from the eight-man division. Chris Reid is the new quarterback and has weapons in tight end Thomas Struck, running back Mark Thibodeau and receiver Seth White.

At Sacopee Valley, Coach Steve Bridges likes the commitment he’s seen from the program’s upperclassmen. Seniors Abram Maynard, a center/defensive end, and running back/defensive back Hunter Hodgdon will lead the Hawks, along with junior quarterback/linebacker Ashton Day.

Mountain Valley has 30 players for this first season of eight-man football, but just six seniors and four juniors. Running backs Robert Leveillee, Kaden Paaso and Grant Carrier will be key players for the Falcons, along with tight end/linebacker Jonah Byam.

“It’s new. It’s going to be trial and error for us,” Mountain Valley Coach Devin Roberts said.

Six teams that previously played in Class D North in the Little Ten Conference are making the move to the eight-man small division: Houlton/Hodgdon/Southern Aroostook/Greater Houlton Christian, Mt. View, Orono, Mattanawcook/Lee/Penobscot Valley, Dexter and Stearns/Schenck.

At Mattanawcook/Lee/Penobscot Valley, Coach Brad Bishop has an experienced quarterback in Isaac Hainer. Houlton/Hodgdon/Southern Aroostook/Greater Houlton Christian is led by a few players who were all-LTC performers in 2019, including wide receiver Caleb Solomon and Kurtis Reynolds, who could play either on the offensive line or at fullback.

Stearns/Schenck Coach Cody Herring thinks his team has the experience to be a contender is the North division. Quarterback Elliot Shearer threw for 861 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019, while running back Shawn Clements ran for 577 yards and five touchdowns.

Originally, there were 26 teams in eight-man football this season, but Washington Academy of East Machias opted out of the season on Thursday, citing low participation. The Raiders had just 10 players, and injuries in preseason scrimmages dropped their numbers to seven healthy players.


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