With five games canceled because of COVID-19 heading into the first weekend of the high school football season, teams are having to adjust to bumps on the road back to normal.

The canceled games are Hermon at Cape Elizabeth, Maine Central Institute at Leavitt, Stearns/Schenck at Mount View, Oak Hill at John Bapst and Maranacook at Mountain Valley.

“It’s a tough situation, but we can only control what we can control,” said Cape Elizabeth Coach Sean Green. His team learned Wednesday afternoon that Hermon would be unable to play after players tested positive for COVID-19. Other members of the Hermon team are quarantining because of contact tracing.

The cancellations come as the state is seeing its biggest surge in COVID-19 cases since January. On Thursday, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 624 new cases of COVID-19 and three deaths. The state’s standard operating procedure for schools calls for unvaccinated close contacts to quarantine for 10 days. Students who are fully vaccinated are not required to quarantine.

Green estimated that “nearly 100 percent” of the Cape Elizabeth team is vaccinated.

“It’s a personal decision (to get vaccinated), but with the way (the state) is doing things this year, it’s the easiest thing you can do to ensure you can compete,” he said.

Oak Hill Coach Chad Stowell learned Wednesday that John Bapst is unable to play Friday’s scheduled game. Stowell said he knows a few of his own players are vaccinated, but it’s not an issue he will bring up to the team even in light of the cancellation – because he doesn’t want families to feel that vaccination is a requirement for team membership. Stowell noted that he and his family are vaccinated.

“If guys ask me, I tell them my thoughts, but I don’t preach to them,” he said. “As a coach, you want to be able to offer advice. It’s kind of a weird situation to be in.”

At Mountain Valley, which lost this week’s game because of COVID-19 cases affecting Maranacook, Coach Devin Roberts said he’ll let his team know when the school is holding a vaccination clinic, and they can attend if they choose.

The cancellations began late last week when COVID-19 cases and close contacts left Maine Central Institute unable to field a team for its game at Leavitt this weekend. This followed a week in which football teams across the state, including Massabesic, Morse and Winslow, shut down for a portion of the preseason because of COVID-19 and contact tracing.

“We will be ready to go for Week 2 barring no further issues,” said MCI Coach Tom Bertrand.

The 2020 season was called off because of the pandemic, with schools fielding 7-on-7 flag football teams instead.

The Maine Principals’ Association said that games canceled because of COVID-19  will be considered a no-contest, with neither team earning a loss or a win. With football playoff seeding determined by Crabtree Points, which are calculated by adding a team’s winning percentage to the winning percentage of its opponents, having a no-contest against a strong opponent could be a factor come November.

“(It’s a) small picture compared to everything else going on, but it stinks to lose someone like (MCI) in your Crabtree Points if it is just a no-contest. They will win a lot of games for sure,” said Leavitt Coach Mike Hathaway.

“I have a feeling you will see this (all season). The question will be whether or not teams will be able to match up and play countable games with the team that has a bye or if someone else comes available because of a cancellation, especially if it happens to a team multiple times.”

Stowell implored his team to find the silver lining: They now can attend Friday night’s game between Lisbon and Foxcroft Academy, Oak Hill’s next two opponents.

A SHORTAGE OF game officials led to a pair of football games being moved from Friday night to Thursday this week.

An eight-man game between Lake Region and Gray-New Gloucester and a Class B game between Portland and Kennebunk were moved up a day to Thursday because of the officials’ crunch. Kennebunk Athletic Director Joe Schwartzman said he was asked to change his opening game to either Thursday or Saturday because of a lack of officials. If Thursday’s game had to be postponed because of weather and played on Friday, he said they would have to use “Augusta officials.”

Mike Drouin, the assigner for the South Western Maine Board of Football Officials, said he has 26 fewer officials than in 2019. The board now has 58 field officials, with five injured.

“But that’s when everyone is available on a daily basis, which seldom happens,” Drouin said.


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