Mt. Ararat running back Shea Farrell prepares to make contact with Cheverus defender Brett Bogosian in an Oct. 1 game won by Cheverus, 44-32. The teams are the top two seeds in the eight-man Large School South division. Photo provided by Jason Eggleston

Cheverus Coach Mike Vance is not giving away the Stags’ playbook when he says his team’s first play is always 24 Trap, with the guard pulling for a trap block to open a lane for the fullback. Play No. 2 is Iso, with the fullback as a lead blocker for the tailback.

“Everybody knows that’s what we’re going to run,” Vance said.

Vance shares this information because he wanted to make a bigger point. In Cheverus’ first season playing eight-man football, the coach who was an assistant on the Stags’ 2010 and 2011 Class A 11-man championship teams has found eight-man football is “remarkably similar” to the 11-man game.

“It’s virtually the same stuff. We run the same play with the same blocking scheme,” Vance said. And when the game is over, the term eight-man isn’t on his mind. He’s thinking, did the guard get across and make the trap block? Did the linebacker fill the hole and make the tackle? How well were kicks covered?

This week, Vance and the other 24 eight-man coaches and their staffs are thinking about the expanded eight-man playoffs that begin this weekend. All teams were eligible for the playoffs, leading to Nov. 13 when state championship games will be held for the Small and Large school divisions.

Traip Academy declined its invitation to the Small South quarterfinals. Traip (0-6) would have played No. 1 Telstar (7-0). Telstar had beaten Traip twice this season by scores of 62-6 and then 52-0 in last weekend’s regular-season finale. Telstar now has a bye and will face the winner of Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game between No. 5 Maranacook (2-3) and No. 4 Old Orchard Beach (4-3).

The other Small South quarterfinals are at 7 p.m. Friday – No. 7 Sacopee Valley (1-4) at No. 2 Dirigo (5-2), and No. 6 Boothbay (3-4) at No. 3 Mountain Valley (2-3).

As the top two seeds in the Large School South division, No. 1 Cheverus (5-0) and No. 2 Mt. Ararat (6-1), which won the inaugural 2019 eight-man title, have a bye this weekend. Cheverus beat Mt. Ararat in Topsham during the regular season, 44-32. The Stags outscored their other four opponents 188-16. Mt. Ararat has a 262-72 scoring edge in its six wins.

Vance said the biggest difference his team has experienced by going to the eight-man ranks is the return of junior varsity football. While Cheverus has a sizable 44-man roster, being able to play JV is important, with 17 freshmen and 13 sophomores.

“The best thing eight-man has done is it has brought back JV football,” Vance said. “I know a lot of programs had lost JV football and we were one of them. We hadn’t finished a JV season in four years, and in 2019, I don’t think we even played one game.”

Morse is another first-year eight-man team finding success.

The Shipbuilders, seeded second in the Large North division, are 5-2, averaging a 50 points per game, and will host a semifinal next week against Camden Hills (4-2). It will be the third meeting between the two teams, each winning on the road.

Morse Coach Jason Darling said his players and the community have quickly embraced eight-man.

“We’ve played in front of great crowds and that’s been a lot of fun, and the players are really enjoying that,” Darling said. The increased excitement around football has helped build the roster.

“In 2019, we played three-quarters of our games with 16 kids in pads,” Darling said. This year, that number is close to 30 players, six of whom joined the program after the season started.

“The greatest thing in the world is we’ve had a full JV schedule,” Darling said. “We haven’t had that in a decade, and that’s what you need in order to bring kids into the program and keep them.”

This weekend’s Large School games in the South includes No. 5 Gray-New Gloucester (2-5) at No. 4 Lake Region (2-4). Mt. Ararat will play the winner of No. 6 Yarmouth (1-6) at No. 3 Spruce Mountain (5-2).

Lake Region beat Gray-NG 33-20 in the season opener. Spruce beat visiting Yarmouth 44-20 on Sept. 17.

“This is going to be a pretty competitive game this weekend,” said Gray-New Gloucester Coach Brian Jahna.

IN CLASS B SOUTH, the No. 2 seed and home field in a likely regional semifinal is at stake when Marshwood plays at Kennebunk at 6 p.m. Friday. Both teams are 5-2, with losses to unbeaten Portland (7-0) and to Class A powers Thornton Academy and Bonny Eagle. Noble is also 5-2 but is unlikely to make up enough ground to move up from No. 4. The Knights, who did not play either Marshwood or Kennebunk, are at winless Deering.

COVID CANCELLATIONS: For the second consecutive week, both Scarborough and Sanford have canceled their games. Scarborough was to host Oxford Hills, and Sanford was supposed to host unbeaten Class B North leader Windham, both on Friday. Also canceled as of Thursday was Belfast at Winslow in Class C North.

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