Maine high school football coaches had mixed reactions to fall schedules released Friday, in light of a new approach to scheduling designed to create more competitive games and fewer blowouts.

In February, the Maine Principals’ Association’s Football Committee introduced a plan to base schedules on a ranking system in each 11-man football enrollment class, in order to have programs of similar strength play each other. The changes led to more interclass games in this fall’s schedule. Class A teams also were given approval to play a New Hampshire team in order to have a competitive ninth game on their schedules.

Not all Class A teams were able to find a match with New Hampshire opponents. The ones that did are Bonny Eagle (Merrimack), Edward Little (Spaulding), Oxford Hills (Portsmouth), Sanford (Dover) and Thornton Academy (Bedford). Bangor and Scarborough will play nine Maine teams, while Lewiston will play eight Maine teams and have a bye.

“The schedule looks good for our team. I like playing the New Hampshire team,” said Oxford Hills Coach Mark Soehren. “I think it’s great that we’re playing teams outside Maine, I like that idea. Where I grew up (in North Dakota), we did that and it was a lot of fun.”

The scheduling changes are designed to curb the trend of lopsided games across the state. Last fall, nearly 30 percent of regular-season games were decided by 35 points or more.

Teams were ranked within each class and then slotted into a scheduling matrix that determined the in-class matchups. Fred Lower, chair of the MPA Football Committee, said teams were also asked to pick five opponents they wanted kept on their schedule, and that most, though not all, of those matchups were put in.


The schedules, assembled by a group within the Football Committee made up of eight athletic directors from each class and region, were approved by 85 percent of schools at the 11-man level and 100 percent of schools playing eight-man, according to Lower.

“It’s not perfect, I don’t think you can ever make it perfect,” said Lower, the athletic director at Hampden Academy. “But I think we produced a really good product, something that’s going to make games a lot more competitive.”

Coaches, however, are split on whether the new schedules accomplish that goal, as well as whether they lead to the most captivating matchups.

Marshwood Coach Alex Rotsko said the ranking process worked, and that his defending Class B champions will play a tougher schedule than last year. The Hawks, who were ranked first in Class B South, will play Class A teams Bonny Eagle, Scarborough and Sanford, as well as Portland, Kennebunk, South Portland, Noble and Massabesic. Marshwood plays two more Class A teams in place of Deering and Biddeford, who the Hawks beat by a combined score of 95-14.

“I think it makes for a little bit more competitive schedule, which was the goal of the whole thing,” he said. “Our schedule this year is stronger than what it was last year. I think it’s going to make for more competitive games. … No one likes to see those 60-0 games. I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

South Portland, ranked fourth in Class B South, will play crossover games with Scarborough and Class C champion Cape Elizabeth. Red Riots Coach Aaron Filieo had listed both schools among his preferred interclass games and said he is happy with the schedule.


But Filieo said it’s too early to tell if the overall schedules meet the goal of greater competitive balance.

“On paper, I’m sure it looks that way, but who knows? It’s hard to tell every year,” he said.

Bonny Eagle will play Maine opponents that went a combined 54-25 last season. The Scots will play Class B regional finalists in Marshwood, Portland, Windham and Lawrence.

“We want to play as competitive a schedule as possible,” said Coach Kevin Cooper, “so being able to cross over with those particular B teams, I think, is pretty exciting for us.”

Other coaches are disappointed with their schedules. Kennebunk will play Class A champion Thornton Academy, which Rams Coach Joe Rafferty had listed as a team he did not want to face.

“I’ve been opposed to crossovers with A from the beginning, I’ve been very vocal and verbal about that,” Rafferty said. “I don’t understand why we’re doing that and I’m not playing everyone in my conference. I’d rather go play my conference and do the best we can with that.


“We were specifically asked, if there was a team you didn’t want to play, who would it be? My answer was TA. And who’s on my schedule? TA. I don’t know how to figure it out.”

Wells Coach Tim Roche – whose Class C South team will play divisional opponents Fryeburg Academy, Westbrook, Cheverus, Leavitt, Cape Elizabeth and York, as well as crossovers against Kennebunk and Class D Freeport – said he was fine with his schedule but disliked the process behind it. The crossovers, Roche said, still allow for the possibility of a strong Class C program like Leavitt or Cape Elizabeth drawing a weak Class B team.

“They’re trying to make football more competitive, (but) teams are going to get blown out,” he said. “We lost to Kennebunk in a scrimmage, 42-0. … We’re never going to have games where there are no blowouts happening. So in my mind, what are we trying to fix? And is the fix the right thing?”

The loss of some rivalries to allow for crossovers with unfamiliar opponents was another point of contention. Cony in B North will play Class A Oxford Hills and Class B South’s Massabesic, but will not play Lawrence, one of its biggest rivals.

“We have no tradition, history or rivalry with Massabesic. We do with Lawrence, and we don’t play them. We do with Brunswick, and we don’t play them,” Cony Coach B.L. Lippert said. “That part of it’s frustrating. … It’s been a great rivalry for a long time. In the last decade, we’ve had just some incredible games, and it’s my personal favorite place to play.”

Similarly, South Portland won’t play neighboring Deering, and Kennebunk won’t play area rival Biddeford or South Portland despite the teams being ranked in the top four in B South.

“It doesn’t make sense. If everyone ranks South Portland and Kennebunk in the top half of the league, why wouldn’t you want them playing one another?” Rafferty said. “We’re trying to create a competitive schedule. Why wouldn’t you have two of the top four teams play each other? Why take that game away?”

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