Thornton Academy’s Caden True moves in to tackle Dom Tagliaferro of Bedford High in New Hampshire during a Sept. 17 game in Saco. Interstate football between the states made its debut in 2022. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

In 2022, five of Maine’s eight Class A football teams played a game against a New Hampshire opponent.

This season Scarborough and Bangor are getting in on the Maine versus New Hampshire excitement.

“I thought it would be a good experience,” said Scarborough Coach Packy Malia. “I liked the idea of the interstate matchups and it also kept us from playing a team that might not be as competitive.”

In addition to rematches of the five games played in 2022, Scarborough will host Bishop Guertin, a Catholic school in Nashua, on Sept. 8. Bangor will host Winnacunnet of Hampton in Week 5, either on Friday Sept. 29 or Saturday Sept. 30.

Malia said he’s already taken a peek at Bishop Guertin’s games from 2022, when the Cardinals went 7-2 in the regular season and 8-3 overall.

“I think it will be good for our kids to see football from another area,” Malia said.


For Maine teams, the games count fully in the Crabtree standings that determine playoff seeding. For the New Hampshire teams the cross-state outcome will only be used as a tie-breaking consideration for playoff seeding.

The Maine-New Hampshire games are played in an effort to offset the competitive imbalance that beset Maine’s top enrollment division, which shrunk from 14 teams to just eight for the 2019, 2021 and 2022 seasons. This fall there will be 12 Class A teams, but many teams are opting for an out-of-state game to provide a better competitive mix.

“I hope we keep the New Hampshire games,” said Thornton Academy Coach Kevin Kezal. “I used to be the guy who said you had to play everyone in your league but now I’m in favor of tiered schedules.”

Bedford beat Thornton Academy , 16-10, in Saco last September. The two teams will play again this fall in New Hampshire. “I hope we keep the New Hampshire games,” says Thornton Academy Coach Kevin Kezal. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Kezal recalled how when Class A was a 14-team league there were certain teams, especially in A South, that were hurt by annually having to play perennial powers Thornton, Bonny Eagle and Scarborough each season.

“Sometimes three weeks in a row. That wasn’t good for Maine football, for those teams, for anyone,” Kezal said.

Last year’s introduction of interstate games marked the first time in Maine’s playoff era that high school teams from Maine played countable regular-season games against out-of-state opponents.


Maine won the first game played when Bonny Eagle edged Merrimack, 32-27, in Standish. New Hampshire squads won the next three. In Week 2, Dover beat visiting Sanford, 37-23 and Spaulding of Rochester won at home against Edward Little of Auburn, 30-6. In the third week of the season, Bedford beat Thornton Academy in Saco, 16-10. Eventual Class A champion Oxford Hills went to Portsmouth and handled the Clippers, 48-13, in Week 8 to finish the first year of interstate games.

This season, the interstate action starts in Week 2 when Sanford (6-5 in 2022) returns to Dover (3-6) and Bishop Guertin comes to Scarborough (5-5).

Week 5 will feature four interstate games. The Winnacunnet (2-7) at Bangor (1-8) game pits two teams that failed to make the 2022 playoffs. Winnacunnet was the New Hampshire Division I runner-up in 2021 and has won state titles in 2012 (Division II) and 2017 (Division I). Bonny Eagle (6-5) will be at Merrimack (7-4); Spaulding (3-6) will come to Auburn to face Edward Little (2-7) and Portsmouth (5-4) will be at Oxford Hills (11-0).

Winnacunnet Coach Ryan Francoeur said the New Hampshire teams benefit from playing an out-of-state team because it gives them a ninth contest, avoids a bye week, and allows their regular-season points standings to be divided by eight, rather than nine.

“Because of that I don’t know any team that’s playing nine New Hampshire games. The math doesn’t help you,” Francoeur said. “At least that was my reasoning and the people I’ve talked to, most of them had the same reasoning.”

Francoeur said he hopes his team can travel to Bangor on Friday after school, stay overnight – maybe get a team picture next to the Paul Bunyan statue – and then play the game early on Saturday. Winnacunnet will play its archrival Exeter the previous week.


He said playing a game each year that counts “pride-wise,” but not in the actual standings also allows the New Hampshire teams to “expand opportunities to find whoever they want to play.”

Thornton Academy (8-3) will be at Bedford (9-3) in Week 8. Bedford showed it had a stout defense in last year’s meeting in Saco, edging Thornton, 16-10. The Bulldogs – coached by former Sanford High quarterback Zach Matthews – rode their defense from No. 10 seed to state champion, shutting out their first three playoff opponents and then beating No. 1 Londonderry, 15-14, in the title game.

Thornton, 1-2 after its loss to Bedford, didn’t lose again until the state final against Oxford Hills.

“For us, it kind of showed us what we need to work on and what we could do to improve and we did,” Kezal said. “This year it will be a little different. We’re playing them late. By that point we’ll both be gearing up for playoffs. It’s the last opportunity to see how much we’ve improved.”


This year Noble, Portland, South Portland and Windham return to Class A after playing in Class B in recent years. Noble last played in Class A in 2014. The other three schools were in Class A in 2018.


The 12-team league is divided into six-team divisions, which are similar to the 14-team configuration in 2018. The top four teams in each region advance to the playoffs.

In the North, Oxford Hills is joined by Edward Little, Lewiston, Bangor, Portland and Windham.

The South has Thornton Academy, Bonny Eagle, Scarborough, South Portland, Sanford and Noble.

Portland is the only team that does not have a ninth game on its current schedule. The Bulldogs have a bye in Week 8.


Maine’s four 11-man football classifications are each divided into North and South divisions. Class B North and South and Class D North are seven-team divisions. Class C South has just five teams. The others are six-team leagues.

That means every team has to schedule at least two games out of its league. The C South teams need four non-league opponents and that’s resulted in dramatically different schedules.

Defending Class C champion Leavitt of Turner, which is in the five-team South, is the only Class C team that will play a Class A opponent. The Hornets have three such games, hosting Oxford Hills and Lewiston before playing at Thornton. Leavitt will also play Class B Lawrence of Fairfield.

In contrast, 2021 Class C champion Cape Elizabeth has games against C North contenders Medomak Valley of Waldoboro and Oceanside of Rockland and finish with road games at Class D contenders Wells and Freeport. Cheverus, in its second year back in 11-man after winning the 2021 eight-man large school title, will play three Class B teams (Gorham, Gardiner, Westbrook) and has a game at Wells.

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