York’s Gavin Davis eludes a tackle by Preston Fallon of Cheverus during a game last season. York, a Class C South team, will play its season opener against Hillsboro-Deering, a Division II school in New Hampshire. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

For a third consecutive season, a few Maine high school football teams will be playing countable regular-season games against out-of-state opponents.

This year two Class C schools will get in on the interstate action which previously had been reserved for Maine’s Class A schools. And, also for the first time, one of the opponents will be from Massachusetts.

York High of Class C South will open its season hosting Hillsboro-Deering, a Division II school in New Hampshire. It makes sense for the Wildcats, says Coach Matt Nelson.

“We’re the southern-most C team, so for us it’s just hopping across the border to play a game,” said Nelson, noting when he filled out his scheduling survey he said York would be open to an interstate game.

Class C South will again be a five-team division – the smallest of any league in Maine. That means the C South teams need to find up to four out-of-conference opponents to play.

In 2023 that situation led, in part, to powerhouse Leavitt playing three games against Class A opponents in what turned into a historic unbeaten season for the Hornets.

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Brewer, from Class C North, will host Salem, Massachusetts, in a Witches vs. Witches showdown on Saturday, Sept. 14.

Six of the 12 Class A teams will play a New Hampshire foe. Specific dates and times have not been set. Those are up to the host schools. But the order of the games is established. Five of the New Hampshire vs. Maine matchups are the same as last year.

Defending Class A champion Thornton Academy will host New Hampshire Division I champ Bedford in Week 2. Bedford has beaten Thornton Academy the past two seasons. Edward Little is at Spaulding of Rochester in Week 4; Oxford Hills is at Portsmouth/Oyster River and Sanford hosts Dover in Week 6; and Bangor will play at Winnacunnet of Hampton in Week 7.

The new cross-state game will be Portland hosting Exeter, New Hampshire, in Week 8. Exeter, a perennial contender under Coach Bill Ball, is known for its power run game. In 2023 the Blue Hawks were 6-3 in the regular season, 7-4 overall, and had 84 players in grades 10-12 according to its playoff roster.

“We expect a formidable team to say the least,” said Portland Coach Sean Green.

Portland was 10-1 in its return to Class A, losing the championship to Thornton, 24-14. Green said he’s happy to have Exeter on the schedule, as well as eight Class A teams including Thornton, Oxford Hills and Bonny Eagle.

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Last season, “overall our schedule was light,” Green said. Portland had a bye then had another game canceled when Falmouth forfeited. It did not play defending state champion Oxford Hills in the regular season, even though both are in A North.

“We were really excited to see this schedule. We want as much competition as we can have and want to get after it every week,” Green said.

Lucas Labreque of Brunswick looks to get past Sam Bradford of Yarmouth/North Yarmouth during an 8-Man Large Football regional semifinal in Oct. 2023. Brunswick will move back to 11-man football in the fall and play in Class C South. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

FIVE TEAMS ARE returning to 11-man football from the eight-man ranks. Brunswick will play in C South, essentially replacing Cheverus, which has moved up to Class B with a stated intention of returning to Class A in 2025.

Mattanawcook Academy joins D North while Dirigo, Maranacook, and Mountain Valley will turn Class D South from a six-team league into a nine-team division.

Washington Academy, which has not fielded a varsity football team in several seasons, will join the eight-man ranks. Eight-man will have 24 teams this season. Nine will play in a statewide Large School Division, eight clubs will be in the Small School North and seven in Small School South.

Orono and Old Orchard Beach – who have split the past two Small School titles – both have three games against Large School teams.

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“We tried to make it a more competitive approach instead of strictly regional,” said Dean Plante, Old Orchard’s coach and athletic director. “Our hope is we’re tested in the regular season maybe a little more in the regular season than we were last year.”

IN CLASS B SOUTH there will be less variance among schedules in part because the addition of Cheverus makes it an eight-team league. That means most teams needed only one opponent outside the league to fill their schedules. The exceptions are Marshwood and Biddeford, which will not play each other. Marshwood has games against nearby Class A teams Noble and Sanford. Biddeford will play Class C South teams Fryeburg Academy and Brunswick.

Defending state champion Kennebunk will play each of the other seven B South teams and Sanford.

“There’s definitely more balance with the schedules,” said Kennebunk Coach Keith Noel. “You’re playing in your league. By playing them you find out where everybody falls so that’s a good perspective for all the teams involved.”


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