AUGUSTA — The Maine Principals’ Association football committee took the biggest step yet toward introducing a fourth class to Maine high school football, when it created its final proposal to go before the classification committee, then to the general membership of the MPA for a vote in March.

“I actually was expecting it to be a little more difficult,” Todd Livingston, athletic director at South Portland High School and committee chairman, said.

The MPA’s classification committee will look at the proposal and hear any appeals. A final vote will take place in late March, and if the proposal passes, high school football in Maine will have four classes for the 2013 season.

The proposal breaks the state’s 76 high school football teams into four classes of two divisions each. Classes A, B, and C will each have two nine team divisions, while Class D will have two 11 team divisions.

Class A will be schools of enrollments greater than 850 students. Class B will be 600-849 students. Class C will feature schools of 460-599 students, while Class D will be schools with enrollments below 459.

The biggest change will be seen in Class A, where Portland, Deering, Cheverus and Windham, four schools that have competed in the West, will move to the East.

“One of the things important to them is they have the opportunity to play the teams they’ll compete against in the playoffs,” Livingston said. “We talk about it all the time, that (Class) A line is moving south.”

The committee accommodated requests from a number of schools to play down a class for competitive reasons. The schools that will play in a class lower than its enrollment dictates are Camden Hills (dropping from Class B to C), Nokomis (B to C), Mt. Ararat (A to B) and Ellsworth (B to D).

Mt. Ararat has struggled to compete in Class A East in recent years, going winless in each of the last two seasons. The school asked the committee if it could play in Class C, but a two-class drop was deemed unprecedented, with the exception of schools in the developmental stage, such as Ellsworth. Instead, Mt. Ararat was placed in Class B West.

“Can they compete in B? They’re making that request for a reason?” Livingston said.

Three schools elected to petition up. Biddeford will continue to play in Class A West, while Wells and Mountain Valley will play in Class C West despite Class D enrollments.

With an odd number of teams in each division, all four classes will have to schedule crossover games, or have a bye week. The committee said it will leave it up to the schools as to how they schedule crossover games. Recent history has seen crossovers played in the same class, but interclass games are acceptable, too.

“Nothing prohibits crossovers between classes,” said Mike Burnham, MPA assistant director.

The committee also discussed changing the method used to determine which teams qualify for the playoffs. Currently, playoff seeds are determined using Crabtree points, which combine a team’s winning percentage with the winning percentage of its opponents. With the inherent discrepancies that come with crossover games (each team facing an opponent of varying quality), using Heal points to set the playoffs was considered.

Used in every other high school sport with playoffs in the state, Heal points reward wins, not just playing, each opponent. Heal points are currently a tiebreaker in football. The committee elected to make no changes at this time.

“Let’s continue with Crabtrees, and evaluate it again after we play crossovers,” Paul Bickford, assistant principal at Oxford Hills, said.

In May, the committee crafted its initial four class proposal. It was sent to each of the football playing schools in the state, and based on the feedback received, tweaked again in August. Schools were given to the fall to decide if they wished to play up or down a class.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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