AUGUSTA — The Maine Principals’ Association football committee made some changes to the blueprint for four classes of high school football when it met Tuesday, but considering the scope of what the committee is trying to do, the changes to the plan devised in May have to be considered minor.

“It’s a work in progress,” said Paul Bickford, committee member and assistant principal at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in South Paris, “but I like where we’re at right now.”

In May, the committee created a first draft for a four-class football structure to begin play in 2013. The plan was sent to each football playing school to gauge reaction and learn which schools would want to petition to play in a higher class.

Only three schools — Biddeford, Mountain Valley, and Wells — expressed interest in playing in a higher class. Biddeford, slotted in Class B with an enrollment of 830 students, said it would like to stay in Class A.

Mountain Valley and Wells, winners of the last two Class B state championships, would be in Class D in a four-class system. Each decided it will play in Class C should the four division proposal take effect.

To accommodate those requests, the committee adjusted the enrollment numbers for Class D and Class A. Class D will consist of schools with 459 and fewer students. That changed dropped Yarmouth to Class D West and John Bapst to Class D East. Winthrop was moved from Class D East to Class D West, giving each Class D division 10 teams.

With Wells and Mountain Valley now in Class C West, Morse of Bath was moved to Class C East, giving each Class C division 10 teams.

The cutoff for Class A was raised from 850 students to 854, moving Gorham to Class B West. Both Class A and B leagues have nine members.

The four-class proposal is just to set up divisions for the playoffs, and leagues will still be expected to create their own schedules. Flexibility and creativity in schedule making will be key, especially in Class A, where the three Portland schools, Deering, Portland and Cheverus, would move from West to East.

On Tuesday, Massabesic head football coach John Morin said the three Portland schools are fine with the move, but if they’ll be expected to compete with traditional Eastern schools in the playoffs, they want to play those teams in the regular season. This means the Southern Maine Activities Association, which includes Deering, Portland and Cheverus, and the Pine Tree Conference will have to work together in creating a schedule that includes crossover games.

“It means the leagues getting creative and taking care of it,” Morin, speaking via conference call, said. “It forces the SMAA and Pine Tree to sit down and figure out something.”

Committee chairman Todd Livingston, athletic administrator at South Portland High School, read an email he received on Tuesday morning from Maine Central Institute dean of student life and head football coach Tom Bertrand. Bertrand wrote that he’s opposed to four classes, saying that it could cause travel and competitive balance problems for smaller schools such as Stearns and Traip Academy.

The committee agreed that Bertrand’s concerns have been heard throughout the process, and feel the current proposal addresses them.

“I think C and D schools are the best taken care of, with 10 team leagues,” Bickford said.

The revised plan will go out to schools next week, MPA assistant director Mike Burnham said. The four-class proposal will be discussed again at the committee’s Nov. 28 meeting.

“We’ll give schools one more opportunity to apply up or down before the committee’s final recommendation,” Burnham said.

More movement is expected, as schools look at how their football teams do in the 2012 season. One possible move is Ellsworth/Sumner, which will make its debut this fall. Ellsworth will play in the Class C Little Ten Conference in 2012, replacing Calais, which suspended its football program this spring due to a lack of interest.

In 2013, Ellsworth’s enrollment would put the team in Class B, but the school could elect to play down in Class C as it builds itself up. That could mean Gardiner, which would be the biggest school in Class C East, could move to Class B.

The committee received very little input in the two months since the first draft of the four-class proposal was released. That didn’t come as a surprise, Livingston said. As the vote nears in the spring,  That’s what happened two years ago, when the committee put a four-class proposal on hold, Livington said.

“We saw it the last time and we’ll see it again,” Livingston said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242
[email protected]

 

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