Brandon Goff is no stranger to football. The Monmouth Academy junior played the sport throughout middle school and, after taking a year off for soccer his freshman year, returned to the gridiron for the last two falls.

It was during the last two seasons, while playing for the Monmouth club team, that Goff felt something was missing.

“We wanted to play on an actual varsity team,” Goff, a junior, said. “We’ve wanted to be in a conference. We’ve been a little upset when it didn’t happen the last few years.”

It will now.

Monmouth and Winthrop will merge as a co-operative football program in the fall. Both school boards approved the union and the Maine Principals’ Association OK’d it Friday.

The program will compete in Class D if the four-class system is accepted by MPA membership.

“I’m excited,” said Goff, who plays quarterback and tight end. “We’ve been trying for years and now it’s here. We’re ecstatic to play varsity ball.”

Added Winthrop junior Jared Hanson, who played quarterback last season: “I’m really excited. It should be really good for us. They have a lot of players who can contribute right away. It’s a relief. Last year we barely had enough for a look team. This year will be different.”

Winthrop has struggled with its numbers in recent years. Coach Joel Stoneton, whose team finished 2-6 last season, said he had “about 34 or 35 players.”

“It gives us more numbers, which we need,” he said. “This puts in a competitive position. It will be a huge help. Right off the bat it will create natural competition and we’ll be able to deal with injuries quicker. We can also change strategy. We’re excited by about it. Monmouth is ready to come in and play varsity ball.”

Monmouth has fielded a junior varsity club team for the last eight years hoping one day it would gain varsity status on its own.

However, a move never materialized.

“Our ultimate goal was to go in by ourselves, but with the economics it’s just not going to happen,” said Monmouth coach Norm Thombs. “We have to raise every cent. We’ve done a remarkable job the last eight years, but this seemed to make the most sense.”

Thombs coached Winthrop for about five years — Stoneton was one of his assistants. Thombs led the Ramblers to the 2000 Class C state championship. He will help consult with Stoneton during the transition period.

The Mustangs dressed 28 players last season and played seven games against junior varsity programs.

However, Monmouth Athletic Director Lucas Turner said it became increasingly difficult to put a full-time schedule together.

“We were running out of teams to play,” he said. “We were bringing juniors and seniors and playing (junior varsity) teams with freshmen. We were going to Westbrook, Greely, places like that, just to find games. It was tough.”

Stoneton said discussions are under way regarding what the co-operative program will be called. MPA rules state that each school in a merger must be in the name somewhere.

The team will practice and play its games in Winthrop.

“I think it’s going to help both of us,” Stoneton said. “It’s a natural fit. I never thought this would happen five years ago, but it is what it is. We’re really happy to have them on board.”

Goff, who is gearing up for the baseball season, said the Mustangs will have something to prove come the fall.

“I think we all want to show people that even though we didn’t play full varsity teams we can compete,” Goff said. “We’re not just some club team playing around out there. It’s going to be fun. I’m sure it will be a little weird in the beginning but I’m sure everyone will get over it. We’re all in this together now.”

Added Hanson: ” Definitely the first week, we’ll have a lot to work on getting to know each other.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]

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