Teams around the state are mere hours away from kicking off the regional football semifinals, so what better time to christen Central Maine Sports’ shiny new blog, Sidelines?

Welcome to the first of many special features in which you, our faithful readers, will be able to grill our crack team of sports experts, starting with our very own Gridiron Gurus, Travis Lazarczyk and Evan Crawley.

Don’t forget to check out their video preview of this weekend’s matchups, which promise to be playoff football at its best.

We had a great response from our readers so, without further ado, let’s get stuck in.

Is the bye week likely to help or hurt Brunswick heading into a matchup with the only team to hand them a loss in the regular season? – Patrice Hunt

Travis Lazarczyk: Patrice, I think the bye week can only help any team. I know a lot of coaches don’t like it, they feel it takes their team out of its routine, but I think it gives teams a chance to get injured players a little healthier and gives a team practice time to focus on the fundamentals, and that’s never a bad thing.

Evan Crawley: Always depends on who you ask as coaches tend to waffle on the topic. I’d be inclined to think it would help the Dragons in this instance. What they did last time against Messalonskee obviously didn’t work, and the extra week to strategize can only help. The big worry in having the extra time off is players can become unfocused – see most high school kids during school hours when they have free time – but I have a hard time believing that would be the case here. Brunswick is well aware of who ended its perfect regular season in each of the past two years.


I was just enjoying attitude adjustment hour with some irate Maine Central Institute fans who were wondering why their football playoff game was switched to Colby College. In addition to MCI losing gate revenue – the team that would normally host the contest – there seems to be no rhyme nor reason why Colby was chosen. Even a Bangor venue would have made more sense than to mandate that both teams travel south. Thoughts? – Mike Lange

TL: Mike, I haven’t spoken to anyone at MCI, but I can guess the decision to move the game to Colby was based on a few factors.

Most of the snow from last weekend’s storm fell north of Waterville. That made it tough for those with turf fields in the Bangor area, like Hampden Academy and Husson University, to get their fields in shape. Hampden is hosting soccer all day on Saturday, so I’m sure they wanted Friday open for last minute prep there. Husson was able to clear enough snow to allow football and soccer teams to practice, so that takes that facility out.

The nearest turf field available is at Colby. I was at Colby’s Seaverns Field on Thursday, and it was completely clear and in great shape. I think players and fans will enjoy the experience.

EC:  I asked MCI AD Jim Leonard this very question. They tried Hampden, it was unavailable. They tried Husson, and it had already received another request from another school before MCI. They tried Colby, Leonard said they responded quickly and have been very accommodating. After Husson and Hampden, there aren’t too many options for turf fields. Colby is closer to Pittsfield than Maine Maritime Academy.


 How do you think Maine Central Institute would do in say Class C or even B? I’ve seen them twice and they look like they could be a playoff team in C or B. – Glenn Harbour

TL: Glenn, this season I think the Huskies would be competitive in Class C. They have talent and depth you don’t see in Class D very often. Class B, I think they could win a few games, but it would be tougher.

EC: They’re a playoff team in C, but it’s hard to imagine them being as successful. Are they better than Winslow, Waterville or Foxcroft? How about Spruce Mountain, Leavitt, Cape Elizabeth or Wells? They’d be very competitive, but not likely championship contenders. Once you get up to B it starts to become a whole different ball game. More physical, more players, bigger kids. MCI is not the smallest team in the world, but you lose Santiago and Hathaway for an extended period of time like they did this year in B and you’re going to struggle.


I don’t like the idea of having 1 state championship game at UMaine and 3 in Portland. Why can’t we have 2 on 1 day and 2 on another? What is your take on the state championship game formats? – Glenn Harbour

TL: Glenn, I’m OK with the format. When the MPA went to four classes in football last year, the football committee knew it would be impossible to play all four championship games at one site. With this format, Classes B, C, and D rotating through UMaine while A stays at Fitzpatrick Stadium, gives fans a chance to see all four games. If you played two at one site and two at another on the same day, that couldn’t happen.

I suppose you could have two games at UMaine on Friday, but you’d have to play one at 3 and one at 7, and I’m not sure if the facility is available that long.

EC: I don’t mind it the way it is. It allows you to make it to all four games if you so choose, whereas if you had one at each site on Friday and Saturday you would have to choose between games.


The PTC B semifinals are filled with some intriguing matchups. But, really, none of the 4 teams left have any shot against Marshwood, right? – Glenn Harbour

TL: Glenn, I think whatever team comes out of the PTC B will have a very tough game against Marshwood, should the Hawks win Western B. Never say never, though. A turnover here or there, and suddenly a game is close.

EC: Based on the way Marshwood has played I would have to agree. They’ve mopped the floor with everyone they’ve played and it hasn’t been close. If any of the four teams in PTC B have a shot though, I think it’s Cony (even though it’s no guarantee they get by Lawrence Saturday). The Rams are night and day from where they were on defense at the start of the year, and they are the only team of the four that I could see putting up 50+ points if that’s what it took to win.


Messalonskee has already defeated Brunswick in the regular season. Is that victory a positive or a negative for the Eagles in the rematch? Why? – Ben Hermon

TL: Ben, why would a win ever be a negative? Beating Brunswick last season and again this season can only give Messalonskee confidence against a tough opponent. Any win is a positive.

EC: Definitely a positive, although it did not entirely pay dividends last season. The last thing you want as a favorite is to give an underdog hope, and the Eagles likely have a little more than that thanks to their win earlier this season.


Friday night is not supposed to be the best in terms of weather. Will this benefit either team? If so, why? – Ben Hermon

TL: Ben, in the case of Messalonksee vs Brunswick, I think lousy weather is a push. Both teams love to run. Field conditions may slow both down, but it won’t change either’s game plan.

EC: I’m assuming you’re talking about the two PTC B games. For Messalonskee-Brunswick I don’t imagine it will be too much. Both teams rely on power run games and I wouldn’t expect them to change too much. The Cony-Lawrence game it may be a factor because both teams run the spread, and throwing and catching a cold, wet ball is not the desired conditions for either team. Caron had trouble gripping the ball in the Gardiner game but since has taken steps to address that. He mentioned they have practiced in similar conditions to simulate what it would be like throwing a ball in conditions similar to the Gardiner game.


Did Cony consider trying to get their game with Lawrence moved to a turf field? I ask because with that offense it would seem a sloppy, muddy surface will only hurt their chances. So why not play the game at Kents Hill? Or even at Bates? – Ben Hermon

TL: Ben, I was told that moving the game was never really considered. The decision to play on Saturday was made early on Thursday, and that was that.

EC: Kents Hill is unavailable, they have their rivalry game with Hampden at 6 and all sorts of festivities on campus before it. Bates and Colby both have games in the afternoon Saturday as well. The conditions will affect both teams, as Lawrence likes to throw the ball too so it will kind of be a wash there. In that case, why give away home field?


I firmly believe that the best team in the state plays in Class B in Marshwood. It’s too bad they couldn’t play Cheverus. But that got me thinking: Will the MPA ever consider re-aligning its football divisions to create a “super” conference, like the Super 8 in Massachusetts high school hockey? – Ben Hermon

TL: Ben, everything I’ve ever seen from the MPA tells me the answer is no. They like to create divisions by enrollment. That doesn’t mean a team like Marshwood cannot petition to play up a class and compete in Class A if it chooses.  Cheverus does that, actually.

EC: I highly doubt it considering they just moved from three divisions to four last season. Before they make any changes I’d imagine they would want the dust to settle first. By and large though, doing things by enrollment makes the most sense. Are there exceptions to the rule? All the time. Marshwood has been in my top four pretty much all season and I imagine they’d give a lot of those teams like Cheverus all they can handle. By and large though, it’s too tough to predict from year to year. Maybe this system doesn’t work and they address it a few years from now, but it’s too soon to tell whether it has worked or not.


This isn’t really so much a question but I chuckle each week at your top 10 polls. How can you honestly say that Oak Hill and Winslow are top 10 in the state? There’s no way those teams would be able to compete with any .500 team in Class A or even B. – Ben Hermon

TL: Ben, that’s the great thing about polls. We rank them and then fans can debate. Personally, I think Winslow could compete in Class B. When they played in Class B for years, the Black Raiders were always one of the smaller schools, and they were always a contender. Granted, that was a different Class B, but I think Winslow would do OK.

EC: I have not voted for Oak Hill once. I voted for Winslow exactly once early in the season when A and B was still sorting itself and the Black Raiders were undefeated. Outside of that one vote for Winslow, I have only voted for A and B schools because I tend to agree with your premise.