It’s a new era in Maine high school football.

For the first time, the Maine Principals Association this fall is going full steam ahead with eight-man football, an alternative to the traditional 11-on-11 style that eases the physical burden on smaller schools and teams.

There are three linemen instead of five. Two players in the backfield instead of three. A narrower field. And anyone and everyone is an eligible receiver on each play. It’s brand-new and unfamiliar, and as a result, no one knows exactly how it will shake out — the coaches included.

“I don’t know what Mt. Ararat has, I’ve never played them. I don’t know what Yarmouth has,” Maranacook Jordan DeMillo said. “I’m new to this, they’re new to this, we’re all new to this.”

Maranacook is one of 10 teams making the switch, joining Ellsworth/Sumner, Gray-New Gloucester, Mt. Ararat and Yarmouth in the large school class while Boothbay, Old Orchard Beach, Sacopee Valley, Telstar and Traip Academy make up the small school division. Those teams will find that, while the principles of the game are the same, there are subtle differences with the responsibilities of the positions.

“Gang tackling just doesn’t happen in eight-man. It’s you and maybe one other guy,” DeMillo said. “Your cornerbacks are your most athletic players, and they become your major contain players. … Normally I told (defensive ends) in our old defense they were two-gap players. I preferred them to attack the outside shoulder, but occasionally I let them shoot the inside gap. Not now. They’re both outside shoulders. I need that extra contain.

“You can’t take plays off in eight-man. Everyone has to go 110 percent.”

It’s different — just not completely different. In the end, whether it’s played by eight men or 11, it’s still football.

“A lot of them were coming in like ‘It’s totally new.’ It’s not. It’s very, very similar,” DeMillo said. “It’s all the same concept. The blocking scheme’s the same, the read’s the same compared to what we used to run.”

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