READFIELD — A new era kicked off for the Maranacook football team Friday night at the Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams.

The Black Bears played their first game in 8-man football. It ended on a positive note, as Maranacook beat Boothbay 14-6.

The Black Bears were led offensively by quarterback Garit Laliberte, who had 235 combined yards (130 passing, 105 rushing). He also tossed two touchdown passes.

Boothbay quarterback Hunter Crocker, left, passes under pressure from Maranacook’s Ashael Plum during the first game of 8-man football at the Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams on Friday in Readfield. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

It was a learning experience for both teams, as the Black Bears and Seahawks were flagged numerous times for illegal procedure — or lining up incorrectly — on offense.

“Sometimes, I wish we could just play football and not have so many flags,” Laliberte said. “It was more (Boothbay) getting the flags, so as long as we’re doing it right, I don’t really care.”

It was an experience Maranacook coach Jordan DeMillo knew might happen.

“Offensively, we have to work out the kinks,” DeMillo said. “The 8-man I watched online looked nothing like this.”

Maranacook made the switch to 8-man in the offseason, when the Maine Principals’ Association football committee decided to include it in an effort to keep programs with struggling numbers to continue. Maranacook — which dressed 18 players Friday night — is one of 10 programs trying 8-man this season.

The change in on-field play — while not drastic — was noticeable. While the football field was still 120 yards in length (each end zone is 10 yards deep), the field was 40 yards wide, as opposed to 53 1/3 yards wide in 11-man football. One player is removed from the offensive backfield, while two players are removed from the offensive line.

The move was a saving grace for the Black Bears, who have dropped in numbers and in class the past couple of years. Maranacook was previously in Class E the past two seasons, making the drop from Class D after the 2016 season.

The Black Bears led 14-6 at halftime. Laliberte hit Isac Philbrick on a 12-yard pass in the first quarter, followed by a 17-yarder to Joey Dupont shortly before halftime.

“(Phibrick and Dupont) can definitely get up (and get the ball),” Laliberte said. “It helps me when I (throw) bad passes, they can make up for it.”

Laliberte was 8 of 17 passing for 130 yards. He gained his 105 rushing yards on 18 carries.

“He’s an absolute 5-caliber player,” DeMillo said. “What I respect about him is his (field) vision. He’s got some of the best vision I’ve ever seen…Having him run the offense is an absolute benefit, because some plays are broken, and he turns them into gains.”

Boothbay was led by quarterback Hunter Crocker, who passed for 86 yards. Running back Mike Hollowell had 55 rushing yards and a touchdown.

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