After consistently declining numbers and a winning-season drought dating back to 2011, Mountain Valley plans to move to eight-man football for the 2020 season, coach Devin Roberts said Wednesday. 

Mountain Valley High School hosted a community meeting Tuesday to publicly discuss the move from traditional 11-man football to eight-man, the version of the game that was sanctioned for the first time by the Maine Principals’ Association in 2019.

The meeting allowed the Mountain Valley High School football community to participate and ask questions. To help answer those questions and any concerns, Maranacook football coach Jordan DeMillo attended and shared his experience with the sport after leading the Black Bears into the eight-man football Large School division final this past fall. 

“He talked a lot about scheme,” Roberts said. “He said the offense is an open door. There’s so much more you can do. If you really think about it, you can do the same in 11-man, but with three less guys on the field it’s hard to prepare for. We are built with a lot of athletes and a lot of skill players right now. … It makes sense.”

Mike Burnham, the executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association, and a referee were also in attendance to help answer questions.

“We were leaning towards eight-man before that meeting, the principal, AD and I had talked prior to that meeting,” Roberts said. “It was really to learn more about it for us, and it was open to the community as well if they wanted to ask questions.

“We kind of cleared the air. It helped having those guys help clear things up.”

Roberts says he will meet with athletic director Tom Danylik and principal Matt Gilbert before officially letting the MPA know, via letter, of Mountain Valley’s intention to play eight-man football.

Danylik, through Roberts, said he will wait to comment until the letter has been sent to MPA.

“Before we submit the letter, I still have to have a meeting with the principal and AD and make sure we are on the same page,” Roberts said. “I believe we are.”

Declining numbers each of the past six seasons Roberts has been with Mountain Valley was a huge factor in the Falcons joining switching to eight-man. 

“Every single year the numbers have decreased from the beginning to the end of the season,” Roberts said. “To have the numbers keep declining like that and then struggle to compete, to have the option of eight-man, it’s a good option for me and the kids. If we go in the season right now with no option of eight-man, I have maybe 25 kids. That’s pretty hard to field a varsity and junior varsity squad.”

Roberts is excited about eight-man football allowing the Falcons to have a JV team and a “feeder system” to help develop players for the future.

The players players currently in the Mountain Valley program met with Roberts earlier in the week to talk about the potential move to eight-man.

Roberts said that the players were skeptical at first, but seemed to come around on the idea after they made sure they could still play their same positions.

Mountain Valley will not co-op with any team this upcoming season. Roberts said there were talks last year about teaming up with Dirigo, but those plans fell through. For now, Roberts’ focus is on the Falcons.

“If someone searches out to co-op with us, I will cross those bridges when I get to them,” Roberts said.

DIRIGO MOVING AHEAD

Dirigo High School athletic director Jess McGreevy told the school board Tuesday that Dirigo has “decided to move forward in pursuing (an) eight-man football (team) for next year.”


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