WINSLOW — Sarah George stood against the chainlink fence that surrounds Poulin Field. George was on the outside, her car parked along Benton Avenue, along with the cars of a dozen other Winslow High School football parents. Nearby, other parents, siblings, relatives, friends or general well-wishers of Black Raider football players stood against the fence, too. Some leaned against their car or sat in the driver’s seat, the horn at the ready to celebrate a good play. Others sat in lawn chairs in the back of a pickup truck.

With no more than 100 allowed inside the gates — and that includes players, coaches and game personnel — the other side of the fence was as close as George and the others were allowed to get. Twenty yards away, on the other side of the fence, bleachers sat nearly empty, save the 30 or so fans lucky enough to get in under the 100 person cutoff.

George was there to watch her son, Davian Costigan, a freshman playing for Winslow.

“I’m just glad I get to see it,” George said. “I’m glad they’re playing. I’m not picky where I watch.”

On the other side of the fence, Winslow and Waterville renewed their long rivalry on the field, in 2020 style. Winslow won, 50-36, giving the teams a split of two games in this makeshift season. For state officials, high school tackle football was a non-starter this fall, as Maine fights its battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Flag football, played 7-on-7, is the Maine Principals’ Association’s tackle football’s replacement.

It’s not ideal. Nobody would say that it is. Very little has been ideal since March. We do the best we can given the circumstances, and if that means watching our children play 7-on-7 football instead of the real thing, and watching it through a fence, so be it. Parents watching Thursday afternoon’s game knew their comfort is of no concern.

“Initially, we were bummed,” Desiree Sirois said. Sirois stood against the fence in the south end zone, near the scoreboard, and watched her son Adam Sirois play for Waterville. “But some of these kids are doing things they’ve never gotten to do in football.”

Adam was a lineman in tackle football, Sirois said. There’s no line play in 7-on-7. When every play has to be a pass, every player is an eligible receiver. Normally, Adam would never touch the ball. Thursday, he caught a touchdown pass, and followed it with the 2-point conversion reception. His mother was ecstatic.

“That’s my boy! Yeah, baby,” Sirois said.

Adam’s little brother Ethan, a sixth grader in Waterville, watched with his mother. Ethan is able to play tackle football this fall. His youth league did not fall under the MPA’s guidelines. As the game continued, Sirois pointed at the empty bleachers behind the Purple Panthers on the visitor’s side of the field.

Waterville’s Spencer Minihan (11) runs after catching a pass in front of Winslow’s Jack Dorval (41) on Thursday in Winslow. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“I’d rather be in there, but I’m thrilled he gets to play,” Sirois said.

The fans lined up just outside the fence on Benton Avenue have been coming all season, Winslow athletic director Jim Bourgoin said. A couple weeks ago, the cars were parked at 8 a.m. for a 10 a.m. game, Bourgoin said.

“Every week, we’re right here,” George said. “My son loves that we come and watch.”

Hopefully, this is a one season solution to an unprecedented problem. From the corner of the north end of the field, where the majority of Winslow fans congregate, the road rises slightly above the field.

“From that hill, you get a great view of the field,” Bourgoin said.

Bourgoin’s right. It’s really the best seat not in the house. In this makeshift season, that’s not a bad compromise.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

 

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