The Maine Principals’ Association held its annual spring business meeting virtually on Wednesday, with the members approving an array of classification changes in high school sports for the next two school years.

Football will undergo the most dramatic shift. Not only are 26 schools expected to play eight-man football, up from 10 in the inaugural 2019 season, but for the first time schools are allowed to petition to play in a lower enrollment class for safety reasons and still be eligible for the postseason. Previously, and in all other MPA sports, if a team played “down” in class, it was ineligible for playoffs. The change was intended to take place for the 2020 season, but tackle football was not held because of the pandemic.

“We’re piloting an idea of allowing schools to adjust down for safety purposes,” said Mike Bisson, the MPA’s assistant executive director, noting the schools had to provide justification for the shift and be approved by the MPA’s Football Committee.

Seven schools have been approved to play in a lower football class in 2021. Westbrook/Waynflete, Hampden Academy and Gardiner will move from Class B to Class C, with Gardiner shifting from the North to the South region; Freeport, Poland and John Bapst will shift to the single-region Class D from Class C; and Houlton/Hodgdon will be allowed to move from large-school eight-man football to the small-school league.

Those changes all hinge on tackle football being approved for the fall.

“Know that we will continue to work to offer a tackle football season, but as we sit her today it is considered high risk and not given the go-ahead for the fall season,” Mike Burnham, the MPA’s executive director, told members at the meeting.

Other notable items to come out of the meeting included:

•  Because of declining enrollment, Cony will move from Class A to Class B, and Maine Central Institute from Class B to C, in cross country, field hockey, golf, soccer, baseball, softball and tennis. Cony has gone from 673 to 630 students. MCI has dropped from 433 to 334.

•  An ad-hoc committee to study classification for basketball will be formed, with representation from each league, the coaches and athletic directors associations, and tournament site directors, with a goal of recommending to the Basketball Committee whether the sport should stick with five classes, revert to four classes, or possibly add a sixth class.

•  Basketball did not change its enrollment break number, but several schools will move because of changing enrollment. With an extra 31 students, Hampden Academy gets pushed into AA North. Freeport will move from Class B to Class A, while York and Medomak Valley shift from Class A to Class B.


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