Lawrence running back Parker Higgins runs away from Cony defenders during a Class B North semifinal football game on Nov. 5 in Augusta. With a new schedule released, the rivals will not play one another in the regular season this fall. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — B.L. Lippert already knows the first half of his team’s 2022 season is going to be a gauntlet.

After opening the year on the road against an Oxford Hills team fresh off a Class A title game appearance, the Cony football team will face a team it’s never played before, Massabesic. The Rams will follow that with games against Skowhegan, the coaches’ preseason pick to win Class B North, and Windham, which won the division last year.

“It’s going to be a tough start for us,” said Lippert, Cony’s head coach of seven years. “We start off against one of the best teams in Maine, and then we go and play a team we have no history with. Then you add two teams that are going to be some of the best in our league.”

Although Cony might have a tougher start than most to the upcoming football season, the Rams won’t be alone in playing opponents both old and new. With 2022 schedules finalized Friday, there are plenty of brand-new matchups, old rivalries and attractive crossover games on the itinerary for the coming year.

Crossover games will be plentiful in 11-man football this year with the Maine Principals’ Association making an effort to create more competitive matchups across all four 11-man classes. That’s created some appetizing clashes between teams that don’t normally have the chance to battle on the gridiron.

Among those teams is defending Class C North champion Winslow, which has a slate of three consecutive non-league opponents in the meat of its schedule. The Black Raiders will play road games against Mt. Blue in Week 4 (Sept. 23-24) and Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale in Week 5 (Sept. 30-Oct. 1) before hosting Cheverus in Week 6 (Oct. 7-8).


“We’re definitely excited about the new schedule; it’s a little bit of a change from what we had last year,” said Winslow head coach Wes Littlefield. “Winthrop is a good team, and we’re also excited to be playing Cheverus at home. In our program’s history, I don’t think we’ve ever done that.”

Cony, of course, has the Week 1 (Sept. 2-3) showdown at Oxford Hills and the Week 2 (Sept. 8-9) home game against Massabesic. The Rams will also host longtime rival Gardiner in Week 7 (Oct. 14-15), a matchup that will mark the return of the rivalry to the regular season after the two teams met in the preseason a year ago.

The Winslow football team flocks to its fans after it won the Class C North championship with a 38-30 victory over Hermon on Nov. 13 at Hampden Academy. Dave Dyer/Kennebec Journal

The new additions to the schedule, though, mean that some traditional matchups won’t be played in 2022. Maine Central Institute and Nokomis won’t get to face one another this year, and Cony won’t play a Lawrence team that’s had some thrilling contests with the Rams over the past few years.

“It’s a bit frustrating, and I know there are some other B North coaches who are also frustrated,” Lippert said. “I’m not going to make too big a deal about it, but with our league, if we could play the games just between our 10 teams, it would be sensational.”

In Class D, teams will playing two Class C opponents to make up for the shortage of scheduling options in a statewide eight-team league. That’s put Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale’s clashes with Winslow and Hermon (Week 1) and Oak Hill’s Week 4 battle with MCI on the table.

There will also be some intriguing league matchups for a class that, albeit small, had some exciting games a year ago. In addition to playing on the road against Foxcroft in a rematch of last year’s state title game in Week 1, Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale will host Lisbon in Week 5 and close out the regular season at Freeport in Week 9 (Oct. 28-29).


“Lisbon only lost three seniors, I think, so they’re going to be a tough team this year,” Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale head coach Dave St. Hilaire said. “Freeport had a good year last year, and they’ve got their quarterback and their two running backs back. We’re going to have some good games.”

Other notable 11-man games this season include Skowhegan at Lawrence in Week 1, Lawrence at Windham in Week 2, Oak Hill at Foxcroft in Week 5, Skowhegan hosting Thornton Academy in Week 7 and MCI at Winslow and Skowhegan at Windham in Week 8 (Oct. 21-22).

There will be no crossover games at the eight-man level with Large-School and Small-School teams only playing within their respective classes. Yet with the new format continuing to progress, there are still plenty of noteworthy games on the schedule for Waterville, Maranacook and Mount View.

After opening the season against Ellsworth/Sumner, Waterville has three straight big games to end September. The Purple Panthers will face eight-man newcomer Greely on the road in Week 2, head to Bar Harbor in Week 3 (Sept. 16-17) for a rematch of thrilling 34-28 and 50-40 battles with MDI last year and host Spruce Mountain in Week 4.

In Small-School North, Mount View will make history in Week 2 when it heads to Fort Kent for the new St. John Valley cooperative team’s first-ever home game. In the South, a Maranacook team denied a state title on the final play last year has tough games against Dirigo (Week 1, home) Mountain Valley (Week 3, home) and Old Orchard Beach (Week 5, away).

“Mountain Valley has a ton of athletes, and Dirigo is going to be returning their best two athletes,” said Maranacook head coach Jordan DeMillo. “You’ve also got Old Orchard Beach, who is very skilled and talented, I’m not looking forward to going to OOB to face them.”

With eight-man football continuing its rise and both Class A and Class D now down to just eight teams, this could very well be the last season with four 11-man classes. That could mean another scheduling shakeup for Maine high school football in the not-too-distant future.

“I think eight-man football is good for a lot of these programs that are kind of on the bubble, but that might mean getting rid of D,” Littlefield said. “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”

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