Cape Elizabeth’s Tom Hennessey avoids a tackle attempt by South Portland’s James Rickman last Friday. The Class C Capers defeated Class B South Portland, 41-13. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Prior to the 2022 season, Maine high school football coaches were tasked with ranking their own teams. A scheduling committee then put together statewide schedules, with an emphasis on creating more competitive games and a greater willingness to have interclass games in the 11-man divisions.

So far, so good when it comes to the interclass schedule.

Through four weeks, 30 interclass games have been played. The lower division team has won 17. The average margin of victory in those games was 21 points, compared to a 24.9 point differential in the other 72 11-man games. Through three weeks, the margin difference was significantly more striking. Interclass games averaged an 18.1 margin of victory, compared to 25.6 for the rest of the 11-man games.

What changed in Week 4? The lower division teams won seven of 10 games, and five of those wins were by 28 or more points.

“That’s great data. The intent was we’ve got to get these games closer,” said Leavitt Coach Mike Hathaway. The powerful Class C Hornets have beaten Class A Lewiston and Class B Portland and have a game Friday against Class B Lawrence.

Hathaway pointed out the impact that interclass games can have for teams that have struggled. Pick up a win or two early in the season, and players feel better about themselves, he said. See a couple more winnable games on the schedule, and a team can maintain focus through a full season.


Which, in turn, helps programs build, said Marshwood Coach Alex Rotsko.

“Win a few games, and the team’s morale, everything, picks up,” Rotsko said, “and the kids thinking about playing football are more apt to play.”

Rotsko added: “As far as I can see, the scheduling has done exactly what they were hoping (it) would do. I think it has evened things out quite a bit.”

On the flip side, perennial powers such as Marshwood, which has won four straight Class B titles and five of the last six, has to be willing to play a more difficult schedule. And this year, that’s been tough for the youthful Hawks, who have also been hit hard by injuries. Marshwood is 1-3, with a loss to Class A Scarborough. Instead of getting a mid-season breather against a weaker Class B program, Marshwod has to play two more Class A foes: Bonny Eagle on Friday night and Sanford in two weeks.

Marshwood’s schedule is essentially a penalty for being good. Like a thoroughbred that keeps winning in handicapped races, Marshwood has to carry the extra weight.

“I have said right along I’m OK with it, and I still am,” Rotsko said. “But, yeah, there’s no doubt. There are teams that do get penalized.”


Portland, also 1-3 in Class B South, has had an even tougher schedule. After beating Kennebunk in its opener, Portland has lost to Leavitt and Class A teams Bonny Eagle and Oxford Hills. Oxford Hills and Leavitt are 1-2 in the Varsity Maine football poll. Bonny Eagle is ranked fifth.

Bulldogs Coach Jason McLeod, however, is also a proponent of the new schedules.

“As long as the coaches are accurately reflecting the strength of their team, I think this process works out really well for everybody,” McLeod said. “To me, allowing teams to play cross conference can only be a benefit for programs involved. From our Portland point of view, the teams we’ve played, they’ve made us better. We have no problem playing those teams and trying to get better.”

McLeod also likes the allure of some of the matchups that have been created, pointing to last week’s game between neighbors Cape Elizabeth, a Class C team, and South Portland, a Class B program.

“Those are schools minutes away from each other, yet they’ve never played. That sort of ambience that’s created before the game is even played is good for Maine football,” McLeod said.

POLAND REGIONAL HIGH is off to a 3-1 start under third-year coach Gus LeBlanc, who is 70 years old and first started coaching in Maine in 1975.


“Bill Belichick is two days older than I am. That’s where the comparison ends,” LeBlanc said with a laugh.

Poland was 2-7 in 2021, including a playoff loss, but this year is second behind Freeport in the Crabtree point standings in what is shaping up to be a competitive Class D race. Poland has allowed just seven points while winning consecutive games against Oak Hill, John Bapst and Class C Belfast. The Knights have this week off and will host Class C North contender Medomak Valley on Oct. 7.

“Our defense has played good. We struggled in (a season-opening loss to) Fryeburg, but other than that, our defense has played well. … And the offense has been consistently good,” LeBlanc said.

Operating out of a spread formation, Poland uses a lot of wing-T sets, with a tailback and two halfbacks. Brady Martin, the tailback, rushed for 198 yards against John Bapst. Halfbacks Shane Yorkey and Isaac Ramsdell and quarterback Lagan O’Driscoll are also running threats behind a line that includes seniors Mike Phillips, Mason Brousseau and Eli Alexander. Defensive end Nick Aube and linebacker Dylan Cook have been defensive leaders.

LeBlanc said the Knights’ improvement is a credit to his players’ commitment and an emphasis on building a program, rather than a one-year team. Poland, which has 37 players, is 4-0 in its junior varsity games.

“They want to win. They want to be successful and they’ve worked hard in that direction,” LeBlanc said.

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