Maine Central Institute players and coaches use hand signals and pictures to relay plays to the field during a game against Oak Hill last season in Wales. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Several central Maine high school football programs are set to shift classes — including Winslow, Gardiner and Maine Central Institute — based on the proposal of the Maine Principals’ Association’s football committee.

The proposal, which also includes the expansion of Class A and D, could be modified Jan. 19 by the MPA’s Classification Committee. If approved at that level, the proposal would advance to the Interscholastic Management Committee’s Jan. 26 meeting. Final approval would then come in April with a vote of the general membership.

Class A (schools with 900 students or more) and Class D (499 students or fewer) would see big growth.

Last season, Class D featured eight teams, with no regions. Under the current proposal, John Bapst, Old Town, Belfast, Maine Central Institute and Winslow would comprise Class D North. Madison — originally set to compete in Class D South, has petitioned to play in Class D North. Class D South would feature Poland, Freeport, Wells, Oak Hill, Lisbon/St. Dominic and Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale.

MCI and Winslow competed in Class C North last season.

“We’ve been in C for quite some time, and we’ve been petitioning up for quite a while to stay in that,” Winslow coach Wes Littlefield said. “And who knows how this is going to pan out at the end of the day. With our numbers as low as they are, we really belong in Class D. With the teams that they have in there, I was actually pretty excited to move to D, playing a lot of the teams that we’ve seen in C already.”


MCI coach Tom Bertrand, whose Huskies won the Class C title in 2017, said a move to Class D was inevitable. MCI, like Winslow, had previously petitioned up to play in Class C.

Winslow football coach Wes Littlefield talks to players during an Aug. 24 practice in Winslow. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“With the evolution of eight-man and where things are at with that, we just feel like it’s in our best interest to play where we’re classified,” Bertrand said. “It’s still a very competitive league. As you see a lot of those (Class C) teams go into D, it’s still a very competitive place to play and we’ve got no problem playing where we’re classified. I just don’t think it’s in our program’s best interest to petition up again. We’re going to play where we’re classified.”

In Class B (schools with 650-899 students), Portland, Noble, South Portland and Windham are set to return to Class A, which will increase from eight to 12 teams. Portland, South Portland and Windham were in Class A as recently as 2018. Class B South would include Deering, Massabesic, Gorham, Biddeford, Kennebunk, Marshwood and Westbrook. Class B North would be comprised of defending state champion Skowhegan, Mt. Blue, Falmouth, Messalonskee, Cony and Lawrence.

Cony (630 students) and Lawrence (587) are slotted for Class C, but both schools petitioned up to remain in the Pine Tree Conference.

“We wanted to try and keep the local rivalries alive, that was the big thing,” Lawrence athletic director David Packard said. “We enjoyed playing Skowhegan, we look forward to those games. We didn’t want to take a chance on losing them. We’re glad Cony did the same thing because we love playing them, too. Mt. Blue is another one, Messalonskee. We still enjoy the history of the Pine Tree Conference and we are trying to keep that alive. … (Coach) John (Hersom) and I talked, he talked to his staff. It was pretty much unanimous that we wanted to stay in Class B. We also wanted to cut down on travel. John didn’t want two and a half hour rides to play a game, which we could’ve had in Class C.”

Gardiner defensive back Cole Brann (20) celebrates with teammates after intercepting a Brunswick pass during a Class B North football game last season at Hoch Field in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Added Cony head coach B.L. Lippert: “We really like B North as a conference, it’s really competitive year in and year out. We’ve had a variety of teams winning (the conference) and we’ve been near the top for the better part of the decade. I really feel that’s where we belong. Our enrollment may be a little below that, but we feel like we’re really competitive in that league and we’ve grown accustomed playing the Skowhegans and Mt. Blues of the world.”


Class C (500-649 students) would include Hampden Academy, Brewer, Nokomis, Hermon, Medomak Valley and Oceanside in the North. The South would have Leavitt, Gardiner, Fryeburg Academy, Cape Elizabeth, York and Cheverus. Hampden (810 students), Brewer (703) and Cheverus (364) all petitioned to be in C.

Gardiner is slated to play in Class C South, although the school wants to play in C North, athletic director Nate Stubbert said.

“This is just a proposal so we will see where it goes,” Stubbert said. “We requested to be in C North.”

Stubbert added Gardiner would explore petitioning up to play B North. The Tigers played in B North last season. Should Gardiner compete in Class C this fall, the rivalry game with Cony would likely be scheduled in the preseason.

“We obviously want to keep them on the schedule, and if we can’t do a cross-over, we would probably have to put it on our preseason schedule.”

Proposals from the volleyball and soccer committees are also on the classification committee’s agenda next week. Volleyball is looking to add a fourth class for its 47 programs, creating a Class D for schools with enrollments of less than 300.

Soccer could add an eight-player division for both boys and girls. Similar to the move to eight-man football prior to the 2019 season, small-sided soccer is viewed as an alternative for schools that have struggled to field 11-player rosters.


Central Maine sports editor Bill Stewart and Portland Press Herald staff writer Steve Craig contributed to this story.

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