The Maine Principals’ Association on Friday recommended pausing the high school fall sports playoffs until Monday as the manhunt continued into Friday evening for the suspect of the mass shootings in Lewiston. 

As a result, what was supposed to be one of the busiest weekends on the Maine high school sports fall calendar will instead be the emptiest one.

MPA Director Mike Burnham said it was important that schools be able to connect with their students before the playoffs resumed. Several schools across the state canceled classes Thursday and Friday after the mass shootings in Lewiston on Wednesday night have left 18 dead.

“We’ve never been through this,” Burnham said. “We’ve not had one school say to us we should be playing this weekend.”

The MPA announced the following changes to the playoffs:

Field hockey regional championships are rescheduled to Thursday, Nov. 2, from Nov. 1, with state finals set for Saturday, Nov. 4.

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Regional soccer championships are pushed out a week. Classes A, D and eight-person regional finals are set to be played Tuesday, Nov. 7, rather than Tuesday, Oct. 31. The regional finals in Class B and C were pushed from Wednesday, Nov. 1, to Wednesday, Nov. 8. The Soccer state finals will now be played Saturday, Nov. 11.

The MPA on Thursday pushed the cross-country and volleyball state championships to next week.

Coaches and athletic directors across central Maine said Friday the playoff pause was unfortunate, but necessary.

“I think it’s the only thing that’s appropriate,” said Chris Ranslow, athletic director at Hall-Dale High School. “The prudent approach right now is to go slow and be thoughtful and not rush things, especially considering that we’re continuing to learn who the victims of this horrific incident are and how those connections ripple throughout different communities.”

Winthrop High School Athletic Director Joel Stoneton said the pause was appreciated. A Winthrop high freshman and his father were among those who were killed in the rampage Wednesday.

“They (also) wanted to give a window with a grace period in between so that teams wouldn’t be playing back-to-backs,” said Winthrop Athletic Director Joel Stoneton. “Our concern for field hockey was playing Tuesday and then turning around and doing the same thing on Wednesday, which is when that (regional final) would have been.”

Cony field hockey players hit balls during a captain’s practice Friday at Cony Middle/High School in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Most teams in central Maine have not competed since Wednesday. When the playoffs resume, it’s possible some teams will have gone as many as five days without a practice. 

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That layoff time is of particular concern to Richmond boys soccer coach Peter Gardner, whose team likely won’t play its Class D South semifinal game against Islesboro until Thursday, Nov. 2. The game was originally scheduled for Friday afternoon, meaning the Bobcats will go more than a week between games.

“It’s a difficult situation,” Gardner said. “I just hope we can finish the playoffs. We’ve pushed everything into next week, but what happens if they don’t find this guy? Will (the MPA) keep pushing it back?”

Gardiner also said the long layoff could impact his team. 

“The other thing is, nobody has practiced, at least not around here,” he said. “I think the big thing is, what are the kids doing, and what are they losing in the layoff? You hope they are doing something. You want to say to them, ‘Maybe you should go out for a run,’ but you want them to be safe, so can you even do that?”

The weather could also be a mitigating factor, said Carrabec Athletic Director Erik Carey. Rain is in the forecast across the area Monday, leaving teams without turf fields in limbo.

To help get some reps in before its playoff football and field hockey games, Skowhegan is allowing players and coaches to attend optional practices Saturday and Sunday. The practices at Skowhegan Area High School, Athletic Director Brian Jones said, will include an “increased police presence.”

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“For kids to go two days without anything is difficult, and to know kids are at home by themselves is difficult,” Jones said. “Kids are asking for practice rather than to be stuck out home, so we wanted to give them that chance and make practices optional for them, and also the kids and the families that are still a bit leery of venturing out.”

This Friday photo shows arched gates of Cony Middle/High School’s Fuller Field in Augusta. Cony teams were set to play host a Class B North football quarterfinal against Mt. Blue and a Class A North field hockey semifinal against Nokomis on Saturday but both playoff games have been postponed because of the Lewiston shootings. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Seven football playoff games involving central Maine teams were scheduled this weekend, including regional quarterfinals for 11-man teams and two eight-man semifinals.  

With those teams now playing Monday and Tuesday, there are questions about what the turnaround time could be for next week. Playing on just a couple days rest isn’t an ideal option in football, leaving teams that win Monday looking to play their next games Saturday. Those teams that play Tuesday would likely not compete again until Monday, Nov. 6.

“I’d like to believe that, probably, whoever is the winner of our game Monday night (against Gardiner) will have their following contest that Saturday,” Jones said. “That would be the ideal scenario, and after that, we’ll be back on a normal schedule with regionals the 11th and state championships the 18th.”

Seven central Maine field hockey teams are still alive in the playoffs, and the logistics of the semifinal matchups mean at least three of those teams are guaranteed to play in next week’s regional finals. In soccer, the area has eight boys teams and six girls teams playing as the semifinals get set to begin.

Carey, the Carrabec athletic director, said he appreciated the extended window for teams to play their soccer games. Although Carrabec returned to school Friday, the teams still aren’t practicing, and securing officials and venues for Saturday at the last minute would have been a difficult task even if teams had been cleared to resume play.

Now, Carrabec can play its home boys semifinal against Rangeley and girls road semifinal against Madison on Tuesday. When the Cobras and their opponents take to the pitch for those games, they’ll be showing their support with shirts reading “Carrabec Supports Lewiston,” as will Rangeley and Madison with the names of their respective schools.

“There’s going to be a map of Maine and then a heart right where Lewiston would be,” Carey said. “We made them for Rangeley to come here, and we didn’t want to have our girls go to Madison and not have Madison have them, so we added them to the order. It’s just a little something to show our support and that we care.”

Portland Press Herald sports writer Travis Lazarczyk contributed to this report.

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