Reclassification prompts change in football state championship game rotation
One byproduct of the reclassification within Maine’s high school football ranks will be a change in the rotation for the state championship game to be played at the University of Maine next month.
Instead of the Class B title game that originally was scheduled for Alfond Stadium in Orono on Friday, Nov. 22, the Class C game will be played there this year while the Gold Ball games for Classes A, B and D will be contested on Saturday, Nov. 23, at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
The Maine Principals’ Association has hosted one state championship game at the University of Maine since expanding football from three classes to four in 2013.
The Class A game remained scheduled for Portland each year because of the preponderance of southern Maine teams in that class — Bangor has been the lone Class A school north of the Lewiston-Auburn.
That left Classes B, C and D to play one state championship game each every three years at the Orono venue, with Class B previously traveling north in 2013 and 2016 under the rotation and originally scheduled to return north this fall after Wells defeated Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft 55-20 in the 2018 Class D state final at UMaine.
But the MPA’s biennial reclassification process for high school sports that was concluded last spring involved some major changes for high school football.
That included six Class A schools from southern Maine — Portland, Cheverus of Portland, Deering of Portland, South Portland, Windham and Massabesic of Waterboro — dropping to Class B while Gardiner moved up from Class C to Class B.
Those changes have left 16 of the 22 football-playing schools in Class B located from Augusta south and thus closer to Portland than Orono.
Class B North now is composed of Brunswick, Falmouth-Greely, Windham, Gardiner, Cony of Augusta, Mt. Blue of Farmington, Messalonskee of Oakland, Lawrence of Fairfield, Skowhegan, Hampden Academy and Brewer.
Class B South consists of Biddeford, Cheverus, Deering, Gorham, Kennebunk, Marshwood, Massabesic, Noble of North Berwick, Portland, South Portland and Westbrook.
“With the reclassification and moving all of those southern Maine schools into Class B, as well as a number of what were south schools moving into the north, it was decided to bypass Class B [in Orono] for this year and revisit it the next time classification comes around,” MPA executive director for interscholastics Mike Burnham said.
Ironically, the only times the North has won the Class B state championship in football under the current four-class format came when the games were held in Orono, as Cony defeated Kennebunk 30-23 in 2013 and Brunswick topped Kennebunk 28-6 in 2016.
It’s possible another factor that may come into play the next time the MPA football committee considers its state championship-game rotation is the growth of the state’s new eight-player class.
Eight-player varsity football is debuting this fall with 10 participating schools. Nine of those schools are located south of Augusta, and as a result this year’s state championship game will be played Nov. 16 in Portland.
But if more schools, particularly from central and northern Maine, opt to join the eight-player ranks in the future it could prompt adding that state final to a rotation between northern and southern sites.
“The number of eight-player schools statewide may increase to the point that it would make sense geographically to showcase that event at the University of Maine venue,” Burnham said.