MPA Football Committee discusses prospects for 8-man football in Maine

first_imgBy Travis LazarczykKennebec Journal/Morning SentinelAUGUSTA — The Maine Principals’ Association Football Committee discussed prospects for eight-man football on Tuesday but decided to withhold final recommendations on a possible league in 2019 until completion of the current football season.Eight-man football is not played at Maine high schools, but the idea has gained traction as many schools struggle to maintain rosters large enough to play the traditional 11-man version of the sport. Seventeen states offered eight-man football in 2016, according to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations.This is placeholder textThis is placeholder textMuch of Tuesday’s discussion focused on a proposal by Football Committee Chairman Brendan Scully, athletic director at Massabesic High School. Scully’s plan would eliminate the current Class E developmental league and replace it with an eight-man league for schools with fewer than 350 students. However, those schools could petition to continue playing 11-man football.Yarmouth High School Athletic Director Susan Robbins said she’s heard from a handful of larger schools — including Class B Mount Ararat and Greely, Class C Gray-New Gloucester and Class E Camden Hills — that would be interested in more information on an eight-man football league. Each of those schools is playing this season with fewer than 30 players.Smaller schools have balked at playing larger schools — even in a proposed eight-man league — according to MPA Assistant Director Mike Burnham. That led Robbins to ask if two eight-man leagues would be feasible.“What’s the real interest in playing eight-man football above 350 (enrollment)? Four schools, is that a division?” Scully said.Allan Snell, the committee’s liaison for game officials, said other states with eight-man leagues use an enrollment cutoff that prevents larger schools from participating. An eight-man league should not be seen as a chance for larger schools to drop and redevelop their program, Snell said. Rather, it should be a league for schools no longer able to field rosters large enough for 11-man football, he said.“If you open it up, you’ll have some issues. You don’t want larger schools dropping,” Snell said.Many questions remain about how eight-man football would be implemented in Maine, said Dan O’Connell, the head football coach at John Bapst and the liaison from the MPA Coaches Committee.“If eight-man becomes viable, we need to know the who, what, when and why,” O’Connell said. “I’m getting questions from Madawaska and Presque Isle all the way to New Hampshire. … It’s such an unknown entity for so many who would fall into this boat.”Dan Clifford, principal at Ellsworth High School, asked if the committee should consider a minimum roster requirement to participate in 11-man football. O’Connell said the number of players is less important than the number of experienced players who are ready to compete at the varsity level.“If we just went with a number, I think we’re setting ourselves up for failure,” O’Connell said.If the Football Committee were to recommend an eight-man league for 2019, the proposal would need to be approved by the MPA’s general membership next spring. Burnham noted that an eight-man league would make it tougher for schools with 11-man football to schedule crossover games, which have been successful in Class B, C and D over the past two seasons.Some states with eight-man football play with different rules on an 80-yard field rather than the traditional 100-yard field. Snell said national federation rules have a stipulation for playing eight-man on a 100-yard field.While there are many questions about eight-man football, O’Connell said, the game is, at its heart, the same as 11-man football.“You still have to block, and you still have to tackle,” he said.If nothing else, Tuesday’s meeting was a start to a larger, upcoming discussion.“This is what people need to wrap their heads around eight-man football,” Robbins said. “They need a starting point.”The committee will ask for feedback from schools to gauge interest in eight-man football. It scheduled a meeting for Nov. 29 to discuss the issue again.last_img