ELLSWORTH — Harold “Tug” White played football for Ellsworth High School back in the 1950s and he’s wanted to see the short-lived program re-established ever since.
Now he may get the chance to help make that happen.
White will serve as president of the new Ellsworth Football League, which has been formed to introduce the sport to youngsters at the middle school level.
With a board of directors now in place, the necessary fundraising can move ahead, and training clinics for prospective coaches are planned for later this month.
Three teams — grades 3-4, grades 5-6 and grades 7-8 — currently are in the planning stages, with play slated to begin in the fall.
“I read in the paper that they were looking for people to help out,” said White in a recent interview. “The next thing I knew I was president.”
White said he was involved in one previous effort to revive football in Ellsworth, “but the school board said ‘no’ and that was that.”
For years, said White, “there’s been a rumor about someone getting killed” in the Ellsworth football program, which lasted only about a decade, ending in the late 1950s.
“Nobody got killed,” he said. “But the numbers started to dwindle because they were putting young freshmen in as cannon-fodder for older varsity players.”
As a student at EHS, White also played baseball and was a member of the state champion basketball teams that made back-to-back appearances in the New England tournaments under the guidance of legendary coach Charlie Katsiaficas.
“But of the three sports,” said White, “I loved football the most — the team concept, the contact, everything about it.”
White later coached football for a couple of years at what was then Bar Harbor High School.
Over the years, he said, “I’ve had a lot of Ellsworth kids ask why we can’t have football here.”
Now, he said, interest in the sport seems to be growing, not just here but all over the state.
Several new high school programs have formed in recent years, and White believes it has something to do with changes in the population.
“We now have enough people who have moved in who grew up playing football,” he said. “I don’t know how many dads have asked me if there’s any way to get it going.”
Whether formation of the new league will eventually lead to a high school varsity program remains to be seen.
But White believes EHS has a large enough student base to support both football and soccer as fall sports.
“I think this community will have plenty of kids to do both,” he said, “and it provides an opportunity for more kids to participate.”