ELLSWORTH — Changes are coming to the Hancock County high school football scene in 2020 after Maine Principals’ Association Football Committee approved new classification changes Monday.
The new season will see 16 additional teams make the move from 11-man football to eight-man football. Ellsworth/Sumner was part of the new format last season, and the 2020 season will see Mount Desert Island join a list of 26 teams set to play eight-man football this fall.
Eight-man football will be split into two classes, one for schools with 375 or more students and one for those with 374 or fewer. Ellsworth/Sumner (455 students) and MDI (531 students) will join Mount Ararat (709), Camden Hills (693), Gray-New Gloucester (596), Morse (583), Lake Region (535), Waterville (516), Yarmouth (509), Spruce Mountain (402), Cheverus (394) and Mountain Valley (375) in the larger class.
Bucksport (314 students) remains in Class D, which has shrunk from a classification with Northern and Southern Maine divisions to a single, statewide class. Freeport (525 students), John Bapst (465 students), Poland (463), Foxcroft (415), Oak Hill (399), Lisbon (357), Madison (299) and Winthrop (267) will round out the nine-team league.
Although Freeport, John Bapst and Poland all come in above the MPA’s Class D enrollment cutoff of 419 students, the committee has granted those teams permission to play down and retain postseason eligibility in 2020. Such changes usually must wait until the MPA’s spring meeting for formal approval, but with this year’s meeting canceled due to the novel coronavirus, they were instead finalized Monday.
“The changes made to football classification have the support of both the Classification Committee and the Management Committee,” Football Committee Chairman Brendan Scully said in a memo distributed to MPA schools. “At this time, leagues are free to begin scheduling.”
Two Hancock County high schools wasted little time doing so; just hours after the new classifications were made public Thursday morning, both Ellsworth/Sumner and MDI had announced their 2020 regular season schedules.
Ellsworth/Sumner will begin its season Sept. 4 as it hosts Stearns. The Eagles will also play home games against Houlton, Mount Ararat and Mount View and road contests against Washington Academy, Camden Hills, Orono and MDI.
MDI faces a largely similar schedule, though the Trojans will take on Mattanawcook Academy, Waterville and Morse rather than Houlton, Mount Ararat and Mount View. After beginning the season Sept. 4 with a home game against Mattanawcook, the Trojans will play four of their next six on the road before hosting Ellsworth/Sumner to close out the regular season.
Bucksport is still waiting to finalize its schedule with the next meeting set to be held next Thursday, April 30. Athletic Director Jared Foster told The Ellsworth American the statewide Class D will be organized as the Campbell Conference.