Boothbay football awaiting school administration decision about season

Safety concerns spark debate over whether or not roster is large and experienced enough
Thu, 09/06/2018 - 7:30pm

The Boothbay football team’s season is in doubt. Boothbay lost its season opener, 41-8, to Freeport Aug. 31, and in the process lost three players to injury. This leaves 18 players available for its first home game Friday versus Class C Belfast. But the small roster, which includes five freshmen, has school officials nervous about player safety. And school administrators are discussing whether or not to cancel Friday's game.

A decision is expected sometime Thursday or Friday about cancelling Friday’s game, according  to Head Coach Ed Crocker. But the decision may go further. “I was told the school may fold the program if we can’t field a team in two days,” Crocker said Wednesday following  practice.

Following the loss to Freeport, Crocker began recruiting students to fill spots vacated by Alex Hibbard’s, Hazen Oakes’, and Nace Lawless’ injuries. His efforts resulted in Grant Swope, Adam Lowery and Justin Hyson joining the team. And another player, Clarence Burnham, returned Tuesday after being unable to attend pre-season workouts and last week’s practice. Crocker will report to school administrators his team is ready for Friday night. But, he understands administrators have a tough decision to make.

“I will tell them I’m comfortable with the 18 players we have,” he said. “But I’m also comfortable with whatever decision they make. The school has liability issues and must make a decision in the students’ best interests.”

Boothbay entered the season as Class E ‘s defending league champions. And Crocker expected his squad to be one of the best in year two of the newly constituted developmental league. In 2017, the Maine Principals’ Association created Class E for programs like Boothbay, with low enrollments and a substantial number of inexperienced players. The Seahawks won all 10 games last year against five other struggling high school football programs. 

In 2018, three more teams joined the league. Freeport with 494 students, Old Orchard Beach (251) and Dirigo (263 joined this fall. At 215 students, Boothbay is the league’s second smallest school enrollment-wise.  Only Telstar (212) is smaller. The largest is Camden Hills with 667. Boothbay defeated the Windjammers twice last season. But Camden Hills’ football program is still in its developmental stages.  Freeport is a long established program which made the Class C playoffs last year, and entered Class E this season with over 30 players on its roster.

Crocker questions why the nine-team league doesn’t play each member once in completing an eight-game schedule. Instead, Boothbay’s eight schedule has six Class E and two Class C schools.

“We have this league so small schools don’t play opponents with significantly larger enrollments. First two weeks, we played two larger opponents and they wonder why we are struggling to field a team. We should play each Class E team once, but we don’t. We completely skip Class D, and play Class C. I don’t understand the rationale,” he said.

Class E is open to any football program concerned about playing competitively in the other four classes. Years ago, it was an independent league outside the MPA’s jurisdiction. Two years ago, the MPA sanctioned Class E based on interest from several schools.  “The league was developed for allowing teams to rebuild their programs so any school can join. Schedules are  developed by the leagues. The MPA doesn’t determine schedules,” said MPA assistant executive director Mike Burnham.

This is Crocker’s second year as the varsity football coach. His goal is rebuilding Seahawks football to the point it was under Tim Rice’s leadership nearly two decades ago. His rebuilding effort includes equipping players with more Seahawk gear and apparel. The team is soliciting donations, with a $1,500 goal.

“We want to make Seahawks more visible within the community. So kids, in the youth program, see them, and it makes them want to be part of this,” Crocker said. “I want everyone to understand how important football is to our players, and buy into what we’re working for."

Donations should be sent to Boothbay Region Elementary School with checks made out to Boothbay Region High School Football Boosters.