Boothbay supports possible move to 8-man football
A new brand of football may be in store for Boothbay Region and other Maine high schools with fewer than 350 students. In November, the Maine Principals Association’s football committee recommended to replace Class E football, which had nine participating schools with small rosters and several inexperienced players, with 8-man football.
For years, the MPA has searched for a solution in saving Maine high school football. Over the past decade, participation has dropped, according to a National High School Federation survey. In 2015, Boothbay’s football program reached a point where it could no longer compete in the state’s smallest MPA class and joined a six-team independent league. In 2016, Boothbay joined Class E, a developmental league sponsored by the MPA and won the inaugural league championship.
But Class E football didn’t solve the problem of too many non-competitive matchups and teams considering forfeits due to injuries. Boothbay faced this challenge earlier this season. The Seahawks opened against Class E newcomer Freeport with 494 students and played the previous season in Class C. Freeport overwhelmed Boothbay, 41-8. The Seahawks also lost three players to injury which left school officials contemplating forfeiting the next game against Class C Belfast. Boothbay lost to Belfast, 26-18, and struggled with several players inactive due to injury throughout the season.
But a possible move to 8-man football may prove beneficial to Boothbay which has fielded 18-28 players in recent seasons. In 8-man football, the two offensive tackles and a running back are eliminated. At first, Boothbay coach Ed Crocker wasn’t sure if he supported moving to 8-man football. But the more he thought about it, the more sense it made. “I think we can still play 11-man football. Our roster will be about 30 players next fall,” he said. “But 8-man should be really good for our program. It places more premium on speed which is a big advantage for us with players like Michael Hollowell and Hunter Crocker.”
Coach Crocker’s brother, Allan Crocker, is the school’s athletic director and he is definitely a supporter. Under the MPA Football Committee’s recommendation, there would be two 8-man football divisions. This would eliminate schools like Boothbay playing significantly larger schools. “This is great for us. No more playing teams with enrollments two to three times higher than ours, ” he said.
With 192 students, Boothbay was the smallest Maine high school playing varsity football this year.
The MPA will vote this spring on the 8-man football proposal.