Maine Class B high school football will see notable changes next fall, including Oceanside, the combination of Rockland and Georges Valley, tackling a higher level of gridiron play.

Every two years the Maine Principals’ Association classification committee reexamines the teams and schools from each of the state’s three football classes and redistributes the schools accordingly based on enrollment.

However, with the addition of Oceanside High School, which will form next fall with the merging of Rockland District High School and Georges Valley High School, there will likely be another team added to the mix.

In the coming year, gridiron fans should expect to see plenty of other adjustments to Class B football. Aside from the addition of the Mariners, the MPA has discussed shuffling several schools around the region.

The MPA classification committee met Dec. 20 and approved several proposals to look at reorganizing each class in football. At the meeting it was accepted to keep Class A schools as those with 775 or more students, while Class B will move from including enrollments of 535-774 to 500-774, and Class C will change from up to 534 to up to 499. Enrollment numbers counted are from April 1.

If the individual schools approve the changes, it means several Class A schools with rich Class A football traditions such as Brewer and Mount Blue of Farmington will move to Class B along with Oceanside, which will have an expected enrollment of 710 students. However, those are not the only changes.

If the changes go through, Brewer (750 students) and Mount Blue (746 students) will come from Eastern Class A to Eastern Class B and Old Town (560 students) will move up from Eastern Class C to Class B. Also,Winslow (459 students) plans to move from Eastern Class C to B, and Morse of Bath may go from Eastern to Western Class B.

Belfast (625 students), Camden Hills (648 students), Mount Desert Island (529 students), plan to stay in Class B along with Gardiner, Hampden Academy, Leavitt of Turner, Nokomis of Newport and Waterville.

All new classification numbers and placements were expected to go to individual schools in January when each institution was to decide to approve where they were placed or to petition to move up or down in class.

Rockland football coach Woody Moore is excited about the changes and addition of Oceanside, where he is a candidate for the football coaching position.

“I think its definitely going to be a more competitive situation,” he said of moving up to Class B. “For me personally, I’m excited just in the sense that there is an opportunity to bring a greater number of kids to play football and that’s exciting to me because I think the sport is ready to grow.”

Moore said he wants to see students from Georges Valley who do not have the opportunity to play football, play for the Mariners. He also said that with the addition of two tough schools like Mount Blue and Brewer, the new Mariners will need the numbers.

Belfast coach Chris Bartlett said the changes will make the league not only more interesting, but challenging as well.

“It just makes a tough league tougher [is] basically what it’s going to do,” he said. “The [Pine Tree Conference Class B] league was tough and with the teams that are coming in it’s going to make it interesting. You are facing teams that you haven’t played before, haven’t played in a while.”

While Bartlett is interested, Mount Desert Island coach Mark Shields is worried. With an April 1 enrollment of 529 students, the Trojans will have the smallest enrollment of the new Class B, putting them in trouble.

“I’m concerned,” he said. “I’m very concerned. We are going to be the smallest team in Class B East enrollment-wise. I think we can be fairly competitive next year and, you know, maybe the year after. I don’t know. You compete against these teams, you look at a 10-year span, I mean the reality is I don’t know if we can hang with these schools year in and year out.”

He said that his school is almost at a 200-student deficit already and the moves will not make it easy.

“Our big thing is always to try to be competitive in the league and we will try to do that, but I’ll be very honest: I was hoping that we might be able to drop to Class C when those other big schools are moving down,“ said Shields.

However, the Trojans will not back down. “What it is, is what it is and we will just do what we do and keep working hard and try to get better each week and try to compete with these schools and see what happens,” he said.

Bunky Dow, MDI athletic director and chair of the classification committee, is not as worried. He said the league is evenly matched now and even with the changes, does not expect game play to change much.

“There have been competitive games,” said Dow. “I don’t think you see the blowouts like we had in the past. I think the league is very well-matched. You are going to get lopsided games, but not as many as we have had in the past.”

One of the advantages of the proposed organization in the Midcoast is that it will put more local teams on the Class B schedule. For some teams, that means less travel and more local rivalries.

“It’s nice to play the local competition especially when you look at now we have Camden Hills, then us, and now Oceanside, it makes it really interesting,” Bartlett said. “It makes for good football [and] it makes for a good football environment with the proximity of the schools, so it is going to be a positive when you look at it in the sense of football.”

Coach Moore agreed.

“I think it’s great, it’s natural rivalries and, for us, the travel thing is burdensome,” Moore said. He added that it is not only a burden financially, but having to travel four hours to Calais is taxing on the team when the players have to get off the bus and play a grueling game.

“It’s nice to get back into those rivalries,” Moore said. “It’s kind of ignited and [we] keep some of those flames going with preseason games against Camden [Hills] and Belfast, [but] it will be nice to play them for real.”

For Moore, though, it’s more than just new rivalries: everything is going to be a whole new game. With a new school, new league, and new players, the Oceanside team will have a clean slate.

“Everything is new,” Moore said. “Every time someone carries a ball, catches a ball, it’s a record. At least for one year you are going in the record books as leading Oceanside High School in either touchdowns or catches or hopefully wins as a team, which is all we really care about,” he said.

“I think that is kind of neat. It’s exciting having new colors and a new name, a new league and I think the quicker we can all embrace that the better off we are in terms of bringing new kids to football, because that’s what it’s all about.”

Village NetMedia Sports Reporter Frederick Freudenberger can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at fritz@villagesoup.com.