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Many Busline League teams opt out of fall season, go with in-school play

Decades-old league also lost spring baseball, softball and track and field
By Mark Haskell | Sep 14, 2020

While high school sports have gotten the majority of attention as the Maine Principals’ Association and state agencies hash out plans to get those older student-athletes on the field or course, the Busline League — the decades-old governing body for middle school athletics in the Midcoast — will have a much different look this fall season.

In fact, the league may not have a season at all.

While no official announcement of cancellation for the season has come from the league, the majority of the league's schools — which span from Woolwich to Searsport, a geographical distance of 70 miles (not including the three Penobscot Bay islands) — have, due to continued safety concerns and precautions over COVID-19 — made the decision to opt out of league play for the fall.

That is another whammy for middle school student-athletes who lost half of their Pine Tree Wrestling League schedule in March and all of the Busline League spring sports of baseball, softball and track and field.

In the fall, the Busline League has boys soccer, girls soccer, coed soccer, field hockey, cross country and golf. Due to varying sizes of the schools and interest, all the league’s academic institutions do not necessarily have teams for each sport.

Boys soccer, girls soccer, coed soccer and field hockey typically host their championship games on the artificial turf at Point Lookout in Northport, while cross country and golf have their championship events at various spots throughout the region.

Area middle school football teams also play in the Eastern Maine Middle School Football League.

Schools that have teams in the Busline League in various divisions and sports include Oceanside Middle School of Thomaston, Medomak Middle School of Waldoboro, Camden-Rockport Middle School, Troy Howard Middle School of Belfast, Searsport District Middle School, Vinalhaven School, North Haven School, Islesboro Central School, Lincolnville Central School, Hope Elementary School, Appleton Village School, St. George School, Great Salt Bay of Damariscotta, Nobleboro School, Jefferson Village School, Bristol Consolidated School, South Bristol School, Wiscasset Middle School, Boothbay Region Elementary School and Woolwich Central School.

Of those schools, only Medomak, Woolwich and St. George have yet to officially opt out of the fall season.

The Busline League began in the 1960s with only five schools and one sport (boys basketball), but has blossomed to become the go-to middle school sports league for a variety of sports and teams sprawling up and down the Midcoast and the area’s neighboring islands.

The majority of schools, in lieu of a traditional regular season, will offer in-school intramural games, scrimmages and skills and drills for particular sports.

Others — such as the schools within the AOS 93 school district (which includes Bristol, South Bristol, Great Salt Bay, Jefferson and Nobleboro — will offer no alternatives for students.

St. George School Superintendent Mike Felton said while the Dragons have not officially opted out, those plans — which include opting out and providing intramural activities — will be presented to the school board on Wednesday, Sept. 16.

Some schools may approach other traditional league schools for potential exhibition games and events, but those decisions have yet to be made.

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