High school football

Mount View opts to tackle eight-man football

Mustangs will start new time in program in 2020
By Mark Haskell | Jan 15, 2020

Thorndike — The inaugural eight-man high school football season was a successful one, as 10 teams took part and one — Mount Ararat of Topsham — ending the 2019 campaign with the division's first state championship.

Now, as many as 10 more schools reportedly are set to join the ranks next season, among them Mount View High School, as athletic director Tom Lynch notified the Maine Principals’ Association of its intent to leave Class D North and take part in the new division next fall.

Lynch said it is “the logical approach to keep football at Mount View.”

“It’s not official yet, but we’ve notified the MPA at this point that that’s our intent,” he said. “They’re getting that from several different schools so that they can plan divisions and all that, because it sounds like there’s going to be a lot more than last year.”

The Mustangs lost their first seven games of the season and finished the 2019 campaign 1-7 and out of the Class D North playoff picture. Mount View dressed fewer than 20 players at the end of the fall campaign.

Lynch said — “when our numbers were starting to drop off due to attrition” — is when he and veteran Mount View coach Rick Leary began to discuss, internally, the possibility of moving to eight-man.

“The numbers were starting to fall off and we started talking about eight-man. And coach Leary went to the state championship eight-man game [between Mount Ararat and Old Orchard Beach] and came back totally in favor of going to eight-man. He’s very much on board with it.”

Eight-man football, which is played with three fewer players per side than traditional 11-on-11 football is, for all intents and purposes, the same, with two fewer linemen and one less “skill position” player (running back/wide receiver) on the field at any time.

The dimensions of the field also become more narrow than traditional 11-on-11 football.

Often, schools will hold off making such a move with more players on the way in the middle school ranks. However, the area’s youth football program folded due to lack of players, with the few players remaining playing in nearby leagues in Belfast and Fairfield.

While Lynch said the goal is to have numbers healthy enough down the road to again offer 11-player football, he said some schools had the same thought process prior to joining the eight-man ranks last year and now seem intent to stay.

“I reached out to some of those people playing eight-man and they said they’ve really enjoyed it and for the foreseeable future they plan to continue to do that,” he said. “So maybe that’s what we’ll find out also.”

He added, “You really don’t notice much of a difference with those six [extra] people not being on the field.”

“The passing is the same, the routes are the same, the tackling's the same and the blocking's the same,” said Lynch.

Last year, 10 teams took part in eight-man football, five in the small-school division (350-or-fewer students) — Old Orchard Beach, Boothbay Region, Sacopee Valley of Cornish, Traip Academy of Kittery and Telstar of Bethel — and five in the large-school division (351-or-more students) — Maranacook of Readfield, Mount Ararat of Topsham, Yarmouth, Ellsworth/Sumner of East Sullivan and Gray-New Gloucester.

Currently, Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor, Camden Hills of Rockport, Morse of Bath, Washington Academy of East Machias, Houlton, Stearns of Millinocket, Dirigo of Dixfield, Spruce Mountain of Jay and Mountain Valley of Rumford are among schools that appear poised to make the jump in the fall.

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