Ellsworth-Sumner football team likely staying in Class D

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first_img Taylor VorthermsSports Editor at The Ellsworth AmericanTaylor Vortherms covers sports in Hancock County. The St. Louis, Missouri native recently graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism and joined The Ellsworth American in 2013. Part 2: When the injury is inside your head, some “don’t get it” – July 26, 2016 Bio Latest Posts Latest posts by Taylor Vortherms (see all)center_img Ellsworth quarterback Jacob Shorey looks down field for an open receiver in the Eagles’ first game of the 2014 season against the Maine Central Institute Huskies on Sept. 5.PHOTO BY TAYLOR VORTHERMSELLSWORTH — After three winless seasons, the Ellsworth-Sumner cooperative varsity football program will likely remain in Class D East for another two years.The two schools’ combined enrollment would have bumped the team up to Class B next fall, but the Maine Principals’ Association’s football committee decided to make an exception for the Eagles.“It takes a long time to build a football program,” said Ellsworth-Sumner coach Duane Crawford. “Especially when you’re facing teams who have been in existence since the ’40s and ’50s, where football is ingrained in the community.”The MPA football committee convenes biannually to classify its member schools into four classes by enrollment. On Monday, Dec. 8, the panel recommended allowing both the Ellsworth-Sumner and Camden Hills football teams to continue playing in the smallest school division.This is placeholder textThis is placeholder textThe committee’s proposal to offer these schools a hand has raised some questions about what’s a realistic timeframe for a new program to grow and when should the MPA decline intervention.If approved by the MPA’s management committee this winter, the decision would mark the first time a two-class drop will have been permitted.Bucksport Athletics Director Ed Hatch serves on the football committee charged with making recommendations for the reclassification process.“It’s our job to do what we can to help preserve football and support the programs,” Hatch said. “That’s why the vote was made.”Hatch said there is no exact formula for deciding which teams are granted approval to play down from their enrollment classes. All program appeals are considered on a case-by-case basis.But as the athletic director of a Class D football program, Hatch said he did present reasons at the meeting for why an exception perhaps shouldn’t be made for the two schools in question. Chief among his points was the discrepancy in treatment of big and small programs.“There is no place for any struggling Class D program to go,” Hatch said. “In turn, those schools have unfolded.”Hatch cited the example of Sacopee Valley High School of South Hiram — a Class D Western school that recently dropped its varsity football program after five winless seasons.This same argument resonated with the committee two years ago, when members rejected Mount Ararat’s appeal to play down two classes from Class A to Class C. The committee did, however, allow the team to compete at Class B.Hatch said he was the one dissenting vote on the decision regarding Ellsworth-Sumner and Camden Hills, but he understands why the proposal was approved.“I want those programs to survive,” Hatch said. “You always want to see kids who enjoy playing football to have that option.”Like all new varsity programs in their first two years, Ellsworth-Sumner was allowed to play down to the smallest-school class — now Class D in the four-class format instituted by the MPA in 2013.The Eagles recently completed their third year in the lowest class, with their first year spent as a Class C team in the three-class format. While teams are supposed to compete at the junior varsity level for two years before joining the varsity ranks, Ellsworth-Sumner jumped in a year early to fill a scheduling hole created by the demise of the Calais-Woodland program.Ellsworth’s enrollment of 540 eligible students combined with Sumner’s 230 would have placed the Ellsworth-Sumner team in Class B next fall, which contains schools with enrollment between 600 and 874.Crawford requested in an email that his team stay another two years in Class D (enrollment no higher than 454) with the existing provision that squads playing below their enrollment classes are ineligible for playoffs.“That’s the least of my worries at this point,” Crawford said of the postseason tournament. “We just need to focus on getting bodies in the program.”Crawford said starting a football program is especially difficult in communities such as Ellsworth and Camden, where the boys’ soccer teams have reigned successfully for decades.Since the turn of the century, the Ellsworth and Camden Hills boys’ soccer teams combined have won eight of 14 Class B Eastern Maine championships, with Ellsworth claiming five titles to Camden Hills’ three.“The common denominator for new schools that come in and struggle is the established fall sports programs,” Crawford said. “Soccer has always been there, so that’s where the majority of athletes go.“But when they are brought up through the football feeder program, that’s when you’ll start seeing changes.”This year, Ellsworth-Sumner received its first batch of freshmen who went through the Ellsworth Football League feeder program, which was founded by Crawford six years ago.Crawford said that, in his experience with starting Mount Desert Island’s Acadian Football League, teams start becoming competitive once the third class of feeder program players makes it onto the squad.“That’s what it took to turn that program around,” Crawford said of the MDI High School football team. “Once a program that won one or two games a season became a perennial playoff team.”And that kind of success attracts other athletes, as is the case for the Ellsworth soccer program.While many multi-sport athletes comprise the soccer roster, Crawford said that, with the exception of wrestling, not one Ellsworth-Sumner football player in three years has had varsity experience in another sport.Next season, the second class of feeder program players will enter high school. Ellsworth-Sumner will have three classes of feeder program athletes before the Eagles must once again face the possible reclassification into a higher class.But as of now, just maintaining a team large enough to compete at all is a challenge for Crawford. With 11 players on the field playing both offensive and defensive roles, a team can wear down by the end of the game without substitution options.“You’re looking at trying to get 35 to 40 kids on a team to really be able to compete,” Crawford said. “There aren’t many other sports out there where you need that many players.”Early in the season, Ellsworth-Sumner’s squad dwindled from some 30 players to just over 20 as a result of injuries and other various circumstances.In Ellsworth-Sumner’s final matchup of the season against Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, Mattanawcook’s roster boasted nearly twice the number of players and included 18 seniors.“They had almost as many seniors as we had kids suited up,” Crawford said. “Those are players who have gone through the feeder program and experienced four years of high school football.”Crawford said he has had success with players who joined his squad with little to no experience in football, but for the most part, there is a huge learning curb involved.“You’re halfway through the season before the kids have it figured out,” Crawford said. “Especially those in the skilled positions.”But progress is evident for Ellsworth-Sumner in the statistics. The Eagles increased their total offensive yards from 500 in the first year to 2,000 in the second.And in the first two years, all of Ellsworth-Sumner’s opponents put in their JV squads after a first half blowout. This season, though, the Eagles kept four of seven games close enough to keep the other team’s varsity players on the field for all four quarters.These are the milestones on which Crawford continues to focus. He cited this year’s greatest accomplishment coming from the Week 5 game against Dexter in which for the first time, the Eagles ended the opening quarter with a lead.“We know that we will have to be on our own after this two-year cycle, and that’s fine,” Crawford said. “This is going to allow us to get everything well-established to hopefully make it to the playoffs in a couple years.” EHS names new boys’ soccer coach – July 13, 2016 Part 1: Invisible, incapacitating concussions are sidelining high school athletes – July 19, 2016last_img

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