AUGUSTA – BL Lippert already knows that the first half of his team’s 2022 season will be a gauntlet run.
After opening the year on the road against an Oxford Hills team fresh from a Class A title game, the Cony football team meets a team they have never played before, Massabesic. The Rams will follow that up with games against Skowhegan, the coaches preseason pick to win the Class B North, and against Windham, who won the division last year.
“It’s going to be a tough start for us,” said Lippert, Cony’s head coach for the past seven years. “We start against one of the best teams in Maine and then play against a team we have no history with. Then add two teams that will be among the best in our league.”
Although Cony could have a tougher start to the upcoming football season than most, the Rams won’t be the only ones facing opponents old and new. With the game plans for 2022 completed on Friday, there are many brand new matchups, old rivalries and attractive crossover games on the program for the coming year.
Crossover games will abound in 11-man football this year, with the Maine Principals’ Association looking to create more competitive encounters in all four 11-man classes. This has led to some savory clashes between teams that don’t normally get a chance to fight on the gridiron.
Among those teams is defending Class C North champion Winslow, who has a list of three consecutive non-league opponents in the meat of his schedule. The Black Raiders will have road games against Mt. Blue in Week 4 (Sept 23-24) and Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale in Week 5 (Sept 30-Oct 1) before taking on Cheverus in week 1 6 (Oct. 2) received. 7-8).
“We are definitely excited about the new schedule; It’s a small change from what we had last year,” said Winslow head coach Wes Littlefield. “Winthrop are a good team and we’re also happy to play Cheverus at home. I don’t think we’ve ever done that in the history of our program.”
Cony, of course, has the Week 1 (2-3 Sep) showdown at Oxford Hills and the Week 2 (8-9 Sep) home game against Massabesic. The Rams will also host longtime rival Gardiner in Week 7 (October 14-15), a matchup that will mark the rivalry’s return to the regular season after the two teams met in the preseason a year ago.
However, the additions on the schedule mean some traditional matchups will not be played in 2022. The Maine Central Institute and Nokomis won’t face each other this year, and Cony won’t be playing against a Lawrence team that has had some exciting contests with the Rams in recent years.
“It’s a little bit frustrating, and I know there are some other B North coaches who are frustrated as well,” Lippert said. “I won’t make a big deal out of it, but with our league it would be sensational if we could only play the games between our 10 teams.”
In Class D, teams play against two Class C opponents to make up for the lack of scheduling options in an eight-team statewide league. That puts the Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale vs. Winslow vs. Hermon duels (Week 1) and the Oak Hill vs. MCI fight into Week 4 on the table.
There will also be some fascinating league games for a class that, albeit small, had some exciting games a year ago. Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale not only play away against Foxcroft in Week 1 in a repeat of last year’s state title game, but will host Lisbon in Week 5 and wrap up the regular season in Freeport in Week 9 (October 28-29).
“Lisbon only lost three seniors in my opinion so they’re going to be a strong team this year,” said Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale head coach Dave St Hilaire. “Freeport had a good year last year and they have their quarterback and two running backs back. We’ll have some good games.”
Other notable 11-man games this season include Skowhegan at Lawrence Week 1, Lawrence at Windham Week 2, Oak Hill at Foxcroft Week 5, Skowhegan host Thornton Academy Week 7 and MCI at Winslow and Skowhegan at Windham Week 2 8 (Oct. 21-22).
There will be no eight-man level crossover games as the large school and small school teams only play within their respective classes. However, as the new format continues to move forward, there are still many notable games lined up for Waterville, Maranacook and Mount View.
After opening the season against Ellsworth/Sumner, Waterville has three straight major games through the end of September. The Purple Panthers will take on eight-man newcomer Greely in Week 2 and head to Bar Harbor in Week 3 (September 16-17) for a repeat of thrilling 34-28 and 50-40 matches featuring MDI from last year and hosts to experience Spruce Mountain in week 4.
At Small-School North, Mount View will make history in Week 2 as the new cooperative team from St. John Valley head to Fort Kent for their first-ever home game. In the South, a Maranacook team that denied a state title in their last game last year has tough games against Dirigo (Week 1, home) Mountain Valley (Week 3, home) and Old Orchard Beach (Week 5, away).
“Mountain Valley has a lot of athletes and Dirigo will bring back their two best athletes,” said Maranacook head coach Jordan DeMillo. “They also have Old Orchard Beach who is very skilled and talented. I’m not looking forward to going to OOB to face them.”
With eight-man football continuing its rise and both Class A and Class D now having only eight teams, this could very well be the final season with four 11-man divisions. That could mean another rescheduling change for Maine high school football in the not too distant future.
“I think eight-man football is good for a lot of these programs that are in the bubble, but that could mean getting rid of D,” Littlefield said. “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
Local athletes compete under the lights for KVAC Large School Championships