By Mike Zhe firstname.lastname@example.org June 20, 2019
SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — If the Marshwood High School football team has designs on winning a fifth state championship in six years, it will have to navigate a schedule dotted by new — and formidable — foes.
After an offseason of reclassification by the Maine Principals’ Association, the two-time defending champion Hawks finally know what teams they’ll be playing this year, an eight-game slate that includes Class A power Thornton Academy and two city teams that dropped down to Class B — Portland and Deering.
“I think it’s exciting because you’re playing some different people,” said Marshwood coach Alex Rotsko on Thursday. “Just to play some different opponents we haven’t played before is kind of fun.”
Marshwood, which has won Class B in 2014, ’15, ’17 and ’18, will open on Sept. 6 at home against Westbrook, the lone team to miss the playoffs last year in Class B South and one that has a new coach.
The schedule gets tougher from there, with a Week 2 game at Thornton Academy on Saturday and then a trip to Portland. That’s followed by home games against Gorham and Biddeford.
The Hawks will play at Deering in Week 6 before returning home to face rival Kennebunk. Their regular season concludes with a trip to Noble.
Missing from the schedule this season is a game against Falmouth, a team the Hawks narrowly defeated in the 2017 regional final and also beat in the 2015 regional final. That program, which has formed a co-op with neighboring Greely, has been moved to Class B North, immediately making that division stronger.
“Two of three years we played Falmouth in the (regional) championship,” said Rotsko. “Greely made the semis each of the last (four) years. I would think some of the teams in the North aren’t going to be too happy about it.”
The MPA is starting to post schedules on its website after the reclassification process dragged into the spring. Schedules for Noble (Class B South), York (Class C South) and Traip Academy have not yet been posted.
The reclassification shrunk Class A down to eight teams, which will compete in one statewide division. Each of those teams will play the seven others and also two crossover games, largely against Class B schools with compatible recent records.
That makes the Sept. 14 game at Thornton Academy particularly intriguing. The Golden Trojans have won four of the last seven Class A championships, including last year’s.
“It was a combination of things,” said Marshwood athletic director Rich Buzzell, who served on the football scheduling committee. “We tried to match up (comparable teams). We felt like we were going to be fairly strong coming into the year. Kennebunk wasn’t interested in playing TA. We were.”
The unbalanced Class B schedules could also make things quirky come playoff seeding time, with the MPA using the Heal Points system to determine placement.
“Somebody’s going to end up upset, I think,” said Rotsko. “With 11 teams in our league, you’d normally play eight out of the 11. Now with the crossover we’re actually only playing seven of the 11. There’s going to be a discrepancy with (strength) of schedule.”