The Washington Academy has a plan to rebuild its football program

The Washington Academy will no longer field a college football team this fall, but school officials aren’t giving up on the sport just yet.

Independent school East Machias, which had fielded an 11-man varsity squad since 2011, canceled its planned debut in the eight-man roster last year before the start of the season due to a shortage of players.

The Washington Academy now plans to form a sub-varsity team this fall to prepare for a possible return to college competition, and Raiders head coach Rich Oliveras said he has reached out to other high schools. of Washington County with an invitation for students interested in playing football. a cooperative effort hosted and funded by the Washington Academy.

College-level co-op teams, which require approval from the Maine Principals’ Association, are made up of players from two or more schools and have become common in many sports as the student populations of most Maine high schools are in decline.

“In order to form a co-operative sub-college team, she doesn’t need MPA approval,” said Mike Burnham, Interscholastic Executive Director of the Maine Principals’ Association. “Schools can come together and do this.”

Nine co-op varsity football teams made up of players from multiple schools are scheduled to play this fall, including six of the state’s 27 eight-player teams.

This includes a four-school co-op team hosted by Houlton and also drawing players from Hodgdon, South Aroostook of Dyer Brook and Greater Houlton Christian Academy, and four teams which draw players from three schools each.

This group includes a new varsity entry from Aroostook’s northernmost county, the Valley Mustangs, which is open to players from Fort Kent, Madawaska and Wisdom High School of Saint Agatha.

The Washington Academy hopes to use a similar model at the sub-college level this year for interested high school football players in Washington County.

“We’re trying to build a program,” said Oliveras, also a Washington Academy athletic administrator and the school’s deputy principal. “We don’t have a power system, so everyone comes with no experience and hopefully with their enthusiasm. [for the sport] kids will see what it takes to compete in high school football.

Oliveras said restarting Washington Academy football as a co-operative sub-college team could help address one of the biggest issues facing the program’s player count, with many students in the region working summer jobs, ranging from fishing off the coast to harvesting blueberries to starting school. early September.

With MPA fall sports practices scheduled to begin the third week of August, players must complete a 10-day acclimatization period before being eligible to play in a game, and varsity schedules often begin on weekends. end before Labor Day, which left the Washington Academy short of players last season.

The Washington Academy would likely have more flexibility as a sub-college program at the start of the 2021 season, and having additional players join the team through a successful co-op deal could provide the Raiders with a roster big enough to start the season until other teammates finish their summer work.

“We are confident that we should be able to field a JV team,” Oliveras said.

Oliveras said he periodically receives calls from parents and students from other communities in the area with questions about football, as the Washington Academy has been the only high school football team in Washington County for a year. Calais-Woodland cooperative entry that competed in the college ranks of the Little Ten Conference for four years. years was suspended in 2012 due to declining attendance.

Washington County is the only county in Maine currently without a high school college football program.

The Washington Academy competed as a member of the Little Ten Conference in Class C until 2012, then in Class D beginning in 2013 when the MPA added a fourth class.

The Raiders finished 0-7 in their last 11-man football season in 2019, but in 2018 they went 4-4 and advanced to the Class D North semi-finals.

“We want to provide an opportunity not only for our children, but we would provide it to children in any school in Washington County who want to participate with us and WA would fully fund the program,” Oliveras said.

“We just hope that some of our local schools will really consider this opportunity. We’re not trying to steal their kids, we’re just trying to give kids the opportunity to play football.

Ryan H. Bowman