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Two-site proposal possible solution for four high school football championship …

AUGUSTA, Maine — The football committee of the Maine Principals’ Association is considering a two-site solution for scheduling its four state championship games beginning next fall.

For more than a decade, the three existing state finals have been played in a “Super Saturday” format at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland with games at 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.

But in late March the MPA approved expanding high school football from three to four classes, creating an additional state championship game.

Under a proposal that has been circulated to members of the football committee by email and will be considered at that panel’s next meeting on Aug. 6, three championship games still would be played at Fitzpatrick Stadium — this year on Saturday, Nov. 23 — while a fourth state final would be played in the evening at Alfond Stadium on the University of Maine campus in Orono on Friday, Nov. 22.

“What we’ll probably do, consistent with what we do in other sports, is set up a rotation for the games,” said South Portland High School athletic administrator Todd Livingston, chairman of the MPA football committee.

The Class A state final likely would remain in Portland every year given the geographic status of the teams in that division. Bangor is the only school north of Lewiston-Auburn in the reconfigured Class A, with nearly all of the other 15 schools in the division located within an hour or less of Fitzpatrick Stadium.

The state finals for Classes B, C and D then would be put on a three-year rotation, with one of those state finals held in Orono each year.

Livingston said several factors worked into the sentiment toward maintaining a three-game format in Portland, including the popularity within the state’s football community for the Super Saturday format, the city’s cooperation in staging the games at Fitzpatrick Stadium and the effort to maintain a convenient format for providing television broadcast and streaming video opportunities for as many games as possible.

“Portland was willing to host all four games,” he said. “And they’ve been a very gracious host to us. Things go off there without a hitch.”

All three state finals have been telecast in recent years and are slated to be aired again this fall. It is the final year of the MPA’s contract with WABI-TV of Bangor, according to MPA assistant executive director Mike Burnham, who added talks have been held concerning the televising of a possible state final at UMaine.

Livingston said some consideration was given to holding all four games at a single site.

“They do it in Massachusetts,” he said. “We tossed it around, but we felt that having teams playing at 9 in the morning was less than an advantageous situation. We don’t want to go that early, and then you’re looking at going maybe as late as 11 at night and then what time are you getting home?”

The addition of the University of Maine as a host site would be the latest chapter in an increasingly cooperative relationship between the state’s flagship campus and the MPA in staging championship events.

Most recently the Orono campus hosted the Eastern Maine Class C baseball and softball championship games on 24 hours notice after bad weather backed up the postseason schedule and necessitated the need for additional sites.

“We have a fantastic relationship with both the university and Portland,” said Burnham. “Both have been great hosts for our events.”

The University of Maine likely would not be able to host a football state final on Saturday given frequent conflicts with home Black Bear football games or hockey games at that time of year that use the same parking area.

But the university does not have a conflict with college football on Friday nights, and it might have some flexibility to schedule a home weekend hockey series on Saturday and Sunday rather than Friday and Saturday in order to accommodate a football state championship game.

“UMaine wants us on campus,” said Livingston.

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