LR exploring moving football to Class C

Click here for information about the survey mentioned in this story.

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

After eight straight losing seasons and falling roster numbers, Athletic Director Paul True thinks 2012 might be a good time for a new direction for the Lake Region football program.

First, True is floating the idea of petitioning the Maine Principals’ Association to drop Lake Region from Class B to Class C this fall.

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Laker Gridiron Futility

2011: 0-8

2010: 3-6

2009: 1-8

2008: 0-9

2007: 2-7

2006: 0-9

2005: 2-7

2004: 2-7

2003: 5-4

2002: 6-4

2001: 7-2

2000: 0-9

• 2003 was the last Laker playoff appearance. Under Coach Chuck Hamaty, LR lost to Wells in a thriller 26-22. LR had a 22-0 lead at the half against a Warriors’ team that had beaten the Lakers 53-0 during the regular season.

• 2002 saw the Lakers lose 25-18 to Mountain Valley as the Falcons rallied for the playoff win.

• 2001 ended with the Lakers, under Coach Hamaty, just three yards short of beating Scarborough on the Red Storm’s home turf in the playoffs, losing 18-14.

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Secondly, a new coach will steer the Laker program regardless if the reclassification move is made or not. True announced Monday that “all coaching positions are open” in regards to football. Jason Simmons, who coached the varsity for the past three seasons, was informed of the decision and given time to speak with players before a public announcement was made. In three seasons, Simmons compiled a 4-22 record.

The idea to move football down a “class” was based on three factors. One, Lake Region has struggled mightily in the very competitive Campbell Conference.

Over the past eight seasons, the Lakers were 10-61 under three different coaches. Since 2004, the program has experienced three no-win campaigns. The Lakers’ last winning season was 2003 when the squad under Coach Chuck Hamaty went 5-4, and qualified for the playoffs. The Lakers jumped out to a 22-0 lead against Wells — a team that LR had lost to 53-0 during the regular season — but the Warriors rallied on their home turf for a 26-22 victory.

Coach Hamaty took the Lakers to two other playoff appearances. In 2001, the Lakers were the surprise team of the conference. After going 0-9 the year before, the Lakers rolled to a 7-2 record. LR would lose a heartbreaker to Scarborough, 18-14 in the playoffs — falling three yards short in the final seconds from scoring the game-winning touchdown.

Hamaty’s club followed up that amazing turnaround with a 6-4 record in 2002, including another playoff appearance. The Lakers lost to up and coming power Mountain Valley 25-18 as the Falcons rallied for the victory.

Since 2003, the program has hit hard times. Participation has been on the “low side,” which True says creates a major safety concern. Due to academic ineligibility and low numbers, some freshmen and sophomores have been pressed into varsity duty out of necessity, whether they are ready or not. Although the number of concussions were down this fall, True still worries about younger players having to battle bigger and stronger upperclassmen from league powers Wells, Cape and Mountain Valley.

“Depth is a major issue, especially when we play some programs that have 50 or 60 or more players on their roster,” True said. “When we’ve played against teams with similar rosters, we’re competitive.”

When a team is competitive, players turn out for the sport, athletes enjoy the game more and community support increases, True and SAD 61 Superintendent of Schools Kathleen Beecher said.

“You want your players to have fun,” Beecher said. “It can’t be very fun being beaten badly each week.”

Over the past few years, several schools moved their football programs down a class. Westbrook and Marshwood joined the Campbell Conference this fall after suffering poor showings in Class A. Each school was eligible for playoff consideration because their enrollment figures fell under the Class B classification. The two schools compete in the Class A ranks in other sports.

Nearby Poland dropped to Class C this fall, a move that proved to be a big hit. The Knights experienced winless or one-win seasons in Class B, but enjoyed a 4-4 season in Class C, nearly reaching the playoffs. True also heard that game attendance dramatically increased.

True pointed out that the Lakers had success against Poland when the Knights were in Class B and were very competitive against Class C schools (such as Freeport), which LR scrimmaged in the preseason. Freeport went 5-3 in Class C this fall.

If the Lakers move to Class C, the team would not be eligible for the playoffs because the school’s enrollment exceeds the Class C standard.

With several key players graduating this year, True feels the team would be an unlikely playoff contender in Class B in 2012, so a move to a more competitive situation would better serve the program as it retools. True noted that the decision to keep Lake Region in Class C would be made on a yearly basis. When LR officials deem the program ready to make a return to Class B, the school would simply petition the MPA to make the shift.

A third factor driving a possible move is Gray-New Gloucester’s decision to petition the MPA to move the Patriots football program to Class C. True is under the impression that the MPA would likely agree to accept two schools rather than one due to scheduling considerations. The MPA would need to know Lake Region’s intention by Jan. 25. The Campbell Conference, which the Lakers are a member, develops the 2012 schedule on Jan. 26.

Should the Lakers stay in “B” or move to “C” is a question True and Beecher would like the public to offer input.

A survey, consisting of eight questions, is posted on the SAD 61 website. Questions include whether a move should be made, as well as whether dropping down a class would result in the Lakers being more competitive, student participation would increase and injuries would decrease.

A public forum has been scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. in the LRHS cafeteria. Officials hope for a big turnout.

“I need to emphasize that no decision has been made. We are simply exploring whether this is a good idea or not,” True said. “We really want to hear what people think.”

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