PORTLAND, ME -- Cheverus High School has informed the Maine Principals’ Association that it will move from 11-man to eight-man football next season.
Athletic Director Amy Ashley said, “We are excited about the move. This decision was made after a great deal of thought and discussion with the coaches about what kind of program Cheverus wants to have in the coming years. We have a rich tradition of football at Cheverus and our program will be deeper, stronger, and safer. The move to eight-man football is the right step.”
The landscape of high school sports is shifting around the country and football is seeing the impact. In 2018-2019, the National Federation of State High School Associations reported a drop in high school sports participation for the first time in 30 years. The same year, participation in 11-player football fell to its lowest level since 1999-2000. At the same time, participation in eight-player football is increasing. The 2019 season was the first eight-man season for the Maine Principals’ Association, and 10 teams participated. This year, while the deadline is not until the end of February, the MPA projects 24 teams will play eight-man football this fall, or over one-third of the state’s football programs.
Moving to eight-man allows the Cheverus coaching staff, led by Head Coach Mike Vance and Assistant Coaches John Wolfgram, Richie Ashley and Ken Cianchette to build a consistently stable and competitive program. According to Coach Vance, “We have been talking about this for a while. This season, with just a varsity team, we hit a tipping point. We are graduating 12 seniors this year. Now we can be far more intentional about our player development. Next season we will be able to have a JV schedule, giving our younger players the chance to play at the right level. These kids love football. Moving to eight-man allows us to support the game we all love.”
The Cheverus coaching staff also believes in the power of football to teach life lessons, and that will not change. “The techniques of the game are the same with eight-man. It is a game that emphasizes strong fundamentals and athleticism. The intrinsic values of football, such as teamwork, perseverance, and commitment are still there. The character-building component of the game will not be lost. The culture of the Cheverus team is unique. We may need to adjust our schemes for eight-man, but we will retain our culture of excellence,” said Coach Wolfgram.
The growing number of eight-man teams in the state, coupled with the full support of the MPA, means players will still have the opportunity to compete for championships as well as honors such as the Fitzpatrick Trophy and Gaziano Award. Vance stated, “Eight-man football is the trend of today. Our goal is to become an elite eight-man football program.”
Dean of Students, former Cheverus High School (‘82) and University of Maine football player Dan Costigan is a strong supporter of the move, “I see this as an awesome opportunity for Cheverus. We are nimble and responsive to the changing face of football in Maine. This move makes the play safer and it also creates opportunities for our players to develop their game, compete at the highest level, and have fun.”
Link to video announcement by Coach Vance and Coach Wolfgram.