High School Football: Old School is New Again

“The only thing constant is change.”  Heraclitus- Greek Philosopher 500 BC

And on it goes.  Trends come and go in the fashion world, many for the better.  We can probably live on without bell-bottom pants and low-riders.  Some of the clothes and hairstyles which go out of style magically appear to be in vogue a generation later.

In the most recent election be careful not to gloat excessively if the candidate you supported won.  Conversely, do not despair if your preferred candidate lost.  Despite the over the top hyperbole on both sides, the pendulum at some point will swing back.  How do I know this?  It always has and will continue to do so.

The same can be said for football.  In college football, ground games dominated the landscape up until the 1980’s.  The last two decades has seen a rise in the use of spread offenses with multiple wide receivers.  Spread people out and get athletes in space.  Oregon for the last ten years or so became the poster child of the modern game.  They were hip.  They were cool.  They put up video game like numbers nearly every week.  Nike dressed them in different modernistic garb for every game.

Who has been consistently dominant in college football over the last ten years?  It wasn’t the flashy, new uniform every week, track meet on a football field Ducks, although they certainly have had their share of success.  It’s been Alabama.  Traditional uniforms.  Tough.  Physical.  Run the football.  Play unbelievable defense.  Some spread but pound you between the tackles I-formation.  Alabama.

The same evolution has taken shape in Maine high school football.  Through the mid-80’s virtually every team in the state would run between the tackles, play who’s tougher than who football.  Three yards and a cloud of dust.  This began to change, particularly in the 1990’s with the advent of spread offenses.  The quarterback, who primarily would hand the ball off to one of the backs, became much more integral in the offense.  It was successful for many programs.  Bonny Eagle won a number of state titles with talented quarterbacks.  John Bapst in 2008 as well as Cony with Ben Lucas at QB in 2013 ended long title droughts, enabled by the passing game.

This was to be the wave of the future, or so it was believed.  Those who ran out of traditional sets would be passed by.  As ESPN’s Lee Corso would say “Not so fast, my friend.”  Like Alabama, the tide has turned in Maine and traditional football has made a comeback.

Fans of old school football will enjoy this year’s state championship weekend.  All eight teams playing for gold ball are run first teams.  Even Bonny Eagle, which employs a spread offense, will look to establish the run behind a physical offensive line.  For all the other teams, if you like watching teams run plenty of I, Power-I, and Wing-T formation sets, you’ll love this weekend of football.  Regardless of what formations the teams run out of they all have this in common:  they will run the football, try to control clock, and will be physical.

The master at this strategy may be MDI.  In their 12-7 victory Friday night over Winslow for the Northern Maine ‘C’ title, the visiting Black Raiders ran a total of six offensive plays in the second and third quarters combined.  Their backs kept churning ahead for yardage while they got just enough big plays through the air to keep the defense honest.  They will be tested this Saturday by Wells, another strong, physical team that likes to pound the rock.

I look forward to the final weekend of what has been a great high school football season in Maine.  This biggest question in the games this weekend may be who’s tougher than who?


Bob Beatham

About Bob Beatham

Bob, a lifelong Bangor resident, has just completed his 21st season as the Public Address Announcer at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor. Bob is also the public address voice for John Bapst Crusader football. He also currently serves as the scorekeeper for John Bapst basketball. Bob is an avid follower of Maine high school athletics, particularly football and basketball. The University of Maine at Farmington graduate is the service coordinator at Aging Excellence, which provides in-home care for seniors..