The 2015 Maine high school football season, for all intents and purposes concluded this past Saturday with the presentation of gold balls in all four classes. Those hoisting the coveted trophies felt a familiar feeling as all four state champions were repeat winners from a year ago. The weekend not only marked repeat championships for Thornton Academy, Marshwood, Winslow, and Oak Hill, I also clinched a repeat title of my own. Mind you, my crown is not nearly as significant as the aforementioned, but it is a repeat performance nonetheless.
With Thornton Academy’s victory over Portland in Saturday’s class A state championship game, I clinched my second straight title in the Eastern Maine Sports Blog high school football prediction contest. This was my third title in the four years I’ve participated, finishing second behind former WABI-TV sports reporter Nick Coit in 2013. Marc Calnan operates the site and is the moderator for the group, which numbers 15-20 annually. The group features a number of high school football followers, media, and the like. The contest just wrapped up its fifth season.
To successfully predict high school football contests a certain amount of luck is involved, to be sure. There are certain aspects in a high school football game that simply can’t be accounted for. However, three titles in four years isn’t an accident. There is a method to my madness. I don’t just throw darts at the wall and hope. So, despite my better judgement, I will lend you some of my secrets in order to better assist you in case you find yourself in such a contest. By the way, this is strictly for entertainment purposes only, we don’t promote gambling here.
There are a few simple do’s and don’t, which if you follow, will at least allow yourself to stay in contention. First, don’t be a homer. Being a homer is fine provided your team is of state title caliber material. If not, you will find yourself out of contention in a hurry. Time to put your pom poms away and use your head. It’s okay to support your team, yet at the same time be realistic about their relative talent from year to year. I have teams I support, and take some good-natured ribbing from time to time. Surprisingly though, when I’m right, which I usually am, I don’t hear much. Are you in it to win it or not?
Secondly, actually watch games, and not just your hometown team. Get out to different regions to gain a broader prospective of how various teams compare to one another. Stats and comparative scores can be misleading. Honestly, it really doesn’t make much difference to me if a team wins by 35 or 60. Don’t get blown away or put much stock in gaudy numbers. Never underestimate the value of the eye test.
Analyze strengths and weaknesses but don’t over analyze. When trying to decide who is going to win ask yourself this: Who has more good players? More often than not, as simple as it seems, the team with the better players win.
Now, what to do if talent is fairly close between two teams. Line play is huge. When looking at two lines, take the quicker, more athletic line, over size. Trust me on this one. The team that is most physical, provided talent is fairly even, will generally win.
Next on my list would be elite coaching. Now, I’m not going to name who I think are elite coaches, you have to figure that one out. I would say there are certain coaches that are real difference makers in a contest. Most often, if there is a gulf in talent, talent wins, however if the talent is relatively close, go with the elite coach.
If talent is close, go with the squad with a lot of seniors. Generally, a senior laden team will be more physical than one filled with underclassmen.
With two tightly contested teams, go with the team with the strong kicking game. The extra point is not a given in high school football. How many times has a game featuring two even teams come down to an extra point?
Home field advantage is not a huge factor in high school football, probably the least important factor in deciding winners. There are a few places where home field does play more of a factor. Teams that play on Saturday, hosting a school that plays most of its games on Friday night seem to enjoy a greater advantage.
Of course, there are times when you just have to go with your gut, a hunch. Overall, by following these basic guidelines, you too can become an expert high school football prognosticator.