MPA to vote on second football championship site

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For the first time since 2002, a state championship football game could take place outside of Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium.

With the addition of a fourth high school football class, the Maine Principals’ Association is on the verge of adding a second venue for state championship football games — Morse Field on the campus of the University of Maine at Orono, according to MPA assistant executive director Mike Burnham.

Under a proposal before the MPA’s football committee, the Class B, C, and D games will rotate through Orono over a three-year cycle. The game would be played on Friday night, while the other three classes will continue in the traditional “Super Saturday” format on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Class A will still be played in Portland every year because the vast majority of Class A schools are located in central and southern Maine.

The football committee will meet on Aug. 6 to vote on the proposal and decide the rotation of games through Orono. The order of the three games played in Portland will still be determined after the conference championship games, Burnham said.

This year’s games would be played on Nov. 22 and 23.

Fitzpatrick Stadium has hosted “Super Saturday” every year since 2002. The committee considered adding a fourth game in Portland, which was willing to host four games.

But the committee decided four games, with the first likely starting at 9 a.m. and fourth likely concluding late at night, wasn’t logistically feasible, Burnham said. For example, teams might not have a suitable amount of time to warm up on the field between games. 

“The committee looked at a number of factors,” Burnham said. “The possibility of adjusting the schedule was discussed. They do it in Massachusetts (at Gillette Stadium), but the teams have the practice field (behind the stadium) to warm up.”

“In many of our sports, we’ve always had an East-West rotation for championship games., and the committee liked the idea of football having that East-West rotation,” he added.

The last championship game held at the University of Maine was the 1999 Class A championship game between South Portland and Oxford Hills, which South Portland won, 24-10.

For years, the sites of the title games were spread out at high school fields around the state, which sometimes led to less than ideal playing conditions on grass fields that had been subjected to the wear-and-tear of the season.

One of the reasons for consolidating all three games at Fitzpatrick was because of it has artificial turf. The MPA has stated that its preference is for all football championships to be played on artificial turf so that surface conditions aren’t a threat to players’ health and aren’t a factor in the outcome of games.

“The committee had to find a facility that could host a championship football crowd,” Burnham said. “(The University of Maine) is very excited to have the opportunity. Over the past few years, they’ve been willing to host any championship game that they could.”