Orono Red Riots at football practice in this Aug. 29, 2019, file photo. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

Several of the open dates created by Orono High School’s decision last week to forego its 2019 varsity football schedule have been filled thanks to the quick work of several area athletic administrators.

Only three vacancies remain among Orono’s Class D North Little Ten Conference brethren. Old Town, a non-conference opponent of the Red Riots that already had one bye in its original schedule, has added two games and now has a full eight-game, regular-season slate.

“We tried to do the best we can to cover the scheduling while trying to make matchups that make the most sense from a competitive nature,” said Bunky Dow, the activities director at Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor and the secretary-treasurer of the Class C North football league.

Among LTC schools, only Washington Academy of East Machias in Week 2 and Bucksport (Week 7) still have an open date in the eight-week regular season. A potential Week 6 matchup between the LTC’s Houlton Shiretowners and Belfast of Class C North is listed on Belfast’s schedule but is not yet part of Houlton’s schedule as displayed on the Maine Principals’ Association website.

Potential eighth games involving Washington Academy and Bucksport against southern Maine schools with matching byes could not be worked out due to travel and competitive issues, Dow said.

Dow got a heads up about Orono’s situation when the Red Riots traveled to Bar Harbor on Aug. 26 for a preseason round robin with MDI and Washington Academy. He then began work with fellow athletic administrators Roy Pelotte of Dexter Regional High School and Dan O’Connell of John Bapst of Bangor to determine possible substitute games by matching teams around the state with byes on the same weekends.

“Between the three of us we tried to keep everybody having a full schedule,” Dow said.

Orono officials decided on Aug. 28 not to play the Red Riots’ 2019 varsity football schedule due to low participation and inexperience at key positions and instead focus on subvarsity competition with plans to resume LTC varsity play in 2020.

The Red Riots’ seven-game varsity schedule had included matchups against Stearns of Millinocket, Washington Academy, MDI, Dexter, Houlton, Bucksport and Old Town, along with a Week 5 bye.

MDI and Dexter were among teams that juggled their original schedules to help other schools fill in their open dates.

Among the newly scheduled games, Old Town was able to add a season-opening home contest against Camden Hills of Rockport, a Class D South program this year, to fill its original open date, then replaced Orono as its Week 8 foe with a home game against another Class D South team, Dirigo of Dixfield.

“Making the schedule work for many of the programs was a tough task, but the league overall did great work,” Old Town High School assistant principal and director of athletics Jeremy Bousquet said. “Communication was key, a lot of phone calls, what ifs, and switches lead to filling voids in area schedules.”

Another quirk of the updated schedule will have Stearns and Washington Academy squaring off twice this fall, during Week 4 at Millinocket and then in Week 7 at East Machias. That gives Stearns an eight-game schedule while WA added a seventh contest after being down to six games after losing its matchup against Orono.

“The cross-league ADs did great work with effective communication and planning,” Bousquet said. “Overall we have a close group of athletic directors that are constantly looking to work in the best interest of the student-athletes. I myself feel very lucky to be a part of this group of ADs.”

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...