Bangor's Joe Seccareccia (7) tackles Cheverus' Spencer Cooke (20) in the first half of their game in Portland in this Nov. 20, 2010, file photo. Credit: Michael C. York

Cheverus High School of Portland, which has won the Class A football state championship as recently as 2011 and a regional title in 2013, has informed the Maine Principals’ Association that it will move to the eight-player ranks next season.

The private school traditionally petitioned to play in Class A despite a much lower school enrollment. Last year, Cheverus competed in Class B South with a Class D-level school enrollment of 394, according to the MPA football bulletin.

“We are excited about the move,” Cheverus athletic administrator Amy Ashley said. “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 Stags began last season with a 32-player roster and finished 5-5, advancing to the Class B South semifinals where they were eliminated by Kennebunk.

“We have been talking about this for a while,” Cheverus head coach Mike Vance said. “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.”

Eight-player varsity football debuted in Maine last fall with 10 schools, and the number is expected to more than double next season.

“Eight-man football is the trend of today. Our goal is to become an elite eight-man football program,” Vance said.

Dan Costigan, the school’s dean of students and a former University of Maine football player, has voiced his support for the switch to eight-player football.

“I see this as an awesome opportunity for Cheverus,” he said. “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.”

Vance’s coaching staff includes former Cheverus head coach John Wolfgram, who guided the Stags to their 2010 and 2011 state titles.

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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...