No football for Shires this spring

3 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — There will be no official football games for the Houlton Shiretowners this spring, much to the chagrin of players, coaches and fans of the sport.

The Maine Principals Association suspended the traditional football season last fall, citing the close contact and physicality of the sport was too dangerous during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, a flag football season was offered, with the Houlton squad playing scrimmages with the Aroostook Huskies. 

At that time, the plan was to revisit football in the late spring/early summer with some type of season offered for the players. Unfortunately, the football committee of the Maine Principals’ Association unanimously voted Jan. 28 not to proceed with plans for a proposed spring high school football season this year.

“I was disappointed and heartbroken for our seniors,” Houlton Football  Coach Jon Solomon said upon hearing the verdict. “I was left with many questions, especially with the timing of Massachusetts moments later announcing their modified season with COVID procedures to start on Feb. 22. Making the decision in January instead of late April/early May where we have the COVID vaccine rolling out and being able to see the COVID numbers results from the winter sports season and we could watch closely on how those numbers affected football in Massachusetts.”

Solomon added he was not surprised the MPA opted to forego football this spring, especially after he heard the committee expressed concerns of the sport potentially impacting traditional spring activities such as baseball and track and field.

For the Houlton football program, it means nine seniors —  Zach Conley, Logan Tapley, Hunter Sennett, Justin Cook, Thomas Wilcox, Josh Monteith, Jackson Morris, Brandon Roshto and CJ Violette — will not have the opportunity to strap on their helmet and shoulder pads one final time.

“The cancellation of football this year is devastating,” Tapley said. “After devoting nearly half of my life to this sport and looking forward to my senior year, the season getting canceled definitely hurts.”

“I’ve looked forward to playing football my senior year for a long time,” added Conley. “I disagree with the decision completely. Our soccer team was successful in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and our basketball team so far has done the same, while playing indoors.”

Solomon said he has remained in close contact with all of his players and is hopeful that the underclassmen will have an opportunity to participate in summer clinics. He is also hoping some form of football, even if it is a single game, can be offered to the graduating seniors this summer.

“The MPA release to us said that they would support a return to traditional summer programming that would prepare underclassmen for a fall season,” Solomon said. “In the meantime hopefully the ‘high risk’ designation is removed in the upcoming months so the kids can get back on the field playing a game they love.”

Tapley said he did not agree with the MPA decision, considering how much effort went into making sure a basketball season happened, and how well that plan has gone this winter.

“Also with the vaccines rolling out, I think that football should have had a season too,” he said. “The things that I will miss the most are the laughs and good times that we had after winning a game. Riding the bus back home after a road win and celebrating with all the guys. But most of all I will miss the blood, sweat and tears I shed with my second family, and the bond I had with my teammates and fellow seniors.”

“As a leader on the team, I’ll say we are all going to miss the brotherhood and intensity the sport brings,” Conley said. “I never thought our [final] game against Foxcroft would be the last time I put a helmet on.”