BAR HARBOR — The Mount Desert Island High School football team is looking for a few good young women and men. Eleven of them, to be exact.
Assistant Coach Mark Arnold is spearheading an effort to field what he’s calling the Twelfth Trojan Squad.
That squad is to play on extra-point kicks following touchdowns at three of the high school’s four home games this season. The hope is that the squad generates greater interest in the sport at the high school, Arnold said.
“We’re hoping to encourage a few more kids to try out for football,” the coach said. “We decided to be creative and innovative in generating support of our program to keep it viable.”
Coaches have noticed a drop-off in students interested in playing football, particularly among freshmen and sophomores, Arnold said.
“My real hope it that they enjoy it and make a full-time commitment and increase our overall numbers,” Arnold said.
Tryouts are scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6. All MDI High students are welcome to participate. Whether everyone who tries out makes the squad depends on how many are interested and their individual abilities.
“We need to feel confident; that’s part of the selection process for us,” Arnold said.
Of course, the key position during point-after conversions is that of the kicker. “We’d love to have someone come out that can kick,” Arnold said. “I’d like it to be 11 players taking the field.”
If that doesn’t happen, the Trojans most likely would rely on their first-string kicker.
Squad members would be required to attend two hour-long practices every week, starting at 2:45 p.m. According to the governing body of high school sports in the state, the Maine Principal’s Association, five organized practices are required before players can take the field in a game. The squad’s first game is expected to be against Hermon on Friday, Sept. 23.
The team has extra uniforms and equipment for squad members. No tackling is involved, but players are expected to block.
Arnold said the idea for the squad stems from the Texas A&M tradition of the 12th man. In 1922, the team was engaged in a brutal battle against Centre College, a game in which one Aggie player after another came out of the game injured. As their numbers diminished, the coach called for E. King Gill, who had practiced with the team but was not playing, to come down from the stands and don the uniform of an injured player. The game ended in a victory for the Aggies; Gill, who had not played, was the lone player remaining on the bench.
Texas A&M since has celebrated Gill’s participation as the 12th man. In 1983, the 11 players on the field for kick-offs all were recruited in a manner similar to what the Trojans are doing. The Twelfth Man Kickoff Team was eliminated in 1990. However, the tradition continues, with one player – wearing the number 12 – taking the field.
Arnold is in hopes that the Twelfth Trojan Squad generates the same level of enthusiasm among the student body as at Texas A&M.
“We think it will be a good way to have student involvement,” he said.