The high school football season in Maine started Aug. 31. Here’s a look at how each class shapes up this fall:
In the East, Lawrence won the Pine Tree Conference Class A last season and has posted two convincing victories this fall, including a 42-12 win over a Bangor team that is usually one of the best in the PTC A. While the Bulldogs probably won’t have a 1,000-yard rusher, they have six good backs, led by Anthony Sementelli and Josh Doolan. Bangor transfer Xavier Lewis adds more depth to the offense. Against his old teammates, Lewis had three touches and scored two touchdowns.
In contrast, Brunswick will rely almost completely on running back Jared Jensen. After rushing for 129 yards all of last season, Jensen ran for 428 yards on opening night and 283 the next week, giving him 711 yards in two games.
Messalonskee will look to its lines to challenge for the top spot in the PTC A. The Eagles run the double-wing on offense, with back Corey McKenzie getting most of the carries, and have one of the best rushing defenses in the conference.
Cheverus and Thornton are the two best teams in what should be a deep Western A. Cheverus has won 26 straight games and two consecutive state titles. The Stags returned 10 starters this year, including fullback Donald Goodrich, who scored five touchdowns in last year’s state championship game.
“I think we’re as good as we were last year,” Goodrich told the Portland Press Herald. “We did lose some big players but the other guys have done a nice job replacing them.”
Thornton plays Cheverus on Oct. 13, and that’s already shaping up as the game of the year. The Golden Trojans return the entire backfield from a team that won nine games last year. Foremost among those backs is junior Andrew Libby, who scored 16 touchdowns last season and is a threat to go the distance anytime he returns a punt. Quarterback Eric Christensen is another key player in an offense that has big-play potential. If the offense can’t get the job done, kicker Brandon Briggs (14 touchbacks last fall) has a strong leg.
Windham could be a dark horse candidate. The Eagles are led by twins Joe and Shawn Francoeur on the lines, and quarterback Damien Shepard is a threat running or passing. Unlike many teams in the West, Windham wants to beat you with strength instead of speed.
Leavitt defeated Mt. Blue 22-21 in double overtime in last year’s PTC B final, and these could be the two best teams in the league again this fall. Leavitt has a pair of 300-pound tackles, and an offense led by Brian Bedard and Josh Faunce. The Hornets have won 35 consecutive games in the regular season.
Mt. Blue lost most of its starters at skill positions but brings back quarterback Jordan Whitney, who threw 25 touchdown passes last fall. This season, Whitney has completed 22 of 29 passes for 416 yards.
Hampden will look to challenge those teams behind running back Logan Steward and quarterback Matt Martin. Gardiner has a do-everything quarterback/kicker in Dennis Meehan, but line play will be the true test for the Tigers. Waterville began the season with two strong victories, but the Purple Panthers will have to prove that they can beat the top teams before they can be seen as a contender. They’ll get that chance this week against Gardiner and Sept. 29 against Leavitt.
The West looks to be up for grabs. Westbrook was 5-5 last fall, but began this year by drilling perennial power Mountain Valley, 30-0, then knocking off defending state champion Wells, 28-20. Senior running backs Ben Grant and Cale Bollig do most of the work on the ground, and Collin Joyce is a factor running or receiving. Wells graduated all but three starters, but Dante Fanning and Drew Shelley are the big backs in a powerful offense.
Greely opened the season with two lopsided victories. The Rangers run the triple option on offense, and quarterback Drew Hodge is also a dangerous passer. Marshwood, coming off a 2-6 season, has already matched that win total and could be a sleeper team. Mountain Valley, despite starting the season 0-2, could pose problems by the end of the season.
The Little Ten Conference is not the place to go if you want to see close games. Five teams started off the season 2-0, and all 10 of those wins were by at least 20 points.
The four big contenders are Bucksport, Foxcroft, John Bapst, and Orono. Bucksport has a powerful offense, with quarterback Matt Stewart and running back Nic Bishop the top weapons. Foxcroft returns running back Don Boyer and Ryan Rebar (8 TDs receiving and 8 INTs as a cornerback last fall).
John Bapst has impressive speed at the skill positions, but must replace the graduation of quarterback Deven Romain and his top two receivers. Orono has a great backfield tandem of Christian Mowrer (15.9 yards per carry this season) and Norton Revell (15.5 yards per catch).
The big story in the West was Oak Hill’s 33-7 victory over Yarmouth, which had won 24 consecutive games. That win cemented the Raiders, who were 3-6 in 2011, as a true contender in the Campbell Conference. Oak Hill has good size in the line for top running backs Alex Mace and Kyle Flaherty, both of whom are sophomores.
Yarmouth will still contend behind quarterback Brady Neujahr and a running game paced by Matt Klepinger and Thomas Lord. So will Maranacook, with quarterback Caleb Castonguay, a running and passing threat. Traip has only about 20 players on its roster, but two of them are stud running backs in Corey Aldecoa and Devon Draker. Dirigo and Winslow could also make a run.
Maine Statewide Top 10
1. Cheverus - Stags have outscored opponents 85-6 in two games.
2. Thornton - Golden Trojans coming off 67-7 pasting of Gorham, face No. 9 Bonny Eagle next.
3. Windham - QB Damien Shepard has four touchdowns running, two more passing.
4. Lawrence - Bulldogs have outscored opposition 65-0 in first halves of games this fall.
5. Scarborough - Red Storm, 3-6 last fall, stunned Bonny Eagle 35-18 last week.
6. Portland - Bulldogs didn’t get inside Cheverus 30 in 42-0 loss, but looked great against Massabesic.
7. Mt. Blue - Cougars beat Madison/Carrabec 41-28, but led 41-0 at half before pulling starters.
8. Leavitt - Hornets keep rolling with 36-0 blanking of Belfast.
9. Bonny Eagle - QB Tyson Goodale has ran or thrown for all nine of team’s touchdowns this fall.
10. Westbrook - Blue Blazes overpowered Mtn. Valley, then beat defending state champ Wells, 28-20.
TAKING A LOOK AT FIELD HOCKEY
Class A: Skowhegan has won 10 of the last 11 state titles and is poised to win another. The Indians are led by Sarah Finnemore, who is on the junior national indoor team and will play at Harvard next season, and Makaela Michonski (33 goals last season, 62 in her career). Messalonskee was probably the second-best team in the state last season but was unable to get past Skowhegan. That was the case again in their first meeting this year, as Michonski scored all four goals in a 4-0 Skowhegan victory. In the West, Cheverus, Scarborough, Westbrook, and defending regional champion Marshwood should battle it out.
Class B: Eastern B is wide-open, with Belfast, Nokomis, Winslow, and Gardiner capable of knocking each other off any time they meet. Belfast returns all-state goalie Julia Ward and is probably the favorite as long as she is in goal. Of the other three, Nokomis has the most returning talent on offense, while Winslow and Gardiner will look to find consistent goal-scorers to pair with solid defenses.
Class C: Defending state champion North Yarmouth Academy is the favorite again in Western C. The Panthers are helped by a regular season schedule that includes several games with Class B powers. Winthrop should make a run in Eastern C. The Ramblers have no stars, but graduated only two players from the team that lost to NYA on penalty corners in last year’s state final. Dexter should also be a factor in the East.
Statewide Field Hockey Top 10
1. Skowhegan - State champs 10 of last 11 years, and have outscored opponents 39-0 this fall.
2. Messalonskee - Had outscored opponents 18-0 before losing to Skowhegan.
3. Belfast - Lions have won three one-goal games in a 5-0 start.
4. Cheverus - Stags haven’t allowed a goal and face unbeaten Massabesic next week.
5. Nokomis - Defense has been shaky, but offense is getting chances against everyone.
6. Scarborough - Unbeaten Red Storm have big games next week with Sanford and Marshwood.
7. Marshwood - Defending Western A champs are averaging six goals per game.
8. Winslow - Black Raiders opened some eyes with 6-1 win over highly-touted Mt. View.
9. Gardiner - Maybe a year away with only two seniors, but Tigers can play with anyone.
10. Massabesic - Surprising Mustangs will find out where they stand against Cheverus Thursday.
Scarborough girls basketball coach resigns
Longtime boys' basketball coach Tom Maines took over the Scarborough girls team last winter and brought them from 6-12 to a 19-2 record and a spot in the Western A championship game. Maines, 65, resigned Monday after one season at Scarborough.
His resignation was unexpected, as the Red Storm graduated only one player from last season’s team. Maines told the Portland Press Herald the travel from Brunswick was an issue, as was the fact that state champion McAuley is a private school. Scarborough is a public school.
“Public high schools have to work like the dickens to have a good team,” Maines said. “There should be two basketball tournaments -- one for public schools and one for private schools. The Maine Principals’ Association says it wants a level playing field, but it's certainly not the case.”
Maines coached boys' basketball for 28 years, winning three consecutive state titles at Morse from 1987 to 1989.