Boston High School: Corey Aldecoa

New England Roundup: Maine

October, 31, 2012
In a lot of sports in Maine, numbers can be a problem. Coaches often lament how there are fewer kids playing sports these days, fewer kids willing to put in the time to get better, fewer kids learning the lessons that sports can teach you.

MaineTraip Academy’s football program has felt this numbers crunch. The Rangers have 18 players. Not 18 subs, or 18 guys who just play offense, but 18 total.

The interest is low, but the wins-to-players ratio is off the charts. Traip is 8-1 heading into Saturday’s Western C semifinal playoff game with Winslow. The Rangers have lost only one game, a 12-6 setback to Dirigo.

The Rangers have been dealing with this for a while. Last season, when they came within one win of playing for a state championship, they had 24 players on their roster.

“When you go to a Western Maine Conference championship like we did, we expected more kids,” Traip coach Ron Ross said. “We figured 30 would be nice, and 35 would be outstanding. We had 16 show up for the first day of two-a-days.

“It’s something we’re used to. We have a strong soccer program. It’s two good programs fighting for kids.”

Basic math tells you Traip can’t even run 11-on-11 plays in practice. But Ross insists the numbers aren’t a problem when preparing for a game. Adults step in, always in non-contact roles.

“We throw coaches in there when needed,” Ross said. “It’s helped us a lot. Some of the coaches are actually better than some of the players that we’re going to key on.”

Naturally, conditioning is a key, since every team Traip goes up against is going to have the advantage in depth. When senior Devon Draker, who starts at fullback and middle linebacker, went down in midseason, Ross said it was the team’s only major injury in the last three years.

“I don’t think there’s anybody who works harder than we do,” Ross said.

With Draker back and healthy, along with Corey Aldecoa, Nate Henderson, and Anthony Sowell, Traip has four solid running backs. Usually, that’s been more than enough with their defense. The Rangers have allowed 32 points (3.6 per game) and have recorded five shutouts.

“The kids want to play defense more than they want to play offense,” Ross said. “We like to call ourselves blue-collar. With 18 people, what else can you be?”

Ross and the players also see themselves as underdogs, and in a way, it’s an upset that Traip still has a football program. Ross became head coach in 2002, when the Traip program was known for two things: Going through coaches quickly, and being an easy win for opponents.

Ross was there through a string of winless seasons. He was there in 2002, when he devised a trick play for a 67-yard touchdown on the opening play of the game, and Traip still trailed 34-6 at the end of the first quarter.

Traip went nearly six years between wins, losing 51 games in a row. The Rangers won their first game under Ross in 2006.

“It has been a long road, but I wouldn’t take anything back,” Ross said. “The lessons I’ve learned, I wouldn’t trade for anything. I know what not to do now, to make sure we don’t get back to that point.”

Besides, the way Ross looks at it, his team is still in the same situation in at least one respect.

“When we were 0-and-whatever, teams didn’t want to lose to us,” he said. “(Now), nobody wants to lose to 18 kids.”

Ross isn’t one of those who is concerned about the future of the program, even though 10 of this year’s 18 players are seniors. He points out that the local team that draws from fourth, fifth, and sixth-graders has 40 players.

“Next year is a great freshman class,” Ross said. “We might go a couple years where we win three games, four games. But once they figure it out, we’ll be back where we are now.”

Heading into the Eastern B football playoffs, it was clear the top three teams were Mt. Blue, Leavitt, and Hampden. Mt. Blue was undefeated, Leavitt had lost only to Mt. Blue, and Hampden had lost only to Leavitt.

That all changed on Friday night, as Belfast shocked Leavitt — the three-time defending conference champions — on Carl Dodge’s 2-yard touchdown run as time expired, giving the Lions a 20-17 victory. The Hornets had defeated Belfast, 36-0, earlier this fall.

Meanwhile, Waterville was 4-4 and hadn’t beaten a team with a winning record all season, but came away with a 25-17 victory over Hampden. Racean Wood had touchdown runs of 20 and 15 yards and added an interception.

Mt. Desert Island, a team that was 4-4 during the regular season and had lost 47-15 to Mt. Blue a little over a month earlier, nearly made it a trifecta. After Mt. Blue built a 14-0 lead in the fourth quarter, MDI fought back and was within 14-13 after Sandy Henggeler scored from three yards out with 3:41 to play. Bradley Jackson knocked down MDI’s pass on the two-point conversion, and Mt. Blue ran out the clock.

It had all the trademarks of a great game: Skowhegan had scored 144 goals, a state record, and Scarborough was attempting to become only the second team in United States high school field hockey history to go through an entire season without allowing a goal. Skowhegan had won 53 straight games, with the last loss coming to (of course) Scarborough.

Instead, it was a mismatch of Super Bowl proportions, as Skowhegan dominated from the start. The Indians couldn’t score in the first half, but put in three goals in a span of 2 minutes, 31 seconds early in the second half to take a 3-0 victory. Sarah Finnemore scored twice and Makaela Michonski knocked home the third goal. Skowhegan finished with 25 shots, while Scarborough had none.

Leavitt (Class B) and Lisbon (Class C) also won state field hockey championships.

Bangor Christian has won the last three Class D boys' soccer state titles. This season started out uneventfully for the Patriots, as they posted wins scores of 3-2, 10-1, and 4-1.

Since that 4-1 victory over Searsport on Sept. 14, Bangor Christian has not allowed a goal. The Patriots ended the regular season with 11 consecutive shutouts, and followed that up by blanking Easton, 5-0, and Machias, 2-0, to advance to the Eastern D title game.

Bangor Christian will face Ashland on Wednesday in the regional final. Ashland has allowed as many goals in two playoff games (four) as Bangor Christian has given up all season.

In the big scheme of things, $1,500 probably isn’t a big deal when it comes to a stipend for a boys' basketball coach, especially at a Class D school with about 200 students. Of course, that’s easier to say when it’s not your money.

According to the Bangor Daily News, Schenck boys' basketball coach Steve LeVasseur resigned after being informed his stipend for coaching the Wolverines would be cut from $5,019 last season to $3,510 this winter.

The BDN reported that the school system recently established a policy that coaches who teach in the system get a higher stipend than those who aren’t teachers in the system.

LeVasseur is a Schenck graduate, and coached the Wolverines for 22 seasons, winning five state titles and more than 300 games.

“After 22 years of service to this school, I feel it’s a slap in the face,” LeVasseur told the BDN.

New England Roundup: Maine

September, 12, 2012
The high school football season in Maine started Aug. 31. Here’s a look at how each class shapes up this fall:

MaineClass A
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.

Class B
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.

Class C
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.

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