Boston High School: Edward Little

Maine statewide football preview

September, 4, 2013
9/04/13
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The football landscape has changed with the addition of a fourth class and reorganization everywhere. Here's a look at the top contenders in each class in 2013:

Class A East
MaineAsk anyone outside of Lawrence Bulldog territory, and that person would probably tell you the two best teams in Maine high school football last year were Thornton and Cheverus. This year, under the new alignment, they have the chance to meet in the Class A state final.

Cheverus was undefeated last fall until losing to Thornton, 20-13, in the regional final. The Stags graduated Fitzpatrick Trophy-winning running back Donald Goodrich and quarterback Liam Fitzpatrick, but should keep rolling. The top returning runner is Cody O'Brien (76 carries, 400 yards, 5 TD), and he's backed by Joe Fitzpatrick and Will Hilton, and new quarterback Ethan Jordan. Kicker Patrick Mourmouras booted 48 extra points as a sophomore a year ago.

Offense will be a key for Portland, which scored a total of 13 points in four losses last fall. The Bulldogs may be able to solve that problem themselves, as they bring back Justin Zukowski (180 carries, 991 yards, 11 TD), Jayvon Pitts-Young (79 carries, 472 yards, 3 TD) and quarterback Ryan Ruhlin. Another one to watch is Ronald Hargrove, a transfer from Concord-Carlisle Regional in Massachusetts.

Bangor will be an interesting case this season. The Rams had the burden of high expectations every year – partly because of their history, and partly because of a school size that theoretically gave Bangor a much deeper pool of players than its opponents.

Those expectations were blasted away last year by a 30-point loss to Lawrence and a 34-point loss to Cony. Football is still a big deal in Bangor – the Bangor Daily News wrote a preview story on the Lawrence-Bangor preseason meeting, then covered the game (a 13-6 Lawrence win) as well – but how will the Rams fare against the bigger southern Maine schools?

In an interesting subplot, Xavier Lewis is back at Bangor. Lewis played for Bangor before helping Lawrence to the state final in football and the regional final in basketball during the past academic year.

Windham and Deering look to bounce back from graduation losses, while Edward Little, Lewiston, and Oxford Hills look to improve.

Class A West
Thornton went with a 1-2 punch last fall of Andrew Libby (151 carries, 1,008 yards) and Nick Kenney (164 carries, 940 yards). With Kenney graduated, Libby could easily get in the neighborhood of 25-30 carries per game, and none of Thornton's opponents are excited about that. On the down side, quarterback Eric Christense (973 yards passing, 402 rushing) has graduated, and the Golden Trojans didn't have shutdown defense even last year, when all but two of their opponents scored at least two touchdowns. Still, Libby and Cody Lynn are stalwarts on defense, and if Thornton averages 38.7 points per game again, a couple touchdowns the other way won't matter.

Scarborough didn't play Cheverus last year, but looked pretty good against every other team on its schedule save Thornton. The Red Storm lost 35-7 to Thornton in the regular season and 49-14 in the playoffs. Scarborough brings back Dan LeClair (69 carries, 353 yards, 5 TD) and running/receiving threat Charlie Raybine.

Bonny Eagle could make a leap from last year's 2-6 record. The Scots opponents had a combined record of 43-21, but they still never lost a game by more than 17 points. Now they've added running back Jon Woods as a transfer from Gorham, along with some experienced talent like Zach Dubiel and Joe Bissonette. You can make an argument that Bonny Eagle's season might have turned out much differently if the Scots hadn't been plagued by bad snaps and turnovers in an early-season loss to Thornton last year. This season might show what Bonny Eagle is capable of.

Sanford had one of the best backs in the state last season in Alex Shain (201 carries, 1,426 yards, 27 TD), but the Redskins still scored a total of 32 points in their four losses, including a 42-16 first-round playoff setback to Scarborough. If Josh Schroder (86 carries, 457 yards, 6 TD) and new quarterback Chase Eldredge can't find a way to score against the top teams, a defense led by linebacker Colby Perigo may spend too much time on the field.

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Football, Maine, Longmeadow, Cony, Bangor, Cape Elizabeth, Foxcroft, Bonny Eagle, Cheverus, Lawrence (Maine), Mountain Valley, Brunswick, York, Skowhegan, Alex Rotsko, Camden Hills, Nokomis, Madison, Gorham, Concord-Carlisle, Westbrook, Oak Hill, Mt. Blue, Belfast, Waterville, Thornton, Lewiston, Yarmouth, Messalonskee, Edward Little, Hampden, John Bapst, Brady Neujahr, Scarborough, Fitzpatrick Trophy, Marshwood, Wells, Traip, Livermore Falls, Oxford Hills, Spruce Mountain, Kyle Heath, Winslow, Maranacook, Jordan Whitney, Dick Mynahan, Ben Lucas, Freeport, Dylan Hapworth, Alex Shain, Corey McKenzie, Josh Gray, Mike Clark, Dexter (Maine), Matt Martin, Jared Jensen, Donald Goodrich, Andrew Libby, Nic Bishop, Ryan Rebar, Christian Mowrer, Alex Mace, Kyle Flaherty, Cameron Roll, Donnie Boyer, Justin Zukowski, Jayvon Pitts-Young, Xavier Lewis, Nicco DeLorenzo, Liam Fitzpatrick, Cody O'Brien, Will Hilton, Ethan Jordan, Patrick Mourmouras, Ryan Ruhlin, Ronald Hargrove, Nick Kenney, Eric Christense, Cody Lynn, Dan LeClair, Charlie Raybine, Jon Woods, Zach Dubiel, Josh Schroder, Chase Eldredge, Colby Perigo, Lukas McCue, Jacob Duffy, Alex Bandouveres, Andrew Pratt, Cam Abbott, John Hersom, Ethan Powers, Beau Grenier, Tayler Carrier, Reid Shostak, Austin Spencer, Matt Friedman, Adam Clukey, Brad Bishop, Bretty Gerry, Nick Emmons, Larson Coppinger, Tyler Elkington, Sean Kelly, Zach Guptill, Bobby Chenard, C.J. Kelley, Hunter Law, Alex Stevens, Peter Boyer, Aidan Fitzgerald, Brian Bellows, Mike Hathaway, Jake Moody, Matthew Stewart, Cameron Mowrer, Chad Orn, Parker Asselin, Stacen Doucette, Old Orchard Beach, Dean Plante, Joe Gildard, Libon, Quincy Thompson, Kyle Bourget, Spencer Trenoweth, Wintrhop-Monmouth, Cole Arsenault, Ethan Squires

New England Roundup: Maine

March, 6, 2013
3/06/13
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Like any old building, it has its flaws. It's cold and drafty sometimes, and way too hot other times. Everyone's relieved when the roof doesn't leak during games, or when a week of basketball tournament games goes on as scheduled without any old parts breaking down.

MaineBut the Bangor Auditorium, which hosted its last high school basketball tournament game on March 1, has history on its side.

The basketball part of the arena, of course, is old-fashioned. There are Maine high school tournaments at the Augusta Civic Center and the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland. In Augusta, the concession stands are behind one of the baskets, creating a depth perception problem that knocks some teams right out of the tournament. In Portland, the seats are so far away that watching a game from the front row is like trying to watch your neighbor across the street.

At the Bangor Auditorium, everything is enclosed. There is little space behind the baskets or out of bounds, so the sound bounces off the walls loud enough that it can be impossible to hear the person talking next you.

“To this day, I wonder how anyone can play in that atmosphere,” Lawrence coach Mike McGee told the Bangor Daily News. “It’s amazing to look straight up and see the crowd. Your mouth is dry, all you want to do is drink water, and it makes you wonder how all those great athletes were able to perform in that setting.

“Since we’ve gone to the [Augusta] Civic Center coaching hasn’t been the same for me,” McGee added. “The fans are so on top of you in Bangor. You hear a giant roar when you score and now it’s just silence by comparison. They can hear me all over the Civic Center, and back when we played in Bangor we had to use play cards because the players could never hear me.”

Several newspapers and television stations have done tributes to the Auditorium over the past couple weeks. As the BDN wrote, “The Bangor Auditorium is filled with the echos of the basketball heroes it created, from Mike Thurston making a halfcourt shot as time expired to win the 1969 Class LL state championship for Caribou to Joe Campbell’s buzzer-beating basket that rallied Bangor past Deering of Portland for the 2001 Class A crown.”

Campbell's shot is one of the most famous in state history. He came from the other side of the basket to get a rebound and reverse layup just before the buzzer (Many still insist Bangor got a few extra seconds on the play because the clock operator was slow to re-start the clock.). Within a couple seconds, the floor was covered with Bangor fans. During this year's Eastern A boys tournament, Hampden freshman Nick Gilpin hit a 30-footer to beat Lawrence at the buzzer – a shot that made SportsCenter's list of Top 10 plays for the night. A group of adults formed a wall to make sure the Hampden fans didn't rush the court. No one thought to do anything like that in Bangor.

Maine has long had a problem keeping its high school graduates in the state or even in the area. That's especially true when you get north of the Portland area. Many big schools have seen their enrollment drop over the last 20 or 30 years. Presque Isle used to be in Class A and is now a normal-sized Class B school. Waterville has around 1,500 students in the late 1970s, and now has well under half that.

But even with the economy faltering and the small towns getting smaller, they still had the Bangor Auditorium.

"So many people, when they say 'That's the worst place to play,' they're not from northern Maine or eastern Maine,” Lindsey Welch, who played at Nokomis and now coaches at Winslow, told the Morning Sentinel. “They don't know. I would get so defensive about the place. It's like family."

MR., MISS MAINE BASKETBALL SEMIFINALISTS NAMED
The 10 semifinalists for the Mr. and Miss Basketball Awards were announced recently, with the winners to be announced on Friday, March 8.

On the boys' side, the semifinalists are Garet Beal of Jonesport-Beals, Spencer Carey of Lawrence, Anthony DiMauro of Boothbay, Charlie Fay of Falmouth, Quin Leary of Edward Little, Garrett Libby of Old Town, John Murray of Medomak Valley, Aaron Todd of York, Mitch Worcester of Washburn, and Evan Worster of Forest Hills.

Beal is one of the favorites, even though his Jonesport-Beals team was stunned by Easton in the Eastern D tournament.

On the girls' side, the semifinalists are Leavitt's Kristen Anderson, York's Emily Campbell, Dexter's Lauren Crane, Presque Isle's Chandler Guerrette, Lake Region's Sydney Hancock, Camden Hills' Jordan Knowlton, Cony's Josie Lee, Gorham's Kristin Ross, Waynflete's Martha Veroneau, and Orono's Jillian Woodward.

Only three of those players are taking part in state championship games this weekend. Guerrette and Hancock will face off as Presque Isle takes on Lake Region in a rematch of last year's Class B state final, won by Presque Isle in a squeaker. In the Class C final, Veroneau and Waynflete will play Calais for the Gold Ball.

The biggest omission on the girls' side was probably Richmond's Jamie Plummer, who led the Bobcats to the regional title for the third consecutive year.

TWO PLUS TWO ON THE SIDELINES FOR EASTERN A GIRLS FINAL
The Eastern A girls' basketball final between No. 2 Bangor and No. 9 Cony was notable not just for Cony's run from the last seed, but also because both coaches – Bangor's Katie Herbine and Cony's Karen Magnusson – are pregnant.

Herbine – who is so animated on the sidelines she makes Jonathan Papelbon look subdued – is nearly six months along, while Magnusson is a little over four months into her pregnancy. Both were standout players at their current schools as high school athletes.

The game was anticlimactic. Bangor had a height advantage and outrebounded Cony, 54-29, in a 57-43 victory.

New England Roundup: Maine

February, 1, 2013
2/01/13
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Rangeley girls basketball coach Heidi Deery said of Doug Lisherness, “You don’t see a lot of coaches like him nowadays.” That’s probably an understatement.

MaineLisherness, 64, is retiring at the end of this season after coaching the Mt. Abram girls for 26 years. He won Class C state championships in 1991 and 2007.

Lisherness is the bridge to a different era. If his team wasn’t hustling, he would say it -- bluntly. But if he felt it was deserved, he would quickly hand out praise. After a poorly-played loss, he might say to a reporter answering the phone, “Yeah, you can help me. You can come coach my team.” One time, calling a newspaper with the score after a big win, he yelled into the phone, “This is Doug Lisherness over at Abram! We kicked their butts!”

He also had to be more resourceful than most coaches, and his current team is a great example of that. The varsity and JV practice at the same time, each taking half the court. The JV team is winless this season, so much of practice is spent on individual drills with the varsity players. That’s easier than it sounds, because the Roadrunners are down to six varsity players. Still, Mt. Abram is 7-9 and will make the Western C tournament.

Lisherness is adamant that he is done coaching for good after this season. A lot of coaches pride themselves on being teachers, and Lisherness is the same way.

“I’ve always said there’s nothing any more satisfying than to work on (something) in practice, and to go and see your team execute it during the game,” Lisherness told the Morning Sentinel. “I love teaching the game of basketball, and I love seeing them develop throughout their high school career.”

BEGIN, MASSEY WIN GAZIANO AWARDS
Thornton offensive lineman Bobby Begin and John Bapst defensive lineman Kurt Massey won the Frank J. Gaziano Memorial Offensive and Defensive Lineman Awards. Both were standout two-way players this season, and Begin was a captain on the Thornton team that won the Class A state championship. The Gaziano awards are given annually to the top senior offensive and defensive linemen in the state.

Begin and Massey each received $5,000 scholarships. The four other finalists for the two awards each received $1,000 scholarships.

Begin, who has a 3.96 GPA, hopes to attend the University of Maine, but will not play football. Massey, who has a 3.7 GPA, hopes to play in college, and is looking at Maine, Merrimack, and the University of New Hampshire.

BIG TURNAROUND AT HYDE
The Hyde girls basketball team lost 48-35 to Old Orchard Beach on Tuesday. That normally wouldn’t be noteworthy, but it was the first loss for the Phoenix this season -- after finishing 0-16 last winter.

First-year coach Richard Polgar, who coached at the George School in Philadelphia the last six seasons, has the Phoenix in the No. 3 spot in Western D behind perennial powers Richmond and Rangeley.

Hyde does not play Richmond or Rangeley during the regular season, but could be a dark horse in the Western D tournament. Old Orchard Beach plays in Class C, and a few weeks before beating Hyde, the Seagulls defeated Richmond, 55-48.

“I think the chemistry of this team is incredible,” Polgar told the Portland Press Herald. “It’s one of the best teams I’ve coached in that aspect, in the way the girls play together and bring out the best in each other.”

SCARBOROUGH IS BOYS AND GIRLS HOCKEY TOWN
Scarborough has a chance to have dual state champions in boys and girls hockey this winter. The Red Storm boys are 12-1 under veteran coach Norm Gagne, who has won six state titles and nearly 600 games in his career. Four players have at least 20 points -- defenseman Nick Bagley (26), and forwards (Garrett McDonald (26), Trevor Murray (22), and Jack Rouselle (20). Goalie Dalton Finley has a 1.18 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage.

The Scarborough girls have been even stingier. Their record is 14-1-1, and they’ve allowed a total of nine goals in 16 games. Goalie Devan Kane, a junior, made the Maine Sunday Telegram all-state team as a freshman and as a sophomore.

GIRLS BASKETBALL TOP 10
1. McAuley (15-0) - Lions were undefeated last season, and are on their way this winter.

2. Deering (14-1) - Rams have proven they can win by scoring or grinding.

3. Cheverus (13-2) - Lost by four to Deering and by 21 to McAuley.

4. Scarborough (12-3) - Handled everyone on schedule except three teams above.

5. Edward Little (12-3) - If Red Eddies can put it all together, they’re the best in Eastern A.

6. Bangor (12-3) - Rams have won six in a row and eight of last nine.

7. Presque Isle (15-0) - Class B Wildcats are averaging 71.7 points per game.

8. Mt. Blue (10-5) - Inconsistent lately, but driven after crushing OT loss in last year’s playoffs.

9. Lawrence (11-4) - Center Nia Irving and point guard Dominique Lewis are among best freshmen in state.

10. Mt. Ararat (12-3) - No stars, but well-coached and can score inside and out.

BOYS BASKETBALL TOP 10
1. Hampden (15-0) - Broncos have allowed under 40 points in each of last five games.

2. Portland (13-2) - Might be the best of a deep Western A.

3. Deering (12-3) - Was cruising before losing last two games and scoring under 40 in each.

4. Falmouth (14-0) - Yachtsmen have run over the competition in Western B.

5. South Portland (13-2) - Beat Deering by 16 and Westbrook by 18, but can Red Riots sustain it?

6. Westbrook (12-3) - Could make case Blue Blazes should be higher after road win at Portland.

7. Lawrence (11-4) - Coach Mike McGee’s final team is among his best.

8. Edward Little (14-1) - Red Eddies haven’t faced Hampden and lost to Lawrence by 14.

9. Bonny Eagle (12-3) - Scots can light it up, but if you hold them under 60, it’s anyone’s game.

10. Bangor (11-4) - Young Rams are exciting and have experience in close games.

BOYS HOCKEY TOP 10
1. Scarborough (12-1) - Four different players tied for team lead with 11 goals.

2. Falmouth (9-2) - Yachtsmen have won last three games by an aggregate score of 33-3.

3. Lewiston (9-2-1) - Blue Devils have allowed 18 goals in 12 games.

4. Bangor (9-2) - Senior Parker Sanderson has 35 points in 11 games.

5. Greely (7-4) - Class B Rangers have held their own against Class A foes.

6. St. Dominic (7-3-1) - Saints are erratic, but can play with anyone.

7. Cheverus (8-2) - Junior goalie Jason Blier has a .935 save percentage.

8. Biddeford (5-6-1) - Tigers have had their moments against a brutal schedule.

9. Messalonskee (11-1) - Showdown with Greely looms on Saturday.

10. Camden Hills (10-0) - Steamrolling the competition, but schedule is suspect.

New England Roundup: Maine

January, 25, 2013
1/25/13
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Max McHugh, a standout soccer and girls' basketball player at Central High School, suffered a broken leg recently as the result of a head-on auto accident. Shortly after, the school had a “white-out” night at a home game, where fans were asked to wear white in support of McHugh and her family.

MaineMcHugh was a key figure in Central’s Class C state championship last season. She played solid defense on Hall-Dale’s Carylanne Wolfington (now a freshman at Colby College) and hit two free throws with 11.4 seconds left for the final points in Central’s 40-39 victory.

The driver of the other car was Tanya Clement, of Corinth. The Bangor Daily News reported that Clement’s 6-year-old daughter was still hospitalized eight days later from her injuries as a result of the accident.

Bangor television station WABI reported that according to the police report, “McHugh admitted she was changing a song on her I-pod and not paying attention.”

GOODRICH WINS FITZPATRICK TROPHY
Cheverus star Donald Goodrich won the James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy, given annually to the top senior football player in the state. Goodrich, who ranks 58th in a class of 122 students, played two years at Cheverus after transferring from York following his sophomore year.

Goodrich rushed for 8.65 yards per carry, 1,722 yards, and 22 touchdowns this season. On defense, he had seven sacks. Cheverus had won 34 consecutive games before losing to eventual Class A state champion Thornton in the state final.

The other finalists for the award were Sanford’s Alex Shain and Cony’s Chandler Shostak. Shain rushed for over 1,400 yards and scored 28 touchdowns, while Shostak had 58 receptions for 853 yards and 12 touchdowns, while also intercepting 11 passes on defense.

TRACK AND FIELD ONLINE
Track and cross country coach Derek Veilleux has created an outstanding website for Maine high school track and field at http://me.milesplit.com. Veilleux coaches the Scarborough boys in indoor and outdoor track, and Cape Elizabeth in cross country.

Veilleux told the Morning Sentinel he spends about 30 to 40 hours per week putting information on the site. He also frequently updates his Twitter account (@MaineTrackXC).

“I’ve got a regular full-time job, and then I coach in the afternoon,” Veilleux told the Sentinel. “This is done late at night and early in the morning.”

The site has regular updates, as well as lists of the top times and performances across the state in each event. Several athletes also contribute blogs. One of those is written by Waterville’s Bethanie Brown, who was recently named Gatorade Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year for Maine and will be heading to the University of Connecticut in the fall. Brown was the first Maine high school girl to run a mile in undr 5 minutes in a competition.

Brunswick’s Alex Nichols, the defending Class A indoor boys champion in the 400 meters, also blogs for the site. Here’s an excerpt from his latest blog:

“Oh but wait, that sounds like a boring meet doesn’t it? You’re right, it was. That is until our bus, cruising at 50 mph down the highway, was assaulted by a large turkey. ... A turkey had crashed directly into the bus windshield, shattering it, and hitting the bus so hard that the rear-view mirror INSIDE the bus had been shattered. We slowed down and pulled off to the side of the highway to wait for another bus, which took approximately an hour. While we were waiting, an SUV came flying down the highway towards us. I don’t understand how it is even possible not to see a school bus on the highway, but he jerked out of the way at the last second, spun a full 360 degrees, and ended up in the snow bank 200 meters in front of us. For those of you who don’t know how far 200 meters is, you’re on the wrong website. Anyways, we finally got home in one piece and went out to eat. I obviously got a turkey sandwich.”

LOAN MEASURE AT NOKOMIS FAILS
Regional School Unit 19, which includes Nokomis Regional High School, recently asked voters in its eight communities to approve a $2.9 million loan. The communities denied a $3.6 million loan on Election Day. After making approximately $750,000 in cuts, RSU 19 asked for the reduced loan.

Among the cuts originally slated were all sub-varsity sports at the high school in winter and spring sports, and travel to away games for winter and spring varsity teams. The teams and travel were all restored for this school year by private fundraising.

EASTERN A GIRLS' BASKETBALL UP FOR GRABS
Whoever wins the Eastern A tournament will be a huge underdog against Catherine McAuley High School. The Lions are the defending state champions, and have three talented six-footers, as well as one of the state’s best point guards in Allie Clement.

But the team that comes out of the East will have the advantage in number of close games. There are at least six and as many as nine teams that are more or less even, depending on the day. Every team in the league has at least three losses.

Mt. Blue is one of the league’s favorites. Within the span of a week, the Cougars defeated previously unbeaten Mt. Ararat by making all 18 of their foul shots over the final three minutes, then lost in double overtime to a .500 Skowhegan team, then edged Brewer, another .500 team, in overtime. And Skowhegan? Three days after knocking off Mt. Blue to earn a leg up on one of the final playoff spots, the Indians lost 56-51 to Hampden, which was 0-11 entering the game.

Cony is holding on to the final playoff spot at 7-6. The Rams got that high by defeating Edward Little, a team that was 10-2 at that point. Cony also lost to Lawrence, 51-50, on a 23-foot 3-point heave by freshman Dominqiue Lewis with two seconds left. Cony has no one taller in its regular rotation than 5-foot-8 Josie Lee, but the Rams take about to 25 to 30 3-pointers per game, and the tournament is played a few miles from their school at the Augusta Civic Center.

No. 1 seed Edward Little is 10-3, with those three losses by a total of eight points. In contrast, Presque Isle is the top-ranked team in Eastern B. The Wildcats are 13-0, and exactly one of those wins has been by less than 25 points.

New England Roundup: Maine

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
4:58
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Earlier this month, we reported on Denis Collins, the Bangor High School hockey coach who resigned after a player allegedly urinated into a jug on the team bus and the subsequent investigation by the school.

MaineRecently, Collins spoke about both his second meeting with administrators, and a later meeting with school superintendent Betsy Webb.

On Dec. 14, three days after the alleged incident on Bangor's trip to Presque Isle, Collins resigned, and says he was told at that point by school administrators to "man up" and stay on as coach.

Collins said there was another meeting on Monday, Dec. 17. He said he went in with the idea of remaining as Bangor's coach, but was told by school administrators that they were accepting his resignation.

According to Collins, Bangor principal Paul Butler became upset during the meeting.

"The conversation got extremely heated between the principal and myself, to the point where I felt that it was best that I not be in there," Collins said. "He was very, very aggressive to me. He was hostile. It was not a safe environment. I resigned under duress, because I felt it was not a safe environment for me to be there."

Butler is not commenting publicly on the whole incident. He recently told the Bangor Daily News, "Denis has already shared beyond what I can share because I'm bound by confidentiality."

Collins met with Webb on Dec. 21. He said he outlined things he had done for the program, including putting in money out of his own pocket. He said the meeting ended during a conversation that "got off track" about policies. At that point, Collins said, Webb replied, "I'm done with this" and the meeting ended.

"I'm waiting for a response from the superintendent of schools," Collins said. "Am I fired. What's going to happen?"

Collins said he believes the school will obtain legal counsel. Asked if he himself would consider getting legal counsel, Collins said. "If they try to sweep under the carpet that the principal was hostile with me, I think I will."

Collins said he still follows the Bangor team, which is 4-0, but has not played at home since his resignation. He said he keeps in touch with several players on the team.

"Do the kids talk to me? Absolutely," he said. "I have about seven or eight of them who will call me from the Bangor team."

Boys' Hoop Top 10
1. Hampden - Broncos allowed 13 points through three quarters in showdown with Lawrence.
2. Deering - Labson Abwoch and Dominic Lauture lead an explosive offense.
3. Portland - Balanced offense helped Bulldogs in close wins over Bonny Eagle and Scarborough.
4. Edward Little - Red Eddies are averaging 70.4 ppg.
5. Falmouth - Five new starters, but Yachtsmen have still won every game by at least 18 points.
6. South Portland - Red Riots are unbeaten with defense and point guard Tanner Hyland.
7. Bonny Eagle - Star guard Dustin Cole is coming off a 42-point game against Gorham.
8. York - Wildcats haven't been tested; that will change Jan. 3 vs. Falmouth.
9. Bangor - Only team to play Hampden tough so far.
10. Lawrence - Bulldogs have bounced back from Hampden debacle; may be sleeper in February.

Girls' Hoop Top 10
1. McAuley - Of first five wins, only one was by less than 49 points.
2. Deering - No team's scored more than 35 against Rams, let alone 40 or 50.
3. Scarborough - Red Storm still rolling under new coach.
4. Presque Isle - Wildcats may get a test in upcoming game with Mt. Desert Island.
5. Cheverus - Lady Stags scoring almost 60 ppg, allowing 23.2.
6. Mt. Ararat - Eagles could be undefeated when they face Brewer on Jan. 11.
7. Edward Little - Red Eddies could win Eastern A if they clean some things up.
8. South Portland - Next week will tell whether Red Riots truly belong on this list.
9. Lake Region - Lakers can score with anyone, and play defense, too.
10. Bangor - Rams next three games (Oxford Hills, Edward Little, Lawrence) will reveal a lot.

Boys' Hockey Top 10
1. Thornton - Lost to Class B Greely, but still a talented group.
2. Lewiston - Devon Beland and Kyle Lemelin lead powerful Blue Devils offense.
3. Scarborough - Red Storm have a deep offense and goalie Dalton Finley helps them win close games.
4. Falmouth - Only losses are by a goal apiece to Lewiston and Scarborough
5. Bangor - Rams lost coach, but have yet to lose a game.
6. St. Dominic - 1-2-1 in first four games, but they were against top four teams on this list.
7. Greely - Rangers have scored 23 goals in four games.
8. Biddeford - Tigers face Thornton and Falmouth in next two games.
9. Brunswick - January will be the real test for Dragons.
10. Camden Hills - Windjammers have four players with at least five goals.

New England Roundup: Maine

December, 17, 2012
12/17/12
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For most teams, the Maine high school basketball season began Dec. 7. Here’s a look at how the classes shape up

MaineClass A Boys: The West looks like a three-team race between Portland, Deering, and Bonny Eagle, with South Portland ready should there be an opening. Junior Justin Zukowski is Portland’s top all-around player, and he has help in Nick Volger and Jayvon Pitts-Young. Deering tries to beat you inside, with six-six Labson Abwoch, and six-four Thiwat Thiwat, both of whom are from the Sudan and moved to the United States at an early age.

Hampden was upset by Deering in the state final, and even though the Broncos return only two starters, they were still the pick for first place in Eastern A’s preseason coaches poll. Edward Little, Lawrence, and Bangor, all programs with strong traditions, could each challenge Hampden. Lawrence relies on forward Spencer Carey and guard Xavier Lewis, a transfer from Bangor.

Class A Girls: Western A has at least four strong teams in McAuley, Scarborough, Cheverus, and Deering. Oddly enough, none of them play each other until January. Point guard Allie Clement leads two-time defending state champion McAuley. Add in three six-footers and a talented guard in sophomore Olivia Dalphonse (a transfer from Bonny Eagle), and this team should go far in the tournament again.

In the East, Edward Little, Mt. Ararat, and Mt. Blue should fight it out for the top spot. Edward Little’s top scorer is guard Ashlee Arnold, and the Red Eddies have some motivation after blowing an 11-point halftime lead and losing to Cony in last winter’s regional final. Mt. Blue has balanced scoring, and guard Gabby Foy is a player who can run up a lot of points in a short time. Brewer was the big surprise in the early going, beating Mt. Blue on a three-pointer at the buzzer, then knocking off Lewiston the same way three nights later. Bangor has the height and athleticism to play with anyone, while Oxford Hills, Skowhegan, and Lawrence could be sleepers in a deep league.

Class B boys: Falmouth and York are two of the tallest and best teams in the West. York has five players six-four or taller; Falmouth has three at least six-five. Falmouth didn’t return any starters this season, but began the year with three lopsided wins. To go with York’s height, the Wildcats have senior guard Adam Bailey, who hit 11 three-pointers in York’s first four games this season.

Expectations are very high at Oceanside, which finished 12-8 last season but returns four starters and is loaded with height. The Portland Press Herald even said that, “Anything short of winning Eastern Class B would be a disappointment.” Winslow is expected to be a playoff team, but Oceanside beat the Black Raiders, 80-53, on opening night. Medomak Valley, Camden Hills, and possibly Caribou and Presque Isle will also look to get hot at the right time.

Class B girls: Defending regional champ Lake Region is probably the favorite again. Tiana-Jo Carter averaged 15 points and 17 rebounds per game last winter, and the Portland Press Herald reports she has already received full scholarship offers to Division I schools. The Lakers are so deep at guard that freshman CeCe Hancock stepped in and had 11 points and nine assists in an early-season win over Waynflete. York, Gorham, Spruce Mountain, and Wells could all make a run at Lake Region. Leavitt might not have all the pieces to go all the way, but the Hornets have one of the most entertaining players in the state in senior Kristen Anderson, who will play at the University of New Hampshire next season. Anderson can shoot from 30-35 feet out, and often does.

In Eastern B, Presque Isle is the decided favorite. The Wildcats finally got past Nokomis last winter and squeaked past Lake Region to win the state title. Presque Isle’s first three games this season were wins by scores of 39, 63, and 38 points, and that’s a good indication of how their regular season will go. The Wildcats are never very tall, but they throw lots of quick guards at you and can shoot from long range. Nokomis, which won’t face Presque Isle during the regular season, may have the best chance to defeat the Wildcats in the playoffs. The Warriors have three fine guards in Lindsay Whitney and twins Kylie and Kelsie Richards, and a good low-post option in Anna MacKenzie.

Class C boys: Dirigo has won four consecutive Western C titles, and until someone gets past the Cougars, they have to be considered the favorites again. Even after graduating seven seniors from last winter’s state champions, Dirigo was still picked first in the Mountain Valley Conference coaches poll. Boothbay is probably Dirigo’s toughest competition in the MVC, and Waynflete, which competes in the Western Maine Conference, could be a dark horse.

Houlton went 8-10 last winter, but may just be the No. 1 team in Eastern C. Kyle Bouchard, who can play pretty much any position, leads the Shiretowners. Among Houlton’s early wins this season was a seven-point victory on the road against a good Class B Presque Isle team. Penquis Valley and Lee Academy — which is currently on probation from the Maine Principals’ Association for recruiting violations — are also threats for the regional crown.

Class C girls: The Mountain Valley Conference is deeper, but the Western Maine Conference has the best player (Margaret Veroneau) and maybe the best team (Waynflete). The Flyers have a top-notch coach in Brandon Salway, and bring back all five starters. They’re good enough that they almost beat Class B Lake Region, losing by five on the road. Madison, Lisbon, and Monmouth are also contenders. Mt. Abram should have been in that mix, but the Roadrunners had some players decide not to return, and apparently don’t have everything they need to play with the top teams.

Calais, led by guard Madison McVicar and center Paige Gillespie, is the favorite in the East. Orono, Dexter, and Narraguagas are also in the hunt.

Class D boys: Forest Hills is known for a lot of things, like being closer to the Canadian border than any other high school in Maine, and having kindergarten through 12 all in one building. The Tigers also have a great basketball team. Senior Evan Worster already has over 1,000 points, and everyone returns from a team that went to the Class D state championship game this winter. The Tigers will get tested this season, as Valley, Greenville, and possibly Hyde all have the potential to cut down the nets after the Western D final in late February.

When Jonesport-Beals won the state title last season, it did so with a total high school enrollment of 58 students. It helped immeasurably that one of those was six-foot-five Garet Beal, the state’s Gatorade Player of the year. Beal will play at the University of Maine next season, and already has back-to-back 40-point games this season. The second of those was in overtime against Deer Isle-Stonington, a team that could challenge the Royals again this winter. Woodland could also give Jonesport-Beals a scare.

Class D girls: It looks like Rangeley and Richmond will battle once again for the Western D title. Rangeley, a school with about 80 students, has three six-footers in sophomore Taylor Esty, freshman Blayke Morin, and transfer student Emma Gunic. Richmond has its own six-footer in Jamie Plummer, the daughter of Colby College baseball coach Dale Plummer. Rangeley won the first meeting this season, 56-54 in overtime.

In the East, Washburn won the state title last winter with no seniors and three juniors. The Beavers did lose their coach when Mike Carlos was not rehired after winning two consecutive state titles. There were widespread rumors of parents being unhappy with Carlos, who is now coaching at East Grand. When Carlos was not rehired, superintendent Ed Buckley released a statement to the Bangor Daily News which included the line, “we do not measure the success of our athletic teams by the number of contests they win but whether it is a positive experience for all our students.” Diana Belskis Trams is now coaching the Washburn girls. Van Buren could give Washburn a run in the East. The Crusaders’ star is junior guard Parise Rossignol, who verbally committed to the University of Maine as a sophomore.

New England Roundup: Maine

September, 27, 2012
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In summarizing Brunswick in its preseason football capsules, the Portland Press Herald ended with this note about the team's offense:

Maine"The Dragons run the wing-T and spread things out as much as possible."

That was indeed the plan in preseason. But before the first game against Bangor, the plan changed to, simply, give the ball to Jared Jensen, and make holes for him.

"That really wasn't the plan until the Bangor week," Brunswick coach Dan Cooper said. "I just thought, 'I don't think we could beat these guys unless you get the ball every time.' "

Since then, Cooper has stayed with that strategy, and Jensen is this year's breakout star in Maine high school football. Through four games, all Brunswick wins, he has 119 carries for 1,296 yards -- that's 10.9 yards per carry -- and 16 touchdowns.

"I figured I'd be getting the ball a lot because we had some people out at the beginning of the season," Jensen said. "But I didn't think I'd be getting the ball that much."

Jensen, a senior, has started at defensive back since he was a sophomore. He started a couple games at running back at the end of last season, but still finished with only 129 yards on 21 attempts.

"We knew he was good last year," Cooper said. "We didn't know he was going to be this good. It seems like as the game goes on, people start getting tired. He doesn't."

Jensen stands about 5-foot-11 and weighs around 180 lbs. Remarkably, he wrestled at 152 lbs. last winter, when he won his second consecutive state championship. The added weight hasn't affected Jensen's speed or endurance.

"He gets up in the holes so fast, and he can cut," Cooper said. "He cuts left and right, doesn't lose his balance. He just has a knack for knowing what to do."

"Really, our goal is to get a hole for me for five or seven yards," Jensen said. "If I can get that, I can go wherever."

Even while being the bulk of Brunswick's offense, Jensen is the defensive captain from his cornerback spot. Against Edward Little, he ran for 332 yards and four touchdowns, and also intercepted three passes, returning one 61 yards to set up the clinching score.

"I don't really come off the field that much," Jensen said.

Jensen has been contacted by the University of Maine and the University of New Hampshire about playing next season. So far, only one thing has slowed him down: Against Skowhegan, he missed part of the game with leg cramps. Otherwise, he's been ready to be the main guy, as long as the game is close.

"I think the week of practice really helps with that," Jensen said. "I'm a little sore the next morning, but I'm good to go the whole game."

ASSAULT CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST MESSALONSKEE COACH
Messalonskee football coach Wes Littlefield was suspended last week over an incident in practice. The school and local police began investigations, and Littlefield resigned within 24 hours. On Tuesday, Littlefield was charged with a misdemeanor simple assault in connection with the incident.

Littlefield was in his 10th season as Messalonskee coach and had a 43-40 record, including 3-0 this fall. He told the Morning Sentinel what happened in practice was "a little incident with a kid that was blown out of proportion."

Assistant coaches Rob Rodrigue and Chapin LaBelle led the Eagles in their first game without Littlefield, a 41-0 victory over Oxford Hills. LaBelle was named interim head coach on Tuesday.

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: Maine

June, 8, 2012
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Abbey Leonardi concluded her stellar high school running career last Saturday with a pair of wins at the State Class A track and field championships. The Kennebunk senior won the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races despite missing a month of training this spring with a strained tendon in her leg.

MaineLeonardi finished the 1,600 in 4 minutes, 56.87 seconds, a little more than five seconds off her state record pace in 2010. She caught Lawrence’s Erzsebet Nagy on the final lap and held her off down the stretch.

“I missed more than a month of training," Leonardi said, "so it was just more about being mentally tough."

Leonardi won 3,200 later in the meet in 10:45.49, again a few seconds off the state record she set in 2010. In four years, Leonardi has posted four cross country individual championships and 12 outdoor track titles. She holds state records in 1,600, mile, 3,000, 3,200 and the two mile.

She is widely considered Maine’s best female high school runner since Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won the inaugural women’s marathon at the 1984 Olympics. This year Leonardi finished fourth in the prestigious Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals, setting a PR of 17:35.30 in the 5,000 meter event.

“What we’ve tried to do is not go too crazy with her in high school and chase every big meet,” her father Jack said.

Abbey will attend the University of Oregon next fall on a running scholarship and will step on campus with plenty of gas left in her tank. She hasn’t run indoor track in high school nor has she over-trained.

“I actually think she can get a lot better,” her dad said. “We’ve tried not to stress her too much. I think Abbey’s at the low end of the top kids in high school in terms of mileage.”

Her dad got her started in running and said he got up to speed in training methods as she progressed. He credits middle school coach Mike LeBlanc as an important influence. As she’s grown older, Leonardi has trained with Kristen Barry, a former 2:40 marathon runner and Falmouth’s Sheri Piers, the top American female finisher in this year’s Boston marathon.

“She definitely has some physical talent but she works as hard as anybody at it,” jack Leonardi said of his daughter. “She’s really methodical about what she does. She’s pretty educated about what she’s doing.”

Leonardi won’t complete in this weekend’s New England meet in Saco, but will follow a training regimen to get her ready for cross country season next fall. Her only appearance in the new England cross country meet was her freshman year when she finished first. Oregon is one of the country’s strongest track and cross country school. Last fall, the Ducks placed fifth in the NCAA cross country meet and return five of their top seven runners.

“She had lots of opportunities (to attend other schools),” Jack said, “but she definitely is choosing to jump into the big pond. If she didn’t give the biggest stage a chance, she wished she would have.”

Leonardi, who has a twin sister, is a straight A student who also loves to cook.

“She’ll probably end up studying business and hope to apply that in some food area,” her father said.

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: Maine

April, 6, 2012
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It’s only been a few days since snow left the ground in Jackman and there’s no guarantee it won’t return before the end of April.

MaineNestled in the Moose River Valley just 16 miles from the Canadian border in northwestern Maine, Jackman is a winter haven for snowmobilers. In the warmer months, it attracts hunters and fishermen or tourists passing through on their way to Quebec province. Tourism is one of the leading industries in this town of 700 while the Jackman Lumber Mill and the Border Patrol Station are the two largest employers.

Athletes at Forest Hills High School in town are spread pretty thin. With an enrollment of 54 students, teams are allowed to include eighth graders on high school teams out of necessity. Basketball is the biggest game in town and this year the Tigers achieved unprecedented success, winning the Western Maine Class D championship after rallying from a 19-point deficit in the second half against top-seeded Hyde School. And last fall, the golf team won the conference championship.

Baseball is another matter. There is no middle school team and as Coach Mike LeBlanc says the youth program is “not anything to write home about.”

“When I first started they used a pitching machine to pitch to batters,” LeBlanc said.

A pitcher himself, LeBlanc changed that in a hurry. He arrived in Jackman 15 years ago after applying for a teaching job.

“I looked at the map and said ‘what the heck am I thinking of,’ ” he said.

LeBlanc grew up in Skowhegan where he still lives and makes the 75-mile commute each weekday to the school. A star at Skowhegan, he moved on to the University of Maine where he became the team’s closer. He was a member of the last UMaine team to reach the College World Series in 1986.

Jackman baseball is about as far removed from that experience as LeBlanc could get. Yet he’s had success despite some obvious drawbacks. Many of his players have little or no experience when they show up for tryouts.

“They’re first taste of it is when they’re in the eighth grade,” LeBlanc said. “They have no clue whatsoever but they play hard. I’ve never questioned their toughness.”

This year LeBlanc has three eighth graders on his team. Numbers have varied from a high of 21 players to as few as 11.

“They just play to play it,” LeBlanc said. “They have fun. I’m not too strict.”

Still, in 13 years as coach — LeBlanc took a two-year hiatus three years ago — his teams have qualified for the playoffs 10 times. They rarely get outside before the season begins. This year was an exceptional as temperatures wandered into the 70’s in mid-March. But they’ve since dipped to the freezing mark and there was snow on the ground earlier this week.

The gym provides little respite since it’s undersized at 47x74 feet and can accommodate a batting cage but no portable mound. Often the first outdoor action the Tigers see is when they travel down river to face rival Valley which is about an hour away. Travel is another issue for the Tigers who routinely face long bus rides. When they play at Vinalhaven, it involves a three-and-and-half hour bus ride a 45-minute ferry ride to the island. Because of all the travel, the Tigers play seven doubleheaders in their 16-game schedule.

They’ve had a few pitchers over the years, though. Jeff Mulhall, who plays for Thomas College in Waterville, struck out 294 batters in four years. This season, junior Evan Worster is the team’s ace. The star of the basketball tournament, Worster throws fairly hard but has plenty of finesse, according to LeBlanc.

“He has a pitcher’s mentality,” LeBlanc said. “He throws the ball inside. A lot of pitcher’s are afraid to do that.”

Junior Derek Ouellette and freshman Matt Turner have also shown promise on the mound which may make the Tigers a contender in Western Maine Class D. They open their season April 24 with a doubleheader at Valley.

“It’s pretty amazing what those athletes do up there,” LeBlanc said.

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: Maine

March, 7, 2012
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Eight Gold Balls were awarded over the weekend to boys' and girls' state basketball champion in four classes.

Boys Class A
MaineDEERING 59, HAMPDEN 50: The Western Maine champs pulled away with a 17-2 run early in the second half to win their first state title since 2006. Jon Amabile led the Stags with 27 points while Thiwat Thiwat added 15 points and Labson Abwoch 10 points and a thunderous dunk in the second quarter. Hampden’s Christian McCue scored a game-high 28 points. Deering finishes at 19-3 while Hampden closes at 20-2.

Boys Class B
YARMOUTH 65, GARDINER 53
: Josh Britten hit his first five shots en route to 29 points in leading the Clippers to their first state title since 1968. Chris Knaub added 14 points for Yarmouth (18-4) while Aaron Toman paced Gardiner (19-3) with 26 points. Yarmouth also won state soccer and football titles during the fall.

Boys Class C
DIRIGO 74, LEE 67:
After finishing runner-up in the state title game the past three seasons, the Cougars finally broke through with their first title in 29 years. The game was a rematch of last year and Dirigo pulled away by making all seven of its shots in the fourth quarter. Cody St. Germain led the Cougars (21-1) with 26 points and seven rebounds while Ben Holmes scored 18 points. Boubacar Diallo paced Lee (19-3) with 19 points and 13 rebounds while Jasil Elder added 16 points.

Boys Class D
JONESPORT-BEALS 83, FOREST HILLS 45:
The Royals had too much size and depth for the undermanned Tigers who carry just eight players. The winners forced 26 turnovers in all and pulled away to an early lead. Matt Alley led Jonesport-Beals (19-2) with 26 points, including the 1,000th of his career, while Garet Beal scored 16. Evan Worster paced Forest Hills (18-4) with 16 points. The title was the first for the Royals since 1993 and their 10th overall.

Boys Final Top 10
1. Deering
2. Hampden
3. Bonny Eagle
4. Mt. Blue
5. Cheverus
6. Edward Little
7. Yarmouth
8. Falmouth
9. Portland
10. Gardiner

Girls Class A
MCAULEY 54, CONY 41:
The Lions pulled away in the third quarter to successfully defend their title. McAuley’s 6-foot-2 forwards, Olivia Smith and Alexa Coulombe, proved too much for the smaller Rams. Smith finished with a game-high 15 points while Allie Clement added 11. For Cony (21-1-), Melanie Guzman scored 14 points and Mia Diplock 10. McAuley finished at 22-0 in winning its fourth state championship.

Girls Class B
PRESQUE ISLE 49, LAKE REGION 47:
Chandler Guerrette’s steal in the closing seconds sealed the win for the Wildcats. Guerrette finished with a team-high 11 points fro Presque Isle (22-0) while Karlee Bernier scored 10. Tianna-Jo Carter paced Lake Region (19-3) with 19 points while Abby Craffy scored 13. The Wildcats last won a state title in 2006 when they also beat Lake Region.

Girls Class C
CENTRAL 40, HALL-DALE 39:
The Red Devils rallied from 13 points down in the third quarter and caught the Bulldogs when Max McHugh hit a pair of free throws with 11.4 seconds left. Freshman Brianna Skolfield led the winners with 17 points and eight rebounds while Wendy Goldman paced Hall-Dale with 17 points. Hall-Dale, which won the title last year, finished at 18-4, while Central (19-3), located in East Corinth, last won a title in 1983.

Girls Class D
WASHBURN 60, RICHMOND 35: Freshman Mackenzie Worcester scored a game-high 24 points to lead the Beavers to their second straight state title. The game was a rematch of last year’s game and followed the same pattern with Washburn pressuring Richmond and pulling away in the fourth quarter. Olivia Doody added 12 points for Washburn (21-1) while Jamie Plummer led Richmond (19-2) while 14 points and 20 rebounds.

Girls Final Top 10

1. McAuley
2. Cony
3. Scarborough
4. Marshwood
5. Presque Isle
6. Lake Region
7. Nokomis
8. Edward Little
9. Leavitt
10. Thornton

Mr., Miss Basketball Finalists

Finalists for Mr., and Miss Maine basketball were named last week. The three finalists for Mr. Basketball are Mt. Blue’s Cam Sennick, Hampden’s Christian McCue and Bonny Eagle’s Cole Libby. Miss Basketball finalists are McAuley’s Alexa Coulombe, Cony’s Mia Diplock and Windham’s Meghan Gribbin.

The winners will be announced at the Maine McDonald's High School Senior All-Star Awards Banquet on Friday evening at Husson University.

New England Roundup: Maine

March, 2, 2012
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State championship matchups are set for this weekend for boys' and girls' basketball teams in four classes.

Here’s a rundown of the games:

Class A Boys
HAMPDEN (20-1) vs. DEERING (16-3)

MaineRegional finals: Both teams were tested in regional finals and won on last second shots. Hampden’s Brian Fickett scored on an inbounds play with two seconds left to give the Broncos a 56-54 win against Mt. Blue. Christian led Hampden with 14 points. Deering beat Bonny Eagle 45-42 in the Western final on Pat Green’s 3-pointer at the buzzer. Green paced the Rams with 17 points.

Matchup: Both teams have good overall size and experience. In addition to McCue, the Broncos are led by 6-foot-7 center Fred Knight, 6-6 forward Logan Poirier and Pat Gilpin. Besides Green, the Rams are led by 6-6 Labson Abwoch, 6-4 Thiwat Thiwat and guard Jon Amabile.

History: Deering last won a state title in 2006 when it beat Hampden, Hampden won in 2005 by beating Deering in the state final.

Class B Boys
GARDINER (19-2) vs. YARMOUTH (17-4)

Regional finals: Both teams upset unbeaten top seeds in the finals. Gardiner beat Mt, Desert Island 70-58 behind 23 points from Jake Palmer and 16 from Aaron Toman. Yarmouth knocked off Falmouth 56-50 behind 26 points from Chris Knaub and 12 from Josh Britten.

Matchup: The teams are similar in size and style of play. Gardiner relies on team defense and rebouding. Toman is the tallest player at 6-4 while Palmer has taken off in the playoffs, scoring 33 and 23 in his last two games. The Tigers have good rebounders in Alonzo Connor and Matt Hall. Yarmouth looks to Britten, its 1,000 point scorer, to carry the offense, but showed others, like Knaub, can contribute. Sam Torres is also a key team member.

History: This is Gardiner’s first-ever trip to the state championship while Yarmouth last played for a state tile (Class C) in 1973 and last won in 1968.

Class C Boys
DIRIGO (20-1) vs. Lee (19-2)

Regional finals: Dirigo cruised to a 69-38 win against third-seeded Boothbay. during the three-game tournament, the Cougars outscored their opponents by a average scored of 76-35. Lee got 25 points from Boubacar Diallo to knock off upset-minded Houlton 58-47.

Matchup: This is a rematch of last year’s state final, won by Lee, 65-55. Because it’s a private school, many of Lee’s players from last year moved on but they do have some valuable additions including Boubacar and D.J. Johnson. The Cougars, led by Cody St. Germain, Ben Holmes and Josh Turbide, return most of their team with a new coach Travis Magnusson in charge. They run and pressure the ball which should make for an entertaining game.

History: Last year’s state final win was the first-ever by Lee. Dirigo has appeared in each of the last three state games without a win. They last won a state championship in 1983.

Class D Boys
FOREST HILLS (18-3) vs. JONESPORT-BEALS (18-2)

Regional finals: Forest Hills pulled off one of the most dramatic comebacks in the history of the Western Maine tournament when it rallied from 19 points down late in the third quarter to defeat top-seeded Hyde 61-60. Junior Evan Worster led the Tigers with 33 points and set a tournament scoring record with 106 points in three games. Jonesport-Beals shot 62 percent from the field in stopping Deer Isle-Stonington 75-62. Garet Beal led the Royals with 20 points while Cole Beal scored 14.

Matchup: Jonesport-Beals has the history and experience on its side, not to mention size with a couple of 6-5 forwards in Garet Beal and Justin Alley. The Tigers have only eight players on their team — the school enrollment is 54 — and start three freshmen.

History: This is Forest Hills’ first-ever appearance in a state final while Jonesport-Beals is gunning for championship No. 10.

Class A Girls
CONY (21-0) vs. MCAULEY (21-0)
Regional finals: Cony got past No. 2 seeded Edward Little 46-41 behind 17 points from Mia Diplock who scored two key baskets down the stretch. McAuley coasted to a 61-43 win against second-seeded Scarborough. Allie Clement led the Lions with 19 points and seven assists while Olivia Smith added 15 and tournament MVP Alexa Coulombe scored eight points, grabbed seven rebounds and had seven steals.

Matchup: The Lions are the defending state champs and enjoy a decided height advantage with Coulombe and Smith, both 6-2, in the lineup. Cony relies on the guard play of Diplock and junior Josie Lee and a host of three-point shooters. Both teams like an uptempo game.

History: Cony is making its sixth appearance in a state final since 2002 while McAuley is making its fifth. The Rams defeated McAuley for the title in 2007.

Class B Girls
PRESQUE ISLE (21-0) vs. LAKE REGION
Regional finals: After losing in the final the past two years to Nokomis, Presque Isle finally broke through and downed the Warriors 52-40 behind 13 points from Chandler Guerette and 11 from Hannah Graham. Lake Region defeated Greely 46-30 behind 22 points from Sydney Hancock and 14 rebounds from Tianna-Jo Cater.

Matchup: Presque Isle averaged 70 points a game during the regular season and would like to push the pace while a slower pace would favor Lake Region.

History: The teams last played for a state championship in 2006 when Presque Isle defeated lake Region 48-36. Lake Region last won a title in 1975.

Class C Girls
HALL-DALE (18-3) vs., CENTRAL (18-3)
Regional finals: Top-seeded Hall-Dale knocked off No. 7 Waynflete behind 16 points and some big plays down the stretch from Carylanne Wolfington. Central beat Stearns 42-41 in overtime behind 21 points from freshman Brianna Skolfield and nine from Sam Brownell.

Matchup: Hall-Dale is the defending state champion but a different team with the graduation of center Taylor Massey. Wolfington is a Miss Basketball finalist and a versatile player who can score inside and out. Central relies on defense and will likely assign Max McHugh to guard Wolfington.

History: Hall-Dale won its first state title since 1986 last season while Central last won in 1982.

Class D Girls
RICHMOND (20-1) vs. WASHBURN (20-1)

Regional finals: Richmond junior Jamie Plummer scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to led the Bobcats past Rangeley 46-33. Freshman Mackenzie Worcester scored 20 points and Carsyn Koch added 19 as the beavers flew past Hodgdon 68-44.

Matchup: The game is a rematch of last year’s state final won by Washburn 43-40. The Beavers will press, run and try to quicken the pace of the game while the Bobcats would like to slow things down and get the ball inside to Plummer and six-footer Alyssa Pearson.

History: This will be Richmond’s seventh appearance in a state final but the Bobcats have yet to win one. Washburn won its fourth championship last year.

TOURNAMENT RECORDS
Waynflete junior Martha Veroneau and Forest Hills junior Evan Worster each set tournament records last week at the Augusta Civic Center. Veroneau, a 5-7 guard, scored 47 points against Boothbay to break the single-game Class C tournament record of 45 set by Boothbay’s Katie Sibley. Veroneau also connected on nine 3-pointers to break her own tournament record of seven in a single game.

Worster scored 51 points in a quarterfinal win against A.R. Gould to set a single game Class D record of 45 set by A.R. Gould’s Ian Nono. Worster, a 6-3 forward also set a new tournament scoring record of 106 points, breaking Buckfield’s Paul Bessey’s mark of 96.

New England Roundup: Maine

February, 10, 2012
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That Travis and Karen Magnusson would become high school basketball coaches, given their backgrounds as point guards and students of the game, seemed inevitable. So does the success that the husband and wife coaches are having this season at their respective schools.

MaineTravis, who coaches the Dirigo High School boys team, came within a whisker of a perfect season before falling to Spruce Mountain, 39-34 Wednesday night. Still, his Cougars finished the regular season at 17-1 and enter the upcoming Western Maine Class C tournament as the top seed. Karen, who coaches the Cony High School girls team, finished at 18-0 Thursday and her Rams will enter the Eastern Maine Class A tournament as the top-seeded team.

There wasn’t much talk between Karen and Travis about going unbeaten this season — both recognize winning a state title as a larger goal — but it’s still hard to avoid.

“Honestly we try not to do it,” Karen said. “But it’s something that comes up with other people.”

The couple rarely get to see one another’s teams play since they usually play on the same night. Fans at both schools, however, recognize what’s going on.

[+] EnlargeWedding
Courtesy of Karen Magnusson Travis and Karen Magnusson are having success coaching high school hoops in Maine.


“It’s almost like we share our programs with each other,” Karen said. “His fans ask how I’m doing and my fans ask how Trav’s doing.”

The Magnussons are both basketball junkies, a passion that began long before they met at the University of Maine at Farmington a few years ago. Karen Sirois starred at Cony in Augusta while Travis played for Georges Valley in Thomaston. Both played point guard at UMF and each of them totaled over 1,000 points and 500 assists in their careers.

Farmington women’s coach Jamie Beaudoin and men’s coach Dick Meader saw coaches in the two long before their playing careers ended.

"I knew from the first moment I watched her play that she was going to be a coach," Beaudoin said. "She was able to see things on the floor that many times an experienced coach wouldn't pick up on. She's just a student of the game."

Meader echoed those thoughts about Travis, who served as a varsity assistant at UMF the year after he graduated. Travis was hired as boys coach at Livermore Falls a year before Karen go the job at Cony so she helped him out and gave him an unbiased look at the players and the team.

"There was nobody I listened to more, especially with my team that first year," Travis said.

Travis turned the Livermore program around, reaching a tournament prelim game his first year in 2009 and the tournament itself the next two. He lost his job when Livermore and Jay high schools combined this year to form Spruce Mountain, but when the Dirigo job opened up he applied. The Cougars reached the state final last year and return many of those players.

The Magnussons talk basketball most of the time, often while breaking down film at home another or swapping drills.

"I get some of my plays and sets from him," Karen said. "I know his personnel, we definitely help each other out. Sometimes we sit up until 11:30 or 12 talking about it. We watch game film together. It's like having an assistant coach at home."

They also share a similar philosophy, borne from the way they played the game.

"We both like to run and gun, play pressure defense and give our players freedom to take shots." Travis said. "As I've gotten older I've realized the importance of quality shots."

The Magnussons are competitive by nature and haven’t played a serious game of 1 on since Travis came away with a bloody nose when the got together on the court in college.

"He's competitive and I'm competitive so we never really have the fun 1-on-1," Karen said.

Well, they did have a little fun on the court on the day they were married, playing a friendly game, she in her wedding dress and he in his tuxedo.

They’ll get a chance to watch the other’s team play in about 10 days when their teams will be favored to win regional championships at the Augusta Civic Center.

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New England Roundup: Maine

January, 31, 2012
1/31/12
3:58
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Leavitt senior Jordan Hersom was recently named recipient of the 41st Fitzpatrick Trophy, given annually to the state’s top high school football player. The other finalists were Louis DiTomasso of Wells and Spencer Cooke of Cheverus.

MaineHersom played quarterback and defense for the Hornets, leading them to three straight Class B state championship appearances, winning in 2009. The Hornets were 42-4 over four seasons with Hersom in the lineup.

This year, he passed for 1,630 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 10 scores, averaging 8.7 yards a carry. On defense, he recorded 56 tackles and two interceptions. In the classroom he carries a 96 average which is also a factor in selecting the Fitzy winner.

He recently answered questions about his career and his future:

Q: When did you begin playing football and who were your early influences?

A: "I've been surrounded by football my whole life. The minute I was born my parents had me in a cradle holding a football, and the first time I walked was on a football field. I started playing flag football in kindergarten, and started playing tackle football in third grade. My biggest influence on me was my father who has been coaching high school football for over thirty years and also played throughout high school and college."

Q: What do you enjoy about the sport?

A: "I enjoy being around my teammates and forming bonds with them that will last a lifetime. In a team sport, it's amazing how much a group can accomplish if nobody cares who gets the credit. This is what the Leavitt football team was all about. I enjoy the team aspect, it takes eleven players to win a game, not one."

Q: When did you first play quarterback and why?

A: "In third grade I remember my first time playing quarterback. Part of the reason I was put at this position was because the fourth grade starter was hurt, and my coach thought I could do a good job running the QB boot play we had around the end because I was pretty fast. I've been a quarterback ever since."

Q: What has contributed to the success of football at Leavitt?

A: "The whole community has played a part in the success Leavitt football has had. Starting with the parents of the players, all the way through to the teachers at the school. So many people do work behind the scenes for the program to succeed. Having coaches who care about the players and the game of football, along with the players having a desire to get better everyday has all contributed to the success the team has had."

Q: What does winning the Fitzpatrick Trophy mean to you?

A: "Winning this award to me, is a way of saying thank you to everyone who has been a part of my life. I couldn't have received any of this recognition without the help, and support from many people. This trophy is something the community deserves for all of the dedication, and loyalty the people in Turner, Greene, and Leeds have shown to the game of football."

Q: Your cousin Jack won the award a few years ago. Did this help inspire you?

A: "I remember being a part of Jack's experience at the banquet in January of 2008. Jack has served as a role model to me, and still does, not just for the athlete he is, but for the type of person he is. I honestly never would have thought that I would be in the same position he was in. I just wanted to be the best teammate, leader, and player I could be by working hard everyday and looking up to people like my cousin Jack as a role model."

Q: Have you narrowed you choices of colleges? What is your criteria?

A: "Springfield College, and the University of Maine are two of my top choices. They are very different schools in a size and athletic wise.
Springfield would provide good private education for me, along with the possibility of being a two-sport athlete. At UMaine I would be able to
challenge myself in the classroom and at a high level of football. Academics comes first, and I want to be somewhere where I fit in, and have a sense of belonging."

Q: You play offense and defense. How would describe the mentality on playing on different sides of the ball?

A: "Football is a contact sport, and on both sides of the ball, I try to be aggressive and physical because that is how the game is supposed to be played. Offensively, as a quarterback I try to be the leader on the field, always staying positive and being confident. As a defensive
player, I turn on a mean streak. To play defense you must be tough and not afraid to hit somebody."

Q: What position would you prefer to play in college?

A: "I'm all about the team. Wherever a coach tells me to play is where I will be happy to play. I just want to be out on the field. So the position doesn't really matter to me because it's not about me, it's about the team."

Q: What other sports do you play?

A: "I play basketball in the winter and participate in outdoor track and field during the spring."

Q: What influence have athletics had on your life?

A: "Sports have taught me a lot of life lessons. In life, not everything goes your way, and I've been able to deal with the joys and disappointments of playing high school sports. I play for the love of the game, not for winning and losing."

Q: How do you maintain the balance between athletics and academics?

A: "Academics always comes first and by being busy I think it helps me. This way I always have a structured time to do homework whether it is before or after practice. At this point I've realized that sports and school are important and they are what I want to succeed in."

Q: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not playing sports?

A: "Spending time with my family and friends is what I like to do outside of sports. I have a great family that loves and supports me, and my friends are always there for me as well."

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New England Roundup: Maine

January, 12, 2012
1/12/12
6:37
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Paul Vachon established himself as one of the top basketball coaches in Maine, winning seven girls Class A state championships in 23 years at Cony High School in Augusta. Prior to that he coached at Waterville and Messalonskee and won over 400 games in his career at Cony alone. He stepped down five years ago to take the athletic director’s position at Cony and recently answered a few questions about his job.

Q: You were a basketball coach for nearly 30 years. What misconceptions did you have about an athletic director’s job during that time?

MaineA: "I didn't realize all the time and responsibility that came with this position. Being in charge of 23 varsity sports, 25 sub-varsity, 55 coaches, supervising events, and attending meetings, certainly puts a lot on your plate. I had tunnel vision when I was coaching. Basketball was all I saw. Wow, was I ever wrong."

Q: How many hours do you work during an average week during the school year? And what are those hours devoted to?

A: "I average between 50-70 hours a week. Bus scheduling, referee assignments, daily updates on events, committee meetings, cancellations, MPA information updates and paperwork, parent concerns, player concerns, student eligibility, drug and alcohol concerns, field and game preparations, special events, booster meetings, evaluations, and making sure there is enough pizza for tonight's game — just to name a few."

Q: What is the most important aspect of your job?

A: "The most important aspect of my job is to be a good listener. I may not agree with everything, but I must understand that everyone has their own opinion. I must listen, research, and evaluate all dilemmas. I then must come up with a solution that hopefully everyone will understand and agree upon."

Q: Augusta has a number of centrally located and well developed facilities which make it an attractive site for regional and state championship events. How much of an extra burden is this on your job?

A: "I don't know if I would call it a burden. This is what I envisioned the AD position would be like. I love watching athletics and I would do anything to promote events for our school and community. Yes, we are centrally located, but our administration, community and city have built some nice facilities that many people want to use. I feel it is one of my responsibilities that I help promote these outstanding facilities."

Q: How have athletes changed since you began coaching?

A: "School teams were always our No. 1 priority. I'm not sure that this is truly the case anymore. I've seen athletes miss practices and even games to attend other sporting events. Year round practices and games for elite groups are now being offered for all sports. Many athletes and parents have already chosen their career sport by middle school. Instead of developing athletes, it seems that we are focusing on a specific area and hoping for scholarships. The best teams I ever coached was when I had three sport athletes on our teams."

Q: What is the most difficult part of your job?

A: "The most difficult part of my job is my inability to have the time to spend with the student athlete. They need to know that we care about them and more than just being an athlete. It is a difficult world out there. Expectations for our student/ athletes is as pressurized as ever. We must remember that this is high school. Our job is to make sure that they feel good about who they are and that athletics is only one part of their high school education. We are teachers first and coaches second. Technology has made it very difficult to focus on certain areas."

Q: What is the most rewarding part of you job?

A: "The most rewarding part of my job is our support system. Our administration and school board have a great understanding that athletics play a huge role in a student's high school education. You must understand that Cony offers as many sports as any school in this state."

Q: Do you miss coaching and do you think you’ll ever return?

A: "I do miss coaching. I still run camps and attend clinics. I am positive that I will be coaching again."

Q: Is the turnover of coaches greater today than is was 15 or 20 years ago? If so, why?

A: "The turnover is much greater. I think if you check the coaches who have longevity, I think that you will find out that they are involved in the school system as an employee. Mike McGee, Dianne Fornier, Al Veneziano, Paula Doughty, Moe McNally, Scott Graffam, Mt. Blue football coach etc."

Q: Being a teacher in the system gives you a greater understanding of the student athlete and vice versa. How do you walk the fine line between parental involvement and parental interference in high school athletics?

A: "We need parent volunteers. Our All Sports Boosters raise a huge part of our athletic budget and it is all because of their great dedication and love that our parents have for their children. Cony High School is very fortunate to have such caring parents. With that said, I must admit that we do have dilemmas with parents voicing their personal opinions. I must also admit that I have been on both sides of the fence. I must again go back to my original statement; I must become a great listener. I hope what I have learned as a parent, teacher, coach, and administrator has provided me with the wisdom that I can share that provides comfort for the parent's concern."

Q: Cony continues to offer a number of sports that many schools do not. With a declining enrollment and budget considerations, how long can this be sustained?

A: "The athletic budget is less than two percent of the entire school budget. I am in hopes that the school board and community believe that athletics plays at least two percent of a role in a high school student's education."

Q: What changes, if any, would you like to see in high school athletics in Maine?

A: "I would like to see students receive credits for playing sports. A lot of lessons are learned in participating in athletics. We give chorus credit and band credit. Why not athletics?"

Q: Is today’s high school athlete as dedicated to their sport as he or she was 20 or 30 years ago?

A: "I believe that athletes are as dedicated today as they were 20-30 years ago. We just don't have as many. Kids have many more distractions today than they had 20 years ago."

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New England Roundup: Maine

June, 17, 2011
6/17/11
5:15
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Kennebunk High School junior Abbey Leonardi not only set a goal to repeat as 3,200-meter champion at last Saturday’s New England Track and Field championships, she was intent on breaking the meet record.

MaineWhen the field started too slowly, Leonardi went to the front and stayed there, finishing in 10 minutes, 19.03 seconds to beat the old record by more than six seconds.

“I was hoping I wouldn’t have to lead from the start,” Leonardi said. “At the 200 I felt the pace was slow. I was trying to run between 5:08 and 5:12 for the first mile.’

Leonardi had competed against many of the runners in the field and hoped they would push her a little more.

“I definitely had the record in the back of my head,” she said. “Last year I was only a second off.”

Next up for Leonardi is the New Balance Outdoor Nationals this weekend in Greensboro, N.C. Last year she placed fourth in the 3,200 in 10:26.

After that, Leonardi plans to take a short break before building a base for the cross country season.

At 5-foot-1 and 100 pounds, Leonardi doesn’t appear to be a lion on the track or cross country trails. But she emerged as the premier female high school distance runner in New England shortly after winning the N.E. cross country title her freshman year. She’s repeated since then in New England while dominating fellow runners in Maine.

Leonardi said by the end of either the track or cross country season, she’s ready for a change but at the same time admits longer distances are her forte. To that end, she and her father Jack are taking a conservative approach to her training.

“The most important thing in my mind is not to try to go too crazy this year, from getting too aggressive, too early in her career,” Jack said. “Nothing has been more important than that.”

Jack Leonardi oversees his daughter’s training in a very general sense, even less so since she become older and more knowledgeable.

“I oversee what goes on,” Jack said. “But her coaches are pretty much her coaches. She pretty much plans out her life. She knows what she needs to do.”

Leonardi placed second in the in Footlocker Northeast Cross Country Regionals last season to Ainsley Cuffe of Cornwall-on Hudson, N.Y. Cuffe went on to win the Footlocker Nationals last fall while Leonardi placed 16th.

She’’ll have Cuffe to contend again with this fall and would need to make a vast improvement to catch her.

“I think she’s pretty far ahead,” Leonardi said. “That would be a 20 or 25 second improvement.”

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