Boston High School: John Bapst

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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Tags:

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

February, 1, 2013
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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

November, 13, 2012
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Nick Richardson knows some of the top players in his sport, people like Nate Coolidge and Chris Pothier.

Maine“Whenever I talk to them,” Richardson said, “there’s always a point where we encounter, ‘You can’t play because you’re a boy.’ ”

You see, Richardson’s favorite sport is field hockey, and for many people, that doesn’t fit with the image they have of a young boy and man-to-be in the United States. While field hockey is popular for males in many other countries, that’s not the case in the U.S., and especially not the case in Maine, where Richardson is not allowed to play for Kents Hill, his high school team.

Ironically, Richardson’s path to becoming a field hockey player is the typical American sports story. His father, Randy, coached Kents Hill for 10 years and now coaches Lewiston, where he took the Blue Devils from 2-9-3 to 9-6 in his first season. His sister plays field hockey at Smith College, and when Nick was a toddler, the players on his dad’s team put a small field hockey stick in his hands.

“I can honestly say I’ve been playing since I could walk,” said Nick, a senior. “I love being able to move the ball around the field without touching the ball with your physical body. I would like to stay involved with the game as long as I can still walk.”

Richardson was able to play in middle school, when, as he tells it, no one minded that there was a boy playing because he was small and slow and not that good anyway. He’s improved to the point where he’ll play as part of the USA U-17 men’s team in a series Nov. 27-Dec. 2 in California against Canada.

But no matter how good he is, he can’t play in a high school game. Richardson originally attended Maranacook, a school that falls under the Maine Principals' Association (MPA). Kents Hill is an MPA in some sports and plays in the Maine Association of Independent Schools' Athletic Directors conference -- neither of which allow boys to participate in field hockey.

“The minute that I started to get physically bigger,” Richardson said, “I started to get, ‘Oh, we don’t want the boy to play.’ It forced me to look higher, which in hindsight, I’m grateful for. If I had kept playing with high school girls, I never would have thought about playing on a national team.”

A quick Google check will find other boys facing the same resistance. Keeling Pilaro, a 13-year-old boy in New York, was kicked off his field hockey team because people thought he was too good. This past weekend in Massachusetts, Walpole beat Dennis-Yarmouth in a high school playoff game. Dennis-Yarmouth’s goalie is a boy, and Walpole coach Marianne Murphy told The Boston Globe that he shouldn’t be allowed to play.

“They have a sophomore girl goalie on the bench that’s been displaced because they’re playing a boy,” Murphy told the Globe. “It’s something I feel strongly about and it’s disappointing to know other teams have come against them and lost because of it.”

If you follow field hockey long enough, you realize that the men who are involved in the sport are really into it, because they have to have the passion to overcome other people’s perceptions and stereotypes. Richardson is the same way. To stay sharp, he plays in Boston on weekends, driving seven or eight hours round-trip through the traffic to play pick-up for two hours with the Minutemen club team. He’s excited that he’ll also play with the Cape Ann Coalition U-19 boys’ indoor team this winter.

“I’ll be able to play indoors with the Minutemen nine-to-11 and train with Cape Ann one-to-three,” he said.

When most people think of Olympic athletes, the image is of children making everything else in their lives secondary to train for their sport. With United States men’s field hockey, that’s really not the case. There are so few players that, unlike with other countries like Germany and the Netherlands, there is no chance of a core group playing together for years. Coolidge, for example, didn’t play the sport until he was 12, and ended up on the U.S. Olympic team.

That’s where Richardson wants to end up as well. The training center for the U.S. team is in Chula Vista, Calif., and you don’t even have to look at a map to know that’s a heckuva long way from Maine. Richardson has thought through that process. He’d be a junior in college in 2016, and he’s probably have to take a year off.

“In the perfect world, I would love to walk on to the Astroturf in Rio De Janeiro in the 2016 Olympics with the U.S. men’s team,” he said. “I’d love to be able to do it again in 2020. It’s definitely realistic, definitely possible, but very, very challenging.”

IT’S STATE CHAMPIONSHIP FOOTBALL TIME
The state football championships are set for Nov. 17 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. Here’s a quick look back at the regional finals:

Class A: Cheverus had won 34 games in a row and the last two state championships, but Thornton upset the Stags, 20-13, as Andrew Libby rushed 28 times for 130 yards and three touchdowns. Cheverus fumbled the ball on a fourth-and-goal play at the Thornton 1 and later missed a 32-yard field goal. The Stags reached the Thornton 23 on their last drive, but ended up at midfield after three straight sacks by the Golden Trojans defense.

Thornton will take on Lawrence, which had its troubles with underdog Cony. The Bulldogs had overpowered Cony, 27-6, earlier in the season, but this time Cony took a quick 10-0 lead and still led 10-3 at halftime thanks to four Lawrence turnovers. In the second half, it was Cony’s turnovers that made the difference, as Spencer Carey picked off two passes by Cony quarterback Ben Lucas to set up two touchdowns. The second was a 47-yard run by Josh Doolan that salted away a 20-10 Lawrence victory.

Lawrence was the last Eastern A team to win a state title, defeating Gorham, 14-13, in 2006. That was also the last Class A state championship game decided by less than two touchdowns. The West has won nine of the last 10 state titles.

Class B: After squeaking by Wells, 15-13, in the semifinals, Marshwood held off York, 21-20, to win the Western B title and reach the state championship game for the first time since 1989. Marshwood quarterback Cameron Roll rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns and also threw a touchdown pass. Brett Gerry also rushed for 108 yards for the Hawks. Still, it took some luck for Marshwood to win. Trailing 21-14, York scored on a 2-yard run by quarterback Ross Hogan with 2:25 left in the game. The Wildcats made the extra point, but were penalized five yards for having only six men on the line of scrimmage. The re-kick hit the upright, the Hawks recovered the onside kick, and Marshwood had the win.

Marshwood is coached by Alex Rotsko, a legend in Massachusetts football after winning 11 Super Bowls at Longmeadow. Rotsko is in his first season after the Hawks went 2-6 last fall.

There was no such drama in Eastern B, as Mt. Blue cruised to a 42-14 victory over Waterville. Calan Lucas and Chad Luker led a Mt. Blue attack that rolled up 367 yards on the ground. Lucas rushed 17 times for 148 yards, while Luker had 74 yards and four touchdowns. Waterville made it a game for a little bit, cutting a 21-0 lead to 21-14 with two touchdowns in a span of 14 seconds late in the first half. Mt. Blue added a touchdown in the third quarter and then two more in the game’s final seven minutes.

Class C: Winslow held off Dirigo, 17-6, in a game that was 3-0 into the fourth quarter. Then Justin Martin, Winslow’s 6-foot-5 defensive back, intercepted a pass and returned it 23 yards to the Dirigo 6. Winslow scored on the next play, and Martin later returned another interception 73 yards for a touchdown.

In the Eastern C game, Donnie Boyer ran for 266 yards and three touchdowns as Foxcroft defeated John Bapst, 33-7. It was actually one of the closest games of the year for the Ponies. Aside from a loss to Bucksport (and Foxcroft won the rematch in the playoffs, 45-0) the Ponies have won every other game by at least 35 points. Foxcroft is averaging 46.7 points per game this season, and that includes that 13-0 loss to Bucksport in the regular season.

FINANCIAL CRISIS AT NOKOMIS
Nokomis Regional High School in Newport recently took the step of cutting all its junior varsity programs for winter and spring high school sports. The school will also not provide transportation for the varsity teams to away games, forcing students to find their own transportation.

Nokomis is the high school in Regional School Unit 19, which includes eight towns. RSU 19 superintendent Greg Potter, who took over in July, said the school unit is in a financial crisis because of mismanagement and accounting mistakes by the prior administration.

Voters in RSU 19’s eight towns were asked to approve a $3.6 million loan on Election Day. The referendum failed by a total of 353 votes, and RSU 19 began implementing the cuts the next day. According to information on the RSU 19 website, cutting the JV programs and eliminating transportation is estimated to save a combined $58,000. RSU 19 will also cut several full and part-time positions.

“Disappointed is, I don’t think enough of a description for how I feel,” Nokomis athletic director Earl Anderson told the Morning Sentinel. “I’m beyond disappointed.”

The Nokomis girls' basketball team has a record of 56-9 over the past three seasons, and went to the regional final in February. Nokomis also reached the 2012 regional final in softball.

DOUBLY SWEET WINS FOR SCARBOROUGH
It was almost like the Maine Principals’ Association was thumbing its nose as Scarborough. Here were the Red Storm, with teams in both the Class A girls and Class A boys’ state finals. Those games would be played at the Weatherbee Complex in Hampden, and Google Maps pegs that as a 133-mile drive, one-way. The Class B and C state finals, meanwhile, were played in … Scarborough.

If “bus legs” were a factor, it didn’t show. In the boys’ final, Scarborough defeated Mt. Ararat, 4-0. In the girls’ final, Scarborough outlasted Bangor, 2-1, in double overtime on a goal by Sarah Martens. It was the third straight year Scarborough and Bangor had met in the girls Class A state final.

With the double wins, Scarborough became only the second team to win both Class A titles outright in the same year. Waterville captured both Gold Balls in 1983.

New England Roundup: Maine

October, 23, 2012
10/23/12
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Christine DiPietro scored 10 goals for the Fryeburg Academy field hockey team this fall. Over the winter, she also placed sixth in the slalom and 15th in the giant slalom at the Class A state championships.

MaineDiPietro is also legally blind. She told the Portland Press Herald that she doesn't drive a car, that she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at age 4, and that her vision has gotten worse over the last few years.

DiPietro, a senior, recently played her last field hockey game for Fryeburg as the Raiders lost 1-0 to Leavitt in a Western B semifinal game. Fryeburg field hockey coach DeDe Frost said she made a point of not publicizing DiPietro's vision until this season.

"I wanted them to be so shocked when they found out that she's the one that kicked their butts around the block and scored the goals, and that's what Christina's always wanted," Frost told the Press Herald.

"I can honestly say I've accepted it," DiPietro said. "I always have. But when people feel bad for me, I'm just like, 'Why? You don't have to.'"

LOOKING AT THE FOOTBALL PICTURE
Class A East: If you follow football in Maine, every year you hear at least one person proclaim that Cony is his sleeper team. The ritual is as inevitable as Cony's disappointment against those expectations.

This year is different. The Rams are 6-2, and have one of the pest quarterback-receiver combinations in the game in Ben Lucas to Chandler Shostak. Lucas has thrown for over 2,000 yards, and 10 of his touchdown passes have gone to Shostak, who also has eight interceptions on defense.

Still, the best team in the league is Lawrence (8-0). The Bulldogs had tough tests over the last two weeks, but posted a 27-6 victory over Cony (intercepting Lucas five times) and a 34-7 victory over Brunswick. The Bulldogs have an excellent shot at playing in their fourth Class A title game in seven years.

Class A West: With a 21-0 victory over Deering, Cheverus (8-0) set a state record with 32 consecutive Class A victories. The Stags' toughest competition is Thornton (7-1), and the Golden Trojans gave Cheverus a game at home on Oct. 13, losing 28-14 before an announced crowd of 4,011.

Class B East: This could also be a two-horse race, although Hampden supporters would argue the notion that Mt. Blue (8-0) and Leavitt (7-1) are destined to meet in the regional final. Mt. Blue defeated Leavitt 20-12 at home earlier this month. If Leavitt has a weakness, it's probably pass defense, and Mt. Blue is well-known for its pass-happy spread offense. Hampden (7-1) lost 27-17 to Leavitt on opening night and did not face Mt. Blue this season.

Class B West: Maine uses a formula called Crabtree points to determine playoff seedings. The formula simply adds your winning percentage to the combined winning percentage of your opponents. When the regular season ended Saturday, Marshwood (7-1), Westbrook (6-2), and York (6-2) all had the same number of Crabtree points. Add in Greely at 7-1 and Wells at 6-2, and this could be a very interesting playoff bracket.

Class C East: Foxcroft has scored the most points in the state (371) and allowed the fewest (35). The catch is the Ponies are not undefeated. They dropped a 13-0 shocker to Bucksport (6-2). On the other hand, John Bapst (7-1) and Orono (6-2) both defeated Bucksport rather handily, but were no match for Foxcroft. The Ponies blasted Orono, 42-0, then went to Bapst and beat the Crusaders 40-0 the next week before falling to Bucksport.

Class C West: Winslow (7-1) has been the best team in the league since getting back over a dozen ineligible players. Oak Hill is also 7-1, and posted a dominating 33-0 victory over Dirigo (6-2) on Saturday. But when Winslow played Oak Hill, Winslow had too much strength up front and led 27-6 at halftime on the way to a 34-18 win. Maranacook (5-3) looked like a state title contender early in the year, but lost three straight to end the regular season and will have to play its first playoff game without quarterback Caleb Castonguay, who was ejected for fighting in a 27-8 loss to Poland in the season finale.

FOOTBALL TOP 10
1. Cheverus - Last three games have been closest of season, but Stags have still beaten everyone by at least 14 points.
2. Thornton - Leads SMAA in scoring and looking forward to playoff rematch with Cheverus.
3. Lawrence - No one has come within three touchdowns of Bulldogs.
4. Scarborough - Red Storm returned 10 starters from a 3-6 team, but finished 6-2.
5. Mt. Blue - Only two teams have held Cougars and QB Jordan Whitney under 40 points.
6. Cony - Junior QB Ben Lucas has thrown 29 TD passes. Defense is also solid.
7. Brunswick - RB Jared Jensen has rushed for nearly 1,900 yards.
8. Leavitt - Hornets' defense has been sensational against the run.
9. Messalonskee - Eagles trying to bounce back from stunning 37-14 loss to Bangor.
10. Hampden - Broncos have reeled off seven straight wins, six by at least 28 points.

HISTORIC YEAR FOR FIELD HOCKEY
It has been a season for records in Maine high school field hockey. Entering this fall, the single-season record for goals in one season was 116, set by Dexter in 2003. Only one other team had scored over 100 goals in one year.

This year, both Skowhegan and Messalonskee have broken that record. Skowhegan has outscored its opponents, 142-1. Messalonskee holds a 121-8 edge on its opponents.

As you might imagine, the league is top-heavy. Skowhegan's only goal allowed was scored by Messalonskee, and the Indians have seven of the eight goals Messalonskee has allowed. Mt. Ararat was the No. 4 seed in Eastern A this year, and entered its playoff game against Skowhegan with an 11-4 record. Skowhegan led 7-0 at the half and went on to an 11-0 win.

The two teams also have two of the top scorers in the country, and those two are putting their own names on the records. Megan Fogarty scored 42 goals on that 2003 Dexter team to set the state mark. Heading into Tuesday's regional final between Messalonskee and Skowhegan, Messalonskee's Kristy Bernatchez has 43 goals, and Skowhegan's Makaela Michonski has 42.

If Skowhegan can win Tuesday, the Indians will have one more game afterward, and Michonski has an outside shot at Fogarty's career record of 109 goals. Michonski currently has 104 career goals.

Of course, that one game afterward would be the state championship, and it could be against Scarborough. The Red Storm has not allowed a goal through 16 games this season. Since the Maine Principals' Association began holding state tournaments, the only team to go through an entire season without allowing a goal was Winslow in 1998. That squad was later inducted into the Maine Field Hockey Hall of Fame as a team.

PLAYERS REACH 100-GOAL MARK
Two Maine girls’ soccer players recently reached 100 goals for their careers. Central's Max McHugh hit the century mark with her fourth goal in a 7-0 win over Lee Academy. Meaghan Cavanaugh of Calais also has 100 goals this season.

McHugh and Cavanaugh are believed to be the 11th and 12th Maine high school girls’ soccer players to score 100 goals.

KENNEBUNK COACH RESIGNS OVER ZUMBA SCANDAL
The Kennebunk Zumba prostitution case is receiving national attention, and when local police recently released the names of 21 "Johns," one of them was 52-year-old Donald F. Hill, the boys’ ice hockey coach at Kennebunk High School the last 14 years.

Alexis Wright, 29, is accused of using her Zumba fitness studio for prostitution. A police affidavit claims Wright has a client list. Lawyers involved in the case have said the list has over 150 names.

New England Roundup: Maine

September, 12, 2012
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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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New England Roundup: Maine

April, 23, 2012
4/23/12
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Mt. Blue boys basketball coach Jim Bessey retired recently after 37 years with the Cougars. Bessey, who also coached at Madison Memorial High School, leaves with 479 wins. This year’s team reached the Eastern Maine Class A championship game where it lost to Hampden 46-44.

MaineBessey, 68, led the Cougars to the Eastern Maine title in 1997. He answered some questions regarding his team and coaching philosophy.

Q: Who were your early influences in the game?

A: "My high school coach, Rod Shain. My whole life has been connected with sports. It was and always has been my niche. I played for a small high school and had the physical ability to excel and the internal desire to win. Coach brought this out in me."

Q: How did you first get into coaching?

A: "I started out as a JV coach at Farmington High School."

Q: When did you start to feel comfortable as a coach and why?

A: "I have always been comfortable as a coach and I knew in the sixth grade that it was I wanted to do. I think my comfort level has always been connected to my ability to relate to my players."

Q: How would you describe your coaching philosophy?

A: "It has always been to get players to work together as a team and to make them understand that everyone on the team can and must make a contribution for the team to be successful. Every player has the ability to make the team better. That little things are important. To convince them that playing and practicing hard are talents."

Q: Where did it come from?

A: "I developed it over time."

Q: Who were your coaching role models?

A: "At the high school level Dick Hunt (Cony), Bob Brown (Cheverus), Tom Maines (Morse, Scarborough). At the college level Dick Whitmore (Colby), Dick Meader (Farmington) , Ed Kohtala (Maine), Steve Clifford (Orlando Magic)."

Q: How has the game changed and how have you adapted to it?

A: "The inability to score the ball-which may be related to more aggressive defense. This demands better ballhandling skills and more time has to be spent on it. More drills."

Q: What do you believe is the key to a successful basketball program?

A: "The key is to get young people to commit to the time it takes to be good."

Q: What will you miss most?

A: "The contact with the players and the coaches and the relationships developed as a result."

Q: How do you hope to be remembered as a coach?

A: "As someone who gave his best and always came prepared. As a coach who made a difference in the big picture of his players, who used sport to teach life lessons."

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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

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.

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: Maine

October, 5, 2011
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Dave Halligan has coached soccer for 33 years, the last 25 at Falmouth High School where he has won nine state championships. This winter he’ll begin his 25th season as head basketball coach with the Yachtsmen, having won four state titles.

MaineDozens of his former players have gone on to succeed in college soccer, including Roger Levesque, who was named Pac-10 Player of the Year at Stanford and currently plays for the Major League Soccer Seattle Sounders.

Halligan recently answered questions about his soccer program for a Q-and-A:

Q: What makes Falmouth soccer so successful?

A: "We have a good program and we have a lot of good people running it, right from Saturday morning soccer to travel teams to guys that work in premier programs."

Q: How involved are you outside the high school team?

A: "When my kids went through I was involved in everything. I started youth, travel, premier and instructional programs. The first year we had 38 kids in the program. Now we have over 600. I think the key is numbers playing. (At the high school) we have 62 boys and 42-plus girls playing."

Q: How did you get into coaching?

A: "I played soccer in college but I went to school to be a basketball coach. I coached JV soccer at Greely for a couple of years then I went
to Cape Elizabeth and worked with Leroy Rand. After that I came to Falmouth. Back then there were no state championships, just a few teams
playing in (the) Triple C (Conference).

Q: How does Maine high school soccer stack up against other states?

A: "We have some excellent programs and players. The state is so spread out, but we have some kids playing pretty well. We have a lot of kids playing at the NESCAC schools. That’s pretty good soccer. Just because you’re from Maine it doesn’t mean you can’t aspire to the highest levels. If they want to play hard and work hard they can accomplish a lot."

Q: What do you do in the offseason?

A: "What’s an offseason? The offseason is the two weekends I spend with my wife."

Q: What’s the biggest difference between coaching soccer and basketball?

A: "Basketball is more like chess where you can adjust every time down the floor. Soccer is more like checkers. Once the game starts there’s not a lot you can do."

Q: How have premier teams changed the game?

A: "I think it’s broken down some of the (high school) rivalries. They’re friendly rivalries now but I think they play harder. They don’t want to
lose to their buddies."

Q: Why do players need high school soccer?

A: "Because of some of the other values we try to teach. The goals in high school are a lot different than in premier. In high school, 90 percent of the players aren’t going to go on. Last year when we didn’t win (the state title) the kids said what they liked most was going to practice."

Q: How is this season playing out?

A: "We lost 2-1 to Yarmouth and beat Cape, 2-1. Cape beat Yarmouth 2-1 so it’s pretty even. We lost a lot of kids from last year’s team. We’re
basically a young team but we have high expectations. We’re probably doing better than we hoped for. .I’ve been real pleased with my kids."

Q: Do you employ a specific style at Falmouth?

A: "Obviously we like to control the ball. We like to play with speed and skill. We don’t want to slug it out with you. We want to be more skilled
if we can. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t."

Q: How long do you anticipate coaching?

A: "As long as I’m having fun, as long as I enjoy practice and enjoy the kids. I still do."

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New England Roundup: Maine

September, 14, 2011
9/14/11
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The first two weeks of the Maine high school football season produced a number of surprises.

MaineHere’s a rundown of some of the highlights in each of the three classes:

Class A
Cheverus keeps rolling along despite the loss of several players from last year’s state championship team. Senior Cam Olson stepped in at quarterback after playing behind Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Peter Gwilym for two years and last week threw three touchdown passes. Spencer Cooke, who scored four TDs in the state game last fall, has emerged as one of the state’s top running backs. The Stags are 2-0 and have outscored opponents 94-21.

Lawrence keeps rolling along in Class A’s Pine Tree Conference. The Bulldogs traveled to Bangor and knocked off the Rams 32-25 last Saturday night to go to 2-0. Shaun Carroll led the way with 224 rushing yards and four touchdowns, Lawrence has won its last 11 regular season games, dating back to a 2009 loss to Bangor. Prior to that, the Bulldogs had won 36 regular season games in a row. They are 8-1 against Bangor since 2005.

Many high school handicappers picked Bonny Eagle and Windham among the teams to beat in North Division of the Southern Maine Activities Association (SMAA), but both teams are winless after two weeks. Windham fell 28-20 to a strong Deering team last week while Bonny Eagle fell, 31-28, to upstart Massabesic. Lewiston, one of the PTC favorites, dropped to 1-1, losing 48-27 to Messalonskee, another team that has emerged as a contender. Along with Massabesic, Sanford is the surprise of the SMAA South. Last week, the Redskins knocked off a good Scarborough team 23-12 for one of its biggest wins in years.

Class B
This class is the most competitive in the state at least at the top where four teams in each of the two divisions are unbeaten. Included in those ranks are the two teams who met in the state final last fall, Mountain Valley and Leavitt. Mountain Valley has outscored opponents 81-23 so far while Leavitt, led by quarterback and linebacker Jordan Hersom, holds an 83-12 advantage over opponents.

Mt. Blue may be the most dangerous contender in the class. The Cougars dropped down from several years in Class A this season and in two games have outscored the opposition 87-6. Falmouth, Wells and Fryeburg are also 2-0 as are Waterville and Gardiner. The latter two teams meet Friday night in Gardiner. Waterville must find a way to stop running back Alonzo Connor who is looking to eclipse his total of 31 touchdowns form last year. In two games so far, Connor has scored 10 touchdowns.

Falmouth, which has outscored opponents 98-7 plays this week against Marshwood.

Class C
Foxcroft Academy and Yarmouth are the talk of Class C so far. They play in different divisions and don’t meet in the regular season, but could well square off for a state championship in November. Yarmouth is the defending state champ and so far the Clippers have scored 92 points and allowed seven. Foxcroft has been equally impressive outscoring opponents 108-8. There are contenders in each division. Bucksport, Orono and John Bapst are all 2-0 in the Little Ten Conference headed by Foxcroft while Freeport and Lisbon are unbeaten the Campbell Conference South along with Yarmouth.

Maranacook and Winslow are 2-0 in the Campbell’s North division and play this week in Winslow. The Black Raiders dropped down to Class C this season and are cruising so far, but they’ll face a big test in Maranacook and 6-foot-4, 210-pound running back Luke Emery.

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New England Roundup: Maine

August, 31, 2011
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Although the Maine Principals’ Association voted down adding a fourth class to Maine high school football earlier this year, there are still
plenty of changes awaiting teams and their fans this season.

MaineThe classification committee of the MPA decided not to include a fourth class, perhaps waiting for a few more schools to adopt the sport to push the number to 80. There are currently 76 football playing schools in the state, with some schools combining teams this year and others playing for the first time.

Class A saw the fewest changes with four schools — Brewer, Mt. Blue, Marshwood and Westbrook — dropping to Class B. Marshwood is the only Maine high school to have won a state football championship in each of four classes, including the now-defunct Class D. Marshwood and Westbrook will play in Western Maine Class B where they’ll be joined by Spruce Mountain, a new school combining former Class C rivals Jay and Livermore Falls.

Brewer and Mt. Blue will play in Eastern Maine Class B that now includes Oceanside, a new school combining Rockland and Georges Valley. Rockland previously played in Class C while Georges Valley did not have football. Also joining Class B East this season are Old Town and Madison/Carrabec, both of whom played in Class C last season.

Eastern Maine Class C is adding two new programs in Hermon and Washington Academy while Telstar is also playing varsity football after
fielding a club team the past few seasons and will compete in Western C. The West also includes two teams that have dropped from the B ranks in Winslow and Poland.

Here’s a look at some of the top teams in each class who get under way Friday night:

CLASS A EAST
Lewiston: The Blue Devils return eight starters on offense and defense from a team that lost 28-25 to Bangor in the conference final. Quarterback Chris Madden highlights a returning backfield that includes tailbacks Jeff Turcotte and Matt Therrien. Rudy Pandora, a 6-foot-5 two way tackle, returns to the line.

Lawrence: The last East team to win a state title (2006), the Bulldogs have been upset in the playoffs the past two seasons after going
unbeaten in the regular season. Junior Spencer Carey returns at quarterback while senior Shaun Carroll and junior Anthony Sementelli are
the top returning rushers. The defensive line is new but the secondary is experienced.

Brunswick: The Dragons upset Lawrence in the playoffs and nearly knocked off Bangor. They return one of the top backs in the conference in senior Dylan Walton who was injured midway through last season. Also returning to the backfield is Keith Kitchens.

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New England Roundup: Maine

June, 17, 2011
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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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New England Roundup: Maine

May, 6, 2011
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After flirting with playing baseball and football at a couple of Division I colleges, Cony High School’s Luke Duncklee has decided to play both sports at Division III Colby College in Waterville.

MaineDuncklee was recruited by the University of Maine and guaranteed a roster spot on its baseball team but held off on making a decision. He later applied to the United States Military Academy at West Point where he drew the interest of football coaches after supplying a highlight tape. But he failed to pass a physical after a faint heart murmur was discovered.

“I weighed all my options,” Duncklee said. “I had to decide what was best for me, not only athletically but academically.”

One of his options was Colby, which expressed a desire for Duncklee to attend as long as two years ago.

Duncklee has starred in both sports at Cony in Augusta throughout his high school career. He also played hockey for three years at the Capital City school. As a sophomore he helped the Rams to the Class A baseball state championship where hit a home run in Cony’s 2-1 loss to Deering. A center fielder, he was later selected to the Maine Sunday Telegram all-state first team.

“I definitely recruited Luke for a couple of years,” Colby baseball coach Dale Plummer said. “I’ve seen him play a lot of games in the last few years. Obviously, he’s one of the best players we can get here.”

Duncklee became more interested in football after he was shifted to quarterback his junior year. Prior to that he played receiver and defensive back. Once he moved the quarterback, the Rams employed his ability to both throw and run. Over his final two seasons, Duncklee accounted for 50 touchdowns running and passing and nearly 5,000 yards.

His senior year, he passed for 1,440 yards and rushed for 1,147, combining for 26 touchdowns.

“Basically if I wasn’t passing I was running and if I wasn’t running I was passing,” the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Duncklee said. “We had a pretty wide open playbook.”

With Colby’s Nick Kmetz returning for his senior year at quarterback next fall, Duncklee will likely be a backup. He will probably gets some looks as a slot receiver or defensive back.

“I actually like it a lot,” Duncklee said of defense. “I started by sophomore year and I loved it, but it was kind of tough playing both ways.”

Duncklee played some defense last season. In fact, in a playoff game against Mt. Blue, he played offense and defense the entire game, punted and returned kicks.

He thought about playing either football or baseball at West Point. He visited the campus and watched a football game and later sent a highlight tape to the coaching staff.

“I met with the coaches when I visited there,” he said. “I was going to play. I would have been on the team.”

Duncklee may reapply to West Point and ask for a waiver. He’s known about his heart murmur for five years and said it’s never affected him.

For now, though, he’s committed to Colby and playing two sports. It’s not unprecedented. Three members of this year’s baseball team also played football.

“These guys just have a routine,” Plummer said. “You go to class, you go to practice, you study. It’s takes discipline.”

Despite its central Maine location, very few kids from the state go to Colby where admission standards are very high or play on its athletic teams.

“We’re excited about it,” Plummer said of Duncklee’s arrival. “I think Maine kids are gritty kids.”

MPA returns to two thirds rule
More high school teams will make the postseason next fall after membership of the Maine Principals’ Association voted to allow two thirds of the teams governed by sports under the Heal point scoring system to qualify for tournaments. For the past two years, 50 percent of teams qualified for postseason play.

MPA members voted for two thirds measure by about a 2-1 margin at the organization’s annual spring conference. A survey recently conducted by the MPA of member schools revealed that about two thirds of those schools favored returning to two thirds standard, The MPA also voted to retain a rule that limits non-countable or exhibition dates to five for a season along with one non-countable date between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the postseason.

Top pitching performances
  • Lincoln Academy’s Brandon Reilly struck out 21 batters to lead the unbeaten Eagles to a 4-3 win against Oak Hill in nine innings. Reilly allowed two hits and walked four.
  • Max Andrews of John Bapst fanned 11 and walked two as the Crusaders downed Old Town 13-1 in a game called after five innings because of the 10-run mercy rule. Andrews also hit a pair of home runs and drove in five.
  • South Portland’s Andrew Richards fanned seven and didn’t walk a batters as the Red Riots downed Portland 7-0. Richards allowed just two hits and at one point retired 23 consecutive batters.
  • Waterville senior Tim Locke pitched a perfect game in a 19-0 win over Mt. View called after five innings due to the mercy rule. Locke struck out 10 for the defending Class B state champions.
Sibling batteries
Two of the top pitching and catching combinatons in the state are comprised of brothers. At Westbrook, senior left-hander Scott Heath and freshman Kyle Heath form a strong battery. Scott, who helped Westbrook to the Little League World Series six years ago, will pitch at the University of Maine next season.

At Lewiston, senior catcher McKae Hyde and his sophomore brother and catcher Corbin are another potent combination. McKae will play at Bates College next season. The teams could meet in the Class A state championship game. Westbrook is 4-0 in Western Maine while Lewiston in 5-1 in the East.

Hermon High gets donation
A $100,000 donation by UFC president Dana White to his alma mater will mean significant upgrades to the athletic complex at Hermon High School.

A multiports scoreboard/message center has already been purchased and will be located in one corner of Pottle Field. Additional seating for the football field is also been purchased and will increase the seating capacity from 550 to 800. Hermon is scheduled to field a varsity football team this fall for the first time.

White, 41, graduated form Hermon in 1987. He lives in Las Vegas where he serves as president and CEO of Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Baseball Top 10
  1. Westbrook
  2. Bangor
  3. Deering
  4. South Portland
  5. Biddeford
  6. Lewiston
  7. Waterville
  8. Cape Elizabeth
  9. Lincoln
  10. Erskine
Softball Top 10
  1. South Portland
  2. Scarborough
  3. Brewer
  4. Cony
  5. Biddeford
  6. Fryeburg
  7. Messalonskee
  8. Thornton
  9. Oak Hill
  10. Hermon

New England Roundup: Maine

February, 24, 2011
2/24/11
2:26
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It’s tournament basketball week in Maine and there’s no more exciting time in high school sports. Schools in four classes are playing for regional titles at the Bangor Auditorium, the Augusta Civic Center, the Portland Expo and the Cumberland County Civic Center. State championships will be contested next week.

Here are some of the highlights so far:

Boys Class A
MaineIn Western Maine games, top seeded and unbeaten Cheverus struggled before getting past No. 8 Marshwood 52-40. Louis DiStasio led the Stags with 16 points. Second-seeded Bonny Eagle won its quarterfinal against Westbrook but No. 5 Portland upset No. 4 South Portland behind 19 points from Mike Herrick and No. 6 Deering knocked off No. 3 Thornton, 41-33. The seedings held in the quarterfinal round in Class A East with No. 1 Bangor, No. 2 Hampden, No. 3 Edward Little and No. 4 Mt. Blue all winning.

Kennebec Valley Athletic conference southern division player of the year Bo Leary led Edward Little past Mt. Ararat with 28 points and 13 rebounds. Northern KVAC player of the year Graham Safford led Hampden past Lewiston with 22 points. The semifinal matchup between Bangor and Mt. Blue featured a pair of coaches with over 1,000 combined career wins. Bangor’s Roger Reed has 554 while Mt. Blue’s Jim Bessey has 463.

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New England Roundup: Maine

November, 4, 2010
11/04/10
1:11
PM ET
One upset and another near-upset marked the opening round of the Class A football playoffs last week.

MaineIn the Southern Maine Activities Association (SMAA) quarterfinals, top-seeded Cheverus needed to rally for a pair of second-half touchdowns to defeat defending state champion Windham 34-27. The Stags trailed 27-14 before putting three touchdowns on the board, the first a 21 yard pass from Peter Gwilym to Louie DiStasio.

Evan Jendrasko evened the score with a 1-yard run and Gwilym completed the comeback with a scoring pass to Jack Bushey. Gwilym completed a 11 of 18 passes for 176 yards and four touchdowns.

In other SMAA quarterfinal games, fifth-seeded Scarborough knocked off No. 4 Biddeford 48-14 and third-seeded Deering downed No. 5 Thornton Academy 56-18.

In the Pine Tree Conference quarterfinals, No. 8 Brunswick upset No. 1 Lawrence for the second year in a row, beating the Bulldogs 14-13 on their home field. The visiting Dragons trailed 13-0 before rallying for a pair of scores, the second a 34-yard option pass from Keith Kitchens to Donald Benbow.

In other PTC games, second-seeded Bangor shut out No. 7 Edward Little 16-0, fourth-seeded Lewiston topped No. 5 Messalonskee 42-13 and No. 3 Mt. Blue edged No. 6 Cony 20-12. Cony quarterback Luke Duncklee rushed for two touchdowns, giving him 18 for the season. The senior rushed for 1,201 yards this season and also passed for 1,512 yards and eight touchdowns. Over the past two seasons, Duncklee has accounted for 50 touchdowns, rushing and passing, and 4,805 total yards.

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