Boston High School: Lewiston

Maine statewide football preview

September, 4, 2013
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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

December, 28, 2012
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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

May, 13, 2012
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It didn’t take Luke Fernandes long to get on the baseball radar screen, a result you could say of the radar gun.

MainePlaying in a Perfect Game tournament in New Jersey for pro and college scouts, Fernandes clocked 93 on the radar gun, a pretty big deal when you consider he had yet to begin his sophomore year at Marshwood High School. Later that summer, playing at the Lynn Invitational in Lynn, Mass., Fernandes and his fastball caught the eye of a Boston College coach who happened to be at the tournament.

Two days later he visited the campus and talked to head coach Mike Gambino. He had yet to play his sophomore year yet was offered a 3-for-4 scholarship and made a verbal commitment to play for the Eagles. Now a senior at Marshwood, Fernandes expects to report to Chestnut Hill this fall, unless he receives a call from a Major League team looking to take him fairly high in the draft. He’s already filled out surveys for 10 professional teams.

“That will be a decision he has to make,” said Eric Fernandes, Luke’s father and high school coach. “We really believe in Coach Gambino at BC.”

Fernandes, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound, right-hander, experienced arm trouble last year and didn’t pitch because of weakness in his shoulder.

He came back through rehabilitation but then developed some elbow soreness. His dad had him on a 70 pitch count when he faced defending Class A state champion Cheverus a couple of weeks ago, but after a shaky start he settled down and pitched into the seventh inning, finishing with 101 pitches.

Marshwood and Fernandes won the game 6-3 after he fell behind 3-0 early but settled down and pitched hitless ball through the middle innings.

“The first inning I just had the wrong approach,” he said. “I wasn’t spotting fastballs and I wasn’t changing speeds effectively.”

Eric Fernandes said Luke’s best pitch is his slider.

“It can be devastating on a right-hander as well as burying on a lefty’s hands,” Eric Fernandes said.

Fernandes throws a two-seam fastball to create movement on his pitches. He worked with former Red Sox reliever Bob Stanley in a Stratham, N.H. for a few years to develop his repertoire.

“Luke and he gravitated toward each other,” Eric said. “Bob really got him command of that two-seamer.”

Luke plays shortstop, or sometimes first base to save his arm, and is capable of playing college ball as a position player as well as a pitcher. Boston College has agreed to take a look at him in the field as well as on the mound.

“There’s something to be said for going out and playing every day,” said Luke, who admitted he’s a pitcher at heart.

“(It’s) the one-on-one stuff with the hitter and having better stuff than he does,” he said.

Fernandes has also developed a changeup which remains a work in progress.

“The only three well-hit balls off him have been on changeups,” Eric said. “He left it up.”

The Hawks are 7-2 and in first place in the Class A West standings. In addition to Fernandes, they also pitch Jake Verrill, who is headed to West Point next fall to play football and possibly baseball. Troy Pappas, who is headed to Bates College, also pitches while catcher Matthew Bernier made the Under Armor tea that is headed to Florida.

Fernandes hasn’t accepted any offers to visit schools since committing to Boston College. He likes the idea of “just knowing I had a place to go.”

A four-year player on the basketball team, baseball is his first love and his been since he was young kid.

“Baseball for me has been kind of where I can go and leave everything else (behind),” he said. “Winning games and competing.”

A, SORT OF, LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
With an enrollment of just 110 students it’s sometimes difficult for Van Buren High School to fill out spring baseball and softball rosters.

The baseball team played with the minimum nine players in 2005 and 2006 and reached the Eastern Maine Class D final in 2006. They Crusaders didn’t have enough to field a team in 2009. This spring, the seasons of the baseball and softball teams were again in jeopardy.

The softball team, it turned out, didn’t have enough players for a varsity team, while the baseball team had just 11 players.

Boys aren’t allowed to play softball under Maine Prinicpals’ Association rules, but girls can play baseball. And three softball team members — senior Naomi Maldonado, sophomore Kayla Durette and freshman Amanda Sytulek — decided to join the baseball team. Maldonado, in fact, doubled and singled in the team’s opening day 13-3 loss to Wisdom.

“I wanted to play, I was pretty disappointed when they said there wasn’t going to be a softball team,” Maldonado told the Bangor Daily News. “I thought it was a good opportunity. I didn’t have to think long about doing it at all.”

The girls were accepted withouth protest by the boys on the team who prefer a full roster to none at all.

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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.

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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
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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."

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: Maine

January, 12, 2012
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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

January, 2, 2012
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Three players who have won state championships were recently selected as finalists for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, awarded annually to the top high school football player in the state.

MaineSpencer Cooke of Cheverus, Louis DiTomasso of Wells and Jordan Hersom of Leavitt were the leading vote-getters among the 12 semifinalists who were nominated last month. The winners will be awarded the trophy Jan. 15 at a banquet at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland.

Cooke is the second straight Cheverus player to be a finalist. Last year, quarterback Peter Gwilym won the Fitzpatrick Trophy after leading
the Stags to their first Class A state championship in 25 years. Cooke played a big part in the state final, scoring four touchdowns.

A running back/defensive back, Cooke rushed for 1,117 yards and scored 19 touchdowns this year. In the eighth game of the regular season
against Deering he broke a bone in his lower leg that kept him from the regional playoffs.

He made a brief appearance in this year’s state title game, which the Stags won going away, 49-7.

DiTomasso, a fullback/linebacker, led Wells to the Class B state championship in which the Warriors stopped Leavitt and Hersom, 21-13. He rushed for 116 yards in that game, finishing with 1,350 yards and 19 touchdowns for the season. He also recorded 133 tackles on defense.

Hersom was a four-year starter for the Hornets, moving to quarterback his junior year. He started both ways when the Hornets won the Class B state title his sophomore year and led them to state title appearances the last two seasons. Over that span, he’s 22-2. The quarterback/safety rushed for 10 touchdowns and competed 72 percent of his passes for an additional 16 touchdowns. Also had 56 tackles and two interceptions. Hersom’s cousin Jack Hersom won the Fitzpatrick Trophy as a quarterback for Lawrence High School in 2007.

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New England Roundup: Maine

October, 26, 2011
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Madison Memorial High School senior Seth Sweet has established himself as the top high school golfer in the state.

MaineSweet recently won his second straight Class C state individudal title, shooting a 2-under par 70, the lowest in any class. Last summer he was one of two Maine golfers to qualify for the U.S. Junior Amateur. He also finished fourth in the Maine Amateur last year and, when he was 12, he was the youngest qualifier ever for that tournament. He recently answered questions about himself and the game he loves.

Q: How did you get started in golf?

A: "My dad introduced me into the game when I was 2 years old. He brought me out to a little par three course with a plastic set of Little Tikes golf clubs. I didn’t play that often but he brought me to the golf course just enough so I could really get a liking for this game. After a while I knew there was something about this game that was special and I knew it would be able to take me places."

Q: When did you first get hooked on the game?

SWEET
SWEET
A: "I first became serious around the age of 10. I played my first tournament when I was 7 but did not realize what it took to really become an elite golfer. I started playing several tournaments when I turned 10, and began to practice a lot harder. I tried to take my game to the next level and set different levels of goals that I needed to achieve."

Q: Who have been your greatest influences in the game?

A: "My dad has definitely been the biggest influence in my game. He taught me everything I needed to know to become who I am today. He made it so I could play in every tournament I wanted to play in, and would do everything for me. My mother has also been there supporting me and always telling me that if I want it I can get it. She is always there to watch me play tournaments, and I couldn’t do it without them. My brother Zack also has been there to push me as he is a good golfer and always taught me how to act, as well as made me the best I could ever be. My swing coach has also been able to bring me to the tip top in my game and has taught me how to play this game like the pros.

Q: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment to date?

A: "I believe my greatest accomplishment has been making the U.S. Junior Amateur in Bremerton, Washington where I played two great days to make a playoff to make the cut for match play. Unfortunately, I missed the playoff, but was the proudest to place 55th best junior in the nation. I may not have met my goal, but was very pleased with how I played."

Q: How often do you play and practice?

A: "I play every day and practice every day. In order to be the best you have to have the club in your hand acting like it is your lifeline."

Q: What do you work on?

A: "Lately I work on the short game because I am able to hit the ball on the green, but where I am going to save strokes is making the putts for birdies. I will also work on hitting the ball in different shapes, I usually hit a draw but I understand that I need to be able to hit the cut to be one of the best as well. I believe that short game is where the pros make it look easy and win the tournaments."

Q: Where will you attend school next year?

A: "I have recently just verbally committed to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia."

Q: How did this come about?

A: "I had a friend from Rhode Island who is a freshman there and had told the coach about me. He must have put in a good word for me because the next week I got a call from the coach and it eventually led to an official visit offer. I visited the campus and fell in love with it and
fell in love with the golf facilities this school has to offer."

Q: What are your short and long-term goals in the game?

A: "My short term goal for golf is to really become a better player and win my state amateur, and qualify for the U.S. Junior Amateur again. My long term goals are to become a golf professional and play on the PGA tour, I do realize this will be a tough task but I am ready to make a run for it. I also want to be in a scoring spot all four years in college and be a key asset in our successful team.

Q: What are your strengths and weaknesses?

A: "My strengths are definitely being able to drive the ball, chip the ball and putt the ball. I hit the ball about 290 yards down the middle and my short game has grown incredibly and improved greatly. I also am able to keep a great state of mind while playing golf which is to my advantage. I believe my weakness is paying too much attention to other people, I shouldn’t watch my competitors, but I do and get caught up in their game a little too much."

Q: Who is your favorite pro golfer and why?

A: "My favorite player used to be Tiger Woods because I idolized his work ethic, he won his tournaments by out-working his competitors and there was no question that he did every week. I also loved watching how he worked on the golf course he made himself expect the best of the competitors so he would not be surprised when they hit a good shot. My new favorite player is Bubba Watson, I enjoy how he hits the ball so long and is changing the game with his stride in great length. I also like how he has fun while he is playing and is very personable while he is playing. It is truly an awesome thing for him to be able to enjoy the game the way he does."

Q: What other activities or sports do you enjoy?

A: "I enjoy playing basketball with a passion; it is a very fun game for me and keeps me in shape during my long winter up in Maine. I enjoy running, and weight lifting as it keeps me in shape and I enjoy doing that every day."

Q: What are your plans for the summer before college?

A: "I plan on playing in 5-10 golf tournaments and practice my short game and the little details golf demands you to do. I am going to play in the big tournaments in the state and going to qualify for some USGA events. I just want to keep my competitive edge and make my game in fine tune for the fall college season."

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New England Roundup: Maine

October, 11, 2011
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Paula Doughty is in her 31st year as field hockey coach at Skowhegan Area High School. She’s posted a career record of 414 wins, 80 losses and 17 ties and her teams have captured 12 Class A state championships, including last year’s. Prior to losing in the state final in 2009, the Indians had reeled off eight state titles in a row.

MaineDoughty was named National Field Hockey High School Coach of the Year in 2004 and 2008 and more than 80 of her players have gone on to play in college. One of her players has been a first-team national All-American while two have made second team All-American and 22 have been regional All Americans.

Q: How did you get into coaching?

A: "I was in college from ‘70-74 and I officiated. I graduated from the University of Maine at Farmington and student taught in Skowhegan. In August they called me and said there was a job opening and they also needed a field hockey coach. I played in high school and I officiated so I had quite a lot of experience and I knew the game."

Q: What attracts you to the sport?

A: "It’s evolved into a really fast, fabulous sport. It’s just become better and better. First we lost the offsides, advancing became incidental and the obstruction rule is lenient today. In field hockey it takes years to develop the stickwork to be able to play. I also like it, and this sounds sexist, because it’s a women’s sport in the United States."

Q: When did Skowhegan turn the corner?

A: "Probably in the late ‘80’s. We were really good in the ‘70s, then soccer came in. I was really hurting for athletes. All the athletes went to soccer but then it balanced out."

Q: How has the program stayed so strong?

A: "I work very hard. I have three of our four coaches who have worked with me forever. I would say a shared coaching philosophy and consistency. We do the same thing K through 12 and I work with everybody K to 12."

Q: How big is the youth program?

A: "It’s growing, but it’s growing statewide, it’s not just us. Today we had a tournament for fourth, fifth and sixth graders and there were 12 teams here and every town brought 30 kids. One thing about field hockey in Maine, there’s a lot of opportunities and we can compete. It’s hard for Maine kids to compete in a lot of things but in field hockey we’re doing really well. A lot of kids feel entitled but Maine kids aren’t like that. They work really hard."

Q: How many of your players have played in college?

A: "We’ve had about 80 kids play in college. My first player was Kim Jewell Bodwell in ‘78 and she played at the University of Maine. Our first Division I player was Wendy Obert in 1989 and she played at Northeastern. Right now, we have nine (playing in college) and we have three seniors who are going D-1 next year."

Q: How has the game changed?

A: "It’s changed in every way. It’s faster, it’s more skilled. The amount of penalties are nothing what they used to be. You’ve got to be very, very skilled. It’s fun to watch. Today the game is a turf game. We play on turf as much as we can. It’s no longer a grass game. We practice in the gym a lot. Our field is as close to turf as you can get, but it’s still grass."

Q: How is this year’s team?

A: "It’s a great team. The last 14 years have been great teams. The kids I have now are much more versatile. Even five or 10 years ago, they were one-dimensional ... Most of my kids I can put in any position. Messalonskee is very good. They’re going to be our biggest competition in the state. It’s too bad we’re both in Eastern Maine. But in sports you can’t take anybody for granted."

Q: How long do you want to coach?

A: "I’ll coach as long as I think I can. I’ll retire from teaching in a while but I’ll keep coaching. I’m smart enough to know if I’m not as good as I was."

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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
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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

June, 2, 2011
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Waterville High School track and field coach Ian Wilson deflects credit when it comes to the championships his teams have enjoyed during both the indoor and outdoor seasons. But he’s been the driving force behind the Purple Panthers’ success since taking over in the late 1990s.

MaineThe Waterville girls are a solid favorite at this weekend’s Class B state championships at Cony High School in Augusta. A win would give the team its fourth straight state championship. Under Wilson, the Waterville girls won a state Class A championship in 2002 as well as indoor titles 2000-02 and 2011.

[+] EnlargeIan Wilson
Gary HawkinsWaterville High School track and field coach Ian Wilson.
“The girls look to be in a strong position,” Wilson said. “The guys have a good chance [although] I would say Falmouth in probably the favorite.”

Wilson has built the program through hard work and enthusiasm for his sport. Since he began, Waterville’s enrollment has dropped from 850 students to about 600 and the team dropped to Class B in 2006 in outdoor track after petitioning up to Class A for several years.

“We were so far below the cutoff [for Class A],” Wilson explained.

The number of participants remains high, however, particularly at the junior high level where there are between 70 and 90 kids out for track.

“I really try to beat the bushes and try to encourage kids to give it a shot,” Wilson said. “Once they see the benefits, they’ll stick it out. If they start to experience success, you get them back for another year.”

Wilson said he had no master plan when he started, but he did build gradually, first focusing on winning regular season meets, followed by conference championships.

“Then you can focus on state championships,” he said.

These days, state championships are the goal, although the Panthers haven’t lost a regular season meet in some time. Wilson has no problem resting his athletes for the big meets, however.

“Once kids have faith in the program, you can rest,” he said.

Once Wilson gets the athletes, he and his staff knows how to train and motivate them. In a place deep inside the school known as “The Cage,” Wilson often has his athletes lay on a cement floor and pretend they’re at the beach while visualizing their events and their performance.

Skepticism soon turned into enthusiasm once they saw the results.

“Track is a sport you don’t have to work at from age 5,” Wilson said. “It’s a combination of personality and physical skills.”

Certain personality traits favor particular events Wilson said.

“If you want to find distance runners go into the AP classes and get the skinny kid,” he said. (They) tend to be cerebral kids.”

Wilson, who also coached the girls soccer team to State Class A title in 2009, borrows kids from other sports for his track team. All of the throwers on the boys team come from the football team, he said, while sprinters and hurdlers often have soccer and basketball backgrounds.

Wilson and one of his assistants work with the sprints, jumps and throws while another works with distance runners and another with throwers.

“That really seems to work well,” he said. “Sometimes too many cooks spoil the stew.”

Although all events are covered evenly, Waterville has always produced excellent results in the hurdles, an event where improved technique can earn valuable tenths and hundredths of seconds. Wilson is continually trying to improve himself as a coach, too, attending clinics and seminars each summer

“The best thing I ever did was get involved in the USATF coaching courses,” he said. “I began going and realized I knew very little. Those people are incredible. They’ll share anything with you.”

Waterville success in track and field hasn’t precluded championships in other sports. The baseball team won a state title last spring and is favored to repeat this year and the girls basketball team won three state titles while the indoor track teams continued to thrive.

BASEBALL WRAPUP
The regular season ended this week with conference titles scheduled for the weekend and tournament play to begin next week.

In Class A, Cheverus is the top-seeded team in the West, thanks to Tuesday’s 6-2 win against Westbrook. Both teams are 14-2. In the East, Lewiston, at 15-1, is seeded No. 1. Foxcroft Academy (15-0), which competes in Class C East, was the only baseball team inthe state to finish the regualr seaosn unbeaten.

Top 10
1. Cheverus
2. Westbrook
3. Lewiston
4. Deering
5. Bangor
6. Scarborough
7. Waterville
8. Cape Elizabeth
9. Greely
10. St. Dominic

BATTLE OF THE UNBEATENS
Four teams finished the regular season unbeaten including defending Class A champion South Portland and defending Class D champ Richmond. Georges Valley, in Class C West, and Fryeburg, in Class B, also went undefeated.

Top 10
1. South Portland
2. Scarborough
3. Fryeburg
4. Brewer
5. Messalonskee
6. Thornton
7. Cony
8. McAuley
9. Medomak
10. Yarmouth

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