By Michael Hoffer
Another year is over, but it won’t soon be forgotten.
Not if you’re a fan of local high school sports.
The one thread that held us together from winter to spring, spring into summer, summer through fall, and now back to winter again, was the transcendent play of local athletes and teams.
Games were won in scintillating fashion, titles were secured, and thrills were produced.
Before we embark on a new year of excitement, let’s turn the clock back one final time to the wonder and magic that was 2008.
Winter sports were just heating up.
On the hardwood, Cheverus, Deering, Portland and Waynflete’s boys’ teams were all playing well and were playoff bound.
On the girls’ side, Deering was hinting at championship glory to come, Cheverus was putting its most competitive team on the court to date, McAuley was solid as always and Portland was vastly improved. In Western C, Waynflete was rolling along as Margaret Veroneau broke the 1,000 point mark for her career.
On the ice, Cheverus, Deering and Portland were all jockeying for playoff positioning.
Waynflete’s Nordic ski teams were gearing up to again steal the thunder on the slopes.
In other news, area track, swimming and wrestling teams were providing their share of highlights.
February vacation week brought non-stop action to the local sports scene. Area athletes impressed at the wrestling, track, skiing and swimming state meets.
Waynflete swept the Class C Nordic ski titles. McAuley won a surprise Class B swim championship. Cheverus’ boys’ swim team tied for second at states. Deering’s always-strong wrestling team was third at regionals and fifth at states.
Attention then turned to the basketball tournaments.
The Cheverus boys turned their season around at the ideal time and navigated a tough region to win their first Western A title this century. Portland fell to the Stags in the semifinals, while Deering was knocked out in the quarterfinals. Waynflete lost in the Western C preliminary round.
On the girls’ side, Deering, led by junior Diana Manduca, took care of business in emphatic fashion to win a regional crown. Cheverus and McAuley were eliminated in the preliminary round. Portland just missed qualifying. In Western C, Waynflete crushed perennial power Dirigo in the preliminary round, then held off Mt. Abram in the quarterfinals before dropping a close decision to Monmouth in the semifinals.
In hockey, Portland beat Deering in a preliminary round game before losing to eventual state champion Biddeford in the quarterfinals. Cheverus fell just short of the playoffs.
On the girls’ side, the Stags shocked St. Dom’s with a shootout victory to reach the state final for the first time.
The basketball and hockey seasons ended amid great fanfare.
On the 3rd, Deering won its second girls’ basketball crown with a decisive 55-43 victory over Oxford Hills. The following day, Cheverus upset heavily favored Bangor 49-41 to win the boys’ title. The Stags enjoyed a huge second-half surge paced by junior Mick DiStasio.
On the 5th, Cheverus’ girls’ hockey team battled Biddeford in the Tier I championship game, but fell a goal short, losing 2-1.
SUBHEAD-April and May
The best news of the spring sports season was that the weather was more cooperative than usual.
On the diamond, Deering’s baseball team again displayed championship form as it finished the regular season undefeated. Portland also qualified for the playoffs.
In softball, Cheverus, Deering and Portland all enjoyed solid regular seasons and made the postseason.
Lacrosse once again produced some great stories. The boys played a tiered schedule which produced no shortage of memorable games. All four local teams earned playoff berths. On the girls’ side, Waynflete was its usual dominant self, losing just once. Portland was vastly improved and made the postseason, along with Cheverus and Deering.
Local track stars prepared to make a run (leap and throw) at state championships.
Local tennis teams were among the best and looked to make noise in the playoffs.
June featured plenty of drama and glory.
On the 7th, at the state track meets, Cheverus’ boys’ 4×800 relay team came in first. Several other individuals also sparkled.
The Cheverus boys’ tennis team stole headlines by rising from the No. 5 seed to win a regional championship. The Stags’ run ended with a state match loss to Lewiston on the 14th. Waynflete took it one step further and won the Class C championship.
On the girls’ side, Deering fell in the regional final. Portland and Waynflete reached the semifinals.
In baseball, Deering did it again. The Rams downed Biddeford and Westbrook to win the SMAA title, then dispatched South Portland, Biddeford and Westbrook to take the regional championship. On the 21st, Deering and Brewer squared off in one of the most memorable state games ever contested. Twice, the Rams were down to their final out and twice Deering rallied, pushing across two runs in the seventh to tie the game 5-5, then scoring three times in the ninth to win 8-7.
In softball, the long and illustrious coaching career of Deering’s Tige Curran ended with a semifinal round loss to Biddeford. Cheverus and Portland also enjoyed trips to the playoffs.
In lacrosse, the biggest story was once again Waynflete. The Flyers snapped a two-year title drought by drubbing Cape Elizabeth and Greely to win the regional crown, then rallied from a halftime deficit to down Courtney Dumont and North Yarmouth Academy 12-8 in the state final. Junior Ellie Cole had four goals to lead the way.
On the boys’ side, Cheverus beat Portland in overtime in an epic quarterfinal, then was upset by Kennebunk in the semifinals.
SUBHEAD-July and August
High schoolers took a backseat, but there were plenty of diversions for local sports fans. Little Leaguers strutted their stuff as players from the city excelled. American Legion ball was in full swing and the Deering High- based Nova Seafoods team won the state championship. Its run ended in the New England regional. Many local runners made their mark in the Beach to Beacon in early August. Soon after, high school athletes reported to fall practice and it was time to do it all over again.
Fall brought football, soccer, field hockey, cross country and golf to the forefront again.
On the gridiron, Deering, behind standout senior running back Jack Heary, got off to a dominant start. Cheverus soon proved to be a playoff contender and Portland was competitive.
On the pitch, the Portland boys got off to a stellar start. Cheverus and Waynflete also enjoyed success. The Waynflete girls embarked on a championship season, while Cheverus and Portland were also solid.
Cheverus stepped it up a notch yet again in field hockey, while Deering was also strong.
Cross country runners and golfers also showed promise.
One of the biggest, and certainly one of the most pleasantly surprising stories of the season culminated on the 11th when Deering won a stunning Class A golf title. The Rams had virtually no returning experience when the season began, yet somehow wound up atop the heap.
In cross country, Waynflete’s girls won another Western C championship and the Cheverus boys edged Scarborough for the Western A crown in stirring fashion.
The soccer playoffs brought plenty of excitement. In boys’ action, Portland’s dream season ended with a quarterfinal round loss. Cheverus was ousted in the preliminary round. That left a Waynflete team which had to win its final regular season game just to qualify. The Flyers did so, then embarked on an epic playoff run, rising from the No. 11 seed to regional champion.
In girls’ action, Waynflete entered the playoffs as the favorite in Western C and promptly won its first game. Cheverus was knocked out in the quarterfinals, while Portland made it to the semis before losing.
In field hockey, Deering lost in agonizing fashion in the quarterfinal round. Cheverus overcame a late-season slump and won a preliminary round game at Windham before stunning undefeated top seed Sanford in the quarterfinals. The Stags’ title dreams were finally dashed by Westbrook in overtime in the semifinals.
On the gridiron, Portland fell short of the playoffs, but Cheverus earned a postseason date with a 5-3 mark. The Stags were ousted at Bonny Eagle in the quarterfinals Halloween Night. Deering, which rallied for a stunning 29-28 win at Bonny Eagle on the 10th, finished 8-0 and earned the top seed for Western A.
The fun continued with a new month.
On the 1st, Waynflete’s girls repeated as Class C cross country champions and senior Adele Espy finished first as an individual.
On the 5th, both Waynflete soccer teams culminated their regional playoff runs by winning crowns. The boys won at Mt. Abram, while the girls finally vanquished nemesis (and five-time state champion) NYA. Three days later, the girls won their first Class C championship with a 4-1 victory over Orono, but the boys couldn’t deliver the fairy tale ending, losing 2-1 to Washington Academy.
Also on the 8th, Deering met Bonny Eagle again in a football semifinal. The Rams fell behind 20-0 and tried desperately to rally before losing 26-14. The football season wrapped up for good on Thanksgiving Day, when Deering beat Portland for the seventh year in a row.
Winter is back (big-time) and we’re doing it all over again. Many of the storylines are similar.
In boys’ basketball, Cheverus has yet to lose. Portland fell in its opener to Thornton Academy, but has looked dominant since. Deering got off to a hot start and Waynflete hopes to compete in Western C.
The Deering girls look like the gold standard so far, while Cheverus, McAuley and Portland have all shown signs of life. Look out for undefeated Waynflete in Western Class C.
On the ice, Cheverus, Deering and Portland’s boys have all taken their lumps at times, but have shown promise for the future. The Cheverus girls’ squad could be a title contender yet again.
Swimming and wrestling have all provided early, positive notes for local schools as well. Track and skiing are set to begin.
So, goodbye to 2008. Your thrills won’t soon be forgotten. It’s time to say hello to 2009 and eagerly anticipate the drama which awaits.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com