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, Falmouth, Freeport, Greely, NYA and Yarmouth’s boys’ teams were all playing well and were playoff bound.
On the girls’ side, Falmouth and Greely were enjoying solid seasons and Yarmouth was in the process of rallying from an 0-7 start to make a run at the postseason.
On the ice, Falmouth and Greely were their usual strong selves, while the Falmouth girls’ team was hinting at greatness.
Yarmouth’s ski teams were gearing up to again steal the thunder on the slopes.
In other news, area track and swimming teams were providing their share of highlights.
February vacation week brought non-stop action to the local sports scene. Area athletes impressed at the track, skiing and swimming state meets.
Falmouth’s boys won their third straight Class B state track title. The Greely girls returned to the top after a year away.
On the slopes and trails, Freeport won the girls’ combined Class C title, the Greely girls took Class A, and Yarmouth captured boys’ and girls’ championships in Nordic and combined in Class B.
Both Greely swim teams were runners-up at the Class B state meet, while Falmouth’s girls saw their reign end with a third-place showing.
Attention then turned to the basketball tournaments.
The Greely boys capped an improbable rally and beat Falmouth on Erik Thayer’s 3-point prayer at the horn in the Western B quarterfinals. The Rangers were then eliminated by eventual regional champion Cape Elizabeth in the semifinals. Yarmouth took care of Lake Region to reach the semifinals for the first time since the Nixon Administration and battled a Freeport team, which had upset Mountain Valley in its quarterfinal. In the semis, the Falcons upset the Clippers and went on to the regional final where their run ended against Cape Elizabeth. In Western C, NYA lost to Dirigo in the quarterfinals.
On the girls’ side, Falmouth knocked off Gray-New Gloucester in the quarterfinals, then battled Greely (which had edged Mountain Valley) in a memorable semifinal. The Rangers appeared primed to pull off the upset, but Alison DerHagopian’s clutch shot saved the day for the Yachtsmen who went on to lose to Lake Region in the regional final. Yarmouth, which made the playoffs after a late surge, fell in double-overtime at Gray-New Gloucester in the preliminary round after a controversial call prevented them from winning in the first OT.
In hockey, Falmouth advanced to the Western A semifinals after blanking St. Dom’s in its first playoff test. In Western B, Greely earned the No. 2 seed for the playoffs.
On the girls’ side, Falmouth downed Portland and Skowhegan to earn a berth in the Tier II state final.
The hockey season ended amid great fanfare.
On the 3rd, Falmouth’s boys’ team suffered its latest agonizing playoff loss, falling 2-1 in double-overtime to Kennebunk in the Western A semifinals despite dominating play for big chunks of the game. That evening, Greely pummeled rival Cape Elizabeth 6-1 in the Western B semifinals, but two nights later, the Rangers were eliminated in a one-goal loss to York in the regional finals.
Also on the 5th, Falmouth’s girls’ team lost 2-0 to Scarborough in the Tier II state game.
SUBHEAD-April and May
The best news of the spring sports season was that the weather was more cooperative than usual.
On the diamond, defending state champ Greely, along with Falmouth and Yarmouth qualified for the Western B playoffs. NYA made it in Western C.
In softball, Greely and Yarmouth made it into the postseason.
Lacrosse once again produced some great stories. The boys played a tiered schedule which produced no shortage of memorable games. Falmouth’s boys beat NYA for the first time. Greely beat Cape Elizabeth for the first time ever. Both squads, along with NYA and Yarmouth earned playoff berths. On the girls’ side, NYA and Yarmouth jockeyed for the top spot in Eastern B. Freeport also made it to the postseason. In Western B, Falmouth and Greely qualified for the playoffs.
Area 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, the NYA boys captured the Class C championship. Falmouth’s boys and Greely’s girls were runners-up in Class B.
The Falmouth boys’ and girls’ tennis teams stole headlines by reaching the Class B state match. The girls won it all, but the boys were stunned by Caribou. NYA’s girls won a second successive Class C crown.
In lacrosse, the biggest story was the Yarmouth boys’ team, which continued its trend of winning it all in even-numbered years. After rallying to beat resurgent NYA in the Eastern B final, the Clippers had little trouble downing Cape Elizabeth in the state game. Greely edged Falmouth in a memorable overtime showdown in the Western B semifinals, then finally saw its fantasy run ended by the Capers in the regional final.
On the girls’ side, NYA would down Freeport in the Eastern B semifinals, then end Yarmouth’s two-year reign as state champions with a win in the regional final. The Panthers’ quest for a first-ever state title was denied by Waynflete in the Class B state game, but Courtney Dumont set a record with seven goals. Greely eliminated Falmouth in the Western B semifinals before losing (again) to Waynflete in the regional final.
In baseball, Greely’s hopes of repeating were denied by upstart Yarmouth in the quarterfinals. The Clippers then fell at Lincoln Academy in the semis. Falmouth lost to Lincoln Academy in the quarterfinals. NYA lost in the Western C preliminary round.
In softball, Greely and Yarmouth both dropped their first postseason game.
SUBHEAD-July and August
High schoolers took a backseat, but there were plenty of diversions for local sports fans. Little League and American Legion players strutted their stuff. Many local runners made their mark in the Beach to Beacon in early August. A couple weeks later, 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, golf and volleyball to the forefront again.
On the pitch, players from Forecaster Country dazzled like nowhere else. The Falmouth, Greely and Yarmouth boys played at a championship level, while the same schools’ girls’ squads also dominated. Freeport and NYA were tough as well.
In field hockey, NYA quietly put together a team that would become one of the season’s best stories. Falmouth and Greely were among the top contenders in Western B.
On the gridiron, Falmouth and Greely got off to hot starts.
On the trails, some of the best runners in the state represented local schools.
Golfers impressed and geared up for state qualifying.
The Greely volleyball team dropped a game in its first match, but was otherwise untouchable as ever. Falmouth and Yarmouth also showed glimpses of promise.
On the 11th, Falmouth’s golf team capped another strong season with a Class B state championship. Yarmouth also made a surprise run to states and wound up fifth.
In cross country, Greely’s boys won the Western B title, while the Rangers girls’ squad was second. Both Falmouth teams came in third.
The biggest football news came Halloween Night when Falmouth rallied for a stirring win at Greely to earn its first-ever playoff spot.
The soccer playoffs brought promise of Gold Balls to come. Yarmouth’s boys earned the No. 3 seed in Western B and beat Fryeburg in the quarterfinals. Falmouth took the top seed and had no trouble beating Oak Hill in its quarterfinal game. Freeport edged Lisbon in double-OT in the quarters to set up a semifinal round showdown with Yarmouth. In Western A, defending champ Greely dispatched South Portland and Kennebunk to reach the semifinals. NYA’s stay in the Western C playoffs was a short one. The Panthers lost to Traip in the preliminary round.
In girls’ action, four teams entered the playoffs hoping to win it all. In Western A, Greely held off Noble in double-OT in the preliminary round, then eliminated rival Cape Elizabeth to earn a trip to the semifinals. In Western B, Falmouth and Yarmouth advanced to the semis and five-time defending state champ NYA did the same in Western C.
In field hockey, NYA stole the show. The Panthers won their final nine regular season games to earn the No. 3 seed in Western C. NYA then downed Lisbon, Livermore Falls and Jay to win the regional title and set up a state final showdown with Dexter.
In Western B, Greely, seeded second, was shocked by Fryeburg in the quarterfinal round. Falmouth, the No. 4 seed, would advance to its first regional final in 31 seasons. The Yachtsmen beat Maranacook and Lake Region, then gave eventual state champion York all it could handle before losing on penalty corners.
In volleyball, Falmouth beat Yarmouth in the quarterfinals, then the Yachtsmen’s superb second season was ended with a loss to Biddeford in the semis. Greely had no such problem, romping over Gorham and Biddeford to make it to a seventh-straight state final.
A golden month of glory began on the first when NYA’s field hockey team capped its storybook season with a 2-1 overtime triumph over Dexter in the Class C state final on sophomore Frances Leslie’s game-winner.
That same afternoon, Greely’s boys’ cross country team won the Class B state meet. Falmouth came in third. The Rangers were also third in the girls’ meet. Freeport came in second in the Class C girls’ championship.
That night, Greely’s volleyball team made it six championships in a row with a three-game sweep of Mt. Desert Island.
Falmouth’s football team was eliminated by Mountain Valley in the Western B semifinals.
Soccer ultimately brought the greatest acclaim to the area.
On the boys’ side, Yarmouth downed Freeport in the semifinals to set up a first-ever regional final with Falmouth. There, the ancient rivals engaged in one of the more memorable battles in recent memory with the Clippers shocking the Yachtsmen 2-1 on sophomore Luke Pierce’s goal in the 77th minute. Yarmouth then traveled to Hampden Academy on the 8th and edged Presque Isle 1-0 to win the Class B championship on senior Matt Morrill’s improbable late tally. Greely lost to Scarborough in its regional final.
On the girls’ side, Yarmouth lost at York on penalty kicks in the semifinals. Falmouth had no trouble with Wells in its game, then went to York and avenged last year’s upset loss with a 1-0 victory in the regional final. The Yachtsmen then won another Class B championship with a 2-0 win over Presque Isle.
NYA’s long run as state champs was ended by Waynflete in the Western C final.
Greely was eliminated by Gorham in the Western A semifinals.
Winter is back (big-time) and we’re doing it all over again. Many of the storylines are similar.
In boys’ basketball, Falmouth, behind junior sharpshooter Stefano Mancini, is off to a perfect start. Greely and Yarmouth are also looking strong.
Greely’s girls are impressing, Falmouth and Yarmouth are in the mix, and NYA is off to a promising start.
On the ice, Falmouth, Greely and Yarmouth’s boys’ squads appear en route to successful seasons. The Falmouth and Greely girls should be in the thick of things as well in the first year of MPA-sanctioned play.
Swimming has provided early, positive notes for local schools and the track and ski seasons are set to get under way.
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