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Coaches of the Year: Portland

Sports

Coaches of the Year: Portland

Coach of the Year is another very difficult award to bestow. There are so many devoted and excellent ones out there.

These awards were not necessarily awarded to a man and a woman, but to the top coach of a boys' team and the top coach of a girls' team.

FALL 2009 FORECASTER-PORTLAND COACH OF THE YEAR-BOYS' TEAM

JOHN WOLFGRAM-CHEVERUS FOOTBALL

While we can't say it's a big surprise considering his pedigree, the brevity with which the Cheverus football program returned to prominence under coach John Wolfgram was a bit shocking.

The Stags completed their rise this fall, riding an early upset victory over preseason favorite Windham to a 6-2 mark and the No. 4 seed for the playoffs, then really turned heads with a win over Biddeford in the quarterfinals and a decisive upset victory at top-ranked Thornton Academy in the semis. The title dream ended with a one-point setback at Windham in the rain, but Cheverus was one of the great stories of a memorable season and has likely set the stage for more glory in 2010.

Wolfgram is a longtime coaching legend with eight Gold Balls to his credit. This year, he added another chapter to his legacy. For resurrecting a dormant program and for leading the Stags to within a whisker of the state final, Wolfgram is The Forecaster's choice for our 2009 Portland edition Coach of the Year, of a boys' team.

Wolfgram grew up in Massachusetts, went to the University of Maine and was a standout player in his own right, but has earned his greatest fame as a coach. He won a state title at Madison, three at Gardiner, then finally helped South Portland finish the job by winning four Class A Gold Balls in the 1990s. Wolfgram stepped down after the 2000 campaign to help coach at Bowdoin College, but returned to the high school level in 2006 when he inherited a Cheverus squad which went 0-8 and 2-6 in the two previous seasons.

The Stags finished 2-6 again in 2006 and showed slight improvement in 2007 en route to a 3-5 campaign. In 2008, Cheverus turned the corner, winning five times and making the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.

This fall, the Stags weren't on the short list of title hopefuls, but promptly joined the discussion after a 21-0 home win over Windham in Week 2. Cheverus stumbled against Portland and Bonny Eagle, but wound up with a 6-2 mark, its best since 2000, before embarking on a playoff run.

As usual, Wolfgram's style was more about fundamentals, ball control and "stop us if you can" smashmouth football than style. Having several strong runners at his disposal allowed him to get the most out of his charges. The Stags were solid on defense all year and made big plays on special teams. It all added up to a superb year.

Like many great coaches, Wolfgram (who also referees basketball and lacrosse) has produced a bevy of coaches from his former players. Aaron Filieo, who played for Wolfgram at South Portland, just led Cape Elizabeth to its first-ever state final. Eric Begonia, another former South Portland player, coached the Portland boys' lacrosse team to a state title last spring (ironically, with Wolfgram officiating).

Wolfgram will face his highest expectations yet at Cheverus next season as several key players return. It's safe to say he's up for the challenge. The Stags' program has benefited from his return and local football fans were treated to another clinic this fall. Now, we get to wait and see what John Wolfgram, our 2009 Portland edition boys' Coach of the Year, has for an encore.

2008 winner: Billy Goodman (Deering golf)

2007 winner: Andy LeFebvre (Deering soccer)

2006 winner: John Simpson (Cheverus cross country)

2005 winner: Jim Ouellette (Cheverus golf)

2004 winner: Mike Bailey (Portland football)

FALL 2009 FORECASTER-PORTLAND COACH OF THE YEAR- GIRLS TEAM

AMY MCMULLIN-CHEVERUS FIELD HOCKEY

The Scarborough field hockey team was pegged as champion before the 2009 season even began. The Red Storm would fulfill those projections, but along the way, became quite familiar with the second best team in Western Class A, the Cheverus Stags.

The Stags and Red Storm met three times in 19 days in October and while Scarborough won all three games, Cheverus announced once and for all that it was a legitimate title contender and plans to be one for quite awhile.

The Stags got timely scoring, played solid defense and received clutch goalkeeping, but the biggest reason for their success has to go to second-year coach Amy McMullin. McMullin, just a few years removed from her impressive playing days, got her young program to believe it belongs and that it could beat anyone. She and her players enjoyed a stirring ride to the regional final and will build on the experience next year.

For turning the Stags' program into a top contender almost overnight and for helping deliver so many thrills this season, Amy McMullin is The Forecaster's selection as our Portland edition Coach of the Year, of a girls' team.

McMullin was a three-sport (field hockey, basketball, softball) standout at Messalonskee High School (playing center-back in field hockey, as the Eagles tried without success to dethrone Skowhegan). She went on to play field hockey and basketball at Franklin Pierce University.

After college, she came to Cheverus as the assistant to the athletic director and became a coach for the first time, assisting Patsy Fowler with field hockey as the Stags began to make a move up the standings.

In 2008, McMullin took over as the head field hockey coach and directed a spirited playoff run which ended with an overtime loss at Westbrook in the semifinals.

This season, Cheverus won its first 13 games, highlighted by a stunning double-OT home win over Gorham. Dreams of an unbeaten season ended with a 3-1 home loss to Scarborough in the finale. The Stags then lost again to the Red Storm in the non-countable inaugural SMAA Championship Game, but Cheverus regained its form for the playoffs. The second-seeded Stags eliminated longtime contender No. 7 Sanford 3-0 in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Gorham 1-0 in the semis, setting up another battle with Scarborough. When junior Emily Sawchuck twice converted first half penalty corners, Cheverus clung to a stunning 2-1 lead, but ultimately, the Stags fell just short, losing 3-2. In the end, Cheverus' season produced thrill after thrill and can't be looked back upon as anything short of an overwhelming success.

McMullin is also the varsity softball coach and hopes to duplicate her magic in the spring. She has a great rapport with the players on both teams and while she'd ultimately like to try coaching in college down the road, sees herself at Cheverus for the foreseeable future.

That's good news for all who bleed purple and gold. A new field hockey power has arrived the scene. Amy McMullin, our Fall 2009 Portland edition girls' Coach of the Year, has created a program to keep a close eye on.

2008 winner: Ziggy Gillespie (Waynflete cross country)

2007 winner: Patsy Fowler (Cheverus field hockey)

2006 winner: Dave Levasseur (Portland soccer)

2005 winner: Tim Donovan (McAuley cross country)

2004 winner: Jon Shardlow (Waynflete soccer)