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South Portland Red Riots 2010 Fall Sports Preview

Sports

South Portland Red Riots 2010 Fall Sports Preview

South Portland's fall sports teams figure to contend across the board. Football came oh-so-close to a return to the playoffs in 2009. This autumn, the Red Riots will be one of many contenders in Western A. Boys' soccer has been in the mix for several years and hopes for a deeper playoff run this time around. The girls' team fell short of the postseason last year, but has what it takes to get back. Field hockey is on the brink of returning to contention after making nice strides a year ago. Both cross country teams have strong runners and like their chances to make it to states. Last, but not least, the golf team, which stole headlines in 2009, should remain competitive this season.

FOOTBALL

COACH: Steve Stinson (sixth year)

2009 Results: 4-4 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Nick Conti (Senior), Billy Darling (Senior), Tommy Ellis (Senior), Ben Ely (Senior), Evan Indorf (Senior), Alex Martin-Wallace (Senior), Matt Welch (Senior), Joey DiBiase (Junior), Logan Gaddar (Junior), Dan Medici (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 3 (H) WINDHAM, Sept. 17 (H) CHEVERUS, Sept. 24 @ Bonny Eagle, Oct. 8 @ Deering, Oct. 23 (H) PORTLAND

COACH’S COMMENT: “Our numbers are better, but not great. Around 40. We had a great offseason. We have a pretty balanced team. The kids are working hard. We bring back our offensive line starters and tight end. We'll miss standouts like Curit and Foley, but you can't just stop one or two guys with us. We have wide receivers who can make plays and a quarterback who can throw the ball. It's a completely wide open league this year. Every week's a playoff game. I feel like we put out a competitive Class A team last year. We know we're in the hunt this year. The seniors have a chip on their shoulders.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: South Portland finally turned the corner in 2009, earning inspirational wins over Bonny Eagle and Deering to get to the brink of the playoffs before losing heartwrenching decisions to Gorham and Portland to fall just short of its first playoff berth since 2002. While standouts Ryan Curit and Mike Foley have departed, the Red Riots have enough pieces in place to be a top contender in a season where league parity appears to be at its greatest in memory. Stinson hopes to have a balanced offense. Ellis will replace Jon DiBiase under center after missing much of 2009 with mono. Junior Mike Salvatore will also see plenty of time at QB. Joey DiBiase and junior Jacob Stanley figure to see most of the carries. Junior Teddy LeFay will figure into the equation. Through the air, the quarterbacks will look for Darling, Gaddar, Medici and new seniors Steve Hodge and lacrosse standout Harrison Keithly. The line is anchored by Ely, Welch and Martin-Wade. The offense caught fire a year ago, scoring 187 points in the final five games. If this team can produce anything in that neighborhood, South Portland will be difficult to contend with. The problem last year was defense, especially in the clutch. The Red Riots surrendered 27 points per contest in 2009 and in the final two weeks, with a postseason spot on the line, gave up 36 in back-to-back setbacks. This year, South Portland hopes to tighten that up behind a defensive line which features Ely and Martin-Wade, a linebacker corps of Conti, Darling, DiBiase, Indorf, Keithly, Salvatore and Stanley and a secondary which boasts Ellis, Gaddar, Hodge, Medici and Welch. Stinson isn't exaggerating when he says that every week will be a playoff game. The Red Riots get tested right out of the gate when they host defending champion Windham in the opener. We'll get a good idea of how good this team can be. As was the case last year, look for South Portland to show dramatic improvement as the season progresses and if the offense produces as hoped and if the defense can make a few more big stops than it did a year ago, the postseason drought will come to an end. If so, the Red Riots might just stay awhile.

BOYS' SOCCER

COACH: Bryan Hoy (fourth year)

2009 Record: 9-6-1 (Lost 4-0 to Scarborough in Western Class A quarterfinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Brian Campbell (Senior), Will Bushey (Junior), Akeeba Davis (Junior), Dan Grzewski (Junior), Nem Kaurin (Junior), Andy Mills (Junior), Damjan Draskovic (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 4 @ Westbrook, Sept. 9 (H) SCARBOROUGH, Sept. 28 (H) DEERING, Oct. 2 @ Windham, Oct. 12 @ Gorham, Oct. 14 @ Portland, Oct. 18 (H) CHEVERUS

COACH’S COMMENT: “We lost 12 seniors from last years team, but a very talented junior class and some seniors who will be key contributors should help us challenge for a playoff spot again this season. With a very young team it might take some time this season to get to where we want to be, but by the end of the season, we hope to be in playoff contention.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: The Red Riots were 6-1-1 at one juncture last fall before cooling down the stretch. They did enjoy an inspirational playoff victory before running into the Scarborough juggernaut in the quarterfinals. This year's team hopes to get back to the postseason for the fourth straight year. Kaurin is the top returner. He was an SMAA all-star in 2009 and led the team in goals and assists (six in both categories). He'll hope to pace the offense again, while getting help from Draskovic, Grzewski and senior Dillon Leary. Bushey and Davis join Kaurin as the lone returning starters. They, along with Campbell, will play major roles at midfield. Mills is the leading returning defender. He'll get help from seniors Brooks Cannon and Matt Russell and junior Nate Fox. Three players, Ben Burkey, Daryl Wilkinson and last year's backup, Shawn Shannon, were vying to replace Brian Hyson in goal at press time. While it might take South Portland a little while to get up to speed this autumn, the Red Riots are fortunate in that there are plenty of playoff spots to be had. They'll need to win their share of games as the season progresses, but if they do, an above .500 record is realistic. This team should have the playoffs as a goal. It's capable of impressing in the weeks to come.

GIRLS' SOCCER

COACH: Andy Pappas (fifth year)

2009 Record: 5-8-1 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Alexis Bogdanovich (Senior), Amanda Linscott (Senior), Emily Masters (Junior), Jenacee Bradbury (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 10 @ Cheverus, Sept. 25 @ Scarborough, Oct. 1 (H) WINDHAM, Oct. 8 @ Thornton Academy, Oct. 13 (H) GORHAM, Oct. 15 @ Portland

COACH’S COMMENT: “We're looking to bounce back from a sub-par finish to last season when we fell short of the playoffs. This team looks to benefit from experience from many returning players and a strong bench. Hopefully we'll be more consistent with our efforts. We're looking for other players to step up and fill the void. The playoffs are a must this year.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: The Red Riots appeared playoff-bound after a midseason victory over Scarborough (South Portland was the only team to beat the Red Storm in the regular season in 2009) left it 4-3, but a five-game skid ultimately did them in and snapped a nine-year streak of qualifying for the postseason. This year's squad is hoping for more consistency and to get over the hump. Last year's leading scorer and first-team league all-star Karleigh Bradbury has departed so the Red Riots will need to find some offense. That figures to come from Jenacee Bradbury, Masters and newcomer Emma Dennison. On defense, Bogdanovich and Linscott, fresh off leading the softball team to its first-ever state title, will look to hold the fort in front of senior goalkeeper Andrea Kinder. There are plenty of athletes on the roster. For South Portland this year, the questions will surround its mental toughness. Can the team bounce back from last year's tough finish? Can it handle prosperity in 2010? The Red Riots have a great shot at winning more than they lose and making it back to the postseason. The guess here is that they will find a way to do so.

FIELD HOCKEY

COACH: Heather Seavey (fifth year)

2009 Record: 4-9-1 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Michelle Callow (Senior), Becca Roberts (Senior) Olivia Edwards (Junior), Maraka Soule (Junior), Jaclyn Salevsky (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 8 (H) SANFORD, Sept. 14 @ Westbrook, Sept. 18 @ Cheverus, Sept. 20 (H) GORHAM, Sept. 30 @ Portland, Oct. 2 (H) SCARBOROUGH, Oct. 4 @ Thornton Academy, Oct. 12 (H) DEERING

COACH’S COMMENT: “We're building on our 2009 season. I believe we'll be more competitive this year and our goal is to make it to the postseason. If we can stay united and focused, we'll get there. We have nine of 11 positions returning, eight seniors, combined with some athletic underclassmen and hope to build off last year's success.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: After winless seasons in 2007 and 2008, last year's four victories represented a quantum leap. Now, South Portland is hoping to join the playoff discussion for the first time since 2006. The Red Riots now have experience and athletes who can get the job done. Roberts should be one of the better players in the league. She was a first-team league all-star who will pace the offense, with help from Edwards, Salevsky and Soule. The defense is led by Callow (an honorable mention all-star in 2009), who will get help from new sophomore Danielle Bergner and freshman Olivia Indorf. Sophomore Kirsten Kane steps into the cage as goalie. South Portland is no longer happy just contending and getting close. The Red Riots feel that they can compete with almost anyone and should win more than they lose. This program has come a long way in a short time. A playoff berth would serve as great validation of their growth. Don't be the least bit surprised if it comes to fruition.

CROSS COUNTRY

BOYS COACH: Andrew Lupien (fourth year)

GIRLS COACH: Karen Reardon (eighth year)

2009 Results:

(BOYS) 8th @ Class A state meet

(GIRLS) 7th @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNING RUNNERS

BOYS: Matt Clement (Senior), Arman Mohammed (Senior), Sam Redstone (Senior), Tom Redstone (Senior), Max Knutsen (Sophomore), Ryan Tuttle (Sophomore)

GIRLS: Maureen Blanchard (Senior), Sydney Damian-Loring (Senior), Annalise Donahue (Senior), Sarah Johnston (Senior), Maria Letourneau (Senior), Lia Benfatta (Sophomore), Jackie Merrill (Sophomore), Bridget Mulligan (Sophomore), Nyajock Pan (Sophomore), Angela Tirabassi (Sophomore)

TOP FOES: Cheverus, Massabesic, Scarborough

COACH LUPIEN’S COMMENT: “This will be a very interesting season with lots of unknowns. We lost a good senior group last year, but return a lot of talent. We have a very large team on the roster and have a lot of potential for growth. It could be a season of great surprises. Our goal every season is to finish in the top half at regionals and qualify for states. Achieving that goal last year made the team even hungrier this season. I think the returning varsity runners know they can run even better this year. I'm optimistic we can achieve all the goals and am looking forward to the surprises that are certainly in store.”

COACH REARDON’S COMMENT: “We had a very nice finish last year, our best since 2002. I expect we'll make continued progress this year. We only lost our No. 5 and 6 runners from last year's state meet and I think we have some athletes ready to step in and hopefully move the team forward. The first goal is to work hard together and qualify for states as a team. After that, we'd like to improve upon our standing from last year. We have seniors who gained a lot of confidence last year and started to see themselves as one of the better teams. I expect that to continue this season. We have a nice mix of seniors and underclassmen who can make it happen.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: The South Portland cross country program is on the rise and both teams have a lot to look forward to in 2010.

The boys return a potential standout in Clement, who came in 25th at last year's state meet. Sam Redstone (59th) and Tuttle (66th) also scored at states last autumn, while Tom Redstone was 73rd. Knutsen, Mohammed and senior Tim Gurnee provide depth, leadership and look to join the fun. Sophomore Austin Gotts (second in the mile at freshman states last year) and freshmen Robert Graff and Patrick Conley look to become household names in no time. If junior Thomas Salamone can return from injury, he'll be in the pack as well. The Red Riots should be able to compete with most teams in the league and if they're at their best at regionals, should make it to states for the second year in a row. If that happens, a move up the standings is possible.

On the girls' side, the story is similarly optimistic. Pan had a great freshman year, which saw her come in 13th at states and qualify for New Englands. She stands to only get better in 2010. Donahue has been a standout since her freshmen season. She was 27th at states a year ago. As a co-captain, she'll look to cap her career in style. Mulligan (30th) and Letourneau (the other co-captain, who 49th last year) also scored at states, while Merrill (79th) competed. All three should build on those results this time around. Blanchard, Damian-Loring and Johnston bring experience to the team. Benfatta and Tirabassi are only getting better. New sophomores Sophia Desjardins and Danica Gleason and freshmen Emma Jordan and Ariana Mohammad make the team that much stronger. The Red Riots have simple and realistic goals, to be the best they can in the regular season and qualify for and improve at states. This will be a very dynamic team to watch.

GOLF

COACH: Ernie Lamson (28th year)

2009 Results: 6-4 (2nd @ Class A state match)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Brian Cleary (Senior), D.J. Conley (Senior), Matt McCutcheon (Senior), Andrew Richards (Senior)

TOP FOES: Cheverus, Deering

COACH’S COMMENT: “We hope to get back to states. If we can keep improving and things fall right, you never know. We hope to keep last year going. I have a lot of seniors. Three who played in states last year.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: South Portland stole headlines a year ago when its rise from years of struggle concluded with a stunning performance at the state meet. The Red Riots lost three of last year's state match scorers, Aidan Boyce (a league all-star), Jordan Drown and Anthony Canarie (whose score pushed South Portland past Deering into the No. 2 spot), to graduation, but return Richards (78 at last year's state match) and McCutheon (84). Cleary also saw ample time a year ago. Conley is ready to show what he can do. Junior Aaron Flowers, a junior varsity player last season, will also be a factor. The Red Riots are in a very challenging division, along with Cheverus and Deering, so their regular season record might not be indicative of how good they can be. That will be evident at the qualifying meet and if all goes well, South Portland will have a chance to create a new batch of thrills at states. This team will come together nicely over the next several weeks and will have a chance to keep the magic going.

Photo: File photo

Junior Dan Medici (making lower body tackle) figures to be a two-way factor for South Portland this season as the Red Riots hope to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

Photo: File photo

Junior Nem Kaurin was the leading scorer for the Red Riots boys' soccer team a year ago.

Photo: File photo

Senior Matt Clement was 25th at last year's Class A state meet.

Photo: File photo

Senior Annelise Donahue has been a running standout for South Portland since her freshmen year. She hopes to go out with a bang in 2010.

Photo: File photo

Nyajock Pan came in 13th at states as a freshman. This year, she and her teammates hope to do even better.