Deering Rams Fall Sports Preview

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Senior Alex McGonagle tied for seventh at last year’s Class A individual golf match. He could make a run at the top spot this fall.

File photos.

More photos below.

FOOTBALL

Coach: Jason Jackson (third year, 9-9 overall record)

2016 record: 3-6 (Lost, 27-6, to Sanford in Class A South quarterfinal) 

Top returning players: Caysey Anthony (Senior), Matt Hanson (Senior), Kabala Muka (Senior), Keegan Stanton (Senior), Blaize Vail (Senior)

Pivotal games: Sept. 1 SCARBOROUGH, Sept. 8 @ Thornton Academy, Sept. 22 SANFORD, Oct. 13 BONNY EAGLE

Coach’s comment: “We have some big shoes to fill, but most of our line is back. We have some pretty young running backs. Sophomores will be in key roles. We’re pretty even on both sides of the ball right now. Obviously, we want to make the playoffs. If we can get in, we hope to make some noise. We want to compete and stay healthy.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering wasn’t able to build on its 2015 breakthrough season a year ago, but still got to the playoffs for the third year in a row. After losing some key players (including Raffaele Salamone, who is now at the University of Maine), the Rams have to shuffle the deck this autumn and figure out where to best utilize their many athletes and it might take them awhile to click, but by season’s end, they could be very dangerous.

Senior Jack Lynch and junior Ben Trefethen will both see time under center this year. Anthony, along with sophomores Mike Randall and Travis Soule, project to get the majority of carries. Trefethen will also carry the ball when he’s not playing quarterback. Through the air, the signal callers will look for Stanton, senior Luc Harrison and juniors Wenston Dinizio and Ben Onek. The line features Vail at center, Hanson at guard and Muka at tackle and will be formidable. Ahmed Habibzai does the placekicking.

Defensively, the line will be anchored by Hanson, Muka and Vail. Stanton (who was a second-team league all-star last year) and Vail will see time at linebacker and Anthony paces the secondary.

Deering has the misfortune of being in the state’s toughest division and the Rams open with a home game against this year’s favorite, Scarborough, followed by a trip to perennial powerhouse Thornton Academy. Look for Deering to hit its stride later in the campaign, however, and make a run at hosting a playoff game. The Rams could be a feel-good story by season’s end.

BOYS’ SOCCER

Coach: Joel Costigan (seventh year, 57-25-10 overall record)

2016 record: 11-2-2 (Lost, 1-0, to Portland in Class A South quarterfinal) 

Top returning players: Caleb Delano (Senior), Robert Ochan (Senior), Bill Turahimbawe (Senior)

Pivotal games: Aug. 31 SCARBOROUGH, Sept. 5 @ Gorham, Sept. 26 @ Falmouth, Sept. 28 CHEVERUS, Oct. 5 PORTLAND

Coach’s comment: ”Like most year, we expect to finish as one of the top teams in the SMAA and earn a top seed in the playoffs. Our team chemistry and leadership are great this year, so we hope to make a deep run in the playoffs and as always, contend for a state championship.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering dazzled for most of the 2016 season, winning 11 games for the third time in four years, but the Rams’ quest for a deep playoff run was dashed by their biggest rival in a quarterfinal round upset. While Deering graduated some key contributors and lost all-star Iessa Ramadan (who isn’t playing in high school this fall) as well, this year’s team again has the pieces in place to be one of the top squads in the league and perhaps stick around longer in the postseason.

This year’s offense will be paced by Turahimbawe, senior Abdullah Kalayaf and junior Keto Tchiputo, who hails from Angola and shows tremendous foot skills and speed. Junior Joshua Kabwe is another exciting addition. He’ll be in the midfield. A year ago, Deering’s defense dominated, allowing just eight goals in 15 games, shutting out nine foes. This year’s unit has experience in Delano and Ochan (an honorable mention all-star in 2016). Junior Kevin Dill and sophomore Max Morrione both project to see time in goal.

Despite facing a gauntlet of talented foes, the Rams will likely be one of the best teams in the SMAA once again. This time around, however, Deering wants to finish strong and make a playoff run. If this group puts the pieces in place, it could be one of the last teams standing.

GIRLS’ SOCCER

Coach: Kevin Olson (12th year, 78-72-16 overall record)

2016 record: 5-8-1 (no postseason) 

Top returning players: Candy Odhimbo (Senior), Brickley Littell (Senior), Annah Rossvall (Senior), Darrah Scott (Senior), Kiaya Gatchell (Sophomore), Sahar Habibzai (Sophomore), Darcy Lally (Sophomore), Mia Sargent (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Sept. 13 WINDHAM, Sept. 15 GORHAM, Sept. 20 @ Scarborough, Sept. 29 @ Cheverus, Oct. 13 @ Portland

Coach’s comment: “This is my youngest team that I’ve had and I’m looking forward to working with them. The energy is great and the players are starting to build chemistry. I would like to see my team take one game at a time and would like them to show improvement and growth as the season plays out. My expectations for this group are to work hard during training and to compete for 80 minutes each game throughout the season.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering fell short of the playoffs last fall for the first time since 2008, but that was an aberration. The Rams should be right back in contention this season. 

Habibzai and Sargent could be top scorers. Lally, Odhiambo, Scott and new junior Elinor Tierney-Fife will also be heard from on offense. Defensively, Gatchell, Littell and Rossvall all return and they’ll be called upon to make life as easy as possible on new goalie, sophomore Gianna Charest. Junior Nicole Johnson and sophomore Aviyonna Kim are new defenders to watch. 

Deering has the pieces in place to be a dangerous foe. The Rams will need some time to come together, but by October, look for some exciting results from this squad.

FIELD HOCKEY

Coach: Amethyst Hersom (first year)

2016 record: 1-13 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Hannah Dascanio (Senior), Alli Donovan (Junior), Molly Dutton (Junior), Mackenzie O’Donnell (Junior), Alyssa Staples (Junior), Elizabeth Drelich (Sophomore), Aleah Murph (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Aug. 30 BIDDEFORD, Sept. 7 FALMOUTH, Sept. 9 @ Thornton Academy, Sept. 15 @ Portland, Sept. 25 SCARBOROUGH, Oct. 7 CHEVERUS

Coach’s comment: “My hope for the team is to start with a blank slate and capitalize on the talent we have, as well as outhustle every team.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering fell short of the playoffs a year ago, but starts fresh this fall with a lot of returning players. The Rams welcome a new coach in Hersom, who has quite the impressive resume. Hersom played four years at Biddeford, then went on to play two seasons at the University of Southern Maine before spending some time assisting the Huskies program. She inherits a squad that is ready to move up the standings.

O’Donnell was a second-team league all-star in 2016 and will anchor the midfield this autumn with help from Drelich and Murph. Donovan and Staples project to be leading scorers. Freshman Rebekah Dunn will also be heard from. Dutton, an honorable mention selection a year ago, is a top defender and is joined by Dascanio. Junior Maddalena Laponarda moves in to play goalie. 

Deering should be competitive with most teams on its schedule and will show steady improvement. If the team comes along as quickly as hoped, that could spell enough victories to return to the playoffs.

VOLLEYBALL

Coach: Larry Nichols (third year, 16-13 overall record)

2016 record 9-6 (Lost, 3-2, to Bonny Eagle in Class A preliminary round)

Top returning players: Avery Donovan (Senior), Dianne Dervis (Senior), Kristal Gonzalez (Senior), Divine M’bambi (Senior), Maddie Broda (Junior)

Pivotal matches: Sept. 1 @ Scarborough, Sept. 5 PORTLAND, Sept. 12 SOUTH PORTLAND, Sept. 26 CHEVERUS, Sept. 28 @ Bonny Eagle, Oct. 10 BIDDEFORD

Coach’s comment: “For a third-year varsity program, I can’t complain with what we’ve accomplished. The kids are working hard. We know how to play now. We’ve made nice strides. We lost some good kids, but other kids are stepping up. We want to do better than last year and make the playoffs again. We want to be competitive in every match.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering has been a very impressive start-up program, following up a .500 first season with a playoff berth (and near victory) last fall. This time around, the Rams have to replace some key contributors, including all-star Kaylee Helmick, but the cupboard isn’t bare and another competitive season is likely in store.

Broda (a second-team league all-star in 2016) is back at setter. She knows just where to put the ball for hitters like Dervis, Donovan (an honorable mention all-star last autumn) and M’bambi. Juniors Catherine Balzano and Ava Spach are new hitters of note. Spach is also a top server. The back row consists of Gonzalez and juniors Janella Ridge and Elizabeth Sevigny. There’s a lot of promise on this roster.

Deering might take a few lumps in the weeks to come, but the Rams will learn and adjust and improve. Class A has a few powerhouses, but after them, the league is wide open, meaning Deering has the potential to be a force to be reckoned with by the time all is said and done.

CROSS COUNTRY

Coaches:
(Boys) Frank Myatt (sixth year)
(Girls) Gerry Myatt (15th year)

2016 results:
(Boys) 2nd @ Class A state meet
(Girls) DNQ for Class A state meet (12th @ regionals)

Top returners:
(Boys) Abdikadir Abdirahman (Senior), Cam Andrews (Senior), Yahya Nure (Senior), Jerry Mixangelo (Junior), Alec Troxell (Junior), Chris Harmon (Sophomore)
(Girls) Elizabeth Davis (Senior), Julia Lancia (Senior), Lucy Tumavicus (Senior), Nicole Whipkey (Senior), Grace Tumavicus (Junior)

Coach Frank Myatt’s comment: “We lost two to graduation and one to transfer, but we have the talent to be right where we were last year. First and foremost, we have to stay healthy and peak at the right time. I have extremely good runners, but they’re still learning to race, especially in a big meet format.”

Coach Gerry Myatt’s comment: “I have some great kids. We’re having some fun. I think we’ll have a good season if everyone stays healthy. Qualifying for states is always a goal. We hope the pieces fall into place.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Deering’s cross country teams both boast top-notch talent and they’re hoping to make it to the season’s final Saturday.

The boys’ squad is coming off its best season since 2003 and while there are some holes to fill, the Rams have the potential to excel again. Nure was eighth at last year’s Class A state meet and could be a top five finisher if all goes well. Troxell (18th), Mixangelo (26th) and Abdirahman (39th) also scored a year ago. Mix in Andrews and Harmon and this is a seasoned squad. Deering boasts some promising newcomers too, as seniors Gannon Duckworth and Paul Kana and sophomore Ben Brown look to make a quick impact. The Rams will have their hands full with the likes of defending champion Falmouth, Massabesic and Scarborough and come the postseason, perennial power Greely, so this group will need to steadily improve to wind up where it wants to be. When the dust settles, a third straight top five finish is the likely result.

On the girls’ side, after failing to qualify for states for the third straight season, the Rams are ready to make the jump this year. Lucy Tumavicus did qualify as an individual a year ago, placing 23rd at the regional meet and 43rd at states. She’ll be one of the conference’s top runners again and is joined by veterans Whipkey (31st at regionals), Lancia (53rd), Grace Tumavicus (66th) and Davis. Junior Claire Christopher and freshmen Sierra Aponte-Clark and Hadley Poirier are new to the team and add depth. Deering looks to enjoy good health and should hold its own in a very tough conference. After sending just one runner to the state meet a year ago, the Rams would love to make the trip as a team. Don’t bet against them.

GOLF

Coach: Billy Goodman (16th year, two state championships)

2016 results: 0-10 (DNQ for Class A state match)

Top returners: Jake Francoeur (Senior), Alex McGonagle (Senior), Luke Hill (Junior), Mike Jones (Junior)

Coach’s comment: “This is the best team I’ve had in five or six years. Our goal is to win some matches in our very tough division. I’d like to see Alex get into the top five this year. He’s improved each year. He’s one of the best ball-strikers I’ve ever coached.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The Rams are primed to be much more competitive this fall and could be even better down the road.

McGonagle is the top returner. He was a first-team league all-star, then shot a 78 to tie for seventh at last year’s Class A individual state meet. He has the potential to do even better this time around. Another McGonagle, freshman Nick, joins his brother and shows great promise. Francoeur, Hill and Jones all have experience and hope to improve. Freshman Bennett Berg is another newcomer of note. 

Deering resides in a very tough Northern Division, where Cheverus, Falmouth and Scarborough hold sway and Portland and South Portland are on the rise. The Rams will win some matches this fall, but they hope to save their best for the team qualifier and perhaps shock the world by getting to states. If not, all eyes will turn to Alex McGonagle and his quest at individual glory. All in all, it promises to be one of the program’s most enjoyable seasons in years.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Senior Bill Turahimbawe and his Deering boys’ soccer teammates had a terrific regular season in 2016, but were upset by rival Portland in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. This fall, the Rams are hoping to add a deep postseason run to a strong regular campaign.

Sophomore defender Kiaya Gatchell and her Deering girls’ soccer teammates look to bounce back this fall and make the playoffs.

Sophomore Sahar Habibzai will be a scoring threat for the Rams this season.

Sophomore Mia Sargent also returns for the Rams, at forward.

Senior Dianne Dervis returns for Deering’s very successful nascent volleyball program, which made the playoffs last fall in just its second varsity season.

Senior Avery Donovan is another top returner for the Rams. Donovan is a powerful hitter.

Senior Yahya Nure is coming off a strong season, placing eighth and leading Deering to a second-place finish at last year’s Class A state cross country meet. Nure will look to lead the Rams to another strong campaign.

Junior Alec Troxell also scored at last year’s state meet, coming in 18th.

Senior Lucy Tumavicus qualified for states as an individual last season. This fall, she looks to go back and hopes her teammates qualify as well.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.