Farewell to a triumph-filled 2017-Portland edition

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In March, Portland’s boys’ basketball team won its second successive Class AA state title.

The powerful left arm (and bat) of Jared Brooks led Cheverus’ baseball team to the regional final in June.

Freshman Sierra Aponte-Clarke helped Deering’s girls’ cross country team qualify for New Englands for the first time this autumn.

Local high school sports athletes made memories again in 2017.

Whether the season was winter, spring or fall, triumph was the theme and there were countless breathtaking moments.

With another winter season underway and a new year upon us, here’s one final look back at the thrills that made up a special year.

January

When 2016 gave way to 2017, Portland’s boys’ basketball team was again the team to beat in Class AA, with Deering and Cheverus also in competition. In Class C South, Waynflete was again a top contender.

On the girls’ side, Cheverus and Deering were entertaining title dreams in Class AA North, while Maine Girls’ Academy in Class AA South and Waynflete in Class C South were also in the chase.

On the ice, Cheverus boys’ and girls’ teams were playoff-bound, along with the surging Portland/Deering boys’ co-op squad.

Skiing, swimming, track and wrestling teams and individuals made their mark as they geared up for the postseason.

February

Cheverus’ Zeb Leavitt won the first title of the new year, winning the heavyweight wrestling crown in Class A.

February vacation week then brought more hardware.

Cheverus’ boys’ swim team won its fifth straight Class A state title, as Shane Moore took the 50 freestyle and 100 free and the Stags’ 200 free relay team also placed first.

Cheverus’ girls’ team had some individual success as well, as Abby Longstaff won the 50 free and the backstroke and Nina Greenwood was first in diving.

Ana Neff-Jendrasko, of Maine Girls’ Academy, won the Class B title in the breaststroke.

Deering’s Ezra Chapola won the Class A boys’ triple jump in indoor track, helping the Rams to a third-place team showing.

Cheverus’ girls’ team featured freshman sensation Emma Gallant, who won both the Class A 200 and 400.

A pair of individuals won a pair of skiing titles. Cheverus’ Annesley Black took home Class A girls’ Alpine slalom and giant slalom crowns, while Waynflete’s Willson Moore won the Class C boys’ Nordic classical and freestyle.

On the ice, Cheverus’ girls lost to York in the quarterfinals. Players from Waynflete helped the Cape Elizabeth co-op team to the playoffs, where it lost to Scarborough in the semifinals.

On the boys’ side, Cheverus earned the No. 2 seed in Class A South after a solid 13-5 campaign, while Portland/Deering also made the cut as the No. 4 seed following a 10-7-1 season and players from Waynflete helped the South Portland/Waynflete/Freeport co-op squad earn the No. 7 seed in the region.

Attention then turned to the basketball championships.

On the boys’ side, in C South, Waynflete, ranked seventh, enjoyed another deep playoff run, downing Old Orchard Beach in the preliminary round and upsetting second-ranked Richmond in the quarterfinals before falling in a close decision to Madison in the semifinals.

In Class AA North, Cheverus dropped an overtime heartbreaker to Oxford Hills and Deering was upset by Windham in the quarterfinal round, while top-ranked Portland earned a bye into the semifinals. There, the Bulldogs ousted Oxford Hills by 20 points, then downed Edward Little by 13 in the regional final to advance to a fourth consecutive state game.

On the girls’ side, Waynflete beat Traip Academy in the preliminary round to make the Class C quarterfinals, where it gave Monmouth a scare before falling short. In Class AA South, MGA saved its best for last, knocking off Sanford in the quarterfinals before losing to eventual repeat state champion Gorham in the semifinals. In Class AA North, Cheverus fell two points shy and lost to Bangor in the quarterfinals, while Deering defeated Lewiston in the quarterfinals, then upset Edward Little in the semifinals before taking top-ranked Oxford Hills to overtime in a regional final thriller, where the Rams fell five points short.

March

March dawned with some exciting boys’ hockey quarterfinal round playoff action, as Cheverus ousted the South Portland/Waynflete/Freeport co-op team and Portland/Deering rallied for a scintillating overtime win over Massabesic/Old Orchard Beach/Bonny Eagle.

In the semifinals at Lewiston, Portland/Deering was sent packing by Falmouth, but Cheverus edged Scarborough in overtime. The Stags then gave the Yachtsmen a scare in the regional final but were eliminated, 4-3.

Portland’s boys’ basketball team culminated another transcendent season with a 60-38 win over South Portland in a state game rematch, taking the Gold Ball for the third time in four years.

April and May

Even though the weather was far from accommodating, the short spring regular season featured much excitement and triumph.

Cheverus, Deering and Portland’s baseball teams all produced solid campaigns and qualified for the playoffs.

Portland’s softball team was even better than the year before, winning 14 of 16 games. The Maine Girls’ Academy/Falmouth co-op squad also qualified for the postseason.

Boys’ lacrosse featured Cheverus and Deering qualifying for the playoffs.

On the girls’ side, Cheverus, Portland and Waynflete were also postseason-bound.

Area track stars geared up for the state meet.

The tennis story featured excellence from several city teams, most notably the always-dominant Waynflete boys.

June

The spring championship season began with Cheverus’ girls’ team taking the Class A outdoor track title for the first time. The Stags were paced by Gallant, who set a new record in the 200 and was also first in the 100. Emily Turner won the 400, Emma White was first in the long jump and Cheverus’ 4×400 relay team also had no peer.

In Class C, MGA’s Sam Witkowski won the girls’ pole vault and Waynflete’s Abby Pipkin was the girls’ 800 champion.

A week later, Waynflete’s boys’ tennis team won a phenomenal 10th successive Class C crown. The Flyers girls also reached the pinnacle.

On the diamond, the MGA/Falmouth co-op softball squad lost to Noble in the Class A South preliminary round. Portland then made a stirring run to the regional final for the first time since 2004, beating South Portland in the quarterfinals and Thornton Academy in the semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Scarborough.

Baseball’s playoffs were exciting as well, as Deering knocked off Biddeford in the preliminary round. In the quarterfinals, Cheverus ousted Deering and Portland dominated South Portland. The Bulldogs were eliminated by Falmouth in an extra inning classic in the semifinals, but the Stags advanced with a win over Gorham. In the regional final, Cheverus finally met its match, falling, 4-1, to Falmouth.

Cheverus’ girls’ lacrosse team advanced the deepest in the playoffs, downing Gardiner in the Class A North quarterfinals before losing to eventual state champion Messalonskee in the semifinals. Messalonskee had previously eliminated Portland in the quarterfinals. In Class B South, Waynflete lost a quarterfinal round game for the first time, to Cape Elizabeth.

On the boys’ side, Cheverus outslugged Deering, 15-12, in the Class A North quarterfinals, then lost to eventual state champion Brunswick in the semifinals.

July and August

High school action took a short break, while familiar names competed in road races and American Legion ball. By mid-August, fall practice was underway.

September

Autumn brought football, soccer, field hockey, cross country, golf and volleyball excitement.

On the gridiron, all three local teams struggled out of the gates.

On the pitch, all four local boys’ teams and the Cheverus and Waynflete girls’ squads emerged as top contenders.

Cheverus’ field hockey team burst out of the gates and provided plenty of excitement.

Deering’s volleyball team stole the show early, upsetting perennial power Scarborough in the opener and holding an undefeated record at month’s end. Portland was also in the midst of its best season to date.

Cross country and golf teams hinted at success to come.

October

Cheverus and Portland’s golf teams qualified for the Class A state match. The Stags came in second to Scarborough while the Bulldogs tied for fifth, their best showing in many years.

Deering’s girls’ cross country team qualified for New Englands for the first time and was joined by the boys’ squad. Waynflete’s Henry Spritz was the Class C boys’ individual champion.

Portland’s volleyball team made the playoffs for the first time and lost to Biddeford in the quarterfinal round. Deering earned the top seed in Class A and earned a first-ever postseason victory when it downed Bonny Eagle in the quarterfinals. The Rams’ dream of hosting the state match on its home court was then dashed, when they were upset by South Portland in the semifinals.

The field hockey playoffs saw Cheverus earn the No. 3 seed in Class A South, but the Stags were upset in the quarterfinals by eventual regional champion Westbrook.

The soccer playoffs saw Waynflete’s girls lose to St. Dom’s in the Class C South quarterfinals. Cheverus blanked Sanford in the preliminary round, then upset longtime nemesis Gorham in the quarterfinals before losing to eventual regional champion Scarborough in the semifinals.

On the boys’ side, Waynflete outlasted Mt. Abram in overtime in the Class C South quarterfinals, then dropped an OT heartbreaker at Maranacook in the semifinals. In Class A South, Cheverus, which missed the playoffs the year before, enjoyed a preliminary round win over Bonny Eagle, then lost at Gorham in the quarterfinals. Deering beat Westbrook in the preliminary round, then lost at Falmouth in the quarters. Portland then stole the show, edging Scarborough in the quarterfinals and holding off Thornton Academy in the semifinals.

Football’s playoffs began with Cheverus falling at Windham in the A North quarterfinals, Deering losing to Bonny Eagle in the A South quarterfinals and Portland, despite its 2-6 record, advancing with a 21-6 victory at Oxford Hills in its quarterfinal round test.

November

The soccer drama continued into November, where Portland’s boys avenged a painful regional final ouster from the year before by outlasting Gorham in penalty kicks in the same round. The Bulldogs then got a third crack at the program’s elusive first Class A Gold Ball, but dropped an overtime heartbreaker to Lewiston.

That left Portland’s football team, which upset Lewiston, 27-13 ,in the semifinals. The Bulldogs’ quest for a third consecutive regional crown was quickly dashed at Windham in the Class A North Final, as the Eagles rolled, 42-6.

December

Winter has returned (with a vengeance) and the fun begins again.

In boys’ basketball, Portland is off to an undefeated start and appears again to be the team to beat. Cheverus and Deering are among a group of squads on the Bulldogs’ tail. Waynflete has was it takes to make another deep run in Class C South.

On the girls’ side, there’s a lot of buzz around Cheverus and Portland, while Deering, MGA and Waynflete figure to be playoff teams as well.

On the ice, both Cheverus and Portland/Deering’s boys’ and girls’ squads are off to fast starts.

Swimming, track and wrestling have provided their share of promising moments and skiing is about to get underway.

Say goodbye to the wonderful year that was. We welcome 2018 and look forward to a new batch of highlights.

Happy New Year everyone!

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

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