Greely Rangers Fall Athletes of the Year

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Rachel Smith

Joey Cassella

MALE:

JOEY CASSELLA, Senior-Football

  • Campbell Conference Class B all-star

  • Team MVP

  • Captain

Cassella was the heart and soul of a Rangers team that refused to quit, didn’t use low numbers as an excuse and once again advanced deeper in the playoffs than expected.

Cassella started playing football in the first grade and it quickly became his favorite sport.

“I love the physical part of football,” Cassella said. “I’m very competitive.”

Cassella made the varsity team as a freshman and was named Rookie of the Year, became the lead back as a sophomore and made the Campbell Conference all-star team and was Greely’s Offensive Player of the Year, then, as a junior, he made the all-star team again and once again was named the Rangers’ Offensive Player of the Year.

This fall, Greely fielded 19 varsity players but managed to go 4-4 in the regular season before downing Biddeford in the quarterfinals to reach the semifinals for the improbable fourth year in a row, where they lost to Kennebunk. 

Cassella, a running back on offense and linebacker/safety on defense, played a huge role in the Rangers’ success and was ultimately chosen the team’s Most Valuable Player. He rushed for over 1,000 yards on 175 carries, scored nine touchdowns and even had a 94-yard TD scamper. Cassella also caught six passes for 94 yards and a score and on defense, he had 55 tackles and a pair of interceptions. 

Highlights included touchdown runs of 6- and 55-yards in a win over Mt. Blue, two TDs, including the aforementioned 94-yard scamper, in a dramatic victory at Cape Elizabeth, the winning touchdown in an overtime victory over Gorham and a pair of TDs in a regular season-ending loss to rival Falmouth in the “Battle of Route 9.” In the quarterfinals, Greely avenged a regular season loss to Biddeford, as a first quarter 19-yard Cassella touchdown run set the tone. Cassella then scored his and his team’s final touchdown of the year in a semifinal round loss to Kennebunk.

“We just stuck together,” Cassella said. “We had each other’s backs. Some of us played together for 10 years. Coach (David) Higgins knew how to bring out the hardest worker in all of us. I’m thankful I got to play for Greely. It gave me the opportunity to work hard and prove myself.”

Cassella, who is a member of Greely’s Lifting Club and also volunteers on his off-time, hopes to play football at the next level. He’s currently weighing his college options.

Joey Cassella, Greely’s Fall Male Athlete of the Year, was tough, determined and helped make his undermanned team a winner. Players like him don’t come along very often.

Coach David Higgins’ comment: “Joey has been a four-year starter and a three-year All-Conference player and he has been a co-captain for the past two years. He played offense, defense and all special teams. He did it all for us. He was a big part of our success.”

Prior winners:

2017 Quinn Molloy (soccer)

2016 Paul Buchanan (football)

2015 Sam Peck (football)

2014 Aidan Roberts (golf)

2013 Matt Crowley (soccer)

2012 Svenn Jacobsen (football)

2011 Stefan Sandreuter (cross country)

2010 Jon Higgins (football)

2009 Logan Price (cross country)

2008 Steven Chase (soccer)

2007 James LePage (cross country)

2006 Oliver Blum (soccer)

2005 Greg Frost (soccer)

2004 Casey Diehl (cross country)

2003 Will Robinson (golf)

2002 Ben True (cross country)

2001 Ben True (cross country)

FEMALE:

RACHEL SMITH, Senior—Golf

  • Girls’ individual state champion

  • SMAA girls’ all-star, first-team

  • Captain

Smith was the finest girls’ golfer in the state this fall, capping a stellar high school career in the ultimate style, while suggesting that her best is yet to come.

Smith started playing golf seriously when her family opened Rachel’s restaurant (named for her) at Val Halla Golf Course in Cumberland.

“I was too young to stay home alone so I’d go out to the course and play around,” Smith said. “(Val Halla pro and Greely coach) Brian (Bickford) gave me clubs. Then, I started getting instruction from (former champion) Abby Spector and she’s the reason I am where I am.

“Golf has always been my top sport. It teaches you to be patient and humble. My mental game is strong.”

Smith got to play her first two high school seasons with standout Erin Holmes, the 2016 girls’ champion, and as a sophomore, Smith shot a team-best round of 81 at the Class A state team meet and shot a 79 to tie for sixth at the girls’ state meet. Prior to this season, Smith won the Maine Junior golf title and the Pro-Lady crown as well and that set the stage for a terrific senior campaign.

Smith averaged a 39 this fall during the regular season and with all eyes on her in the postseason, she excelled. Smith shot an 85 at the team state match, helping Greely finish sixth in Class A. The following week, at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro, Smith lowered her score to 78 to down Leavitt’s Ruby Haylock by three strokes for the individual championship, joining Holmes, Tracy Darling (1979), Linda Bickford (1982), Holly Anderson (1983 and 1984) and Laura Grant (2009) as Rangers girls to place first.

“My goal was to win states,” Smith said. “Going in, I knew Ruby was my biggest competition. I didn’t play well in the qualifier. I knew I needed to practice my short game. I knew if I did my best and played par golf, it would work out. I was really excited to win.”

Smith also plays basketball at Greely and plays golf year-round, including indoors during the colder months. She will play golf next year at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts. She plans to study pre-med. 

Rachel Smith, Greely’s Fall Female Athlete of the Year, is a poised, talented champion and we haven’t heard the last of her brilliance on the golf course.

Coach Brian Bickford’s comment: “Rachel has learned to focus and have confidence in her ability to play great golf. When she’s playing well, she never lets her emotions get too high or too low, something that is very hard to do. She also learned to play one shot at a time and never get ahead of herself and finally, I think she gained the confidence to hit clubs she used to avoid. Rachel is a great teammate and continues the tradition that is Greely girls’ golf.”

Prior winners:

2017 Sydney Meredith-Pickett (field hockey)

2016 Kayley Cimino (volleyball)

2015 Izzy Hutnak (soccer)

2014 Katherine Leggat-Barr (cross country)

2013 Kirstin Sandreuter (cross country)

2012 Haleigh Roach (volleyball)

2011 Maggie Bradley (volleyball)

2010 Kirstin Sandreuter (cross country)

2009 Erin Cadigan (volleyball)

2008 Hillary Cederna (volleyball)

2007 Mackenzie Ross (field hockey)

2006 Aly Robinson (soccer)

2005 Amanda Gray (volleyball)

2004 Rachelle Doucette (soccer)

2003 Hayly Ross (field hockey)

2002 Kim Alexander (soccer)

2001 Amanda Chase (field hockey)

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.