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Portland Bulldogs Fall Sports Previews

Sports

Portland Bulldogs Fall Sports Previews

Portland High athletics is in for an exciting autumn. Football, featuring a new face at the helm for the first time in nearly three decades, is a potential sleeper capable of making noise into November. Boys’ soccer has been very strong in recent seasons and even with a lot of new faces will contend again. The girls’ program welcomes a new coach and has optimism that the wins will come. No one stole more headlines last fall than field hockey. The Bulldogs hope to follow up last year’s first ever regional final appearance with more triumph. Both cross country teams are eyeing state meet berths, while golf will look to hold its own against a competitive slate and perhaps qualify for the state match if all goes well.

FOOTBALL

COACH: Jim Hartman (first year)

2011 Record: 2-6 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Tate Gale (Senior), Verny Gayle (Senior), Casey Mahoney (Senior), Kyle Reichert (Senior), Nick Volger (Senior), Abe Marr (Junior), Jayvon Pitts-Young (Junior), Justin Zukowski (Junior), Dom Dimillo (Sophomore), Ryan Ruhlin (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 8 @ Cheverus, Sept. 21 @ Bonny Eagle, Oct. 12 (H) SCARBOROUGH, Oct. 20 @ South Portland

COACH’S COMMENT: “The preseason’s going well. I have good kids who work hard and are tough. I’m happy with their effort. It’s a veteran team. Our offensive line is our strength. We’ll run the wing-T and throw on our terms. I think we’ll be really competitive. We should make the playoffs. We talk about gunning for a state title.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: It’s a new era for Portland football. Mike Bailey’s quarter-century at the helm is over and the Bulldogs welcome a new coach, Jim Hartman, a longtime fixture in the area who led Yarmouth from the Developmental League to back-to-back state championships. While Portland has struggled on the field the past couple years, it might be ready to jump back into contention. There are some exciting playmakers on the roster and the preseason has brought optimism. Ruhlin will be under center and he has plenty of weapons at his disposal. The most dangerous might be Pitts-Young, who can run, throw or catch the ball. Once it’s in his hands, good luck bringing him down. Volger and Zukowski are both tough and seasoned and will be a big part of the offense. Marr and sophomore Jordan Floridino, who is recovering from a knee injury, could see larger roles as the season progresses. Seniors Drew Graham and Joe Nielsen are receivers to watch. The line features Dimillo, junior Jake Dunton, Gale, Reichert, senior Josh Hoyt (who played as a freshman and has returned) and junior Cody McCormack. Mahoney will play tight end. Defensively, Gayle, Hoyt, Mahoney, Reichert and junior Jake Fogel and sophomore Nate Red will see time on the line. Linebackers include Gale and Zukowski. The secondary features Marr, Nielsen, Pitts-Young and Volger. Reichert handles punting and kicking duties. The Bulldogs have to learn a new system and come of age while playing against several of the top teams in the league. Portland projects to be a team that improves dramatically as the season goes on. Eclipsing last year’s win total is likely. There’s a good chance the Bulldogs will have a shot at a playoff berth. If all goes well, Portland could be this year’s version of what South Portland accomplished in 2011, not just improving, but making a deep run. The program is on its way back. The only question is how long it will take to get there.

BOYS' SOCCER

COACH; Rocky Frenzilli (26th year, 174-155-37 overall record)

2011 Record: 10-3-2 (Lost, 3-1, to Cheverus in Western Class A quarterfinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Tim Rovnak (Senior), Chip Weber (Senior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 6 @ Deering, Sept. 11 (H) SCARBOROUGH, Sept. 13 @ Gorham, Sept. 25 @ Cheverus, Oct. 6 @ Windham, Oct. 11 (H) SOUTH PORTLAND

COACH’S COMMENT: “We’re definitely a work in progress. It’s the first year I can honestly say I have two boys back with varsity experience. I’m excited to have Timmy back. He means so much to us with his work ethic and tenacity. He’s a great kid. He and Chip will wrap themselves around the leadership role. I hope we grow and play our best soccer in October. We want to have a winning record and get a spot in the tournament. I’m guardedly optimistic.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Portland has been as good as anyone the past four seasons, winning 46 games and making it to the state final in 2010. Graduation, transfer (Tony Yekah has moved to Windham) and club team departures have caught up with the Bulldogs, however, and this year will be a challenge with only two returning players. Luckily for Portland, those two are talented and seasoned and are a great building block. Rovnak made the all-conference, regional and state teams, was the school's Fall Male Athlete of the Year in 2011 and is one of the most prolific scorers around. He’s quick, is a great finisher and has a flair for a dramatic. He’ll keep the Bulldogs competitive. Junior Ek Bakunda should help the offense as well. Defensively, Weber is back in goal. He was an honorable mention SMAA all-star last season. Weber will see his share of shots, but is up to the task. Junior Charlie Gauvin helps the defense in front of Weber. From there, Frenzilli and his staff have a lot of holes to fill. Rest assured, the Bulldogs will be athletic. They always are. It will be a case of getting game experience and confidence. Portland might have trouble with the top tier teams, but should be able to compete with everyone else. The Bulldogs will have their share of entertaining games. If all goes well, the program will extend its streak of playoff appearances to 13 and could give any prospective late October foe fits.

GIRLS' SOCCER

COACH: Arthur Mosen (first year)

2011 Record: 0-13-1 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Ashley Frank (Senior), Mashale Nabi (Senior), Elizabeth Harris (Junior), Kagan Schmidt (Junior), Emma Stehli (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Aug. 31 (H) WINDHAM, Sept. 6 @ Deering, Sept. 25 (H) CHEVERUS, Oct. 2 (H) MCAULEY, Oct. 12 @ SOUTH PORTLAND

COACH’S COMMENT: “We are motivated to change the reputation that the team has taken on over the past few seasons. I think that the group is much better than what the stats might lead you to believe and I know the girls are eager to get out there and prove that point. Our biggest strength will be our determination and our commitment to each other. We know what our goals are and I think if we can all stick together we'll surprise some people this season.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: For several seasons, Portland was a top contender, but the past two seasons have been difficult resulting in just one victory. This year, the Bulldogs are eager to turn things around. Mosen was the junior varsity team coach in 2011. He previously coached at Yarmouth, the University of Southern Maine and with the Portland Phoenix. He inherits some talent led by Nabi in goal, Frank (an honorable mention all-star last year) and Harris on defense and Schmidt and Stehli in the midfield. The offense could come from sophomores Madison Bolduc and Orianna Smith and freshmen Chessa Hoekstra and Isabel Stehli. Portland’s experience on the defensive end is a good starting point. If the younger players come along and the Bulldogs can get some consistent offense, they’ll win some games. Perhaps several. While serious contention is still in the future, this will be a season of growth and improvement. It won’t be long until the league is fearing Portland once again.

FIELD HOCKEY

COACH: Beth Arsenault (13th year, 50-118-8 overall record)

2011 Record: 12-5-1 (Lost, 4-1, to Marshwood in Western Class A Final)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Gabi Cardona (Senior), Megan Hudson (Senior), Carissa Porcaro (Senior), Leanne Reichert (Senior), Ali Briggs (Junior), Katie Rutherford (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Aug. 30 (H) MASSABESIC, Sept. 1 (H) MARSHWOOD, Sept. 11 @ Scarborough, Sept. 13 @ Gorham, Sept. 14 (H) CHEVERUS, Sept. 19 (H) WINDHAM, Sept. 21 @ THORNTON ACADEMY, Oct. 3 (H) WESTBROOK

COACH’S COMMENT: “While we'd like to return more than six players, those six were part of a unique experience and their leadership will be invaluable. They're six in body, but 12 in spirit. I am excited about our season because just like last year was a first for our program, so is this year. We are entering a year with athletes who expect to go to the playoffs, not thinking that just making it there is their ultimate goal. We proved last year that hard work and dedication can pay huge dividends and that school demographics and resources do not need to dictate who can and will be successful. Our seniors and team captains, as well as our returning upperclassmen, are extremely dedicated and are perpetuating the competitive and winning culture that they enjoyed last year. We lost 15 seniors and still went to the Western Maine Final last year, so losing 15 this season again is not a deterrent or excuse. We did it once and believe that we can do it again."

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Ten months later, the memories of Portland’s stirring playoff run remain vivid. Years of frustration were wiped away in a little over a week as the Bulldogs made it all the way to the regional final for the first time behind team-wide heroics. A huge number of key players from that squad, including all-staters Kylie Dalbec and Raechel Allen (also Portland’s 2011 Fall Female Athlete of the Year), have graduated, but the program, led by Arsenault, our reigning Coach of the Year, has a new attitude moving forward and still boasts enough talent to be a force in Western Class A. This year’s offense will be led by captains Cardona and Reichert, as well as Rutherford, junior Tory Clayton and sophomore Georgia Drew. Defensively, Briggs and Hudson have experience. They’ll be joined by new seniors Grace Dunham and Sandra Gilson and sophomores Tara O’Neal and Meggie Parker. As of press time, Porcaro, hero of the Westbrook playoff win, is pegged as the goalie, replacing Rachel Waterhouse, who was terrific in her one season. Freshman Gianna Gaudett is the keeper of the future and if she is able to handle the varsity pressure, may see time this season, allowing Porcaro to go back into the field. There appear to be several very good teams in the conference this season, so wins will be tough to come by. With that said, you can never write the Bulldogs off. The culture has changed with this program. They now expect to compete and to win. Like last year, it’s possible Portland will get off to a slow start, then turn it on. While the Bulldogs won’t be able to sneak up on anyone this time around, they have enough firepower to win their share of games. Another trip to the postseason is realistic and we all know that if Portland gets to the playoffs, all bets are off.

CROSS COUNTRY

COACHES:
(BOYS) Dan Deniso (21st year)
(GIRLS) Sophie Payson-Rand (eighth year)

2011 Results:
(BOYS) 14th @ Class A state meet
(GIRLS) 14th @ Class A state meet

TOP RETURNING RUNNERS:
(BOYS) Ben Allen (Junior), Jake Morrow-Spitzer (Junior), Matt Bliss (Sophomore)
(GIRLS) Abby Popenoe (Senior), Elin Roland (Senior), Sadie Sarvis (Senior), Sara Gale (Junior), Bea Hesselbart (Sophomore), Darcy Hinck (Sophomore), Meredith Johnson (Sophomore)

TOP FOES: ; Cheverus, Scarborough, South Portland, Windham boys; Bonny Eagle, Cheverus, Massabesic girls

COACH DENISO’S COMMENT: “Our numbers are pretty good. They’re great kids. We don’t normally have this many freshmen. We’ll have to fight to qualify for states. That’s a goal of ours. We’ll have to improve to do that. Ben aspires to win a regional championship this year or next.”

COACH PAYSON'S COMMENT: “I have a good mix of experienced runners and new talent this year. This team has really prepared in the offseason and is ready to run. Our team goal is states and we have enough talent and depth to make a good showing. The team will welcome all the newcomers and freshmen to experience cross country as a positive individual and team sport and begin their lifelong love of running.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Last fall, both Portland cross country teams qualified for the state meet in the same season for the first time since 1984. This autumn, each squad is poised to get back.
The boys return 2011 league all-star Allen, who was fifth at regionals and 38th at the Class A state meet, along with state meet scorers Morrow-Spitzer (50th) and Bliss (91st). Sophomores Pat Sheils and Charles Winkelman and freshman Brad Arvenelle provide depth. This group will improve as the season goes on and paced by Allen, who could make a run at the top individual spot, the Bulldogs have a great chance to be among the top teams at the regional meet, punching their ticket back to states.
On the girls’ side, top returners include Hinck (50th at states in 2011), Sarvis (62nd), Roland (63rd) and Popenoe (82nd). Gale, Hesselbart and Johnson round out the top seven. Senior captain Megan Kelly adds leadership, while juniors Laura Frank and Meghan Suslovick are promising additions. Portland should be able to build on last year’s success and be in position in October to reach its goal of making it to states. If the Bulldogs get there, they could improve on last year’s finish.

GOLF

COACH: John LaFond (34th year, three state championships)

2011 Results: 2-8 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Zack Luce (Junior)

TOP FOES: Cheverus, Falmouth

COACH’S COMMENT: “We have a young team this year. We hope to qualify for the team state championships.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: The 2012 Bulldogs are led by Luce, who was a second-team all-star in 2011 and could be one of the top individuals in the conference and state this time around. Several other players are going to look to make a mark in the weeks to come. If a few step up, Portland will able to compete against teams like Deering and South Portland. A team berth in the state championships is probably out of reach, but Luce could represent the Bulldogs at Natanis and do very well.

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

Photo: File photo

Sophomore Ryan Ruhlin will be under center for the up-and-coming Bulldogs this season.

Photo: File photo

Senior Nick Volger is a shifty running back, hard hitting safety and team leader.

Photo: File photo

Junior Justin Zukowski will be a force for the Bulldogs at fullback and middle linebacker.

Photo: File photo

Sophomore Jordan Floridino is battling back from injury, but will be a key contributor at some point this fall.

Photo: File photo

Junior Jayvon Pitts-Young is a scoring threat every time he touches the ball.

Photo: File photo

Senior Carissa Porcaro was a postseason hero in 2011. As one of this year's few returners, she's hoping to led the Bulldogs back to the playoffs.

Photo: File photo

Gabi Cardona made an immediate splash last year and will be one of Portland's top threats this fall.

Photo: File photo

Senior Leanne Reichert is a captain the talented field hockey squad.

Photo: File photo

Look for junior Katie Rutherford to play a big role in the Bulldogs' success in 2012.

Photo: File photo

Ben Allen will make a run at the top of the regional and state heap this October.

Fall schedules

FOOTBALL

Fri., Aug. 31 H MASSABESIC

Sat., Sept. 8 @ Cheverus

Fri., Sept. 14 H GORHAM

Fri., Sept. 21 @ Bonny Eagle

Fri., Sept. 28 H NOBLE

Fri., Oct. 5 @ Biddeford

Fri., Oct. 12 H SCARBOROUGH

Sat., Oct. 20 @ SP

BOYS' SOCCER

Tues., Sept. 4 H NOBLE

Thurs., Sept. 6 @ Deering

Tues., Sept. 11 H SCARBOROUGH

Sat., Sept. 13 @ Gorham

Tues., Sept. 18 @ Biddeford

Thurs., Sept. 20 H WESTBROOK

Tues., Sept. 25 @ Cheverus

Thurs., Sept. 27 H MASSABESIC

Tues., Oct. 2 @ Marshwood

Thurs., Oct. 4 H KENNEBUNK

Sat, Oct. 6 @ Windham

Tues., Oct. 9 @ Bonny Eagle

Thurs., Oct. 11 H SP

Tues., Oct. 16 H TA

GIRLS' SOCCER

Fri., Aug. 31 H WINDHAM

Wed., Sept. 5 @ Noble

Thurs., Sept. 6 @ Deering

Fri., Sept. 14 @ Scarborough

Sat., Sept. 15 H GORHAM

Tues., Sept. 18 H BIDDEFORD

Thurs., Sept. 20 @ Westbrook

Sat., Sept. 22 @ Bonny Eagle

Tues., Sept. 25 H CHEVERUS

Fri., Sept. 28 @ Massabesic

Tues., Oct. 2 H MCAULEY

Fri., Oct. 5 @ Kennebunk

Fri., Oct. 12 @ SP

Tues., Oct. 16 H TA

FIELD HOCKEY

Thurs., Aug. 30 H MASSABESIC

Sat., Sept. 1 H MARSHWOOD

Wed., Sept. 5 @ SP

Tues., Sept. 11 @ Scarborough

Thurs., Sept. 13 @ Gorham

Fri., Sept. 14 H CHEVERUS

Wed., Sept. 19 H WINDHAM

Fri., Sept. 21 @ TA

Mon., Sept. 24 H DEERING

Thurs., Sept. 27 @ McAuley

Sat., Sept. 29 H BONNY EAGLE

Mon., Oct. 1 @ Noble

Wed., Oct. 3 H WESTBROOK

Fri., Oct. 5 @ Biddeford

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