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Freeport Falcons Winter Sports Preview

Sports

Freeport Falcons Winter Sports Preview

Freeport has a lot to get excited about this winter. The boys' basketball team is on the verge of returning to contention and should improve as the season progresses. The girls' squad could be on the verge of its best season in decades. Both track teams have promising athletes. The Falcons ski program is as dominant as any and both the Alpine and Nordic squads have legitimate shots at more hardware.

BOYS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Matthew Cook (second year, 4-14)

2011-12 Record: 4-14 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Connor Dietrich (Senior), Landon Easler (Senior), Chandler Birmingham (Junior), Matt Shulties (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 11 @ Cape Elizabeth, Dec. 20 @ York, Jan. 3 @ Yarmouth, Jan. 5 @ Falmouth, Jan. 11 (H) GREELY, Jan. 26 (H) YARMOUTH

COACHS COMMENT: “The kids are playing hard and we're getting better. We've been competitive in the preseason. We have to take pride in our defense, take care of the ball and execute on both sides in order to compete. My only goal is for us to get better every day. In order for us to be successful, everyone will have to score when they get a chance.”

THE FORECASTERS FORECAST: After four tough seasons, Freeport appears to be trending back toward competitive status. The Falcons will certainly miss five departed seniors, most notably 2011-12 leading scorer and Senior All-Star Mitch Loeman and top rebounder Josh Weirich, but there is cause for optimism as a new season dawns. Easler is a steady ballhandler at point guard. Birmingham averaged 10 points per contest last winter and will look to team with junior Mark Donahue, who ran indoor track last season, to produce points. The frontcourt features Dietrich and Shulties, along with sophomore Ramsey Dodge (who saw limited varsity time a year ago) and freshman Jack Davenport, who could play a key role as the season progresses. Freeport is still climbing the ladder back toward playoff contention, but this squad, if it can stay healthy and limit mistakes, will be able to hold its own against most of the teams in the conference. An improvement on last year's win-loss record and even a run at a postseason spot are realistic goals. The Falcons will just keep getting better going forward.

GIRLS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Jim Seavey (first year)

2011-12 Record: 9-10 (Lost, 50-33,to Wells in Western Class B preliminary round)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Hannah Chase (Senior), Jocelyn Davee (Senior), Naomi Otis (Senior), Aubrey Pennell (Senior), Leigh Wyman (Senior), Nina Davenport (Junior), Livvy Dimick(Junior), Vanessa Lee (Junior), Ashley Richardson(Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 15 @ Lake Region, Dec. 18 (H) WELLS, Dec. 20 (H) YORK, Jan. 5 (H) FALMOUTH, Jan. 11 @ Greely, Jan. 15 (H) LAKE REGION, Jan. 17 @ Wells, Jan. 21 @ Gray-New Gloucester, Jan. 25 (H) POLAND, Feb. 5 @ Poland

COACHS COMMENT: “There's a lot of work to do, but the girls are working hard. We have a lot of potential. The kids have to believe in each other. They're getting better each day. It's a tough conference. We'll have to come ready to play every night. We have a lot of upside. I like to think we're a contender. If we stay healthy and take care of things, we'll be in the middle of things in February.”

THE FORECASTERS FORECAST: Freeport is on the brink of what could be one of the finest seasons in its history. The Falcons return a strong core and welcome a new coach whose pedigree is as impressive as anyone's. Seavey coached the Greely girls to the 2004 Class B crown and did the same with the Scarborough girls in 2010. He knows it will be a process, but believes his team can be a serious factor come the postseason (Freeport last won a playoff game a decade ago and last reached the semifinals way back in 1977). For starters, keep an eye on the 5-foot-11 Davenport, who could be one of the state's special players this winter. She was a role player on McAuley's Class A state champion as a freshman and after coming home to Freeport, was named a first-team league all-star after finishing second with 17.7 points as a sophomore. A forward, Davenport was also fourth in steals (4.1) and ninth in rebounds (9.1) a year ago. Wyman is another reigning all-star (third-team) after leading the conference in steals (5.6) and finishing fifth in assists (3.3). Perhaps the key to the Falcons' success will be Pennell at the point guard position. She missed almost the entire season with injury in 2011-12, but if healthy, brings tremendous energy and leadership to the court. Davee (Freeport's Fall Female Athlete of the Year), Lee (who stands 5-11) and Otis will help Davenport in the frontcourt, as will sophomore Makenzie Ackley (a junior varsity player last season) and freshman Jessica Wall. Chase, Dimick (a terrific free throw shooter who was the South Region representative at the state championships last year), Richardson (whom Seavey calls an “energizer bunny”) and speedy sophomore Lauren Cormier add depth in the backcourt. Freeport will employ Seavey's oppressive fullcourt press defense and will look to translate that into some easy hoops. When forced to play in the halfcourt, there are several options. The ingredients for a memorable season are there, but staying healthy will be paramount. Look for the Falcons to steadily improve into a tournament-worthy squad, post their first winning record since 2001-02 and not just make a first appearance at the Expo, but quite likely the Civic Center as well. This could be the kind of year Freeport fans have long been awaiting.

INDOOR TRACK

COACH: Brian Berkemeyer (fifth year)

2011-12 Results:

(BOYS) tie-12th @ Class B state meet

(GIRLS) tie-23rd @ Class B state meet

TOP RETURNERS:

(BOYS) Harry Stivers (Junior)

(GIRLS) Ciera Wentworth (Senior), Lexi Dietrich (Junior)

COACHS COMMENT: “We lost 13 seniors and a few others, but we still have our largest team ever with 41 athletes. Our major focus is still on personal fitness. We usually send a handful of kids to the state meet and look to do so again. We look to continue to build our successful program and return to states with some athletes earning some awards. We strive to establish and break personal bests for each athlete.

THE FORECASTER'SFORECAST: As has been the case for many years, Freeport features some impressive athletes this winter.

The boys will be led this year by Stivers, who placed third in the 400 last season. Senior Abrin Berkemeyer (distance) and junior Darnel Strothers (shot put) are key newcomers. Several others hope to make a mark as the season progresses. The Falcons will be able to hold their own against most league foes and should once again make some noise at states.

On the girls' side, Wentworth is a top returner. She was fifth in the mile at last year's state meet. Dietrich could be one of the league's top jumpers. Junior Kelsey Grant, who has enjoyed success outdoors, joins the squad and will sprint and throw the shot put. Freeport has what it takes to improve on last year's state finish.

SKIING

2011-12 Overall Results:

(BOYS) 2nd @ Class C combined state meet

(GIRLS) Class C combined state champions

ALPINE

COACH: Jay Thomas (first year)

2011-12 Results:

(BOYS) 3rd @Class C state meet

(GIRLS) Class C state champions

TOP RETURNERS:

(BOYS) Brady Davis (Senior), Alec Salisbury (Senior), Caleb Abbott (Sophomore), Ryder Bennell (Sophomore), Blake Enrico (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Taylor Enrico (Senior), Wynne Cushing (Sophomore)

COACHS COMMENT: “Blake, Ryder and Caleb were top finishers for the boys last year. Four-year veterans Alec and Brady will be solid finishers for the team. The girls graduated three skiers from last year’s championship team and we have had a couple skiers over the last two years move to other ski programs, so we will be working on rebuilding. We have Taylor and Wynne, who have skied very well over the years, for a base.”

THE FORECASTERS FORECAST: The Freeport Alpine team should once again be near the top of the Class C heap when all is said and done. This year, the squad will be coached by Thomas, who has been involved with the program at the Middle and High school levels for eight years.

This year's boys' squad features Bennell (runner-up in the slalom at last year's state meet) and Enrico (third in the GS, sixth in the slalom last winter). Abbott is another up-and-comer. Davis and Salisbury have experience. The Falcons should be in the running for top honors once again.

On the girls' side, defending slalom and GS champion and two-time Freeport Winter Female Athlete of the Year Elly Bengtsson is competing at a private school out of state this winter, but the Falcons do return Enrico (third in the slalom, fifth in the GS last year) and Cushing (ninth in the GS, 11th in the slalom). Freeport will have its work cut out reaching the pinnacle this season, but look for the Falcons to be competitive throughout and to improve greatly in the weeks to come.

NORDIC

COACH: Joel Hinshaw

2011-12 Results:

(BOYS) 5th @ Class C state meet

(GIRLS) 3rd @ Class C state meet

TOP RETURNERS:

(BOYS) Bennett Brainard (Senior), Mason Cyr (Junior), Quinn Dowling (Sophomore), Zach Merrill (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Lia Wellen (Senior), Emma Egan (Junior), Bethanie Knighton (Junior), Lily LaMarre (Junior), Lizzy Martin (Sophomore)

COACH'S COMMENT: “We should be around 30 skiers strong, with a good mix of freshmen, sophomores and juniors, but only a few seniors. Both teams should do very well this year in both the WMC and the state meets, both with top three finishes in states. ”

THE FORECASTERS FORECAST: Hinshaw is joined this season by assistant coach Heather Zimmerman, who won a freestyle title when competing at Telstar High School. Zimmerman later skied at the University of New Hampshire. The coaches have plenty of talent to work with this winter.

The boys' team should make a run at top honors behind the likes of Cyr (20th in the classic and 31st in the freestyle at last year's state meet), Dowling (25th in both disciplines), Merrill (26th freestyle, 27th classic), Brainard (33rd freestyle) and new junior Eli McCurdy (who was sixth in freestyle and seventh in the classic while competing for Merriconeag last year). This group has the pieces in place for a great season.

The girls hope to make a run at the top spot this time around. Martin is the top returner. She was fourth in the classic and ninth in the freestyle at last year's state meet. Also returning are LaMarre (12th classic, 23rd freestyle), Knighton (18th freestyle, 19th classic), Egan (19th freestyle) and Wellen (44th classic). The Falcons will make life difficult for the rest of the conference and will be in place to steal headlines at states.