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Freeport Falcons Fall Sports Preview

Sports

Freeport Falcons Fall Sports Preview

Virtually every Freeport team made the playoffs last year and this fall promises to be even more successful. Boys' soccer is in arguably the toughest region in the state, but will hold its own against several powerhouses and should be heard from in October. The girls' program has slowly been inching its way up the ladder and now has the talent to go toe-to-toe with the elite and has ample reason to believe it can go on a deep playoff run. Field hockey welcomes a new coach, one who's enjoyed great success in the spring, and should remain one of the best squads in Western C. Both cross country teams are very strong, with the girls capable of winning it all. Golf made a rare state match appearance a year ago and will look to build on that experience.

BOYS' SOCCER
COACH: Joe Heathco (16th year, 116-100-22 overall record)
2012 Record: 4-10-2 (Lost, 4-1, to Maranacook in Western B quarterfinals)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Nick Nelsonwood (Senior), Ethan Roney (Senior), Harrison Stivers (Senior), Caleb Abbott (Junior), Shawn Anthony (Junior), Ryder Bennell (Junior), Callum Gould (Junior), Brendan Qualls (Junior), Jack Davenport (Sophomore)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 16 YARMOUTH, Sept. 24 @ Greely, Sept. 30 @ NYA, Oct. 8 @ Waynflete, Oct. 18 FALMOUTH, Oct. 21 @ Cape Elizabeth 
COACH’S COMMENT: “It's a great group. We lost some good seniors, but we counted a lot on the young kids last year. They're a year older and stronger and it shows. We'll go 15, 16, 17 deep every game. That's a strength of the team. We're not the most talented team, but we can compete with anybody. Playoffs is the goal, but it will be that much harder to get in with two new teams.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Heathco alludes to the addition of Cape Elizabeth and Greely to the Class B playoffs (two-time defending champion Falmouth is now in Class A), meaning there won't be many easy games and a playoff berth will have to be earned. This squad is up to the task.
Nelsonwood is the top returner. He was a second-team league all-star last autumn and anchors the back line, while also seeing time in the midfield. Stivers (Freeport's Spring Male Athlete of the Year) and junior Blake Enrico, whose powerful leg has earned him free kick duties, will also look to hold the opposition at bay. Top scorers project to be Davenport (last year's leader) and junior Nick Wilson, who missed the 2012 season with an ACL injury. The midfield is deep and talented behind Abbott, Anthony, Bennell (Freeport's 2012-13 Winter Male Athlete of the Year), Gould and Roney. Qualls returns in goal and gives the Falcons a luxury that many top contenders lack, a seasoned keeper. 
There's no sugar-coating that Freeport faces a brutal schedule, with the likes of Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Greely, NYA, Waynflete and Yarmouth all on the slate. The Falcons will hold their own, however, and earn some victories. If it wins enough to make the playoffs, Freeport will return to its accustomed role as the squad no one wants to face with the season on the line. Another fun campaign is in store.

GIRLS' SOCCER
COACH: Elayna Girardin (fifth year, 22-35-3 overall record)
2012 Record: 7-8-1 (Lost, 4-2, to Morse in Western B quarterfinals)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Lexi Dietrich (Senior), Brooke Heathco (Senior), Emily Morang (Senior), Ashley Richardson (Senior), Emily Johnson (Junior)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 7 CAPE ELIZABETH, Sept. 16 @ Yarmouth, Sept. 24 GREELY, Oct. 8 WAYNFLETE, Oct. 18 @ Falmouth
COACH’S COMMENT: “I'm hoping we have a pretty good team. We have a lot of starters returning. Some will be in different positions. We're gaining depth. Last year left a bitter taste in our mouths. The returning girls are determined not to let that happen again. We've gone from wanting to make the playoffs to expecting it. We'll work to get there. Our goal is to get past that second round.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: The Falcons almost achieved that goal a year ago, but missed out on a great opportunity to upset Morse in the quarterfinals, letting a 2-0 halftime lead slip away. Despite some key graduation losses, most notably goalkeeper Aubrey Pennell and 2012 Fall Female Athlete of the Year and all-regional selection Jocelyn Davee, Freeport is equipped for success this autumn.
Senior Livvy Dimick will move into the goalkeeping position. She's played in the field, but not in goal as a varsity player. The defense is anchored by Dietrich, who's coming off a terrific outdoor track season, and Johnson, a three-year starter. The offense figures to be paced by reigning league all-star Heathco, Morang, Richardson and junior Julia Smith. Sophomore Maddie Squibb, who scored against Morse in the playoffs, and sophomore Jemayla Nelsonwood also figure to be heard from.
The Falcons have a chance to make an immediate statement when they host highly touted Cape Elizabeth Saturday. In fact, this team will have multiple chances to jump up and knock off a top foe, as three-time defending Class B champion Falmouth, Greely, Waynflete and Yarmouth are also on the docket. This could be the year Freeport joins the big dogs. The Falcons are seeking their first winning season since 2004 and are hoping for a third straight postseason berth for the first time since going four times in a row between 1988 and 1991. This squad has the pieces in place for a special season. Every team in the Western Maine Conference would be wise to take Freeport seriously.

FOOTBALL
COACH: Rob Grover (fifth year, 13-20 overall record)
2012 Record: 4-4 (no postseason)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Adam Brobst (Senior), Cam Buthlay (Senior), Ben MacMillan (Senior), Joe Nixon (Senior), Darnel Strothers (Senior), David Scheadler (Sophomore)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 21 POLAND, Sept. 27 @ Wells, Oct. 5 CAPE ELIZABETH, Oct. 18 @ Mountain Valley, Oct. 25 @ Yarmouth
COACH'S COMMENT: “We're building, but we'll be competitive. Going .500 is realistic. We can be better than last year on defense. We have to stay healthy and keep our numbers. I'm optimistic.”
FORECASTER'S FORECAST: Freeport has been very competitive the past three seasons and is still stinging after last year's heartbreaking loss to tormentor Yarmouth in the regular season finale, which prevented a second straight trip to the playoffs. All-stars and program pillars like 2012 Fall Male Athlete of the Year Dan Burke and James Purdy have graduated and the roster isn't very deep, but the Falcons have enough talent to compete in a new-look and very deep Western Class C (which now includes perennial powerhouses Cape Elizabeth, Leavitt, Mountain Valley and Wells).
Sophomore Eli Fox will play quarterback and in Freeport's system, he'll run and hand off more than he'll throw. The Falcons will rely on MacMillan, Nixon and Scheadler to pick up chunks of yardage on the ground. When Fox does throw, honorable mention league all-star Buthlay will be a top target. He'll look for senior Eric Wentworth as well. The line features honorable mention all-star Brobst and Strothers.
Defensively, Freeport will turn to Brobst and Strothers to hold the line. The linebacking corps features Buthlay and MacMillan. In the secondary, Nixon, Scheadler, Wentworth and sophomore Brady LaFrance will try to stymie opposing passing attacks.
Games at Wells and Mountain Valley (perhaps the quintessential setting for Maine high school football) will be challenging to say the least, but the Falcons will have more than a fighting chance against everyone else. It's quite likely the finale at Yarmouth will once again be pivotal. Freeport would love another crack at the Clippers with the season on the line. This time, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if the Falcons break through and return to the postseason.

FIELD HOCKEY
COACH: Marcia Wood (first year)
2012 Record: 5-9-1 (Lost, 1-0, in OT, to Traip in Western C quarterfinals)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Olivia Bubar (Senior), Megan Peacock (Senior), Emily Sturtevant (Senior), Abby Smith (Junior), Hannah Williams (Junior), Lexi Peacock (Sophomore)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 5 YORK, Sept. 19 @ Cape Elizabeth, Sept. 23 Falmouth, Oct. 11 GREELY, Oct. 15 @ Yarmouth
COACH’S COMMENT: "Our numbers are small, but we have a lot of experience coming back. We'll have to get conditioned to play a full game. The girls work well together. They pass well. We want to get better. I want the girls to get used to me."
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Freeport has a new coach this year in Wood, who replaces Sara Dimick. Wood was an assistant with the powerhouse Scarborough program and served two years as Deering's head coach, but she's best known for leading the Scarborough girls' lacrosse team to over 100 victories and multiple state championships. She inherits a team which has been a playoff regular, but hasn't been able to take the next step.
This year's squad is seasoned and hungry. Offensively, Bubar, Smith (a second-team Western Maine Conference all-star a year ago), Sturtevant and Williams will all look to rattle the cage. The defense is paced by Lexi Peacock and Megan Peacock (a first-team all-star a year ago), along with new senior Lee Brown. At press time, Wood was unsure who would play goalie, although sophomore Morgan Karnes had seen a lot of action in the preseason.
The Falcons have a brutal opener against perennial Class B powerhouse York Thursday, but the schedule then eases somewhat. If Freeport can gain some early confidence, look out. The Falcons are in Class B this year, which means tougher games against some strong programs. It won't be easy, but Freeport should be in the hunt for a playoff spot once again and could qualify for the 26th time in 29 seasons.

CROSS COUNTRY
COACH: Brian Berkemeyer (seventh year)
2012 Results:
(BOYS) 7th @ Class B state meet
(GIRLS) 8th @ Class B state meet
TOP RETURNING RUNNERS:
(BOYS) A.J. Daniel (Senior), Mark Donahue (Senior), Austin Williams (Senior), Tyler Frey (Junior), Eric Brobst (Sophomore), Max Greenwood (Sophomore), James Saucier (Sophomore), Chandler Vincent (Sophomore)
(GIRLS) Elly Bengtsson (Senior), Nina Davenport (Senior), Bethanie Knighton (Senior), Hayley Steckler (Senior), Hannah Schneider (Sophomore)
TOP FOES: Cape Elizabeth, Greely, Yarmouth
COACH’S COMMENT: “The boys lost some top runners. It's pretty much a rebuilding year. Our goal is to get to states.
"We only lost one of our top seven girls. We'll need to average 19 minutes, 31 seconds to win. I think I have five girls who can do that. We have a couple who could go to New Englands. We'll be in the mix for states.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: The two Freeport cross country teams are starting from different places, but both should be formidable this fall.
The boys return just one state meet scorer in Donahue (30th a year ago). Daniel, Frey and Williams are upperclassmen with experience and Brobst, Greenwood, Saucier and Vincent have all run before. Freshman Henry Jacques provides depth and could become a runner to watch. There are some powerhouse teams in Western B, but the Falcons have enough firepower to be competitive and if all goes well, make it to states for the fifth year in a row.
On the girls' side, Freeport feels it has what it takes to win Class B for the first time and capture a title for the first time since winning Class C in 2006. Four state meet scorers return, giving the Falcons a leg up on just about every foe. The top returner is Bengtsson, who was 25th a year ago. Also scoring were first-team league all-star Davenport (31st), second-team all-star Knighton (34th) and second-teamer Steckler (38th). Schneider, new senior Sydney Ambrose and new sophomore Chloe Hight round out a promising lineup. Freeport will be tested during a challenging league schedule, but if it stays healthy, will be poised to really turn heads at the regional and state meets. Perhaps even make history if all goes well.

GOLF
COACH: Jason Lemont (ninth year)
2012 Results: 3-9 (10th @ Class B state match)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Wynne Cushing (Junior), Quinn Dowling (Junior), Jeremiah Frick (Sophomore)
TOP FOE: NYA
COACH’S COMMENT: “It's a very green team. Only eight kids. We'll have to fill some holes, but we have a good top four. It's very much a rebuilding year. We want to have fun and teach the game. Last year was such a surprise. I hope the seasoned kids will be much improved and I hope the new kids learn as they go.”
THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Freeport saved its best for last a year ago, surprising many by qualifying for the state match for just the second time. Unfortunately for the Falcons, all four state scorers graduated and this year's roster is small, but there is still cause for optimism. Dowling was the fifth scorer at states last year and is ready to take on a leadership role. Cushing and Frick also have experience. New junior Jay Therrien helps round out the top four. Freeport will look to win as many matches at it can in the regular season and shoot for capturing lightning in a bottle once more in October. The Falcons won't be able to sneak up on anyone this time, however.

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

Photo: File photo

Senior Elly Bengtsson was 25th at last year's Class B girls' state cross country meet and looks to move up this fall.

Photo: File photo

Senior Nina Davenport will be one of the top runners in Western B this year. Last fall, Davenport placed 31st at the Class B state championship meet.

Photo: File photo

Senior Bethanie Knighton (34th at last year's Class B state meet) is another top returner for a Freeport girls' cross country team that might just be the best in the state when all is said and done.

2013 schedules

FOOTBALL
Sat., Sept. 7 H SPRUCE MTN.
Fri., Sept. 13 @ Gray-NG
Sat., Sept. 21 H POLAND
Fri., Sept. 27 @ Wells
Sat., Oct. 5 H CAPE ELIZABETH
Sat., Oct. 2 H LAKE REGION
Fri., Oct. 18 @ Mtn. Valley
Fri., Oct. 25 @ Yarmouth

BOYS' SOCCER
Tues., Sept. 10 @ Sacopee
Thurs., Sept. 12 @ Poland
Mon., Sept. 16 H YARMOUTH
Wed., Sept. 18 H GRAY-NG
Fri., Sept. 20 @ Fryeburg
Tues., Sept. 24 @ Greely
Fri., Sept. 27 H LAKE REGION
Mon., Sept. 30 @ NYA
Wed., Oct. 2 H WELLS
Tues., Oct. 8 @ Waynflete
Fri., Oct. 11 H TRAIP
Wed., Oct. 16 H POLAND
Fri., Oct. 18 H FALMOUTH
Mon., Oct. 21 @ Cape Elizabeth

GIRLS' SOCCER
Sat., Sept. 7 H CAPE ELIZABETH
Tues., Sept. 10 H SACOPEE
Fri., Sept. 13 H WELLS
Mon., Sept. 16 @ Yarmouth
Wed., Sept. 18 @ Gray-NG
Sat., Sept. 21 H FRYEBURG
Tues., Sept. 24 H GREELY
Sat., Sept. 28 @ Lake Region
Mon., Sept. 30 H NYA
Wed., Oct. 2 @ Wells
Tues., Oct. 8 H WAYNFLETE
Fri., Oct. 11 @ Traip
Wed., Oct. 16 @ Poland
Fri., Oct. 18 @ Falmouth

FIELD HOCKEY
Thurs., Sept. 5 H YORK
Sat., Sept. 7 H KENNEBUNK
Wed., Sept. 11 @ Fryeburg
Fri., Sept. 13 H GRAY-NG
Tues., Sept. 17 @ Poland
Thurs., Sept. 19 @ Cape Elizabeth
Mon., Sept. 23 @ Falmouth
Wed., Sept. 25 H LAKE REGION
Fri., Sept. 27 H POLAND
Tues., Oct. 1 @ Gray-NG
Thurs., Oct. 3 @ Kennebunk
Wed., Oct. 9 H OOB
Fri., Oct. 11 H GREELY
Tues., Oct. 15 @ Yarmouth

CROSS COUNTRY
Wed., Sept. 4 @ Cape (Falm, Sacopee)
Fri., Sept. 20 @ LR (GNG, Kbunk)
Sat., Sept. 28 @ Manchester Invitational
Sat., Oct. 5 @ Belfast Invitational
Fri., Oct. 11 @ Merriconeag (NYA)
Fri., Oct. 18 @ WMC Championships
Sat., Oct. 26 @ Western B Regionals
Sat., Nov. 2 @ Class B State Meet

GOLF
Tues., Sept. 3 @ Cape Elizabeth
Thurs., Sept. 5 @ Sacopee
Mon., Sept. 9 H SACOPEE
Wed., Sept. 11 @ OOB
Fri., Sept. 13 H OOB
Mon., Sept. 16 H CAPE ELIZABETH
Wed., Sept. 18 @ Wells
Fri., Sept. 20 H POLAND
Mon., Sept. 23 H YARMOUTH
Wed., Sept. 25 @ Poland