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Deering Rams Fall Sports Preview

Sports

Deering Rams Fall Sports Preview

There will be plenty of excitement at Deering High over the next couple months. Football has been a top contender in recent seasons and should be one of the premier teams again. Boys' and girls' soccer both fell short of the postseason in 2008, but have the pieces in place to be playoff participants this time around. Field hockey is coming off an agonizing postseason loss, but should get back and do some damage. Both cross country teams are small, but feature promise. Golf was the feel-good hit of the season a year ago and this time around is favored to repeat as state champion.

FOOTBALL

COACH: Greg Stilphen (13th year)

2008 Record: 9-1 (Lost 26-14 to eventual champion Bonny Eagle in Western Class A semifinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Tyler DeBardino (Senior), Travis Wade (Senior), Sam Balzano (Junior), John Hardy (Junior), Jamie Ross (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 4 (H) PORTLAND, Sept. 17 @ Bonny Eagle, Sept. 25 @ Windham, Oct. 2 (H) TA, Oct. 9 @ South Portland, Oct. 23 (H) CHEVERUS

THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: The Deering football team will have a different look this fall, but if you're expecting the Rams to come back to the pack, don't hold your breath. Yes, Deering graduated one of the most prolific offensive forces in recent memory, Jack Heary, the flair-for-the-dramatic, touchdown-scoring-machine who was the school's Fall Male Athlete of the Year for his brilliance. Heary was a huge part of the 2008 team's offense (scoring a large percentage of the squad's 366 points), but the cupboard is far from bare in his wake. There aren't many high school quarterbacks who feature the accuracy and arm strength of Ross, who enters his second year at the helm. He'll be a major part of the Rams' attack. Not only through the air, but he will also run the ball regularly and will account for several points with his right foot as the placekicker. Ross' top weapon figures to be the speedy Balzano. Hardy and Wade will also see plenty of balls thrown their way. The lead back this year is junior Devon Fitzgerald, who hopes to follow in the footsteps of the many standout Deering runners from the past decade. The Rams are imposing on the line, led by DeBardino, senior Nathan Davis, juniors Sam Morrison and Will Richards, and sophomore Alex Stilphen. The Rams have enjoyed an opportunistic defense in years past and will swarm to the ball again, seeking to force turnovers. This program has become one of the finest in the state, but has suffered its share of agonizing playoff losses of late. This year, Deering faces a tough early slate that will probably preclude another undefeated regular season. The Rams open at home with vastly improved rival Portland and dangerous Gorham, then go to nemesis Bonny Eagle for a playoff rematch. Deering also has to play at highly touted Windham and South Portland and faces home tests from Thornton Academy and Cheverus. When the dust settles, the Rams will win their share of games and figure to be one of the higher seeds for the playoffs. If the younger players and newcomers can gain confidence and come of age, Deering will have a shot at making a championship push in the postseason.

FUN FACT: Deering has advanced to the semifinals in each of the past eight seasons. Unfortunately for the Rams, in six of those seasons, including last autumn, they were eliminated in that round.

BOYS' SOCCER

COACH: Andy LeFebvre (fourth year)

2008 Record: 3-8-3 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Godfrey Biancho (Senior), Sam Coyne (Senior), Sebit Grasiano (Senior), Charlie Dupee (Junior), Isaac Wipfler (Junior), Jamiel Kidd (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 15 (H) WESTBROOK, Sept. 17 @ Portland, Sept. 22 @ Gorham, Oct. 6 @ Scarborough, Oct. 13 @ Kennebunk, Oct. 15 (H) CHEVERUS

COACH'S COMMENT: "I think we should be somewhere in the middle-of-the-pack. We're going in the right direction. Our upside is really big. Our schedule is one that will help us out. This is the first time I haven't opened against Gorham. Our goal is to get back to the playoffs. It will depend on the how the kids play together."

THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: The Rams have gone from one extreme to the other the past two years. In 2007, standout Tony Yeboah led Deering to 13 victories and a trip to the Western A semifinals. Last year was a totally different story as the Rams dropped three decisions in overtime and fell short of the postseason. Look for Deering to claw its way back this fall and possibly be one of the better teams in the Southern Maine Activities Association. Dupee was a second-team all-star in 2008 and should be a force this season. He'll be the team's top scoring threat and will get help from Biancho, Grasiano and Kidd. The Rams need to tickle the twine more regularly this year. They scored just six goals in their eight losses last season. Look for the production to come. Defensively, Coyne and Wipfler will help ease the transition of new goalie senior Pat Bride, who was the backup last autumn. While Scarborough is once again the league favorite and a handful of teams appear to be favorites to make a run for the playoffs, in truth, the SMAA is as wide-open as it's been in a long time. The door is open for a team like Deering to take advantage. If the Rams can gain some early confidence and find a way to win the close games, they'll be in the postseason mix and the 2009 campaign will remind fans more of 2007 than 2008.

FUN FACT: When Deering failed to qualify for the postseason last fall, the program's record 13 consecutive playoff trips came to an end.

GIRLS' SOCCER

COACH: Kevin Olson (fourth year)

2008 Record: 5-9 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Mohdis Delijani (Senior) Fiona Densmore (Senior), Maria Salamone (Senior), Caitlynn Brown (Junior), Jen Lynch (Junior), Amanda Masse (Junior), Aarika Viola (Junior), Alexis Sivovlos (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 9 @ Gorham, Sept. 17 @ Portland, Sept. 22 (H) MARSHWOOD, Oct. 7 @ Scarborough, Oct. 16 (H) CHEVERUS

COACH'S COMMENT: "I'd like to make it to the playoffs, but it will be a little harder this year with just 50 percent qualifying. I have a good core group. The dynamics are incredible. I feel like we're very well balanced. It should be a fun season."

THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: Deering has the potential to get back to the playoffs this season, but as coach Olson noted, fewer teams will qualify this fall due to the Maine Principals' Association allowing just 50 percent from each region. The Rams' hopes were done in by a four-game losing streak last season. If the team can play with more consistency this time around, it will be in good shape. This year's squad will look to Brown, Salamone and Sivovlos to produce offense. Delijani and Densmore bring experience and stability to the midfield and will have their chances to shine as well. Masse and Viola anchor the defensive unit, while Lynch returns in goal. The Rams have a lot of winnable games in the first half of their schedule, so getting off to a good start is paramount. There is solid senior leadership and talent on the roster, so there is reason for optimism. If Deering can find a way to score with regularity and position itself with a fast start, it could be one of the better teams in the league and a team to be reckoned with when the playoffs roll around.

FUN FACT: As was the case with the boys' team, the girls saw their program-record 13-season postseason streak come to a close last year.

FIELD HOCKEY

COACH: Andrew Gordon (13th year)

2008 Record: 9-5-1 (lost 2-1, in double OT, to Westbrook in Western Class A quarterfinals)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Isabel Barton (Senior), Taylor Dean (Senior), Ursula Donovan (Senior), Jane Farrell (Senior), Kristen Grandonico (Senior), Monique Guimond (Senior), Sophie Halpin (Senior), Jami LeRoy (Senior), Maggie McKeon (Senior), Sarina Selleck (Senior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 4 @ Cheverus, Sept. 8 (H) GORHAM, Sept. 16 (H) SCARBOROUGH, Oct. 8 @ Sanford

COACH'S COMMENT: "There are several very strong teams this year. If we can play as a unit and work hard for each other, we can challenge. Our midfield is strong and athletic. We pass the ball well. Our newcomers have the chance and the ability to be strong varsity players. Defense will be our challenge. We'll need to be able to convert corners and be opportunistic."

THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: Once again, the Rams will be knocking on the door as one of the better teams in the league. Despite being hit hard by graduation (most notably losing reigning Fall Female Athlete of the Year and all-star Jess Ruhlin), this squad is loaded with seniors who are eager to go deep into the playoffs in their last hurrah. Deering could be very strong on defense with Dean and LeRoy leading the way in front of a new goalie, sophomore Caley Presby, whom Gordon is very high on. New senior Lizzie Bustin will also see time on defense. The midfield features Barton, Donovan (SMAA honorable mention all-star last year), Farrell, Grandonico, Guimond, Halpin, McKeon and Selleck. New potential threats to watch include senior Carly Bobinsky and juniors Jesse Cinque, Lily Hampton, Olivia Laurie and Sam Pooler. There are an abundance of athletes on the roster, the question will be can the Rams score consistently against top competition? That will be the key to Deering being in the middle of the pack, or elbowing its way to the top of the heap of teams threatening league favorite Scarborough. The guess here is that the Rams will find a way to make the most of their disparate parts and peak at the right time. A longer playoff stay is a distinct possibility in 2009.

FUN FACT: Deering has qualified for the playoffs 11 years running. In the program's first 22 years, it only made the postseason on eight occasions.

CROSS COUNTRY

COACHES:
(BOYS) Dick Kress (fourth year)
(GIRLS) Gerry Myatt (eighth year)

2008 Results:
(BOYS) Did not qualify for Class A state meet (12th @ Regionals)
(GIRLS) Did not qualify for Class A state meet (15th @ Regionals)

TOP RETURNING RUNNERS:
(BOYS) Joe Luka (Junior)
(GIRLS) Kaela Holmes (Senior), Rachel Merrill (Senior), Ella Ramonas (Sophomore)

TOP FOES: Cheverus, Gorham, Scarborough, Thornton Academy

COACH KRESS' COMMENT: "Our team is small, young and inexperienced. Our main goal this year is for each runner to improve as the season progresses and for the team to be competitive."

COACH MYATT'S COMMENT: "It's a very small team, but we have some good runners. We'll be respectable. If we can get some freshmen, it will help. Qualifying for states is always a goal for us."

THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: Both teams are hoping to overcome small numbers and return to the state meet after falling short last fall.

The boys return Luka, who came in 46th at last year's regional meet. Sophomore Sean Perry is expected to come in and help the cause as well. The Rams should be in the mix during the regular season. If some younger runners can step up between now and late-October, Deering has a chance to get the job done at the regional meet and make it to states.

On the girls' side, Ramonas is one of the better runners in the area. She has a chance to qualify for states as an individual. Merrill (91st at the regional meet in 2008) and Holmes bring experience. Deering is also bolstered by three new runners: senior Jessica Segal and juniors Anna Chandler and Kristin Pollard. The Rams are hoping that some additional runners will join the team to provide depth. This group will give its all and shouldn't be overlooked as a team that could be dangerous later in the year.

GOLF

COACH: Billy Goodman (eighth year)

2008 Results: 8-2 (Class A state champion)

TOP RETURNING PLAYER: Ryan Bourgault (Senior), Jake Nichols (Senior), Cooper Nadeau (Junior), Rocco Spizuoco (Sophomore), Joe Walp (Sophomore)

TOP FOES: Cheverus, Kennebunk, Thornton Academy

COACH'S COMMENT: "We have five returning players from a state championship and added Ben Rodick, a low digit handicapper, who played freshman year. Our goals are to hopefully win our division and get to the states and try to repeat."

THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: The proud Deering golf program penned arguably its most inspirational chapter a year ago when an untested squad found its way to the state match then won an improbable title, earning Goodman Coach of the Year honors. This time around, the Rams won't sneak up on anyone and are heavy favorites to dominate and repeat. All four of last year's state match scorers return. Spizuoco shot a 76 as a freshman. Nichols (77), Nadeau (78) and Walp (79) also excelled at Natanis. Bourgault shot an 84 at states and is in the mix as well. Nichols and Walp (who shot an 88 at the individual championship match) were SMAA first-team all-stars in 2008. Spizuoco made the second team. The fivesome is joined by Rodick, who will fit right in as a top scorer. Deering has a completely new set of challenges this season. Instead of proving themselves, the Rams will have to deal with high expectations. Golf being a fickle sport that comes down to a one-day competition ensures that nothing is given, but Deering will be a force in the regular season and appears to have a great chance to write another championship story.

Photo: File photo
Junior quarterback Jamie Ross is a threat running or passing the ball.

Photo: File photo
Senior Mohdis Delijani will be a force in the midfield for the Deering girls' soccer team this fall.

Photo: File photo
Senior Sophie Halpin is one of many returning players who hope to lead the Rams deep into the playoffs this year.