South Portland Red Riots Fall Sports Previews
Several South Portland teams had successful seasons in 2008. All of them are hoping for big things in 2009. Football is very much in the mix when it comes to discussion of playoff contenders. Boys' soccer enjoyed its first winning season in several years last fall and plans to remain near the top of the SMAA. The girls' team won a playoff game in 2008 and expects to be potent again. Field hockey is seeking a victory and will likely achieve several. Both cross country squads have a shot at qualifying for states. Golf made great strides last autumn and should be a contender as well.
COACH: Steve Stinson (fifth year)
2008 Results: 2-6 (no postseason)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Spencer Bowring (Senior), Ryan Curit (Senior), Jon DiBiase (Senior), Mike Foley (Senior), Chris Foster (Senior), Tanner Kierstead (Senior), Jake Leeman (Senior), Billy Darling (Junior), Alex Martin (Junior), Cal Skillings (Junior), Matt Welch (Junior)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 4 @ Windham, Sept. 19 @ Cheverus, Sept. 25 (H) BONNY EAGLE, Oct. 9 (H) DEERING, Oct. 23 @ Portland
COACH'S COMMENT: "We'll need to stay healthy and get contributions from our talented sophomore class this year. We hope to achieve a winning season, make the playoffs and beat Portland."
THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: South Portland was hoping for bigger things last year, but it wasn't to be. After breaking through in 2007 with three wins, the Red Riots lost close games early to Gorham, Cheverus and Bonny Eagle and could never bounce back. The season then ended on a sour note with an overtime loss to Portland in the Battle of the Bridge. That memory has been erased and South Portland is ready to embark on what it hopes is its first winning season since 2001. There is an abundance of talent on the roster. DiBiase will call the signals and look to standout Foley, Bowring, Foster and Leeman through the air. Curit has proved himself as a gritty runner. Darling and Skillings will also see carries, but Curit will carry most of the load. The line features Kierstead, Martin and Welch. The offense was inconsistent a year ago, scoring 44 points against Westbrook, but just 89 in the other seven games. There are enough gamebreakers on the field that South Portland should be able to score with much greater regularity. On defense, the Red Riots will rely on Kierstead, Martin and Welch to man the line. Bowring, Curit, Darling and Skillings will see action at linebacker. The secondary features DiBiase, Foley, Foster and Leeman. The defense needs to force turnovers and allow the offense to have the ball as much as possible for South Portland to succeed. The Red Riots have a great chance to make an immediate splash this fall, opening at preseason favorite Windham on Friday night. South Portland also hosts Gorham, defending champion Bonny Eagle and Deering. It's imperative for the Red Riots to taste some early success. The program is at the point where it should compete for a playoff spot and the pieces are in place for that to happen. South Portland would love to play meaningful October (and November) contests for the first time in a long while. If things go well early, it will.
FUN FACT: Last year's two-win season was South Portland's first since the 1978 team went 2-7.
COACH: Bryan Hoy (third year)
2008 Record: 8-7 (Lost 5-0 to Greely in Western Class A preliminary round)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Brian Arsenault (Senior), Adam Burpee (Senior), Chad McLeod (Senior), Akeeba Davis (Sophomore), Nemanja Kaurin (Sophomore)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 4 (H) WESTBROOK, Sept. 11 @ Scarborough, Sept. 29 @ Deering, Oct. 6 @ Kennebunk, Oct. 13 (H) GORHAM, Oct. 15 (H) PORTLAND, Oct. 19 @ Cheverus
COACH'S COMMENT: "We've looked really good so far in the preseason. The second half of our schedule is treacherous. I think if we can last through that, we could be dangerous. We hope to host a playoff game this year. If our younger guys can step up, we have opportunity to do that."
THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: South Portland is coming off its best season since 2000. The Red Riots are eager to achieve even more this autumn. They were competitive throughout in 2008 and clinched a winning mark in the final contest. Even after a lopsided playoff loss at Greely, it was hard to look at the campaign as anything short of a great success. This year, South Portland returns Arsenault, who was its leading scorer last year. He's joined on offense by Burpee, Davis and Kaurin. Freshman Damjan Draskovic and sophomore Will Bushey (a transfer from Cheverus) will also look to produce. McLeod is the sweeper in front of new senior goalkeeper Brian Hyson, who replaces graduated all-star Ryan Chapin. South Portland has a lot of winnable games in the early going and must get off to a hot start to reach its goals of being one of the higher seeds. If the Red Riots are able to earn early confidence and get production from some new players, they'll be able to go head-to-head with anyone. This team has a great shot at returning to the postseason.
FUN FACT: South Portland has a chance to post consecutive winning records for the first time since the 1999 and 2000 squads accomplished the feat.
COACH: Andy Pappas (fourth year)
2008 Record: 7-9 (lost 2-0 to Portland in Western Class A quarterfinals)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Karleigh Bradbury (Senior), Alexis Bogdanovich (Junior), Amanda Linscott (Junior), Emily Masters (Sophomore)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 12 (H) CHEVERUS, Sept. 26 (H) SCARBOROUGH, Oct. 9 (H) TA, Oct. 14 @ Gorham, Oct. 16 (H) PORTLAND, Oct. 20 (H) MARSHWOOD
COACH'S COMMENT: "We lost a lot, a bunch of seniors to graduation and two others to rec volleyball. This gives the other girls a chance to step up. We have some good freshmen coming up. We have the firepower to score some goals. We have a solid group of starters. If we can get above .500, it would be a big accomplishment. I'm hoping we can have a winning record. We want to build on last year's playoff win."
THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: After losing nine seniors, the Red Riots have their work cut out in 2009. Two other potential stars, Danielle DiBiase and Danielle McCusker, are playing volleyball this fall. Despite those departures, South Portland has some talent in reserve and has some success from last year to build upon. The Red Riots enjoyed an upset preliminary round playoff victory at Thornton Academy and are eager to get back to the postseason. Bradbury is the top returner. She was an SMAA honorable mention all-star in 2008. She plays midfield and is a top scoring threat. Masters will also do her share of scoring. Freshman Jenacee Bradbury will also look to become a factor. Bogdanovich and Linscott anchor the defense. Perhaps the biggest hole for Pappas to fill is in goal after Brianna Hawkins graduated. Junior Andrea Kinder and sophomore Dominique Smith are vying for that spot. There are a lot of questions to be answered, but look for South Portland to put a competitive team on the pitch. The Red Riots will need to do damage early since they close with Gorham, Portland and Marshwood. If South Portland can get off to a good start, it should keep its streak of nine straight postseason appearances alive.
FUN FACT: Last year's playoff victory was just the third in program history. South Portland has never won two postseason games in one year.
COACH: Heather Seavey (fourth year)
2008 Record: 0-13-1 (no postseason)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Alison Dolbow (Senior), Liza DeCesare (Senior), Esther Palmieri (Senior), Victoria Brookings (Junior), Michelle Callow (Junior), Felicia Farnham (Junior), Rachael Garneau (Junior), Brianna Bower (Sophomore), Maraka Soule (Sophomore)
PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 8 @ Sanford, Sept. 11 (H) WESTBROOK, Sept. 16 (H) CHEVERUS, Sept. 18 @ Gorham, Sept. 30 @ Scarborough, Oct. 9 @ Deering
COACH'S COMMENT: "Our whole starting team is returning and with the addition of Becca Roberts from Cheverus, I know we can compete with the low- and mid-level teams in the league. We're older and more experienced. The only thing that can hold us back is ourselves. With a few rough years behind us, the girls have really come together and have worked hard all summer to come out with more intensity and skill. During preseason, we've seen more scoring and more offensive circle play than we have in awhile and we've held the stronger teams to no goals in brief scrimmages. Yes, it was preseason, but it was good for our mental health!"
THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: The Red Riots are riding a 29-game winless streak, but good times are on the horizon. South Portland had four one-goal losses (including one in overtime) and a tie a year ago and simply couldn't score enough to compete (four goals in 14 games). This season, the Red Riots are more seasoned, skilled and confident and that should spell several victories. The team was dramatically bolstered by the addition of junior Becca Roberts, a transfer from Cheverus. Roberts is a great playmaker from her midfield position and is capable of rattling the cage. Bower is the top returning scorer. Brookings, Farnham, Palmieri and Soule, along with new sophomore Olivia Edwards and freshman Jaclyn Salvesky, can also be threats to find the cage. On defense, captains Callow (an SMAA honorable mention all-star last year) and DeCesare, along with Dolbow, will look to deny enemy incursions. Look for new sophomore Julia Leighton to fit into the mix as well. Garneau is now in her third year at goalie. She's backed up by freshman Lani Edwards, who will get an opportunity to play during the season. Now that South Portland has the ammunition to compete, it needs to find a way to win. The Red Riots have a great shot at doing so in the opener against Noble. Again, it will all come down to offensive production. Once the scoring starts, it will likely be contagious. South Portland will quickly become a team to take seriously. This will be a much more enjoyable season for the Red Riots and if all goes well, it could even culminate with a playoff trip.
FUN FACT: South Portland's last win actually came in the playoffs, a 5-2 Western A preliminary round victory over Massabesic Oct. 15, 2006. The Red Riots' most recent regular season victory was on Oct. 2, 2006, a 1-0 triumph at Noble.
BOYS COACH: Andrew Lupien (third year)
GIRLS COACH: Karen Reardon (seventh year)
(BOYS) DNQ for state meet (13th @ regional meet)
(GIRLS) DNQ for state meet (10th @ regional meet)
TOP RETURNING RUNNERS
BOYS: Jon Clement (Senior), Sam Redstone (Junior), Tom Redstone (Junior), Thomas Salamone (Sophomore)
GIRLS: Bobielyn Fisher (Senior), Tanya Wilkes (Senior), Maureen Blanchard (Junior), Annalise Donahue (Junior), Sarah Johnston (Junior), Maria Letourneau (Junior), Victoria Owens (Junior)
TOP FOES: Cheverus, Gorham, Scarborough
COACH LUPIEN'S COMMENT: "We graduated only two members from last year's team and no one from our top 10, so we feel we should be much improved. We added several upperclassmen who have transitioned from other sports, as well as several freshmen. We have a large team of around 30 dedicated and hardworking athletes who are determined to improve and become the best runners possible. Our primary goal for the season is to finish in the top half at the regional meet and advance to states."
COACH REARDON'S COMMENT: "I like what I see so far. Our group has made a stronger commitment to the summer program, so they're starting the season in better shape. We've had a very good turnout. Our goal is to qualify as at team for the state meet. I think we have the best shot we've had in awhile, as we have a pack that can run together. It will be a matter of moving that whole group forward. We look to be more competitive than we've been the last couple seasons. Some of our younger runners are juniors and seniors, so hopefully we'll take a big step forward."
THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: Both South Portland cross country teams have reason for optimism this fall.
The boys return a standout in Clement, a league all-star last year, who qualified for states as an individual and placed 24th. Sam Redstone was 53rd at the regional meet in 2008. Tom Redstone was 79th. Salamone came in 81st. They make up a good starting pack. Seniors Miles Blackwell-Orr, San Knutsen, Brian McHugh and Joe Michaud provide experience and depth. Senior J.C. Esquibel, junior Matt Clement and freshman Ryan Tuttle are all new to the team and hope to make an impact. The Red Riots have a simple goal this year: reach the state meet for the first time since 2003. Clement will be one of the finest runners in the league. If the others can pitch in, South Portland has a good shot to make it to Twin Brook on Oct. 31.
On the girls' side, Donahue (12th at the regional meet, a state qualifier and a league all-star) is the lead returner. Letourneau (37th at the regional meet), Wilkes (61st), Blanchard (74th) and Johnston (75th) and Owens (86th) all return. Fisher is back from injury and will be a factor. There's a steady group of newcomers also looking to make a mark. Sophomores Sarah Baird and Shelby Miller and freshmen Nyajock Pan (a middle school standout), Jackie Merrill, Bridget Mulligan and Angela Tirabassi provide optimism going forward. The Red Riots are more loaded than they've been in years. It won't take much to move up from 10th to a spot that would guarantee a trip to the state meet. South Portland will be an intriguing team in the weeks to come.
COACH: Ernie Lamson (27th year)
2008 Results: 3-7 (no postseason)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Aidan Boyce (Senior), Anthony Canarie (Senior), Jordan Drown (Senior)
TOP FOES: Cheverus, Deering
COACH'S COMMENT: "We have a veteran crew this year. I think we'll be a little better than we have been. If our top three step up and do well, I think we have some juniors who can help support them win some matches. We have a chance to be .500 or better"
THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: Last Sept. 16, the Red Riots tasted victory for the first time in almost four years. Before the season was over, South Portland won two more matches and now enters 2009 confident it can be competitive. A big reason for the optimism is the presence of Boyce, a second-team all-star who shot 82 at the individual Class A championship meet last year. He's playing No. 1 and can hold his own against anyone in the league. Boyce figures to be in the hunt for an individual title next month. Canarie and Drown are also experienced and looking to build on last year's accomplishments. There are some other golfers who are also eager to make a mark. If so, the Red Riots won't only win their share of league matches, they'll actually have a legitimate shot at qualifying for the state meet for the first time in many seasons.