Portland Bulldogs 2011 Fall Sports Preview

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Portland’s fall sports parade will be led this year by a boys’ soccer team which fell one goal shy of a first-ever state championship in 2010. While that team’s heart and soul has graduated, plenty of hungry and talented players return as the Bulldogs look to take the final step. Football hopes to compete in a wide open Western Class A. The girls’ soccer program welcomes a former standout player as the new coach. Field hockey made great strides in 2010 and just missed the playoffs. They could take that final step this time around. Both cross country teams hope to get to the state meet. Golf will be in the mix.

FOOTBALL

COACH: Mike Bailey (26th year)

2010 Record: 2-6 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Mike Herrick (Senior), Seamus Kilbride (Senior), Nate Porter (Senior), Casey Mahoney (Junior), Kyle Reichert (Junior), Nick Volger (Junior), Justin Zukowski (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 23 @ Deering, Sept. 30 @ Windham, Oct. 6 (H) THORNTON ACADEMY, Oct. 14 (H) CHEVERUS, Oct. 21 (H) SOUTH PORTLAND

COACH’S COMMENT: “We’re young, but I’m pleased with our progress. We’ll try to get better each week. The offensive line is coming together. Our freshman quarterback will be very, very good. We hope to get a couple wins under our belt early, get momentum and time to grow. We have potential. I’d love to make a run at a playoff spot.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Portland is flying well below the radar at the start of the 2011 campaign, but by year’s end, the Bulldogs might just turn some heads. While the 2010 season ended in disappointing fashion and Portland will be without graduated standout Imadhi Zagon, this year’s team features some gritty athletes eager to make a mark. Ryan Ruhlin, a freshman, is being thrown into the fire at quarterback. Bailey, who knows a thing or two about grooming first-rate QBs, feels Ruhlin has the potential to become a star at some point in his high school career. Ruhlin’s top receiving targets will be Kilbride and Mahoney. On the ground, Herrick, Volger and Zukowski will be tough to stop. Two transfers from defending state champion Cheverus, seniors Cristian Doughty and Sam Sanders, will elevate the skill of the line, where Porter and Reichert return. Defensively, up front, Doughty, Herrick, Porter, Reichert and Sanders look to make life miserable for the opposition. The secondary features Kilbride, Volger and Zukowski. The Bulldogs start the season with games at Massabesic and Noble, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In recent years, Cumberland County teams have gotten the better of their York County counterparts and if Portland can earn an early win or two, its confidence will soar, just in time for the schedule to get much tougher. The Bulldogs play their final three games at home, so if they’re in the playoff hunt, that could be a huge advantage. While this team has a ways to go to get to the level of the top powers, the gap might not be as wide as people think. Portland will entertain and battle in the weeks to come and its future is certainly promising.

BOYS’ SOCCER

COACH; Rocco Frenzilli (37th year)

2010 Record: 15-2-1 (Lost 3-2 to Bangor in Class A state final)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Hunter Andreasen (Senior), Paley Burlin (Senior), Ben Day (Senior), Ralph Houanche (Senior), Liam McNeill (Senior), Brett O’Kelly (Senior), Andrew Schwartz (Senior), Alan Tuyishime (Senior), Tim Rovnak (Junior), Tony Yekah (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 3 (H) WINDHAM, Sept. 8 (H) DEERING, Sept. 13 @ Scarborough, Sept. 15 (H) GORHAM, Sept. 27 (H) CHEVERUS, Oct. 6 @ Kennebunk, Oct. 13 @ South Portland

COACH’S COMMENT: “Our numbers are good. We’re returning 10 from last year. We’re expecting a dogfight all the way through. I’m hoping the kids come together and respond. Now, it’s up to our underclassmen to step up. Our defense is in transition. We’ll need more than one person to fill Fazal’s shoes. I’m cautiously optimistic. We’ll need leadership, win, lose or draw.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Portland had a magical season in 2010, posting 12 regular season wins, pounding Cheverus in the quarterfinals, rallying for a stirring overtime win over Cape Elizabeth in the semis and holding off Gorham to win its first regional title this century. Two goals from Rovnak gave the Bulldogs a short-lived lead against powerhouse Bangor in the Class A Final, but the Rams rallied to win on a controversial goal (off a direct kick that Portland felt should have been indirect). While the sting of that loss lingers and while the departure of All-New England standout Fazal Nabi (17 goals, 16 assists a year ago, now starting at Providence College) certainly hurts, there are plenty of reasons to think the Bulldogs will be among the finest teams in the region once again. The returning core is solid. Offensively, Andreasen, Burlin, Houanche (honorable mention all-star last fall), Rovnak (14 goals during a second-team all-star season in 2010) and Tuyishime (honorable mention all-star last year) all can tickle the twine. If that’s not enough firepower, keep an eye on senior forward Emmanuel Moya and a quartet of newcomers at midfield, freshmen twins Gulad Hussein-Ali and Guled Hussein-Ali, junior Ibrahim Dahir and senior Patrick Jabo. Defensively, Portland will be stingy, led by Day (an honorable mention all-star a year ago), McNeill, O’Kelly and Schwartz. Senior Ahmed Ahmed (who swung up from JV in 2010) is also in the mix. Senior Barry Quinn and junior Chip Weber are battling for the goalie spot. The Bulldogs will be tested by several teams in the regular year and probably won’t boast the same number of wins of a year ago, but with reigning Western Maine Coach of the Year (and Forecaster Coach of the Year) Frenzilli at the helm, by year’s end, this group will be battle tested and primed for another deep playoff run. A best case scenario will see the 2011 Bulldogs right last year’s wrong and win the first state title in program history. Whatever happens, this team will be very exciting to watch.

GIRLS’ SOCCER

COACH: Britney Dupee (first year)

2010 Record: 1-13 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Nicola DiPietro (Senior), Monique Duval (Senior), Christina Nelson (Senior), Robin Bernsten (Junior), Ashley Frank (Junior), Sophie Hulbert (Junior), Mashale Nabi (Junior), Emma Stehli (Sophomore)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 3 @ Windham, Sept. 9 @ Deering, Sept. 14 (H) SCARBOROUGH, Sept. 17 @ Gorham, Sept. 28 @ Cheverus, Oct. 5 @ McAuley, Oct. 15 (H) SOUTH PORTLAND, Oct. 18 @ Thornton Academy

COACH’S COMMENT: “We are coming off a difficult season last year. We have a solid group of players returning and a promising group of first time varsity players joining the team this season. This will be a different team than we have seen in the past.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Portland struggled in 2010, which proved to be the final season in the fine run of coach Dave Levasseur. This fall, one of Levasseur’s former star players, Britney Dupee, takes over as coach. Dupee was a standout at Portland High and in premier soccer before becoming a four-year starter at Sacred Heart. She served as the Bulldogs’ JV coach last year and has also worked with the Maine Premier Soccer Club. She inherits a team that is bound to move up the standings. How far will be determined by how quickly the group jells. On offense, DiPietro, Duval, Hulbert and Stehli were top scorers in 2010 and hope to continue that production. Bernsten and Frank, along with freshmen Brianna Frank and Oriana Smith, also look to score. Freshman Rachel Glover will be heard from in the midfield. Nelson anchors the defense, along with Bernsten and Ashley Frank. Nabi has the potential to steal the show in goal. The Bulldogs are hoping to turn things around and have the ability to win several more games than the 2010 team. This program will only get better as time goes on.

FIELD HOCKEY

COACH: Beth Arsenault (12th year)

2010 Record: 6-8 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Raechel Allen (Senior), Eleni Anderson (Senior), Natalie Anderson (Senior), Cat Flaherty (Senior), Ellen Jewett (Senior), Zoe Malia (Senior), Alex Thompson (Senior), Leanne Reichert (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Sept. 8 (H) SOUTH PORTLAND, Sept. 10 (H) SCARBOROUGH, Sept. 13 (H) GORHAM, Sept. 16 @ Cheverus, Sept. 19 (H) THORNTON ACADEMY, Sept. 26 @ Deering, Sept. 28 (H) MCAULEY, Oct. 6 @ Westbrook

COACH’S COMMENT: “We made nice strides last year. After last year, I was excited for our prospects and got even more excited when I heard about our transfers. We have unique depth. We don’t just want to make the playoffs this year. We want to get homefield. We take ourselves seriously. We want to do what we have to do.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Portland made great strides in 2010 and is now ready to make another leap into the middle of contention in Western Class A. A talented core has been bolstered by two huge additions, meaning the rest of the league better take the Bulldogs very seriously. Senior Kylie Dalbec has transferred from North Yarmouth Academy, where she went to three straight Class C Finals and won it all as a freshman and junior. She projects to score many goals for this team. Junior Gabi Cardona, who part of Cheverus’ Western A championship team a year ago, will also power the offense along with Allen, who was last year’s leading scorer and an honorable mention SMAA all-star. In the midfield, Eleni Anderson, Natalie Anderson, Flaherty, Malia, Reichert and Thompson have myriad skills. The defense features Jewett and new senior Chelsea DePalmer (who will be the sweeper). Rachel Waterhouse replaces Kathleen Dalbec in goal. For years, Portland has wanted to contend and earn one of the last playoff sports. Now, suddenly, overnight, the goals have changed and not only is a winning season within reach, but perhaps even a playoff run could be in the offing if this team jells as hoped and stays healthy. The Bulldogs will be one of the more exciting teams to watch and could be turning heads well into late October.

CROSS COUNTRY

COACH:

(BOYS) Dan Deniso (19th year)

(GIRLS) Sophie Payson-Rand (seventh year)

2010 Results:

(BOYS) DNQ for state meet (11th @ regional meet)

(GIRLS) DNQ for state meet (12th @ regional meet)

TOP RETURNING RUNNERS:

(BOYS) Sam Hamilton (Senior), Dexter Morse (Senior), Gabe Doss (Junior), Ben Allen (Sophomore), Jake Morrow-Spitzer (Sophomore)

(GIRLS) Nyawel Lia (Senior), Abby Popenoe (Junior), Sadie Sarvis (Junior), Lizzy Landry (Sophomore)

TOP FOES: Cheverus, Massabesic, Scarborough boys ; Cheverus, Marshwood, Scarborough girls

COACH DENISO’S COMMENT: “We want to stay healthy and hope to qualify for states. If we don’t, we hope to have at least three individuals qualify. We’re in the middle-of-the-pack, but it’s a great group of kids.”

COACH PAYSON’S COMMENT: “I currently have 17 runners signed up for the season which is by far the largest team I’ve had. I’m excited about the season because I have five freshman runners who are really working well together and then I have a mature group of upperclassmen who will be great motivators and role models for the newcomers. My hopes for the season are that we will qualify for states and I believe with the depth that we have as well as the strong showing from my new and returning runners, we will have a good chance this year. It seems like most of the girls are entering preseason with a stronger base, having run regularly during the summer months.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Portland’s cross country teams should be in the thick of things this autumn.

The boys are led by Allen, who qualified for states as an individual last year after a 20th-place showing at regionals (he was 53rd at states), which led to an honorable mention all-star selection. Morse came in 35th at the regional meet, Morrow-Spitzer was 62nd and Hamilton 65th. Doss provides depth, as do new junior Nate Smart, sophomore Jeremy Ravenelle and freshmen Matthew Bliss and Michika Yahara. Allen figures to shine again this fall, but he could have company at the state meet if all goes well.

On the girls’ side, the Bulldogs are aiming for their first state berth since 2003. Last year, Sarvis was the top runner, placing 45th at states. Lia (64th) and Landry (78th) also return, as does Popenoe, a very good athlete. Sophomore Sarah Gale and freshman Darcy Hincks join the mix and could help produce a promising pack that would help Portland hold its own in the regular season and make a serious run at qualifying at the regional meet. With only Lia graduating next spring, the Bulldogs could be on the verge of contending for several years.

GOLF

COACH: John LaFond (21st year)

2010 Results: 1-8-1 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Anthony Bowden (Senior), Kyle Leborgne (Senior), Mike Fuller (Sophomore), Zack Luce (Sophomore)

TOP FOES: Deering, Falmouth

COACH’S COMMENT: “It’s going better than expected so far. I have a bunch of young kids. Of our 12 kids, nine are sophomores and freshmen. They’re working hard and showing potential. If we play and develop well, I think we have a chance to qualify for states. My goal is to improve skills looking ahead to the future. The future looks good. I’m optimistic.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: Portland has its hands full due to a brutal schedule that features Cheverus, perennial power Deering, new-to-Class A Falmouth (which is the defending Class B champion), Scarborough and South Portland. While the Bulldogs’ win-loss record will likely be similar to 2010, the team could still be heard from in October if it develops as hoped. Bowden and LeBorgne have experience. Luce could be on the brink of becoming a high school star after impressing this summer. Fuller is another talented younger player. If this group comes around by the time of the qualifier, it could crash the state meet party.

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

Senior Mike Herrick will have his chance to shine on the gridiron this fall.

Junior Nick Volger features a bruising style on both sides of the ball.

Senior back Brett O’Kelly is a steady presence for the Bulldogs.

Junior Tim Rovnak had a breakout 2010 season, scoring twice in the state final, and will be one of the league’s top offensive threats.

Tony Yekah made his presence felt as a freshman and should be even stronger this fall.

Sophomore Ben Allen qualified for the state meet as an individual his freshman season and will lead the Bulldogs again in 2011.

Sidebar Elements


Last year, for the first time this century, the Portland boys’ soccer team was able to celebrate a trip to the state final. The Bulldogs have high hopes again in 2011.

More photos below.

2011 schedules

FOOTBALL

Fri., Sept. 2 @ Massabesic

Fri., Sept. 9 @ Noble

Fri., Sept. 16 H GORHAM

Fri., Sept. 23 @ Deering

Fri., Sept. 30 @ Windham

Thurs., Oct. 6 H TA

Fri., Oct. 14 H CHEVERUS

Fri., Oct. 21 H SP

BOYS’ SOCCER

Sat., Sept. 3 H WINDHAM

Tues., Sept. 6 @ Noble

Thurs., Sept. 8 H DEERING

Tues., Sept. 13 @ Scarborough

Thurs., Sept. 15 H GORHAM

Tues., Sept. 20 H BIDDEFORD

Thurs., Sept. 22 @ Westbrook

Tues., Sept. 27 H CHEVERUS

Thurs., Sept. 29 @ Massabesic

Tues., Oct. 4 H MARSHWOOD

Thurs., Oct. 6 @ Kennebunk

Tues., Oct. 11 H BONNY EAGLE

Thurs., Oct. 13 @ SP

Tues., Oct. 18 @ TA

GIRLS’ SOCCER

Sat., Sept. 3 @ Windham

Wed., Sept. 7 H NOBLE

Fri., Sept. 9 @ Deering

Wed., Sept. 14 H SCARBOROUGH

Sat., Sept. 17 @ Gorham

Tues., Sept. 20 @ Biddeford

Thurs., Sept. 22 H WESTBROOK

Sat., Sept. 24 H BONNY EAGLE

Wed., Sept. 28 @ Cheverus

Sat., Oct. 1 H MASSABESIC

Wed., Oct. 5 @ McAuley

Fri., Oct. 7 H KENNEBUNK

Sat., Oct. 15 H SP

Tues., Oct. 18 @ TA

FIELD HOCKEY

Wed., Aug. 31 @ Massabesic

Tues., Sept. 6 @ Marshwood

Thurs., Sept. 8 H SP

Sat., Sept. 10 H SCARBOROUGH

Tues., Sept. 13 H GORHAM

Fri., Sept. 16 @ Cheverus

Mon. Sept. 19 H TA

Thurs., Sept. 22 @ Windham

Mon., Sept. 26 @ Deering

Wed., Sept. 28 H MCAULEY

Fri., Sept. 30 @ Bonny Eagle

Mon., Oct. 3 H NOBLE

Thurs., Oct. 6 @ Westbrook

Wed., Oct. 12 H BIDDEFORD

BOYS’ CROSS COUNTRY

Fri., Sept. 9 H BE, TA

Fri., Sept. 16 @ Gorham

Fri., Sept. 23 @ Westbrook

Wed., Sept. 28 H BIDDO, GORHAM, MASS

Sat., Oct. 1 @ Belfast Invitational

Fri., Oct. 7 @ Kennebunk

Fri., Oct. 14 @

Sat., Oct. 22 Western A Regionals

Sat., Oct. 29 Class A States

GIRLS’ CROSS COUNTRY

Fri., Sept. 9 H BE, TA

Fri., Sept. 16 @ Gorham

Fri., Sept. 23 @ Westbrook

Wed., Sept. 28 H BIDDO, GORHAM, MASS

Sat., Oct. 1 @ Belfast Invitational

Fri., Oct. 7 @ Kennebunk

Fri., Oct. 14 @ McAuley

Sat., Oct. 22 Western A Regionals

Sat., Oct. 29 Class A States

GOLF

Tues., Sept. 6 @ Falmouth

Thurs., Sept. 8 H DEERING

Mon., Sept. 12 H SP

Wed., Sept. 14 @ Cheverus

Mon., Sept. 19 H SCARBOROUGH

Wed., Sept. 21 H FALMOUTH

Fri., Sept. 23 @ Deering

Tues., Sept. 27 @ SP

Thurs., Sept. 29 H CHEVERUS

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.