Portland Bulldogs Fall Athletes of the Year

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JUSTIN ZUKOWSKI, Senior-Football

  • Fitzpatrick Trophy semifinalist

  • Eastern A Player of the Year

  • Eastern A leading rusher

  • Eastern A all-star, first-team, running back

  • Eastern A All-Academic team

  • Captain

The “Z Train” was almost impossible to slow this fall as he led Portland to its best season 11 years, putting up some huge numbers along the way.

Zukowski grew up in Portland and first started making his impact felt on the gridiron in second grade gaining toughness as a younger brother. He joined the Portland varsity for the Thanksgiving Day game his freshman year, then made an impact as a fullback and linebacker in 2011 and 2012.

This season, he was transcendent, leading Eastern Class A in rushing with 1,531 yards on 169 carries. He scored 19 touchdowns as well. He also caught six passes for 44 yards and two scores. Defensively, Zukowski, a bruising hitter, had 90 tackles (second in the region), a sack and a fumble recovery.

Zukowski set the tone in the opener, gaining 139 yards and scoring three TDs in a loss to Cheverus. Against Deering, Zukowski ran for 305 yards and two scores, as Portland beat the Rams in a regular season meeting for the first time in eight years. He had two scores and ran for over 100 yards against Edward Little, had three TDs against Bangor, four versus Oxford Hills, three against Windham and three more (with 270 yards) in a win over Lewiston. In the regular season finale, Zukowski helped the Bulldogs win the “Battle of the Bridge” over South Portland for the first time in his four seasons by rushing for 261 yards and scoring twice.

Zukowski ran for five more TDs against Windham in the semifinals. Zukowski’s season ended with a 69-yard, 1-TD effort against Cheverus in the regional final, a loss he hasn’t gotten over.

“I feel like I helped build something, but I feel like we underachieved,” Zukowski said. “The goal was states. If it ended better, the season would have been great.”

Zukowski, who is also a top basketball player, will make one more run at a state title this winter. He has applied early decision at Bates and hopes to play both football and basketball at the next level.

While he might not have been satisfied with how it ended, Justin Zukowski, Portland’s Fall Male Athlete of the Year, had a phenomenal football season. His workhorse mentality and physical skills made life miserable for the opposition and we haven’t heard the last of his athletic prowess.

Coach Jim Hartman’s comment: “Justin was our key this year. He was the leader. He’s a quiet kid, but he’s driven. When things got tough, he always had another gear. He’s absolutely amazing. At times this year I tried not to make him our crutch because he’s not a big guy, but he’s tough. He’s great. All the superlatives. His teammates had nothing but total respect for him.”

Prior winners:

2012: Tate Gale (Football)

2011: Tim Rovnak (Soccer)

2010: Fazal Nabi (Soccer)

2009: Fazal Nabi (Soccer)

2008: Fazal Nabi (Soccer)

2007: Matt Methot (Cross country)

2006: Chris Treister (Football)

2005: Josh Wang (Cross country)

2004: Ayalew Taye (Cross country)


EMMA STEHLI, Senior-Soccer

  • Captain

  • SMAA All-Academic team

Stehli didn’t put up glowing statistics this fall, but did she ever play a huge role on a team which returned the Bulldogs program to prominence in a season which was capped by a long awaited playoff berth.

Stehli’s enthusiasm was infectious and her leadership was obvious and a young group responded to her setting the tone.

Stehli grew up in Portland and went to Waynflete through middle school. She came to Portland High as a freshman and made the varsity soccer team, playing midfield. Stehli would play for three coaches in her first three years and the Bulldogs won just three games in that span.

Suffice it to say that a lot changed this fall, as coach Arthur Mosen returned for a second year, providing the program some stability.

Portland won its opener, started 3-1 and wound up securing a playoff berth for the first time since 2009.

“Making playoffs was the goal,” Stehli said. “I’m super proud of everyone. I have a great relationship with Art. The program is going in a good direction.”

Stehli, who credits her competitiveness and drive for her success, skis recreationally, plays midfield in lacrosse and has quite an academic and extracurricular record as well, qualifying for the SMAA All-Academic team, belonging to Students Against Destructive Decisions, serving as a peer tutor and mentor and starting a club to support the Thirst Project, which builds wells in countries without clean water.

Not surprisingly, Stehli has big dreams as well and you’d be wise not to bet against her achieving them. She hopes to go to school on the West Coast, with the University of California-Santa Barbara her top choice. She wants to study cinematography and while she doesn’t have a desire to be in front of the camera, don’t be surprised to see her name in lights someday.

Not every soccer star scores the goals or makes the saves. In the case of Emma Stehli, Portland’s Fall Female Athlete of the Year, devotion and leadership helped produce a memorable season.

Coach Art Mosen‘s comment: “Emma was a huge source of energy and motivation for us on the field throughout the season. Her presence on the field played a huge role in our road to the playoffs. Every successful team has that player that pulls everybody together when it matters the most and she did that time and again for us.”

Prior winners:

2012: Leanne Reichert (Field hockey)

2011: Raechel Allen (Field hockey)

2010: Effie Drew (Field hockey)

2009: Sophia Nappi (Soccer)

2008: Casey Monaghan (Soccer)

2007: Nicole Place (Soccer)

2006: Cilla Knox (Soccer)

2005: Molly Radis (Soccer)

2004: Brianna Shepard (Field hockey)

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

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