Portland Bulldogs Fall Athletes of the Year

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JOE ESPOSITO, Senior-Football

  • Class A North Player of the Year

  • Class A North all-star, first-team

  • Class A North All-Academic

  • Captain

Esposito was heroic and unstoppable as he put a talented Portland team on his back and led the Bulldogs to within a few plays of a state championship.

Esposito started playing football at a young age growing up in Portland and joined the Bulldogs varsity as a sophomore, playing linebacker. After carrying the ball just 10 times as a sophomore, Esposito took on a bigger role as a junior, rushing for 651 yards and four touchdowns on 110 carries and being named All-Conference on defense after making 51 tackles and intercepting four passes as Portland got to the regional semifinals before losing to Windham.

This year, Esposito started out as part of a one-two running punch with classmate George Chaison-Lapine, but when Chaison-Lapine got hurt midway through the season, the Bulldogs’ fortunes rested on Esposito, who rose to the occasion big-time.

Esposito started off by rushing for 115 yards and two TDs on 17 attempts in a season-opening win at Scarborough. The next week, in a win over Edward Little, Esposito scored twice and had 110 yards on 17 rushes. In week five, after Chaison-Lapine was hurt and with Portland trailing rival and nemesis Cheverus, Esposito became the man and did he ever respond, rushing for 161 yards and two TDs on 25 carries as the Bulldogs rallied to win, 16-14. 

By the time the regular season concluded, Esposito was second to Bangor’s Dane Johnson in the league with 1,057 yards on 143 carries. He led all rushers with 16 touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 140 yards.

Defense is where Esposito really worked his magic, helping anchor a unit which allowed an average of just over five points per game. Esposito led the league in tackles with 93, had 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and recovered a fumble.

Esposito continued to get the job done in the playoffs, running wild in a 56-7 semifinal round win over Bangor with a record six touchdowns, then producing arguably the run of the year, an 80 yard TD dash after being swarmed at the line of scrimmage, to turn the regional final versus Windham in Portland’s favor as the Bulldogs earned a trip to states for the first time since 2002 behind Esposito’s 194 yards and one TD on 34 bruising carries. Portland’s dream of a championship was dashed by repeat winner Thornton Academy, 24-14, in the state game, but Esposito had 59 more yards on 20 carries.

“I knew we were capable of doing big things this year,” said Esposito. “I just went in there and I knew the coaches trusted me.”

In a 41-13 Thanksgiving Day victory over Deering, Esposito bowed out with 170 more yards and two final touchdowns as he was given the Vinnie Allen Award as Portland’s MVP in the game.

Esposito was also named the MVP for Class A North in what must have been one of the easiest decisions around.

Esposito also plays for the perennially strong boys’ basketball team and is getting ready to lead the Bulldogs back to the state final in that sport. He is considering playing football in college and could become the latest member of the program to make a mark at the next level.

Joe Esposito, Portland’s Fall Male Athlete of the Year, had a season that will live on in program lore. He not only played to the best of his ability, but he made sure that his teammates and coaches gave every ounce they had as well and great things ensued.

Coach Jim Hartman’s comment: “I knew ‘Espo’ would be good, but I didn’t realize he’d have such an impact on both sides of the ball. He’s an amazing athlete. I don’t think there’s a better football player in the state of Maine. He put us on his back. He was all heart. He’s a smart, smart football player.”

Prior winners:

2014 Jeremiah Copeland (football)

2013 Justin Zukowski (football)

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)



  • Team MVP

  • SMAA all-star, first-team

  • SMAA All-Academic team

  • Class A South all-region team

Hoekstra was the engine who made the Bulldogs go this fall, helping the team get back to the playoffs for a third year in a row, while showing an ability to finish and just as often, unselfishly defer to her talented teammates.

Hoekstra started playing soccer at a young age and after moving to Portland in middle school, quickly made a mark. She played varsity for four years. As a center-midfielder, Hoekstra was a big part of the offense and defense and made her presence felt. Hoekstra had five goals as a sophomore and was a first-team all-conference selection as a junior, as the Bulldogs made a memorable run to the quarterfinals. This season, she was the focal point of the opposition, which usually was left frustrated in its effort to hold her in check.

Hoekstra finished the season with 11 goals and 10 assists. Highlights included two assists in a season-opening win at Cheverus, three goals in a victory over Noble, three more against Massabesic, two versus Westbrook, the game-winner in overtime against Biddeford and two more in a regular-season ending victory over Deering.

Portland was then ousted by Kennebunk in the preliminary round.

“I’m happy with our season, but we wanted to go farther,” said Hoekstra.

Hoekstra is mild mannered off the field, but is quite the competitor between the lines.

“I don’t have much of a temper, but I get into it when I’m on the field,” said Hoekstra.

Hoekstra also plays premier soccer and sprints and throws in track. She’s a top student, belongs to Executive Board, Math Team and is a peer tutor. She hopes to play in college.

Chessa Hoekstra, Portland’s Fall Female Athlete of the Year, showed that it’s just as good to give as is it to receive and her play and leadership etched her name on to the list of special players in program history.

Coach Arthur Mosen‘s comment: “Chessa has been a central figure on the team since she started as a freshman. She entered the program playing at a higher level than her teammates and she has raised the bar for everybody to aim higher. She can juggle all day, she’s got vision, she’s physical, she can shoot, pick a pass, and for the shortest player on the field on most days, she can win headers too. Each season she’s improved on all of those fronts. She’s the full package not just because of her talent, but because she’s the most humble kid you’ll meet and she’s been able to balance athletics with school work. She’s at the top of her class and her work ethic alone is going to take her wherever she wants to go in life. She’s been the kind of captain that leads by example, and when the team needed something special, she was the one to step up. She likes the pressure and she wants the ball at her feet. Chessa has been instrumental in helping the team make strides each year.”

Prior winners:

2014 Madison Bolduc (soccer)

2013 Emma Stehli (soccer)

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.