Portland Bulldogs Fall Sports Preview

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Portland’s football team got to celebrate a regional championship in 2015. This fall, the Bulldogs hope to finish the job and win their first Class A state title since 2002.

More photos below.

FOOTBALL

Coach: Jim Hartman (fifth year, 30-11 overall record)

2015 record: 10-1 (Lost, 24-14, to Thornton Academy in Class A state final

Top returners: Nick Archambault (Senior), Isaiah Batchelder (Senior), Dylan Bolduc (Senior), Nick Giaquinto (Senior), Ethan Hoyt (Senior), Jake Knop (Senior), Dylan Wike (Senior), Griffin Foley (Junior)

Pivotal games: Sept. 2 SCARBOROUGH, Sept. 9 @ Edward Little, Sept. 16 @ Windham, Oct. 1 @ Cheverus, Oct. 22 @ South Portland

Coach’s comment: “Our expectations are high. The seniors are very hungry. They’re driving each other. We’ve put in a new offense. We’re going to throw more. Archambault has been excellent. Knop will have a big year for us. The defense has some holes to fill, but we’re going to fill them.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland enjoyed a phenomenal season in 2015, riding Fitzpatrick Trophy winning running back Joe Esposito to its first regional championship in 13 years, then giving favored Thornton Academy a scare in the state game (the score was tied in the second half) before finally bowing. That setback has haunted the returning seniors, who look to finish the job this time around. While some key players (Esposito most notably) have departed, the Bulldogs have to be considered the favorite in Class A North again.

While Hartman promises to throw more this autumn, Portland’s offense will start on the ground. Knop is going to step into the lead back role (he rushed for 212 yeards and 5 touchdowns on 25 carries last season) and he could put up huge numbers this year. Archambault is the fullback, who can block and handle the ball (he ran for 279 yards and scored TDs on 8 of his 54 carries in 2015). Sophomore Zach Elowitch is ready to step up and his play this preseason reminds Hartman of Esposito. Bolduc (4 catches, 111 yards last season) and Foley will be receiving threats for Bachelder (36 of 73 for 701 yards, 11 TDs and 7 interceptions last fall), who is back in the starting quarterback role and has looked solid in the early going. Hoyt will play tight end and could be involved in the passing game. On the line, Giaquinto and Wike return. They’re joined by senior Dante Hamilton, a transfer from Cheverus. Replacing the powerful foot of graduated kicker John Williams will be junior Quinn Clarke.

The Bulldogs will be equally strong on defense. A year ago, that unit wouldn’t be denied and set the tone for the team’s toughness. Up front, Hamilton and Hoyt (an all-conference selection in 2015 after posting 45 tackles and a pair of quarterback sacks) will make life miserable for opposing running backs. Archambault (another all-conference pick a year ago after registering 107 tackles, 3 sacks and a pair of interceptions) is a tremendous linebacker and he’ll be joined by Elowitch. The secondary is opportunistic, as Bolduc (an all-conference selection last season after posting 71 tackles, 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery) has made a name for himself with big plays and Foley and Knop (another all-conference honoree after registering 32 tackles and an interception) will make opposing receivers rue coming into their territory.

It all adds up to a talented and hungry squad. Portland will be seriously tested in the region by Windham and if the Bulldogs are fortunate enough to return to the state game, they’ll again be an underdog, likely against either Bonny Eagle or Thornton Academy. While last year’s team entered uncharted waters, this time around, Portland knows what to expect and knows how to win. It isn’t a stretch to envision the Bulldogs being the team celebrating on the Fitzpatrick Stadium turf on Nov. 19.

BOYS’ SOCCER

Coach: Rocco Frenzilli (30th year, 207-176-47 overall record)

2015 record: 8-3-5 (Lost, 1-0, in overtime, to Falmouth in Class A South quarterfinal) 

Top returners: Tim Baker (Senior), Alex Frank (Senior), Quinn Clarke (Junior), Manny Yugu (Junior), Pedro Fonseca (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Sept. 2 @ Cheverus, Sept. 13 @ Thornton Academy, Sept. 27 @ South Portland, Sept. 30 SCARBOROUGH, Oct. 4 BONNY EAGLE, Oct. 6 @ Gorham, Oct. 18 @ Deering

Coach’s comment: “We lost 13 seniors, including most of our goals and leadership, so rebuilding is the word. It’s the first time in a long time that the program is in this position, but I’m excited. We’re a work in progress, but I like what I have. It’s a great group that’s working hard. A winning record and making playoffs are the goal. We’ll have to work hard to do that. We should have a good, solid crew over the next few years.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland was fit to be tied more often than not a year ago, but only lost three games and reached the postseason for the 16th consecutive season. Most of that team’s top contributors have moved on, however, meaning the Bulldogs have a lot of holes to fill as a new season dawns.

Baker was a second-team all-star back in 2015. This season, he’ll see time on defense, but he’ll also play up top when need be. Frank is in a similar boat. Expect to see him all over the field. Clarke (who is doubling as the football team’s placekicker) could see time on either offense or defense. Fonseca and Yugu will be formidable on offense. Replacing second-team all-star goalie Bobby Brittingham will be a challenge, but junior Rowan Daligan appears up for the task.

Portland plays in a powerful league, which isn’t conducive to a rebuilding team, but expect the Bulldogs to be tenacious and give their all every time out. Portland will only get better as the regular season progresses. If the Bulldogs can get back to the playoffs, they’ll be a squad no one will want to face.

GIRLS’ SOCCER

Coach: Curtis Chapin (first year)

2015 record: 8-7 (Lost, 2-0, to Kennebunk in Class A South preliminary round)

Top returners: Hayleigh Blanchard (Senior), Taylor Crosby (Senior), Kate Johnson (Senior), Ella Altidor (Junior), Gracie LaGrange (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Sept. 2 CHEVERUS, Sept. 9 WINDHAM, Sept. 14 THORNTON ACADEMY, Sept. 16 @ Marshwood, Oct. 1 @ Scarborough, Oct. 7 GORHAM, Oct. 18 @ Deering

Coach’s comment: “Lots of experience mixed with some promising new players should make us very competitive with any team. We expect to host a playoff game this year and go deep into the playoffs.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland got to the playoffs for the third year in a row in 2015, but unlike the season before, wasn’t able to produce any postseason magic. The Bulldogs will be led this year by Chapin, who was an assistant to Arthur Mosen and the junior varsity coach the past four seasons (Mosen is taking a year off from being the head coach this fall after the birth of his son). Once again, Portland has the pieces in place to be competitive.

Johnson, a second-team all-star in 2015, figures to be in the middle of the offense. She’s been a varsity presence since her freshman season and looks to bow out as one of the best players in the league. Blanchard and LaGrange will also score their share of goals. Freshmen Annika More and Isabella More hope to step right in and be factors in the midfield and could tickle the twine as well. Altidor, a second-team all-star last season, anchors the defense and will get help from freshman Cecilia Ritter. Crosby returns for her third season in goal. She’s made some big saves over the years and will likely do so again.

The Bulldogs have learned how to win the past couple seasons and won’t be content unless they’re in the thick of things. Portland should be able to compete with just about everyone in the league. If this squad can stay healthy and hungry, it will be in position to do some big things.

FIELD HOCKEY

Coach: Beth Arsenault (17th year, 69-155-9 overall record)

2015 record: 4-10 (no postseason)

Top returners: Jenni Nguyen (Senior), Taylor Sargent (Senior), Sydney Gilbert (Junior), Charlie Green (Junior), Emma Scholz (Junior), Clay Bessire (Sophomore), Bridget Maloney (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Sept. 7 MARSHWOOD, Sept. 13 DEERING, Sept. 21 @ Cheverus, Sept. 29 THORNTON ACADEMY, Sept. 30 @ Sanford, Oct. 3 @ Westbrook, Oct. 5 SCARBOROUGH, Oct. 7 @ South Portland, Oct. 11 @ Sanford

Coach’s comment: “We lost a lot in numbers, eight seniors, and in talent, two all-state players, but I’m very confident in this team. The seniors may be a small group, but they’re all extremely strong leaders and this is a team with a great deal of character. Their shared desire to work hard and work toward overall team success is palpable and as a coach, very exciting to see. The junior class is also very strong and experienced. I know this team will compete hard in every game and I hope that their efforts translate to enough wins to get us to playoffs where anything can happen.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland was competitive a year ago and won three of its first five games, but wasn’t able to muster enough victories to make it to the postseason. Following the season, the Bulldogs had to say goodbye to all-state goalie Gianna Gaudet (now at the University of Southern Maine and helping her old team as a volunteer coach) and all-state forward Lauren McIntyre. While this year’s squad has some holes to fill, it could be primed to move up the standings.

Gilbert, Maloney, Nguyen and Sargent figure to pace the offense. In the midfield, Green and Scholz will lead the way. They’ll be joined by senior Morgan Boyle, who didn’t play last fall, sophomores Jaidyn Appel and Nettie Walsh and freshman Audrey Dufour. Bessire was named to the SMAA All-Rookie team as a freshman and will anchor the defense. Junior Mikayla Fortin, Sophie Frantz and Annie Garrett will also hold the fort in front of new goalie, junior Maddie Pettingill, who was previously Gaudet’s backup.

Portland is in a group of middle-of-the-pack squads battling for playoff spots. How the Bulldogs do in games against teams that are near their talent level will determine just how successful their season will be. Some early success would go a long way for confidence and to get this team where it wants to be. If Portland does make it to the postseason, it could be a squad capable of giving the opposition fits.

VOLLEYBALL

Coach: Joe Russo (second year)

2015 record: 1-13 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Elaheh Seddeqi (Senior), Annie Twombly (Senior), Jess Brown (Junior), Ashley Chadbourne (Junior), Shayla Eubanks (Junior), Veronica Iris-Bates (Junior), Abby Krieckhaus (Junior), Sophia Silva (Junior)

Pivotal matches: Sept. 6 @ Deering, Sept. 13 BONNY EAGLE, Sept. 20 SOUTH PORTLAND, Sept. 22 WINDHAM, Sept. 27 @ Cheverus

Coach’s comment: “The girls have been working hard and putting effort into learning the complexities of the game. We’re still focusing on the fundamentals. Now, we have to be more confident and competitive. I like our teamwork. It’s been a total team collaboration.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland learned a lot and made nice strides in its first varsity season, even if its record wasn’t indicative. Now, after taking some lumps, the Bulldogs are ready to contend this fall and thanks to a nice influx of incoming talent joining a group of more experienced players, they should enjoy more triumph.

Silva is a team leader and top setter. Seddeqi will also see time at that position. Top hitters include Brown (Portland’s Spring Female Athlete of the Year for her softball pitching excellence) and Krieckhaus. Chadbourne, Eubanks and Iris-Bates are experienced blockers. Twombly is the libero. Three new juniors and three new sophomores will step right in and help mightily. Junior Sarah Bryan and sophomore Madison Guptill bolster the hitting depth chart. Sophomore Claire Burton will see time at setter, as will junior Georgia Stoddard (who will also play libero). Sophomore Reagan Brown will be formidable as a blocker and junior Cindy Molina-Garcia will be a libero who packs a powerful serve (Brown is another top server on the team).

There’s lots of talent here and the learning curve will continue. Portland plays a schedule which will allow it to be competitive in most of its matches. The Bulldogs should have no trouble eclipsing last year’s win total and if all goes well, they’ll be in the hunt for a playoff spot. This team will only get better in the years to come.

CROSS COUNTRY

Coaches:
(Boys) Dan Deniso (24th year)
(Girls) Sophie Payson-Rand (11th year)

2015 results:
(Boys) DNQ for states (13th @ Western A regionals)
(Girls) DNQ for states (16th @ Western A regionals)

Top returners:
(Boys) Peter Barry (Senior), Matice Maino (Senior), Tommy Sheils (Senior), Fred Steinburg (Senior), Joe Harrington (Sophomore), James Needleman (Sophomore), Robby Sheils (Sophomore)
(Girls) Madison Snyder (Senior), Raven Bradenday (Junior), Alice Kenny (Junior), Alexandra Witkowski (Junior), Isabel Hungerford (Sophomore)

Coach Deniso’s comment: “The team is young, but the sophomores and freshmen are legitimate and dedicated distance runners, so the future is bright. As long as we keep these young legs injury free, we will improve steadily and will make a run at qualifying for states as a team.”

Coach Payson-Rand’s comment: “We continue to have a developing team. Because we have so many first time runners, my goal is on individual improvement from week to week and hoping to develop a strong top five.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland’s cross country program features talent and both teams will make the most of it in the weeks to come.

The boys haven’t qualified for states in five years, but this group could end that drought. Four of the five regional meet scorers from 2015 have departed, but Maino (62nd) returns. He’s joined by a veteran group of seniors which includes Barry, Tommy Sheils and Steinburg. The sophomore class is very promising and features Harrington, Needleman and Robby Sheils. Then there are four freshmen, Will Brewster, Wyatt Dana, Ben Herrick and Liam Niles, who will make the squad even deeper and stronger. Portland isn’t yet at the elite level of league foes like Gorham, Massabesic and defending Class A state champion Scarborough, but the Bulldogs will be competitive during the regular season and if all goes well, will punch their ticket to the big show.

On the girls’ side, Bradenday is the top returner. She was 50th at last year’s regional championship meet. Hungerford (97th), Kenny (110th) and Snyder all look to improve from last fall. Witkowski is another veteran. The Bulldogs will be bolstered by the addition of newcomers like seniors Dina Malual and Jesse Wright, juniors Christina Donato and Balkissa Mustafa and freshmen Elizabeth Thomas and Jean Wriggins. That depth will come in handy for a team looking to advance to the state meet for the first time since 2011. Portland has its work cut out, but can’t be overlooked.

GOLF

Coach: John LaFond (39th year, four state championships)

2015 results: 5-5 (DNQ for Class A state match)

Top returner: Reed Foehl (Junior)

Coach’s comment: “We return three juniors and three sophomores. We hope to get to states. Hopefully we’ll have the season we strive for.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland was competitive in a tough division a year ago and hopes for more of the same in 2016.

Foehl will lead the way. He was a first-team league all-star in 2015 after going 9-0-1 against top competition with a 38.7 stroke average. Foehl shot an 82 at the league qualifier and this fall, hopes to be a factor at the state level. Several other players will have their opportunity to rise to the forefront in the weeks to come.

This is a team that should steadily improve in the weeks to come. If all goes well, the Bulldogs will make some noise in October.

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

Senior Nick Archambault does it all for Portland’s football team, making plays on offense, defense and special teams.

Senior quarterback Isaiah Bachelder is a poised leader for the Bulldogs.

Senior Dylan Bolduc has displayed a flair for the dramatic and has emerged as one of the best defensive backs around.

Senior Ethan Hoyt will be a force to contend with.

Senior Jake Knop will likely get the bulk of the carries in Portland’s offense this season.

Senior Dylan Wike is a top lineman for the Bulldogs.

Senior Alex Frank will help lead a Portland boys’ soccer team that should contend again in Class A South.

Junior Manny Yugu projects to be one of Portland’s top goal scorers.

Senior goalkeeper Taylor Crosby has a flair for the dramatic and looks to help lead Portland’s girls’ soccer team back to the playoffs.

Senior Kate Johnson has been a three-year standout for the Bulldogs. Look for her to score many key goals this season.

Junior Charlie Green will be in the middle of the action for a Portland field hockey team hoping to make a run to the playoffs this fall.

Junior Emma Scholz is another key returning midfielder for the Bulldogs.

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