* Mike Landry Award winner (SMAA Coach of the Year)
The 2011 season did not begin auspiciously for the South Portland football team. It was bad enough that the Red Riots had to open at reigning Class A champion Cheverus, but after surrendering 42 second half points in a 59-21 loss and with a challenging slate upcoming, South Portland appeared doomed for a rough season.
The Red Riots were anything but doomed. In fact their season wound up sprinkled with stardust as they bounced back from that initial loss with five successive victories, won seven games in all, triumphed in a home playoff game and reached the semifinals for the first time in over a decade.
Not a shabby turnaround.
While a plethora of devoted athletes made it happen, coach Steve Stinson was pulling the strings. Stinson didn’t just get the most of his kids physically, but he pushed all the right emotional buttons as well and South Portland, one of the state’s proudest programs, woke up the echoes.
In light of the way he got his unheralded team to buy in from Day 1 and for orchestrating such a memorable season, Steve Stinson is The Forecaster’s choice for our Fall 2011 Southern edition Coach of the Year, of a boys’ team, the second time he’s earned this designation.
Stinson didn’t appear bound for athletic greatness when he entered Portland High but he was convinced to give football a try and soon turned from a self-described “doughy, 250-pounder” into a lineman extraordinaire who eventually went to the University of Maine and made his mark on the line with the Black Bears while studying kinesiology and exercise psychology.
Right after graduation, Stinson got involved in coaching, first at U. Maine, then as an assistant at Portland high. In 2002, he took the job at Greely, a program just entering the varsity level and after three seasons, he came to South Portland, which was only five seasons removed from its latest championship, but in reality, was light years from its glory days.
Stinson lost his first 17 games as South Portland’s coach, but he stayed upbeat and by the end of his third year the Red Riots had won three times and just missed the playoffs (earning him this award for the first time). They finally got to the postseason in 2010 and this season was something special.
After the Cheverus loss, South Portland upset Thornton Academy and outslugged Sanford, then turned up the defense, allowing seven points in regulation in its final five contests (the only loss being a triple-OT setback at Windham) finishing 6-2, punctuating the regular season with a “Battle of the Bridge” triumph over Portland.
South Portland then downed Sanford in the quarterfinals (its first playoff win in 11 years) before taking second-ranked Thornton Academy down to the final play in a gutwrenching 20-15 loss in the semifinals.
Making the run even more impressive was that starting quarterback Jordan Muller was lost in Week 2, but backup Michael Salvatore rose to the occasion. The line was dominant on both offense and defense (making Stinson proud) and a new attitude permeated the program.
“We had good energy coming off last year and each year showed more and more progress” said Stinson, who’s an Ed Tech at South Portland High. “The kids stepped up in a major way in the offseason and created momentum.”
Stinson, who lives in South Portland with his wife Susan and second grade son Nicholas, was chosen by his peers as the league’s Coach of the Year.
He’s built up the youth program and is very excited about the future.
“We’re built on the line for next year,” Stinson said. “It’s easy to find skill kids. The youth program is paying off. It has 195 kids now. Having former players Jason Cook (who quarterbacked the 1995 and 1996 Class A champions) and Joe Hezlep (a member of the 1999 title winner) on the staff is big. Success breeds success.”
It’s safe to say the Red Riots have turned the tide and will be a force again for many years. Steve Stinson, our Fall 2011 Southern edition boys’ Coach of the Year, has seen his hard work and optimism finally pay off.
2010 winner: Lance Johnson (Scarborough football)
2009 winner; Aaron Filieo (Cape Elizabeth football)
2008 winner: Mark Diaz (Scarborough soccer)
2007 winner: Steve Stinson (South Portland football)
2006 winner: Aaron Filieo (Cape Elizabeth football)
2005 winner: Mark Diaz (Scarborough soccer)
2004 winner: Jim Harmon (Scarborough cross country)
2003 winner: Mark Diaz (Scarborough soccer)
2002 winner: Jack Flynn (Scarborough football)
2001 winner: Jack Flynn (Scarborough football)
The Scarborough volleyball program wasn’t much of a factor on the state level prior to this autumn.
This year, however, the Red Storm was fantastic, reaching the state match for the first time and giving perennial champion Greely all it could handle before falling in four close sets.
The run was helped by some talented and driven players, but was overseen by a longtime volleyball aficionado at the top, coach Jon Roberts.
In just his second year, Roberts helped Scarborough double its win total from the prior season and almost capture a first Gold Ball.
For his commitment to the sport and ability to get so much out of this group, Jon Roberts is The Forecaster’s selection as our Fall 2011 Southern edition Coach of the Year, of a girls’ team.
Roberts grew up playing volleyball in Storrs, Conn., and was on the club volleyball team at U. Conn. He started coaching at Coventry High School in Connecticut then took over a program at Scarborough that had contended, but never made a serious run at a championship.
“Expectations were low when I took over,” Roberts said. “I had to get the kids to buy in to competitive practices and the inclusiveness of the JV team into the varsity program.”
After a 7-8 campaign in 2010, which ended with a loss to Falmouth in the playoffs, Scarborough turned heads early this fall, winning four straight matches before falling at home to Greely. After four more victories, the Red Storm was beaten by the Rangers again. Scarborough would end up 12-2 and earned the No. 3 seed for the Class A playoffs.
After a 3-0 quarterfinal round victory over Ellsworth, the Red Storm ousted Gorham by the same margin, punching its ticket to the state final for the first time.
There, Scarborough and Greely went toe-to-toe, but with the match on the line, the Rangers won the key points and the Red Storm fell just short.
Don’t be surprised if Scarborough is right back in that final match next year and for many seasons to come.
Roberts, who lives in Scarborough and works as a City of Portland police officer, also coaches a club team in the winter and sees himself coaching high school for awhile.
That’s good news for the Scarborough program and the sport as a whole. For as long as Jon Roberts, our Fall 2011 Southern edition girls’ Coach of the Year, is running the show, triumph figures to follow.
2010 winner: Mike Farley (Scarborough soccer)
2009 winner: Kerry Mariello (Scarborough field hockey)
2008 winner: Ron Kelly (Scarborough cross country)
2007 winner: Kerry Mariello (Scarborough field hockey)
2006 winner: Jody King (Scarborough volleyball)
2005 winner: Mary Ann Doss (Cape Elizabeth cross country)
2004 winner: Kerry Mariello (Scarborough field hockey)
2003 winner: Mary Ann Doss (Cape Elizabeth cross country)
2002 winner: Maureen Curran (South Portland field hockey)
2001 winner: Erin McLaughlin (Scarborough field hockey)