Local high school sports athletes set a high standard again in 2015.
Whether the season was winter, spring or fall, triumph was the theme and there were countless memorable moments.
With another winter season underway and a new year upon us, here’s one final look back at the thrills that made up the year just past.
When 2014 gave way to 2015, Portland’s boys’ basketball team was defending a state title and had the inside track for another as it stayed undefeated until the final day of the month. Deering was in the hunt, while Cheverus was dangerous as well. In Western C, Waynflete, the defending regional champion, was hinting at another deep run, losing one game during the regular season, by a mere point at eventual Western B finalist Lake Region.
On the girls’ side, McAuley was looking for a fifth successive Class A championship and while the Lions weren’t quite as dominant as previous editions, they were beating almost everyone. Deering didn’t lose a single game in the month, while Cheverus and Portland were also showing positive glimpses and in Western C, Waynflete was its typical formidable self.
On the ice, the Cheverus and Portland/Deering co-op boys’ teams were playoff-bound, while the Cheverus girls and several Waynflete players contributing to the Capeflete co-op squad were also in the mix.
Skiing, swimming, track and wrestling teams and individuals made their mark as they geared up for the postseason.
February vacation week brought the first hardware of the new year.
Cheverus’ boys’ swim team won its third straight Class A state title, as Jacob Griffin (50 freestyle) and Kevin Kane (200 individual medley) both won individual crowns.
McAuley’s Ana Neff-Jendrasko won a pair of individual crowns in Class B, taking the IM and the 100 backstroke.
Deering’s Hany Ramadan stole the show in indoor track, setting a new state record in winning the Class A 400 and also coming in first in the 200.
On the ice, Capeflete’s girls won a playoff game, but ultimately lost to Falmouth in the West Region semifinals.
On the boys’ side, Portland/Deering was ousted by Falmouth in the Western A quarterfinals, while Cheverus downed Lake Region and Noble/Wells to advance to the regional final for the first time in almost a decade.
Attention then turned to the basketball championships.
On the boys’ side, in Western C, Waynflete began its quest for a repeat regional title with a win over Hall-Dale in the quarterfinals, but the Flyers had no answers for Dirigo and lost in the semifinals. Cheverus beat Marshwood in the preliminary round, but was ousted by South Portland in the quarterfinals. Deering had to play a prelim as well and got past Scarborough, then upset Gorham in the quarterfinals. The Rams were on the verge of another upset in the semifinals against top-ranked Portland, which dispatched Windham in the quarterfinals, but couldn’t hold a lead in the waning seconds as Bulldogs junior Amir Moss hit a clutch shot to allow Portland to advance to the regional final, where the Bulldogs eliminated Falmouth to punch their ticket back to the state final. While Portland was able to beat Hampden Academy in the 2014 state game, this time around, in Augusta, the Bulldogs were no match for the Broncos, who won, 70-50.
On the girls’ side, Waynflete lost to Madison in the Western C preliminary round, as coach Brandon Salway’s triumphant time with the team came to a close. In Western A, Portland went to Cheverus and sprung a preliminary round upset. The Bulldogs gave McAuley a scare in the quarterfinal, but the Lions advanced. Deering wasn’t as fortunate, as its fine season ended with a quarterfinal round loss to South Portland. McAuley got past South Portland in the semifinals, but the Lions learned that all good things must end when they were ousted by Thornton Academy in the regional final, ending their four-year title reign and a mind-boggling 18-game tournament win streak.
Only one game was played in the month of March, as Cheverus’ showdown in the Western A boys’ hockey final with Scarborough resulted in a 5-2 loss.
April and May
The short spring regular season featured much excitement and triumph.
Portland’s baseball team, behind the return of coach Mike Rutherford, turned heads and wound up earning the top seed for the playoffs. Deering, under new coach and former standout player Josh Stowell, woke up the echoes and also stole headlines en route to a playoff berth. Cheverus had another competitive season and reached the postseason.
McAuley’s softball team was the lone squad from the city to reach the tournament.
Boys’ lacrosse featured strong play as all four local squads made it to the postseason.
On the girls’ side, McAuley made a run at its first playoff berth in a decade, while Cheverus, Portland and perennial powerhouse Waynflete were also bound for the postseason.
Area track stars geared up for the state meet.
The tennis story featured excellence from several city teams, most notably the Waynflete boys and Portland girls.
The spring championship season began with Cheverus’ boys’ outdoor track team falling just short of a repeat Class A title, but the Stags did steal some headlines as Jake Dixon set a new state record in the 400 with a time of 48.45 seconds. Nick White (discus) and Jake Schott (high jump) also won individual crowns, as did Deering’s Paolo DeMarco (300 hurdles).
A week later, Waynflete’s boys’ tennis team won an unthinkable eighth successive Class C crown, which was preceded by Flyers standout Isaac Salas winning the individual title.
On the diamond, McAuley was ousted in the softball preliminary round.
Baseball provided no shortage of excitement. After crushing Cheverus in the preliminary round, Deering had Portland on the ropes in the quarterfinals, but the Bulldogs rallied for a 4-3 win. Portland then produced more late inning heroics to beat Falmouth in the semifinals to reach the regional final against South Portland. The Bulldogs finally ran out of magic, barely, in the regional final, when the tying and winning runs were left on base.
The most memorable lacrosse story came courtesy the unheralded Portland girls who needed four overtimes to beat Cheverus in the Eastern A quarterfinals and overtime again in a come-from-behind win over Mt. Ararat in the semifinals. The Bulldogs finally met their match against Messalonskee (who ousted McAuley in the quarterfinals) in the regional final. In Western B, Waynflete was beaten by Falmouth in the semifinals.
On the boys’ side, Deering and Portland lost in the Eastern A quarterfinals, while Cheverus was beaten by eventual state champion Brunswick in the semis. Waynflete was eliminated by Falmouth in the Western B semifinals.
July and August
High school action took a short break, while familiar names competed in road races and American Legion ball. By mid-August, fall practice was underway.
Autumn brought football, soccer, field hockey, cross country, golf and volleyball excitement.
On the gridiron, Portland defied the pundits by passing every test, Deering got off to a fast start in the Jason Jackson Era and Cheverus overcame an early lopsided loss to defending champion Thornton Academy.
On the pitch, Waynflete’s boys squad excelled and enjoyed a victory over eventual Class B champion Yarmouth, Portland didn’t give up many goals, but didn’t score many either, while Cheverus and Deering were competitive.
On the girls’ side, Cheverus, Deering, Portland and Waynflete all showed promise.
Cheverus’ field hockey team got off to a hot start, enjoying a rare win over defending Class A champion Scarborough in the process, while Deering also positioned itself for the playoffs.
Cross country and golf teams hinted at success to come and volleyball saw Deering and Portland add new varsity programs.
Cheverus’ golf team capped a strong season by coming in second at the Class A state match.
Waynflete’s girls’ cross country team won another regional title, while the Flyers boys and Deering’s boys also qualified for states.
Cheverus’ volleyball team made the playoffs and lost in the preliminary round. Deering just missed out on a berth.
The field hockey playoffs produced plenty of drama. Deering was ousted in the preliminary round, but top-ranked Cheverus extended its memorable season by twice surviving penalty corners, first against Westbrook in the quarterfinals, then against Sanford in the semifinals. The Stags finally met their match in Thornton Academy in the regional final.
The soccer playoffs saw Cheverus and Portland’s girls ousted in the preliminary round and Deering eliminated in the semifinals. That left Waynflete, which rose from the No. 6 seed to reach the Class C South Final.
On the boys’ side, Waynflete also made it to the regional final after surviving a bizarre quarterfinal against Carrabec. The Flyers appeared to win the game in penalty kicks, but they weren’t properly handled and the teams had to return to complete them some 48 hours later with Waynflete moving on. Cheverus produced some deja vu, coming from the No. 7 seed to make a run to the regional final. Deering and Portland weren’t as fortunate, as the Rams were ousted in the preliminary round and the Bulldogs were sent packing in overtime in the quarterfinals.
Football’s playoffs began with Cheverus being blanked at Windham and Deering dropping a heartbreaker against Bonny Eagle in the Class A North quarterfinals.
The soccer drama continued into November, where Cheverus’ boys finally met their match, losing to Scarborough in the regional final. Waynflete managed to win its regional final, but the Flyers dropped an overtime heartbreaker to Washington Academy in the state game.
Waynflete’s girls got the Class C state final in dramatic fashion and rallied to send that contest against Orono to overtime, but there, the Flyers finally went down to defeat.
Football then took center stage, as Portland remained undefeated by crushing Bangor in the semifinals, then, behind the heroics of senior Joe Esposito, beating preseason favorite Windham in the regional final. That sent the Bulldogs to the Class A state final for the first time since 2002, but despite a valiant effort and a rally from 14 points down, Portland fell just short against Thornton Academy, a wound that was somewhat salved five days later with a decisive Turkey Day victory over Deering.
And with that, the fall season was over.
Winter has returned and the fun begins again.
In boys’ basketball, Portland was again undefeated at press time and had perfect company from Deering. Those teams could be on a regional final collision course, but not if once-beaten Cheverus has anything to say about it. Waynflete appears to once again be a team to contend with in Class C South.
On the girls’ side, McAuley continues to triumph and takes a 23-game regular season win streak into the new year. Cheverus and Deering have shown glimpses of excellence early and Portland and Waynflete hope to turn things around once the calendar flips.
On the ice, playoffs are a realistic goal for the city’s teams.
Swimming, track and wrestling have provided their share of promising moments and skiing is about to get underway, if the snow ever falls.
Say goodbye to the wonderful year that was. We welcome 2016 and look forward to a new batch of highlights.
Happy New Year everyone!
Despite the best efforts of Eva Mazur and her teammates, McAuley’s four-year run as Class A girls’ basketball champion came to an end back in late February.
Deering’s baseball enjoyed a resurgence back in the spring.
Portland’s football team stole headlines all fall and fell just short of a Class A state championship.
Portland 4 Deering 3 Western A baseball quarterfinal
Portland 16 Cheverus 15 Eastern A girls’ lacrosse quarterfinal
Portland 59 Deering 57 Western A boys’ basketball semifinal
This one gets the nod due to the setting (a big crowd at the erstwhile Civic Center) and the drama. After a pair of regular season wins over the Rams, the defending Class A champion Bulldogs found themselves down a point with time winding down, but Amir Moss hit a clutch shot while being fouled and added the free throw for the three-point play with 1.7 seconds left which allowed Portland to survive and advance. Just another memorable chapter in a storied rivalry.