Local high school sports athletes set a high standard again in 2016.
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 2015 gave way to 2016, Portland’s boys’ basketball team was the team to beat in the newly created AA North division, with Deering again giving chase and Cheverus also in the hunt. In Class C South, Waynflete was riding the magic of senior Milo Belleau to compete against top teams from all classes, including a first-ever win over eventual Class A champion Falmouth.
On the girls’ side, McAuley again led the way, even though the Lions did lose successive games for the first time in six years. Cheverus and Deering were in the playoff hunt in AA North and Waynflete hung tough in Class C South.
On the ice, Cheverus boys’ and girls’ teams were playoff-bound.
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 fourth straight Class A state title, as Michael O’Donovan took home both the 200 and 500 freestyle individual crowns and Shane Moore won the 100 freestyle title. The Stags also produced champion 200 and 400 freestyle relays.
Cheverus’ girls’ team had some individual success as well, as Abby Longstaff took the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke and Caroline Arpin was tops in the 100 breaststroke.
Deering’s Paolo DeMarco stole the show in indoor track, taking the senior 200 and senior 400 and being named senior division meet MVP at Southwesterns, winning the 400 championship at states (the Rams were fourth in Class A as a team), placing sixth at New Englands in the 300 (35.62 seconds, a new school record), and then, after paying his own way, posting a time of 23.15 seconds, a new personal record, in the Emerging Elite 200 at Nationals.
Cheverus’ girls’ team featured standout Emily Turner, who won the Class A title in the 400.
Portland’s Brad Ravenelle won a Class A Nordic title in the boys’ freestyle.
On the ice, Cheverus’ girls knocked off Biddeford in the South Region quarterfinals, then were eliminated by Falmouth in the semifinals. Players from Waynflete helped the Cape Elizabeth co-op team to the playoffs, where it lost to York in the quarterfinals.
On the boys’ side, Cheverus rallied to stun Biddeford in an overtime thriller in the quarterfinals on Mike Hatch’s goal, but the Stags’ magic ran out in the Class A South semifinals, when they were ousted by eventual regional champion Scarborough.
Attention then turned to the basketball championships.
On the boys’ side, in C South, Waynflete, ranked fourth, had no trouble with No. 5 Wiscasset in the quarterfinals, upset top-ranked Dirigo in the semifinals, then outlasted Winthrop in an overtime thriller in the regional final to punch its ticket to the state game for the second time in three years. The Flyers would ultimately fall one victory shy of a Gold Ball, however, as they lost to George Stevens Academy.
In Class AA North, Cheverus lost to Edward Little in the quarterfinals, while Deering and top-ranked Portland earned byes into the semifinals. There, the Rams had to rally late to edge Oxford Hills, while the Bulldogs had no trouble with Edward Little, setting up a “Battle of Portland” regional final at the Augusta Civic Center. In front of far fewer fans than would have showed up in Portland, the Bulldogs broke away from the Rams early and went on to an easy victory to make it to the state final for the third year in a row. Waiting there was South Portland and the Gold Ball game proved to be one for the ages (see below for more), but Portland had just enough to capture the championship in a double-overtime epic.
On the girls’ side, Waynflete lost to Madison in the C South preliminary round. In AA North, Deering rallied to edge Cheverus in the quarterfinals, then lost to Oxford Hills in the semis. In AA South, McAuley earned a bye into the semifinals, then, in their final game as McAuley, the Lions and South Portland played an overtime thriller that was ultimately captured by the Red Riots.
March was a month of rest as local athletes geared up for what proved to be a memorable spring season.
April and May
The short spring regular season featured much excitement and triumph.
Cheverus, Deering and Portland’s baseball teams all produced solid campaigns and qualified for the playoffs.
Portland’s softball team stole headlines. The Bulldogs enjoyed a resurgent season which included their first wins over Biddeford and South Portland since 2005 and their first playoff berth in nearly a decade.
Boys’ lacrosse featured strong play as three of four city teams made a run to the playoffs.
On the girls’ side, Waynflete once again led the way and Cheverus and Deering managed to make the playoffs as well.
Area track stars geared up for the state meet.
The tennis story featured excellence from several city teams, most notably the always-dominant Waynflete boys.
The spring championship season began with Cheverus’ Emily Turner continuing her excellence from the winter campaign and doing even better at the Class A state outdoor track meet, winning the 100, 200 and 400 (with a new record time). Deering’s Paolo DeMarco was heard from one final time, winning the boys’ 300 hurdles.
A week later, Waynflete’s boys’ tennis team won an unthinkable ninth successive Class C crown.
On the diamond, Portland’s softball team enjoyed a come-from-behind 3-2, eight-inning preliminary round victory over Marshwood, the program’s first playoff win since 2006. While Portland was blanked by Scarborough in the quarterfinals, it woke up the echoes and set the stage for future success.
Baseball’s playoffs were exciting as well, as Deering edged Cheverus in extra innings in the preliminary round, before being blanked by top-ranked Falmouth in the quarterfinals. Portland had to get past Kennebunk in the preliminary round, then edged Thornton Academy in a quarterfinal round thriller before being ousted by Falmouth in the semifinals.
Cheverus and Deering’s girls’ lacrosse teams both lost in their first playoff games, as the Stags were beaten by eventual state champion Messalonskee in the quarterfinals and the Rams were ousted by Lewiston. In Class B South, Waynflete edged Lake Region in the quarterfinals, then gave top-ranked Kennebunk a scare for a half in the semifinals, but eventually, the undefeated and eventual champion Rams proved to be too much as they pulled away to win.
On the boys’ side, Cheverus held off Deering in a Class A North quarterfinal, then lost by a goal to defending champion Brunswick in the semifinals. In Class B South, Waynflete had no trouble with Fryeburg Academy in the quarterfinals, then played three-time defending champion Cape Elizabeth more competitively than in years past in the semifinals before being eliminated.
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, defending regional champion Portland opened with a surprising loss to Scarborough, then rounded into championship form. Cheverus and Deering were up-and-down in the first half of the season.
On the pitch, Deering’s boys’ soccer team opened with a win at Scarborough and didn’t lose a game the whole month. Portland and defending regional champion Waynflete were also very competitive.
On the girls’ side, Cheverus overcame an early loss and hit its stride to become a top contender. Portland and defending regional champion Waynflete were also in the hunt.
Cheverus’ field hockey team welcomed a new coach but continued its winning ways, going toe-to-toe with the top teams in Class A South.
Cheverus, Deering and Portland’s volleyball teams showed early promise.
Cross country and golf teams hinted at success to come.
Cheverus’ golf team qualified for the Class A state match and placed sixth.
Deering’s boys’ cross country team continued its superb season by placing second at the Class A South regional meet. The Cheverus girls and both Waynflete squads also qualified for states.
Deering’s second-year varsity volleyball team made the playoffs and lost a close five-set match at Bonny Eagle in the preliminary round. Cheverus hosted a playoff match for the first time, but was ousted by Gorham. Portland just missed out on a berth.
The field hockey playoffs saw Cheverus blank South Portland in the preliminary round, then meet its match at nemesis Marshwood in the quarterfinals.
The soccer playoffs saw Portland’s girls ousted in the preliminary round and Cheverus eliminated in the quarterfinals. That left Waynflete, which rose from the No. 5 seed to beat Lisbon in the quarterfinals, then edge top-ranked Monmouth Academy in the semifinals.
On the boys’ side, Portland stole the headlines, first edging Bonny Eagle in the preliminary round, then upsetting Deering in the quarterfinals and Falmouth (on penalty kicks) in the semifinals. In Class C South, Waynflete’s quest for another regional title was dashed by Lisbon in the semifinals.
Football’s playoffs began with Cheverus beating Lewiston in the A North quarterfinals and Deering losing at Sanford in the A South quarterfinals. Portland earned a bye into the semifinals.
Cross country’s Class A state meet saw Deering come in second behind Falmouth. Both Waynflete teams were in the top five in Class C.
The soccer drama continued into November, where Portland’s boys gave Gorham a scare in the Class A South Final before dropping a one-goal decision.
Waynflete’s girls got past Madison in the regional final to get to the state game versus Orono for the second year in a row. Unfortunately for the Flyers, the result was the same, as Waynflete couldn’t score and lost, 2-0.
Football then took center stage, as Portland easily dispatched Oxford Hills in the A North semifinals, then rallied to down Windham in the regional final to reach the state final for the second year in a row. This time, the Bulldogs had to face undefeated Bonny Eagle and for a half, Portland carried play, but only managed one touchdown and the Scots wore the Bulldogs down in the second half en route to a 33-14 victory. Portland did a gain a little consolation by beating Deering on Thanksgiving Day and seeing senior standout Dylan Bolduc named a finalist for the Fitzpatrick Trophy.
Winter has returned and the fun begins again.
In boys’ basketball, Portland is up to its old tricks and despite suffering a loss at Edward Little last week, the Bulldogs figure to be in the hunt for another Gold Ball. Deering remains strong, Cheverus is on the brink of joining the upper echelon and Waynflete has the ingredients for another deep playoff run.
On the girls’ side, Deering and Cheverus have the chance to do big things in Class AA North. Portland just underwent a midseason coaching change after an 0-5 start. In AA South, the newly named Maine Girls’ Academy has work to do to get in playoff contention. In Class C South, Waynflete appears playoff-bound.
On the ice, Cheverus and Portland/Deering’s boys’ squads are off to fast starts.
Swimming, track and wrestling have provided their share of promising moments and skiing is about to get underway.
Say goodbye to the wonderful year that was. We welcome 2017 and look forward to a new batch of highlights.
Happy New Year everyone!
Portland 52 South Portland 50 Class AA boys’ basketball state final
A no brainer, as this was an epic, a game for the ages and a contest that was surprisingly close. The Bulldogs were heavy favorites entering the contest thanks to twice easily handling the Red Riots in the regular season, but South Portland gave Portland everything it could handle through 32 minutes, one four-minute overtime, then a second before Portland managed to eke out the thrilling victory. Amir Moss etched his name into legend by tying the game late in regulation, then producing the winning basket in the second OT. There were no losers in this one. Everyone on hand was the winner.
Portland’s boys’ basketball team punctuated the winter sports season with a thrilling double-overtime victory in the Class AA state final.
One of the highlights of the spring sports season was a prodigious home run by Deering’s James Sinclair. The Rams made the playoffs.
Lydia Giguere helped Waynflete’s girls’ soccer team reach the Class C state final again this past fall.