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Weiss ready to compete at Tournament of Champions

Sport:   Posted: April 12th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Weiss ready to compete at Tournament of Champions
The Courier-Gazette
By Mark Haskell


Aaron Weiss, an eighth grader at Rockland District Middle School, took second place in the Gene Mills Eastern Nationals. Mark Haskell
 

    BALDWINSVILLE, N.Y. — It is no secret that Aaron Weiss is one of the best wrestlers in the Midcoast, regardless of age or weight class. But after taking part last weekend in a national wrestling tournament, he could be one of the best in the country.

Aaron Weiss, an eighth grader at Rockland District Middle School, took second place in the Gene Mills Eastern Nationals. Mark Haskell
    Weiss took second place in 16-wrestler bracket of the 155-pound cadet division weight class of the Gene Mills Eastern Nationals over the weekend in Baldwinsville, N.Y. at the Greater Baldwinsville Ice Arena.

    “It was pretty awesome,” said Weiss. “The whole ride back all I could think was ‘wow.’”

    He now moves on to the Tournament of Champions in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday, April 26, where he will compete against some of the best wrestlers in the country. He qualified for the tournament by winning the Marshwood Tournament at the Cumberland County Civic Center March 29. By taking second place in the Gene Mills tournament, he will be granted a higher seed in the Tournament of Champions.

    Mills, who oversees the Gene Mills Eastern Nationals, is a former New Jersey state wrestling champion and a high school national champion, as well as Syracuse University’s first four-time All-American in wrestling. He was also a 1980 U.S. Olympian and voted “Athlete of the Year” by the U.S. Olympic Committee. Mills compiled a career record of 1,356 wins and 46 losses.

    Weiss was sure of his abilities heading into the tournament, but also believes his being a relative unknown may have had something to do with his success.

    “I kind of went in as the underdog from Maine, and nobody really knew who I was,” said Weiss. “So it felt pretty good to come out [of the bracket to the finals].”

    Weiss defeated John Lake, Aiden, N.Y., 8-3; defeated Will Lloyd, Macedor, N.Y., 3-1; defeated Zack Morris, Corry, Pa., 6-2; and lost to Dickey Silverthorn, Duxter, N.Y., 6-3 in the finals.

    Weiss handled his defeat in the finals with grace. He talked with Silverthorn after the match about an abundance of things, such as how he conditions and how long he had been wrestling. Silverthorn, who is also an eighth grader, has had the benefit of competing against high school wrestlers all year.

    “In New York, eighth graders can get a special physical from their doctor and they are allowed to wrestle for their high school team,” said Weiss. “His father is also in the military and he had all this advanced training and everything, and he told me that I was one of his better matches. I didn’t mind losing to him, but I made a few mistakes I probably shouldn’t have.”

    Weiss received a wakeup call as far as training is concerned when Silverthorn informed Weiss that he runs seven miles a day every other day. That explained why Weiss was considerably more tired towards the end of their match as opposed to Silverthorn.

    “Down there the periods were a minute and a half, and normal periods are only a minute,” he said. “So by the third period I was pretty worn out and I just couldn’t keep up with the kid. He was too fast for me, so I’m going to start training harder.”

    The Tournament of Champions will be an even bigger test of endurance for Weiss. Instead of the typical three one-minute rounds format, the TOC has a rigorous three-minute round instead.

    “Conditioning is going to be the main thing,” said Weiss. “According to my coaches I don’t really need to learn anything more, I just need to condition and get in better shape.”

    Jacob Berry, a senior at Camden Hills Regional High School and a winner of three straight state championships in his weight class, will be working with Weiss to help him train for the Tournament of Champions.

    “We ran into him at Pizza Hut and asked him if he’d come down and help,” said Weiss. “So he’s going to come down and help and teach me a few things.”

    Weiss did a great job putting the experience in perspective, saying whether he won or lost in the tournament, the experience was a positive one.

    “This is only my fourth year wrestling, and most of these kids have been wrestling their whole lives,” said Weiss. “So just being there is great. I got second and it’s better than most kids dream of.”

    Younger brother and teammate Chris Weiss and teammate Matt Zable also took part in the tournament, with both turning in solid performances of their own.

    The younger Weiss competed in the 76-pound junior division, racking up a record of 2-2 in the tournament. Weiss defeated Dillon Kramer, Womelsdorf, PA, 6-1; lost to Jesse Porter, Bullston Lake, N.Y., 7-1; defeated Matt Dodge, Colchester, CT, 6-2; and lost to Danny Graham, West Waverly, N.Y., 7-1.

    Zable competed in the 95-pound cadet division, and finished with a 1-2 record. Zable was pinned by Jonathan Vaisey, town and pin time unknown; defeated John Goldthwaite, Phoenix, N.Y., 11-2; and lost to Paul Sughrue, Methuen, Mass, 6-3.




Copyright © 2008 MaineCoastNOW.com

Class A baseball preview: Bangor team to beat

Sport: Baseball  Posted: April 12th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Class A baseball preview: Bangor team to beat
FROM STAFF REPORTS

There are a few changes in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A division this season. Gardiner, Erskine and Old Town dropped to Class B, and Mt. Blue moved from the South to North Division. One thing that didn't change, two-time defending regional champion Bangor is still considered the team to beat in Eastern Maine.

"With their enrollment, they should be good in everything they play," Lawrence baseball coach Wally Covell said of Bangor. "From tiddlywinks to baseball."

A majority of the central Maine teams are playoff contenders. Many return strong pitchers and veteran position players.

"Everyone's got one ace," Skowhegan coach Rick York said. "I'm looking forward to (the season)."

Covell returns one of the more experienced teams in the league. The Bulldogs lost just one starter to graduation and have eight seniors on the roster. Three pitchers who saw a lot of innings last season, John Flynn and lefties Nick Nelson and Nick Lee, all return to the Lawrence rotation. Sophomore Chris DeRaps and freshman Shawn Russell, another southpaw, could contribute on the mound as well.

"The pitching has been looking good. Obviously, a year of maturity helps," Covell said.

Flynn hit over .400 last season and leads the offense, along with designated hitter/first baseman Brian Manzo, third baseman Brock Lawrence and catcher Jack Hersom, who moves behind the plate from the infield. Lawrence will hit leadoff for the Bulldogs, and will once again be the catalyst for the team's aggressive style.

Skowhegan also returns a number of players, including ace pitcher Cody Vigue.

"(Vigue) was in a lot of big games for us last year," York said. "He pitched a lot of big games for us. He wants the ball."

The Indians return a trio of four-year starters -- catcher Les Marcue, center fielder Andy Calder and second baseman Jonathan Wheaton. Senior Matt Hisler is back at short.

Although Cony has just one senior, the Rams could be a surprise team in the KVAC this season. Many on the team have played at regional and national levels the past three seasons in Babe Ruth League.

"We've got tremendous depth and big-game experience at the younger levels," Cony coach Ray Vallee said. "Really what we need is for a couple of those young kids to prove themselves at the varsity level."

Senior Cory Nason anchors a pitching staff that also includes sophomores Ryan Minoty and Jake Beland. Junior Greg O'Neill leads the returning hitters and the rest of the lineup has excellent overall speed.

The Rams drew a couple of tough crossover opponents from the conference's northern division in Bangor and Brewer.

Messalonskee has three-year starters Tony Jacobs at catcher and Nick Curato in the outfield. The Eagles also return Chris Farrar, one of the top pitchers in the conference.

"Hopefully, (Farrar) will look a lot better this year, because he became a little bit known," coach Ray Bernier said. "That means he'll have to work twice as hard."

The Eagles are strong up the middle, with shortstop Josh Gilbert and second baseman Ray Bernier back as the double play combination. Coach Bernier said the corner infield spots are up for grabs.

Mt. Blue just missed the playoffs last season, finishing one point behind Edward Little for the final spot. With just four players returning, the Cougars hope to rebuild and make a run to the postseason.

Senior Joe Gilbert is the most experienced pitcher on the Mt. Blue roster. Sophomores Tim Smith, Alex Whitt and Ryan Backus will pitch as well.

"We're looking for (Gilbert) to carry the load early," Mt. Blue coach Craig Collins said.

Senior first baseman/outfielder Bobby Duley is Mt. Blue's top returning hitter. Junior Brad Dority is back at short and will pitch some.

New coach Jared Foster takes over a Nokomis team that has struggled in recent years, and won one game last season. In sophomore Derek Amoroso, Foster thinks he has a pitcher he can build around.

"He throws the ball hard, has a good breaking ball, and we're working on his changeup," Foster said.

Seniors Cody Johndro will serve as the designated hitter and could close some games. Casey Reynolds, also a senior, is back at first base.

Staff writer Gary Hawkins contribued to this report

Travis Lazarczyk -- 861-9242

tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com

KIA finishing up renovations

Sport: Hockey (Boys)  Posted: April 12th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

KIA finishing up renovations
BY BILL STEWART, Staff Write

HALLOWELL -- Three white lights hanging over the center of the ice dim the barren Kennebec Ice Arena. An aura of fresh paint permeates the chilly air, and a sense of stillness is apparent.

The place looks and feels dead, but a closer examination reveals an awakening.

Power tools, paint rollers, yellow caution tape, brooms, extension cords, torches, propane tanks, ladders, shovels, and even chunks of Plexiglas are scattered throughout the 35-year-old arena.

There is still work to do before the renaissance is complete and the new-look arena is unveiled Tuesday with a public skate. However, much has been accomplished since the building closed March 17 for a massive and impressive makeover.

For starters, 5-year-old boards that once stood inside the former FleetCenter in Boston are installed. Bigger and thicker Plexiglas, also once property of the Boston Bruins, is in place as well. New penalty boxes and team benches are up as well.

"It's been a learning experience," said KIA rink manager K.C. Johnson. "We were afraid to rip this up in case we opened a can of worms. It was in rough shape."

Scott Peacock of Lakeland Associates, a West Gardiner construction business, helped install the boards. He said it took a four-person crew about a week to put up the boards.

"It was kind of fun," he said. "The whole job was different. It's been a blast really. It's been different than pounding nails, a good change."

Lakeland Associates is also putting in new flooring inside the arena, as well in the hallway leading to the four locker rooms.

"That will be recycled vinyl," Peacock said. "We still have some stuff to do."

The privately owned KIA purchased the boards and Plexiglas from the Boston Bruins Foundation for about $25,000 in the fall. New boards and glass can cost an arena up to $150,000. In November, pieces of the old FleetCenter -- the Bruins now play in the TD Banknorth Garden -- were shipped to Maine.

The KIA stored the parts at Everett J. Prescott Inc. -- a pipeline business in Gardiner -- during the winter. After the high school and Maine Moose junior hockey seasons concluded, Johnson and his seven-person crew went to work.

The old boards, which were donated to the Gardiner Youth Hockey Association for a possible outdoor rink, came out first. Next came the installation of the new boards, boxes and Plexiglas. Earlier this week, KIA crew members painted the rink's floor and began the tedious process of placing the new logos, lines, circles and creases.

Although at some arenas the logos and lines are painted, the KIA used a mesh-like substance produced by Amusement Media Inc. in Stafford, N.H.

The mesh, which comes pre-cut to size, is laid down before the surface is "misted" with a thin coat of ice. That thin coat holds the mesh in place, as water seeps through the holes to create a suction-like effect. Once complete, the floor is flooded to create the ice surface.

"We did a quick misting over the paint to seal the ice," said Johnson. "That took a good day to do."

The new Plexiglas differs greatly from the old. The new Plexiglas is 8 feet tall at each end of the rink and 6 feet tall on the sides. The old, marked up glass was 6 feet tall at the ends and 4 feet tall on the sides. Furthermore, the new stuff is a half-inch thick; the old Plexiglass was three-eighths inches thick. That extra thickness will help the glass better absorb contact.

Other changes to the arena include new carpeting around the rink and in the locker rooms.

"It's been quite the experience," Johnson said. "Our goal is to get up and open by April 15, and we're sticking to that."

The KIA will be open for a public skate April 15, beginning at 11:30 a.m. The arena will host a Community Day on April 19, which includes a free public skate from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Bill Stewart -- 623-3811, ext. 515

bstewart@centralmaine.com

Brewer seeking hitting boost to go with formidable pitching

Sport: Baseball  Posted: April 12th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Brewer seeking hitting boost to go with formidable pitching
By Ernie Clark
Saturday, April 12, 2008 - Bangor Daily News

BREWER, Maine — The Brewer High School baseball team relied on pitching and defense to reach last year’s Eastern Maine Class A championship game.

This spring the Witches hope the addition of a more consistent hitting attack will lead to even greater success.

"Last year we went to the Eastern Maine championship and we had one guy hit over .300," said Brewer coach David Morris.

"We had pitching and defense, but hopefully we can hit the ball better this year," he said. "We’re really doing a lot of talking about hitting right now because we have the physical tools but I’m not sure if we’re there mentally yet. We’ve been really working on a lot of mental toughness and situational hitting."

Brewer graduated some key contributors — first baseman Brad Brown, second baseman Rick Adams and pitcher Jim Nicknair among them — from last year’s team, which won 11 of 14 games after a 2-2 start to earn its second trip to the EM final in the last four seasons.

But there’s a veteran nucleus back both on the mound and in the field — with most of the returnees buoyed by additional high-quality experience at the American Legion level.

"We lost a couple of core guys, but we’ve got some young kids who I think are going to step up to fill in the holes," said senior pitcher-first baseman Prentiss Swett. "We only have one sophomore, no freshmen and a lot of juniors and seniors. We’ve got a lot of veterans; we’re an older team."

Senior Greg Higgins returns to anchor the pitching staff, along with sophomore Eric White. Swett, Billy Bissell and Chase Daniels — who emerged during last summer’s American Legion Zone 1 tournament — provide talented depth, with Swett and Bissell likely to see some duty as the team’s closer.

"I think what we’re really pleased with so far this spring is that the pitching’s been pretty decent," said Morris. "Overall, there’s a confidence in our pitchers that we’re pleased with because that’s definitely one area where we have some guys returning."

Senior Caleb Smith anchors the infield as a third-year starter at shortstop.

Swett and Higgins both will see duty at first base, while White and senior Mike Kotredes will play third. Several candidates are vying to replace Adams at second, including Coby Hutchins and Kyle O’Connell.

White and senior Shun Sasaki are returning starters in left and center field, while the strong-armed Bissell will play right. Jon Thoms and Andy Bush are the top catching candidates.

"I think we’ve got a lot of kids who hit the ball well," said Swett, who will bat in the middle of the lineup. "We’ve got a lot of contact hitters, too, who we can work in the top and the bottom of the order, and if they’re on base, we’ve got some guys in the middle of the order who can drive them in."

Rams' seniors eyeing return to state final

Sport: Baseball  Posted: April 11th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Rams' seniors eyeing return to state final
By Ernie Clark
Thursday, April 10, 2008 - Bangor Daily News

BANGOR, Maine - Ian Edwards, Kyle Vanidestine and Shane Walton are developing quite a baseball legacy at Bangor High School.

As sophomores, they started on a state championship team. As juniors last spring, they helped extend the program’s winning streak to 30 games en route to a second straight Eastern Maine Class A title.

But the season ended on a downer — an 11-4 loss to Deering of Portland in the state final — a fact that adds to their motivation level as the trio prepares for their senior seasons.

"Right after that [Deering] game we were saying ‘next year,’" said Edwards. "It was hard to say it around the seniors, but with our class and the then-sophomore class that’s the first thing we said, that we’ve got to get back to that game next year and prove them wrong."

The Rams, 19-1 last year and 37-3 over the last two seasons, suffered some significant graduation losses, as catcher Gordon Webb, outfielder Tom Crews and pitcher-first baseman Alex Gallant are all playing collegiately this spring.

"Tom and Gordy and Alex had such great offensive years that they’re going to be tough to replace," said Rams coach Jeff Fahey.

Edwards, Vanidestine and Walton — all first-team All-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A North choices last spring — should fill the leadership void, and will team with junior outfielder Ryan Larochelle, a second-team All-KVAC choice, to provide much of the offensive punch.

Bangor also returns middle infielders John Cox and Chad Kelley, as well as veterans Tyler McDade and Tyler Brookings.

"Ian, Shane and Kyle have been big members of the team for three years, but other guys like myself need to step up this year," said Cox, a senior shortstop.

"Last year we had a ton of depth, even with the kids who weren’t playing much. But everyone’s going to have to step up this year, and I think we have some players who will surprise people."

Bangor returns its top two pitchers in 2007 KVAC Class A North player of the year Edwards (7-1 with four shutouts) and junior Jordan Clarke (8-0).

They’ll be joined by junior lefthander Zane Gray as well as some promising pitchers up from the junior varsity as the Rams seek to eliminate a lack of pitching depth that caught up with the team in last year’s state final.

"We’re not going to make the same mistake we made last year where we kind of hoped Alex would be back for the playoffs," said Fahey. "He was close, and we thought he was going to be able to go and then he wasn’t and we really kind of hung ourselves when we didn’t have that No. 3 guy."

That pitching depth will be tested during a regular season that features a slightly revised schedule. Former foes Old Town and Erskine Academy of South China have dropped to Class B, and Bangor will have three new opponents in Cony of Augusta, Mt. Blue of Farmington and Brunswick.

"Overall I think this is probably the most competitive league Bangor’s ever been in, even going back 25 years," said Fahey, who brings a 106-24 record into his eighth season as the Rams’ coach.

While Bangor may not have quite as many lopsided victories this season as it did a year ago when 10 of its wins came via the 10-run rule, the Rams are optimistic that they will remain among the top contenders to return to the state final.

"We’d like to finish strong this year and get another title," said Vanidestine, who may move to center field after playing right the last two seasons. "I know a lot of people are thinking we’re not the team we were last year. We definitely lost some good players, but we’ve got some underclassmen coming up who if they step up will be pretty good."

"Senior year, I think we’re just looking to give it our best shot," added the University of Maine-bound Walton. "Obviously we want to get back to the last game and come out on top, but we’re just going to take it one game at a time, really, and do what we can and see how it goes."

Where the Rams hope their season will go is where it went each of the last two years — to the final game.

"I’m just looking forward to another good season," said Edwards, who will play football and baseball at Bowdoin College in Brunswick next year. "We’ve had two great seasons, and I’m just looking for the same this year.

"I want to go out on top, as they say, and hopefully with this group we can do it."

Match in national meet puts Caribou wrestler in spotlight

Sport:   Posted: April 10th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Match in national meet puts Caribou wrestler in spotlight
By Ernie Clark
Wednesday, April 09, 2008 - Bangor Daily News


Carlin Dubay of Caribou lost eight times as a freshman, but only four more times through his final three seasons, and none as a senior, including a New England title.


Carlin Dubay had a season unmatched in Maine high school wrestling history this winter.

The Caribou High School senior went 54-0, winning not only his third straight Class B state championship at 103 pounds but also a New England championship and All-American status.

And with the publication of the April 7 edition of Sports Illustrated, Dubay received two pages of national exposure with a picture of his first-round match at the recent National High School Coaches Association Senior National Wrestling Championships.

Dubay admittedly wasn’t the focal point of the photo, which featured him wrestling against Dustin Carter of Hillsboro (Ohio) High School — a quadruple amputee who nevertheless went 41-2 for his high school team this winter while reaching the quarterfinals of the Ohio state tournament.

"It was pretty cool," said Dubay of the photo, which showed Carter unsuccessfully attempting to flip him over. "The picture wasn’t really about me, it was about him, but just being in Sports Illustrated was cool."

Dubay heard shortly after he arrived at the nationals at Virginia Beach, Va., that there was a competitor in his weight class without arms or legs, and he soon learned that Carter would be his first opponent.

"I realized before I fought him that it was going to be a completely different strategy," said Dubay. "I didn’t prepare any differently, but in my mind I knew my strategy was going to have to be different to wrestle a guy without arms and legs."

Carter, who had both legs amputated above the knees, his right arm amputated below the elbow and his left arm amputated just above the elbow due to a life-threatening blood infection at age 5, used his considerable upper body strength to stay competitive throughout the match.

Dubay eventually scored a 1-0 victory, scoring a point at the start of the second period when Dubay chose the down position and Carter then chose neutral, essentially enabling Dubay to earn the pivotal point on an escape.

"My strategy pretty much didn’t work at all," said Dubay, who nevertheless exerted control for much of the match and withstood several attempts by Carter to score a takedown once both wrestlers were on the mat.

"It was pretty much a 50-50 match," said Dubay, who finished his high school career with a 162-12 record, with eight of those losses coming as a freshman.

"There were some close calls, but I did what I needed to do to win it," said Dubay.

That victory eventually enabled Dubay to finish sixth in his weight class at the nationals, thus earning All-American honors.

Dubay, who will attend Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle this fall, currently is participating in preseason workouts with the Caribou outdoor track team. He will compete in the pole vault, long jump and sprints for the Vikings.

Dubay also said he may compete in one final wrestling event, the Maine-Nebraska Friendship Series scheduled in Nebraska this summer.

Bryant Gets Point Guard

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: April 9th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Bryant Gets Point Guard
 
NewEnglandRecruitingReport.com

True point guards can be one in a million these days, which is why anytime a program is able to land one it is a major acquisition.  Bryant College did just that on Wednesday.

When you scroll up and down the list of prospects in New England, or any part of the country for that matter, you will always find more guards than any other position.  As the old saying goes, guards are a “dime a dozen”.  Or as college coaches would tell you, “everybody has got guards” referring to the virtually endless supply of perimeter players that think they have the game to play on the division I level.

But in the age of alley-oop passes, ankle breaking cross-overs, and the And 1 Mixtape Tour, finding a true point guard is a difficult task.  True point guards aren’t just little guys who are good with the ball…they are floor generals, who understand the nuances of the game, and make their teammates better…they pass the ball not just to pile up assists but to initiate offense, they defend, they take charges, they dive on the floor, they value each possession, they score…but only when they have to, they lead, and above all else they win.   

Bryant College was one of many schools in search of such a player this year.  On Wednesday they found what they were looking for as Sam Leclerc offered his verbal commitment.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Leclerc’s basketball resume is his history of winning.  Most recently, he led his Winthrop High School team to a Class C state championship as they defeated a Calais team that was riding a 63 game winning streak.  During last summer’s AAU season he led MBR to a surprise run through the national tournament field as they finished as the 11th best team in the country.

And whether it is for Winthrop or MBR, Leclerc has shown a rare ability to provide his team with whatever the situation demands.  In other words, while he is a player who prefers to act as more of a distributor, he has proven himself more than able to put points on the board in a hurry when his team needs it.  The state championship game was a terrific example as he finished with a game high 28.  At Nationals it was a 27 point performance in a win over Mississippi’s Jackson Panthers that pushed MBR to the sweet 16.

Leclerc jumped onto the recruiting scene at the 2006 New England Elite 75 Showcase, when everyone is the gym was asking, “who’s the kid who keeps throwing the great passes?”  What he showed that day is still true today…he is at his best when surrounded by talented players.  And that’s exactly why he is such a great addition for Bryant Head Coach Max Good and his staff as they have found the ideal team player to guide them through their first four years at the division I level.  

Mejia Ready for Next Challenge

Sport:   Posted: April 9th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Mejia Ready for Next Challenge
 
NewEnglandRecruitingReport.com

The Lawrence Academy point guard has both the game and the mindset to make an immediate impact upon arriving on URI’s campus next year.

The Greater Boston All-Star Game was bitter sweet for Stevie Mejia.  It marked the last official game he would play before arriving at the University of Rhode Island in the fall.  But the point guard is ready for that challenge as he hopes to play his way into some immediate minutes

“I’m very excited,” said Mejia.  “I will be playing with a great shooter in Jimmy Baron and in a great environment.  I just can’t wait to be a part of it.”

Exactly what Mejia’s role will be next season is still in doubt.  While URI’s starting point guard, Parfait Bitee, will graduate in May leaving a vacancy in the first unit, Mejia will have plenty of competition for the spot as he battles a fellow New England product in current freshman and former St. Thomas More lead guard Marquis Jones.

“I’m looking forward to going up there and working hard,” Mejia said.  “Whether it is five minutes a game or twenty, all I’m trying to do is give them whatever they need.”

That’s exactly what the point guard did over the last two years as he starred at Lawrence Academy.  Last season, he led the team to the NEPSAC Class C title in only his first year at the school.  Despite losing to St. Mark’s in this year’s final, Mejia has left a lasting legacy at Lawrence Academy.

“It was a great experience for me,” Mejia said of his time at LA.  “The coaches got me to the level where I’m currently at, and the school itself prepared me academically for college.”

Mejia may already have a game that is tailor made for the college level.  He is a steady floor general who knows how to get his teammates shots and can put the ball in the basket himself when necessary.  So with such an impressive resume already developed, what is the point guard working on before he arrives at the Rhode Island campus?

“A lot of pull-ups and floaters so that I’ll be able to get my shot off in the lane,” he said.  “and of course a lot of shooting and ball-handling.”

Fortunately for local fans we’ll be able to watch the next chapter of Stevie Mejia’s career as he stays home in New England.

Beaudry has SPM rolling

Sport:   Posted: April 9th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Beaudry has SPM rolling

By Craig Holt CORRESPONDENT
 
Picture

Burncoat’s Kristen Hurley slides safely into home in the first inning as SPM catcher fields the late throw. (RICH DUGAS)

WORCESTER— It may be early April, but St. Peter-Marian softball coach John Pace has officially discovered an important characteristic of his team. The Guardians are unfazed by back-to-back games against formidable opponents on the road.

Just 24 hours after blanking Wachusett Regional with Melissa Beaudry on the mound, St. Peter-Marian traveled to rival Burncoat yesterday and got another solid effort from its hard-throwing right-hander. Beaudry went the distance and struck out eight in leading the Guardians to a 7-5 nonleague victory over a youth-laden Patriots’ contingent that featured three freshmen infield starters.

Burncoat, ranked ninth in the T&G Poll, got a standout all-around effort from Kristen Hurley, a junior right-handed pitcher. She went the distance and struck out 10. Hurley helped her cause with a two-run triple in the first inning.


“Our kids were nervous but our young infielders kept their heads up, talked and played well,” Burncoat coach Meg Curtin said. “The one bad inning hurt us, but my girls came right back. They didn’t get down, they didn’t give up. The girls played very hard, and I’m proud of them. We were nervous, but nervous is good. There’s things to work on, but we’ll be OK.”

As Curtin noted, the Guardians did most of their damage in the third inning, scoring five runs to erase a 3-1 deficit.

Beaudry knocked in the first run when she doubled home leadoff batter Toni Scola, who had singled. Jill Benson’s double delivered Beaudry with the tying run. After a walk to Elyce Roy, Kristen Landers belted St. Peter-Marian’s third double of the inning, scoring Benson. Liz Griffin followed with a two-run single, scoring pinch runner Kayla Milewski and Landers.

“This was a good game, and both teams played well with few mistakes defensively, but it’s just nice to get out and get started,” Pace said.

Burncoat went down swinging, scoring single runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Ashlee Moore singled in the sixth inning and advanced two bases, on a passed ball and an infield error. She scored on Danielle Driscoll’s infield out. Hurley was hit by a pitch in the seventh and scored on an error.

The Patriots overcame a 1-0 deficit with a three-run splurge in the first. Chelsea Kaczowka led off with a double, and Breanne Bisceglia singled. Hurley followed with a booming two-run triple. Brianne Kewley’s single scored Hurley.

The Boston Herald presents the stars of Eastern Mass.

Sport:   Posted: April 9th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

The Boston Herald presents the stars of Eastern Mass.

By Herald staff  http://www.bostonherald.com  |  Other High School
 
Charlestown’s Omar Aden.
Charlestown’s Omar Aden.

 
Omar Aden

Charlestown

The Boston City League champion since his freshman year, Aden owned the Reggie Lewis Center in the mile. The junior used his ferocious kick to chalk up wins in the Class B, state and New England championships and the Coaches Elite Invitational. Aden finished fourth at the national meet and wound up with a personal best of 4:13. A BCL All-Star, Aden is an honor roll student and member of the National Honor Society.

Shaddi Ali


Stoneham

This enormously talented senior has a personal best of 6-foot-7 in the high jump. Ali cracked the top 10 at nationals with a ninth-place, 6-5 showing. He finished sixth in the New Englands and third at the state meet. Ali was third in Class A and put up another top three finish at the Coaches Elite Invitational. He is looking at UMass-Lowell and Westfield State.

Ryad Bencheikh

Woburn

Only a junior, Bencheikh was one of the most electrifying athletes at the Reggie Lewis Center this winter. He clocked a 48.5 split in a leg of the 4 x 400 relay and destroyed the 600 field to capture the state title with a sterling 1:21.93. Benchedkh was an easy winner in Class B and cleared 6 feet in the high jump. He also added a Coaches Elite Invitational victory to a fourth-place finish in the MSTCA pentathlon.

Chris Conway

Bishop Feehan

The Class C champion in the 55-meter hurdles, Conway rebounded from a second-place finish in the state championships to capture the New England title. The Eastern Athletic Conference champion still holds the Auerbach Freshman/Sophomore Championships meet record. Conway, a senior, was 15th at the Nike Indoor Nationals in the 60-meter hurdles and attained All-America honors with Feehan’s third-place showing in the shuttle hurdles.

Robert Gibson

Brookline

Inarguably the best distance runner in New England, Gibson clocked a 4:19.58 mile at the nationals a week after taking the New England title at 3,200 meters. Gibson toyed with the state 2-mile field before sprinting home for a dominant win. The senior eased off near the finish line to take second behind teammate Mike Burnstein in the Class A meet.

Jimm Guerrier

Brockton

Guerrier was a double threat all season for the Boxers, taking second in the 300 and sixth in the long jump at the Coaches Elite Invitational. The junior finished fifth in the Class A 300 before placing a solid second in the state meet and seventh at New Englands. Guerrier was the Tri-County 300 champion and finished second in the long jump. He was selected as a league all-star.

Chris McConnell

Andover

Before he’s done, McConnell could wind up as the best sprinter in New England history. He finished just shy of Darius Walker’s 55-meter record in winning the Class A title. Only a sophomore, McConnell captured the state title and finished a sterling third in the New England championships. The Coaches Elite Invitational champion, McConnell broke the meet record in the Auerbach Large Schools Championships.

Mike McPherson

Mansfield

Third in the shot put at the New England championships, McPherson had a best throw of 58 feet during the indoor campaign. The senior captured the Class B and state titles. McPherson was a Hockomock League All-Star and was victorious in the league championships. His fourth-place finish at nationals was more than good enough for All-America honors. McPherson is considering UMass-Lowell, Bentley, UMass-Amherst and Coastal Carolina.

Enoch Mills


Boston English

One of the premier athletes in Boston, Mills enjoyed a sterling indoor campaign capped with a long jump of 22 feet, 10 inches to win the New England title. He had a huge state meet by capturing the long jump and finishing second to Andover’s Chris McConnell in the 55-meter dash. Mills was second in the Class A long jump and raced to third in the 55.

Brett Sullivan

Woburn

The heart and soul of Woburn’s state championship team, Sullivan was the Coaches Elite Invitational champion in the 1,000. After finishing second to Gloucester’s Liam Anastasia-Murphy in Class B championships, Sullivan pulled slightly ahead of Anastasia-Murphy to win the state title in a wicked battle down the final straightaway.

4 x 200

READING

This team of Tom DiNatale, Steve Comis, Kevin Meleshuk and Ian O’Shea rose to the occasion in the big meets. After a second-place finish to record-setting Woburn where at the Class B meet, Reading went on to defeat the Tanners in the state meet with a new mark of 1:30.56. The team’s 1:31.64 in the McIntyre Elite Relays was good for a first-place medal.

4 x 400

WOBURN

An amazingly talented lineup, Mike McDonough, Dan Tobin, Ryad Bencheikh and Brett Sullivan turned away the competition at the national meet to win in a blazing 3:19.16. Woburn shattered the Class B meet record with a swift 3:23.11. The 3:23.51 turned in at the Coaches Elite Invitational gave the Tanners a solid win. The team won the state title in a meet record and also finished first at the McIntyre Elite Relays with a 3:24.92.

4 x 800

GLOUCESTER

A talented foursome of Liam Anastasia-Murphy, Austin Sousa, Alex Trotsky and Andrew Ryan edged out a formidable Brookline squad to capture the state title. The team’s time of 8:10.59 at the Class B championships was a new meet record. Gloucester finished second in the Northeastern Conference championships and took home first at the McIntyre Elite Relays.

The Herald Team

Omar Aden Junior Mile Charlestown

Shaddi Ali Senior High jump Stoneham

Ryad Bencheikh Junior 600 Woburn

Chris Conway Senior 55 hurdles Bishop Feehan

Robert Gibson Senior 2-mile Brookline

Jimm Guerrier Junior 300 Brockton

Chris McConnell Sophomore 55 meters Andover

Mike McPherson Senior Shot put Mansfield

Enoch Mills Junior Long jump Boston English

Brett Sullivan Senior 1,000 Woburn

4x200 relay Reading

4x400 relay Woburn

4x800 relay Gloucester
Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/sports/high_school/general/view.bg?articleid=1085987
 

Super soph: Blue-collar guy BCs No. 2 scorer

Sport:   Posted: April 9th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Super soph: Blue-collar guy BC’s No. 2 scorer
By Eric Mchugh
The Patriot Ledger
















Ben Smith


BOSTON — Nathan Gerbe says, “It's not easy getting 20 goals in a season.” Considering that Gerbe has 30 this year (third most in the nation) and 66 for his three-year career at Boston College, you'd have to say that’s an informed opinion.

But Gerbe wasn't speaking about himself Monday. He was discussing his linemate, Ben Smith, who has 23 goals and has become a nice ‘2’ in BC’s 1-2 scoring punch.

Smith, a sophomore winger from Avon, Conn., isn't quite the sniper or the speedster that Gerbe is. And unlike Gerbe, one of three finalists for this year's Hobey Baker Award, Smith doesn't have national cachet yet.

But those 23 goals represent the fourth-highest total at this year's Frozen Four, behind Gerbe and Michigan's dynamic duo of Kevin Porter (33) and Chad Kolarik (28). Throw in 22 assists and you'd have to say Smith isn't doing too badly, especially when you remember that he was a fourth-line mucker until a late-season promotion as a freshman.

When Hingham's Brian Boyle vacated his No. 1 center spot to fill in on defense late in the 2006-07 season, Smith bumped up to fill the void. After seeing just 7-10 minutes of ice time a night as a checker – “I was well-rested,” he joked – Smith was a sizzling 4-6–10 in eight playoff games. He has carried that momentum over into this season, helping the Eagles (23-11-8) earn a spot opposite North Dakota (28-10-4) in the national semifinals in Denver on Thursday (6 p.m., ESPN2).

“He's been huge,” said freshman center Brian Gibbons (Braintree/Thayer Academy), who rounds out BC's top trio. “I think for him, he really got his confidence at the end of last year (when) he got put up with the first line. He was awesome. He was on fire for the (playoffs). I think that gave him a lot of confidence coming in. He picked up right where he left off.”

Smith had two big goals in the Northeast Regional in Worcester two weekends ago. He opened the scoring in a 5-2 win over Minnesota and notched the go-ahead tally in what became a 4-3 overtime win over Miami (Ohio) in the final.

BC will need all scoring hands on deck on Thursday because North Dakota goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux leads the country in goals-against average (1.64) and save percentage (.936). Gibbons said the Eagles will have to get traffic in front of Lamoureux. Sounds like a job for Smith, who inhabits what Gibbons calls “the dirty areas” of the offensive zone.

“The way I score goals it's rebounds, shooting the puck, going to the net hard,” Smith said. “It doesn't really matter who's in net. If you get to the net, the goalie can't make those second- and third-opportunity saves.”

Gerbe, a 5-6 blur, plays like he has a jet pack strapped to his back. Smith, slightly more sturdy at 5-11, 200, prefers the less-glamorous life in the trenches – an approach that Gerbe says helps open up more ice for him.

“They're two different types of players, but that works well on a line,” said Gibbons, who is fourth on the team with 13 goals. “It gives us some versatility. Nate's obviously up and down the ice flying, he'll make the highlight-reel goals, but he'll still hit and do all the defensive things, too. Ben, he's so consistent. You always know what you're going to get.”

Offensively, BC is not quite as deep as Michigan (eight players with 10-plus goals) and not as egalitarian as North Dakota (three players share the team lead with 18 goals). But BC's approach has been working just fine. The Eagles have scored either four or five goals in seven straight games.

And, as Smith pointed out, in BC's four big overtime wins – both rounds of the Beanpot, the Hockey East semifinal conquest of New Hampshire and the regional final victory over Miami – four different players (Gerbe, Nick Petrecki, Benn Ferriero and Joe Whitney) were the sudden-death heroes.

“The way our team is playing right now, offensively it's coming from so many different places,” Smith said. “I think our team is well balanced. Hey, if they want to guard Nathan, maybe Benn Ferriero will step up or Joe Whitney. It's not necessarily about shutting down one line or one player.”

Eric McHugh may be reached at emchugh@ledger.com.

Hopedale 5, Marian 1: Lathrop stifles 'Stangs

Sport:   Posted: April 9th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Hopedale 5, Marian 1: Lathrop stifles 'Stangs
By Ken Castro/Daily News correspondent
GHS
 


































John Thornton/Daily News staff
Marian pitcher Kelliann Kirby fires a pitch during the Mustangs' 5-1 loss to Hopedale.


HOPEDALE — Hopedale's Stacia Lathrop bested Marian's Kelliann Kirby in a battle of aces, hurling a two-hitter to lead the Blue Raiders to a 5-1 non-league win yesterday at Mellen Field.

The victory, spurred by a four-run fifth inning, kept Hopedale perfect at 2-0. Marian dropped to 1-2 with the loss.

Lathrop, who struggled with an uneven performance in a season-opening win, was solid right from the start this time around. The hard-throwing right hander struck out eight Mustangs hitters in gaining the victory.

"I knew I had to focus more of my attention on the batters and not the base runners," Lathrop said in explaining the contrast in the two starts.

"She's definitely had some focusing issues, but we've worked on that and she's just trying to fine-tune her skills," said Hopedale coach Sue Kelly. "I think it was a good first game with the typical ups and downs, but today she finished real strong."

Marian opened the scoring when Kirby stroked an RBI single to center field in the top half of the first, but the Blue Raiders evened the score moments later when Katie Bresciani scored from third on a one-out infield bouncer off the bat of Jess Peacock.

After allowing that first-inning run, Lathrop retired 11 consecutive Marian hitters. An innocuous two-out double from Meg McCann in the top of the seventh served as the second and final hit of the day from the Marian offense.

The double was the 100th career hit for McCann, Marian's leadoff batter.

Kirby, a Natick resident, allowed just three hits through four innings, but gave the Blue Raiders a golden opportunity when she fielded a one-out ground ball off the bat of Emily Lyall and tossed it past Marian first baseman Madison Martines. Lathrop helped her cause with an infield single that pushed Lyall to third, and Bresciani followed with a RBI groundout to second baseman Nicole Supple that proved to be the game-winning score.

Lauren Rajcula, Peacock and Shanna Lathrop then stroked consecutive RBI singles to put the game out of reach.

"She didn't help herself," Marian coach Lou Tredeau said of Kirby's throwing error. "With the groundball that she misplayed, you know that opened the door for them. All of the runs after that were unearned, but it was a good tight game which we usually play with these guys."

Bresciani (2-for-3) and Shanna Lathrop (2-for-3, RBI) garnered multiple hits for Hopedale.

"They (Marian) made a few mistakes," said Hopedale's Kelly. "I kept telling my girls to keep going at it because something is going to drop. It's going to happen, it has to. I really wasn't worried. I knew we played them well and we'd have a breakout inning just like we did. We were aggressive on her (Kirby) and it fell our way."

"It's always an evenly matched game with Hopedale, or so it seems," said Tredeau. "We'll see them one more time when they come to us in a few weeks and we'll be ready for them. It's still early in the season and that's the beauty of the game - there is always the next game."

Hopedale travels to Whitensville Christian today for a Dual Valley Conference matchup while Marian hits the road for a tilt with St. Clement's.

Westwood not afraid to think big

Sport:   Posted: April 9th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Westwood not afraid to think big
Wolverines setting sights on title after near miss
By Amanda Bruno
Globe Correspondent

Westwood thinking big
(Globe Photo / Lisa Poole)

Westwood may be a small town, but that doesn't mean it's lacking hardworking and driven athletes. After falling to Framingham in the Division 1 EMass final last season, the Wolverines are gearing up for another run at a state title.

"We have great, great kids and it's something how this tiny little town can be so competitive," said Westwood coach Leslie Frank. "What the kids do in the classroom is what they also do on the field. Everyone is really strong for such a small community."

The Wolverines return senior All-Scholastics and midfielders Alexandra Frank (72 goals, 65 assists last season) and Erin Massimi (66, 43) as well as sophomore midfielder Kelly Rich, who contributed 62 goals.

The Tri-Valley League champions (22-2 last season, with both losses to Framingham) will have to replace three starting defenders and goalie Liz Kenney.

Senior Joan O'Neill will head up the backfield, along with Katie Sullivan-Tranor and Erica Nanteroni. Junior Abbie Brown will take over between the posts.

Framingham will have to defend its title without Division 1 Player of the Year Kristen Igoe and All-Scholastic defenseman Denise Beliveau. But the Flyers, whose 52-game winning streak was snapped yesterday in a 6-5 loss to Wellesley, return another All-Scholastic standout, Melanie Baskind (55 goals, 36 assists), as well as junior attack Samantha Zetlin and sophomore attack Moira Barry. Senior Jessica Gordon is taking over in goal with the departure of Lisa Lach. Framingham passed its first test this season, defeating a talented Newton North squad, 14-3.

Lincoln-Sudbury, which represents the Dual County League, made a mark in last year's tournament by knocking off Acton-Boxboro and Andover before losing to the Flyers. The Warriors return Jessica Griffin (86 goals, 36 assists), Alexa Rozelle (53 goals, 17 assists), and a pair of senior captains, goalkeeper Natalie Kerns and midfielder Kelly Cakert. Lincoln-Sudbury graduated five seniors, though, including its two top scorers, Chelsea Audin and Christine Finnegan.

"We lost some good leaders on the field who took charge," said L-S coach Debbie DeJesus, whose team knocked off King Philip, 14-8, yesterday with Rozelle providing seven goals. "We need to find the voices of confidence."

In Andover, John McVeigh's Golden Warriors will be retooling. Andover lost all-time leading scorer and All-Scholastic Rachel Fox, as well as Briana Gross, another All-Scholastic.

There are eight returnees, including senior defenders Kelly Driscoll, Jordy Shoemaker, and Ilana Cohen, who will be switching to offense to boost scoring.

On the downside, the Golden Warriors will have to replace junior goalie Abby Cook, who was injured playing for the basketball team in the state tournament and will miss the season. Jules Konjoian will move back to take over for Cook.

"We've been the most balanced that we've ever been. We have a lot of players who are very flexible, which gives us a lot of options," said McVeigh.

King Philip, which lost to Westwood in last year's South sectional final, is looking strong in the Hockomock League as the Warriors return a pair of All-Scholastics in midfielder Mary Pasquantonio and goalie Katie Florence.

Division 2: Duxbury, which went 18-3 last season, is ready to defend its first state title in program history. Coach Sue Paull started the program in 1995 as a club team before taking it varsity in 1998. The Green Dragons must replace nine starters, including All-Scholastics Kara Oloskey and Leigh Tedeschi.

But the Patriots League champions return a solid group, including senior captains Trisha Babson (49 goals, 79 assists) and Erin Levesque, starting goalie Stephanie Hoomis, and defenders Ally Nee and Haley Bunnell.

"Obviously we want to repeat what we did last year, but we kind of take it one step at a time," Paull said. "We need to win the Patriot League then South sectional and we have a tougher schedule this year."

After bowing to Duxbury in the state final, Middlesex League champion Winchester returns a scoring threat in senior Meg Sullivan, who tallied 56 goals and 24 assists for the Sachems. Winchester has lost in the state final three straight years and would like nothing better this spring than to win its last game.

Duxbury fell to Westwood, 19-6, in its season-opener, but rebounded to top a strong Norwell squad, 8-7. The Clippers will be led by returning All-Scholastic Jill Cammett.

Other teams to watch include Atlantic Coast League champ Sandwich, which is off to a fast start at 3-0; Needham, which will try to defend its Bay State Carey crown; Wellesley, which remains the team to beat in the Herget; and Arlington, which made some noise in the Greater Boston League last spring, but dropped a 10-9 decision to Weston this season.

Agreement reached on lease for NBDL team

Sport: Basketball (boys)  Posted: April 9th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Agreement reached on lease for NBDL team
 
BY KELLEY BOUCHARD

Blethen Maine Newspapers


Expo Picture














Portland Exposition Building

Investors who want to bring an NBA Development League team to Maine's largest city have won the right to lease the Portland Exposition Building.

The agreement covers five seasons, 2009-10 through 2013-14, with an option to renew for five more seasons. The deal was approved by the City Council Monday night.

The team will pay $250,000 for building improvements and be responsible for all team-related operating costs at the Expo.

The investors have said they hope to become an affiliate of the Boston Celtics. The investors include Bill Ryan, owner of Oxford Plains Speedway; his father, Bill Ryan, board chairman of TD Banknorth; Jon Jennings, a former assistant coach with the Celtics; and state Sen. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco.

Under the proposed contract, the team will pay $2,100 per event for seasons 1-3, $2,200 per event for seasons 4-5, $2,300 per event for seasons 6-8 and $2,400 per event for seasons 9-10.

If the team surpassed minimum attendance of 2,900 per game, or 69,600 in a 24-game season, the city would get 50 cents on each additional ticket.

The Expo's capacity is 3,209 spectators. The most the city could make on the surcharge is $3,708 per season.

Under the proposed contract, the team will have priority scheduling after existing commitments, including elections. The schedules could include a maximum of five doubleheaders with Portland High School's basketball teams.

The city will move ahead with plans to borrow $650,000 to renovate the Expo's basement locker rooms, improving and expanding them to meet federal requirements to have separate facilities for girls. Improvements to meet NBA regulations would be funded by the team, city officials said.

The team will invest $250,000 in equipment and improvements to the Expo, including a regulation-size portable court and additional bleacher seating. If the team left the Expo for any reason, the improvements would stay, according to the contract.

The city will pay for maintenance and utilities. The team will pay a surcharge for additional lighting. The city will operate concessions, parking lots and garages, though the team will get any profits.

The team will pay for and retain control of ticketing, media rights, advertising and sponsorship. The team also will pay for at least one off-duty police officer to staff each event.

The team may terminate the contract after two seasons; the NBA may assume the rest of the lease. The city may terminate for breach of contract at any time.

The team will play at least 20 of its 24 home games per season at the Expo. The investors are exploring playing some home games in other Maine cities, such as Augusta and Bangor, according to Jennings, who would be the team's co-owner, president and general manager.

The team's colors will be green and white, like the Celtics'. The team will invite the community to participate in a naming contest, Jennings said

Pine Tree Conference shuffles 'B' schedule

Sport: Football  Posted: April 9th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Pine Tree Conference shuffles 'B' schedule

FROM STAFF REPORTS

When Old Town High School decided to drop its football program from Class B to Class C, it left the remaining 11 teams in the Pine Tree Conference's Class B division with a scheduling mess.

With an odd number of teams left in the league, the conference had few choices as how to approach the 2008 season. The schools could rework the conference schedule and include a bye for each team, but that would extend the regular season by one week and cut the number of teams in the playoffs from eight to four. Or they could try and find games with teams in another conference, but with no other league facing a scheduling crisis, that option was unlikely.

In the end, the PTC teams decided to keep the schedule that was made when Old Town was still in the league. Camden Hills, in its second year as a club team, will slide into Old Town's spot on the league schedule and play exhibition games.

Pending school board approval, the Windjammers plan on joining the PTC as a full member in 2009.

"This gives us a chance to do that next step," Camden Hills athletic director Bill Hughes said. "With Old Town dropping to C, we're going to step in."

Playoff seedings will still be determined by using the Crabtree Point formula, which adds a team's winning percentage to the winning percentage of its opponents. While the majority of the league will play seven regular season games, three schools -- Winslow, Leavitt and Oak Hill -- were not scheduled to play Old Town this fall and will play an eight game regular season.

"This is a way for people to play during that week they would have played Old Town," Winslow athletic director Sean Keenan said. "We're going to honor the schedule."

While there was debate as to having three teams play one more regular season games than the rest of the league, coaches and athletic directors agreed it made sense to try to keep the number of playoff teams at eight, rather than cut the postseason to four.

The PTC Class A division was faced with a similair situation for the 2005 and '06 seasons, and elected to have an eight-game regular season with a bye week and a four-team playoff.

"Some teams have eight games scheduled, some teams have seven games scheduled. It's better than having four playoff teams," said Waterville coach Frank Knight, whose Purple Panthers had a bye week in some of their seasons in Class A. "There's nothing good about a week off."

"The primary concern was keeping eight teams in the playoffs," Keenan said. "I feel the league will be ultra, ultra competitive next season. It would be a shame to have some good team miss out on the playoffs."

For Camden Hills, playing the exhibition games will be a chance to play strong competition as it prepares to play a varsity schedule in 2009. Participation at the high school level is still low, Hughes said, but a strong feeder system is in place. The Windjammers finished last season with 20 players.

"Our numbers, they need to improve, but what we have is a very strong youth program and middle school program. The roots are there," Hughes said. "We said, if we want to be a varsity program, here's what it is. Lace 'em up... This is really a win-win situation for the league and for us."

Old Town went 0-8 in Class B last season and allowed at least 48 points in all but one game. Old Town last won the conference title in 1991, and the Coyotes haven't had a winning season since 1997. With declining numbers, Old Town decided to drop to Class C in an effort to rebuild the football program. The Coyotes will compete in the Little Ten Conference, but will be ineligible for the playoffs.

Travis Lazarczyk -- 861-9242

tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com
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