The South Portland boys’ soccer team has gradually become one of the elite teams in the 17-school SMAA.

The Riots, 3-0-1 after Tuesday night’s 4-0 win over Westbrook, gained that distinction by opening with a 2-2 tie against Scarborough, a Western Class A power.

“I think we snuck up on Scarborough,” Coach Brian Hoy said. “I don’t think people thought we would be that good. I think they thought we would be in the middle of the pack.”

South Portland gained a lot of confidence from the tie with the Red Storm.

“We feel we can contend with the Portlands, the Gorhams and the Deerings,” goalie Ben Burkey said. “We should have a good rest of the season.”

South Portland’s strong start follows the graduation last spring of 12 seniors, including seven starters.

“We don’t really have big-name players but we always have deep teams,” said Hoy, in his sixth season as coach. “Soccer is alive and well. We’re getting there.”

South Portland always has been thought of as a football town, but soccer has come on to make inroads the past several years.

“When I first started here, there wasn’t much in terms of travel soccer,” Hoy said. “My third group of seniors was the first group of players who had come up through the (South Portland) youth program. Since then we’ve been in the top five of the conference every season.”

Rick Towle, director of the South Portland Parks and Recreation Department, said as many as 400 children in kindergarten through grade 6 participate each fall in the youth soccer programs sponsored by his department.

“What we try to do is to offer a recreational program so (the kids) can try it and see if they like it,” Towle said.

The development of the playing fields at the Wainwright Athletic Complex on Highland Avenue in the city’s west end has allowed the department to dramatically expand its youth program.

“At 5 o’clock we finish practice and the youth teams come on, and there’s usually eight or nine youth teams (at Wainwright),” Hoy said.

His players say the Riots became successful following the arrival of Hoy, a Westbrook native who teaches freshman English at South Portland, but the coach said the credit for the team’s success should got to the players.

“I don’t do anything special,” he said. “The kids do the work and I’ve been blessed with really good teams.”

Hoy does use his players to help promote the sport.

“In addition to soccer, he gets us in the community,” said Caleb Elsemore, a senior stopper. “We go to the schools and we help out the youth program. We ref and coach when the little kids have games.”

 

GAMES OF THE WEEK: Three big games are scheduled for this week.

Thursday afternoon, Waynflete, the reigning Class C state champion, will travel to play North Yarmouth Academy in a 3:30 p.m. matchup featuring two of the top Class C teams in Western Maine.

Thursday, Cheverus will visit Scarborough for a 6:30 p.m. game between two of the top teams in Western Class A.

On Saturday night, unbeaten Yarmouth, one of the top teams in Western Class B, will visit Cape Elizabeth, a perennial Class A power, for a 7 p.m. game.

 

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: PaulBetitPPH