Diana Walker’s Sanford High field hockey team is now in uncharted territory. And the veteran coach couldn’t be happier.

The Spartans entered the Western Class A tournament seeded 11th with a 7-7 record. Walker was starting five sophomores and two freshmen. She hoped Saturday’s preliminary round game against Thornton Academy would provide some experience for the future.

It did. Plus some.

The Spartans defeated sixth-seeded Thornton 3-2 on the fourth set of overtime penalty corners on a Makayla Garvin goal. Sanford tied the game with just over three minutes left in regulation.

“This is great,’’ said Walker. “It can only help us. They’ve got tournament experience now. And overtime. And corners.’’

Ah, yes. Corners. There was some confusion among game officials as to how the corners – which are taken in sets of three – should play out. When the game remained tied after two eight-minute sudden death overtimes, officials took out the Maine Principals’ Association bulletin, which states: “A set is three equal opportunity corners.’’ Then there is a notation for “Sudden Victory.’’

So the officials played the game as if each team had to get three penalty corners in each set. After two scoreless sets, Thornton was held without a goal on the first corner of the third set. Sanford then got a goal from Elizabeth Helmreich. The game, according to several observers, should have ended there, as Thornton had an equal opportunity to score.

However, the set continued and Thornton scored on its third penalty corner of the set to tie it.

Walker said she had no idea what the rules were.

“I didn’t even expect to go to overtime with Thornton Academy, so I didn’t even look at overtime (rules),’’ said Walker. “The officials aren’t even having their rules interpretation meeting until Monday. I think we should have had it earlier. My AD (Gordie Salls) came over and said we should protest and I said I wouldn’t know what to protest.’’

In the end, the Spartans won, so a protest wasn’t needed.

“It was just kind of anticlimactic because you don’t know when it’s over,’’ said Thornton Coach Lori Smith.

 

BIDDEFORD LOST Saturday’s preliminary round game at Westbrook, 1-0, but pressured to the end.

It was the first time the Tigers reached the Western Class A playoffs in Leslie Mourmouras’ four seasons as coach. Biddeford went 7-7 in the regular season after winning a total of six games in Mourmouras’ first three seasons.

Biddeford was shut out in its final four games this year. Mourmouras said that after such significant improvement, she felt her team may have peaked at the wrong time.

“Everyone else is improving little by little and we just hit that plateau,” Mourmouras said. “You just have to change it up a little bit or do something different, and we were just starting to figure out what that was.”

When asked what the strong closing effort said about the program’s future, Mourmouras choked up with emotion.

“The girls who are seniors have been there as long as I have,” Mourmouras said.

The Tigers will lose five seniors, including starting midfielder and captain Alex Quigley and goalie Mackenzie Hevey.

Westbrook Coach Beth Murphy was impressed by Biddeford after her team won and advanced to the quarterfinals Wednesday at No. 2 Massabesic.

“Coming from a team that didn’t have a whole lot of wins, they’ve improved tremendously. She’s got a young team. She’s got a lot of kids coming back,” Murphy said.

 

WINDHAM COACH Christena Dillon has announced she will step down. The Eagles lost 5-0 to Marshwood in Saturday’s preliminary round, finishing with a 5-10 record. Dillon told Foster’s Daily Democrat after the game she wanted to spend more time with her family after 11 years as coach.

CROSS COUNTRY

For all the baseball and softball state championships hosted by St. Joseph’s College, the largest high school athletic event on the Standish campus remains the Western Maine Conference cross country championship meet.

A total of 445 runners took part in four 5-kilometer races Friday afternoon, with varsity and junior varsity competitions for boys and girls. Add coaches and parents (and a few dogs) to the mix and the crowd easily exceeded 1,000.

York senior Heather Evans and Gray-New Gloucester senior Will Shafer turned in the fastest times. The most obvious absence, aside from a Yarmouth boys’ team reduced to three runners because of a disciplinary issue, was that of Greely senior Kirstin Sandreuter, the 2012 WMC champion.

Sandreuter held a clipboard Friday and cheered on her teammates, who finished third behind Falmouth and Freeport. She hasn’t raced since winning the small-school division race at the Manchester (N.H.) Invitational in late September.

What was originally thought to be tendinitis in her fight foot turned out to be inflammation. She said she jogged a little Friday and is hopeful of returning for the Western Maine regional meet Saturday at Twin Brook in Cumberland.

“I was kind of hoping she would (run),” said Evans, who finished third behind Sandreuter and Greely’s Eva Bates last year, “because I knew that she would push me. But at the same time, I’m kind of happy, because I know that I can do it by myself. I don’t need someone in front of me to push me.”

Shafer, who had never been in contention at the WMC meet until this year, traced the roots of his victory to an impressive run at Belfast two weeks earlier, when he not only broke 17 minutes for the first time over 5 kilometers but came within eight seconds of breaking 16 minutes.

“I’ve never thought I’d be this good at cross country,” said Shafer. “But getting through it mentally made the physical part much easier, after knowing and believing in myself that I could do it.”

FOOTBALL

SOUTH PORTLAND missed the playoffs last year, but the Red Riots won’t miss them this year. The Riots are 5-2 after Friday’s 55-24 win over Biddeford.

An impetus for this year’s season was last year’s Battle of the Bridge game with Portland. For the Riots, that was their playoff game, and they upset Portland at Martin Memorial Field. South Portland has carried the momentum from that victory into this season.

The Red Riots finish their regular season Friday night at Portland, and you can bet the Bulldogs (6-1) will remember what happened last year. It should be a great game with the possibility of a lot scoring, as both teams have dynamic offenses.

The Riots returned veterans at the skill positions, but their line was untested when the season began. Quarterback Duncan Preston has been the key to the offense with his passing and running ability. He passed for six touchdowns against Biddeford. Preston also handles the punting and kickoffs.

He credits his receivers for his aerial success. Having a choice of throwing to wideouts Jordan Susi and Hayden Owen, tight end Jaren Muller and halfback Joey DiBiase, Preston has a lot of weapons from which to choose.

Over the next week or two, South Portland will want to tighten its defense. The Red Riots allowed four touchdowns against Biddeford after giving up 58 points a week earlier in a double-overtime loss to Scarborough.

 

TWO WEEKS ago, Greely quarterback Matt Pisini had a forgettable game in a 42-14 loss at Kennebunk, throwing four interceptions and losing two fumbles.

Friday night, however, he outdueled Cony’s Ben Lucas – considered one of the best in the state – while leading the Rangers to a stunning 35-21 victory.

Pisini rushed for 174 yards and two touchdowns and completed 12 of 23 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns. And he committed no turnovers.

“It was a lot different,’’ said Coach Dave Higgins. “He’s a very good athlete. He just works so hard and takes everything to heart. He blames himself and that starts piling up. He was in quicksand (against Kennebunk) and couldn’t get out. But he’s come a long way.’’

Pisini said, “After that (Kennebunk) game, it was pretty much the bottom for me. I felt terrible for myself. I felt I let my team down. But my teammates were so supportive. Everyone around me, my family, the community, everyone bringing me up. It means so much to come out here and give them what they wanted, to come back from that.’’

It couldn’t have come at a better time. Cony was averaging 40.8 points per game, but the Rangers dominated physically and kept the ball for long periods of time.

“We were scared to death of their offense,’’ said Higgins. “We knew they could score a lot of points and our kids came to play. It’s all about them.’’

 

NOT MANY observers gave Thornton Academy a chance to defeat Bonny Eagle on Saturday. But the Trojans, coming off a 49-point loss to Cheverus, upset the Scots 30-21.

Quarterback Austin McCrum said the Trojans knew they had to play their best against the previously unbeaten Scots.

“The word of the day was ‘Judgment Day,’’’ said McCrum. “We knew we had to step up and play the best we could.’’

The Trojans controlled the tempo against Bonny Eagle’s high-octane offense with a dominating running game and timely passing by McCrum, who was 11 of 18 for 97 yards and two touchdowns to Cody Lynn.

“That’s the best we’ve run all year,’’ said Coach Kevin Kezal. “Sometimes your best defense can be your offense. If you have the ball, they don’t.’’

The Trojans forced three turnovers in the fourth quarter.

Bonny Eagle Coach Kevin Cooper said the Scots “have just got to get better. We just got to get better if we’re going to win in the playoffs.’’

GOLF

NATANIS GOLF PRO Dick Browne, whose family owns the 36-hole layout in Vassalboro, said the course has hosted the schoolboy championships for 30 years. It’s a good place to host it because it’s centrally located for the whole state and it has 36 holes, which means it can accommodate all the players in the team and individual championships.

 

– Staff writers Glenn Jordan, Mike Lowe, Tom Chard and Steve Craig contributed to this report.