December 30, 2012

2012 moments so memorable

The triumphs were far-reaching for teams and individuals, but there also was a tragedy that won't be forgotten.

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

So the Mayans were wrong about the world ending on Dec. 21.

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Jordan Matthews (61), at left, and the Golden Trojans had their golden moment, raising the Gold Ball as Thornton Academy won the Class A title.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Ryan Flaherty
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Ryan Flaherty spent his first full season in the major leagues with the Baltimore Orioles and made an impact in the AL playoffs.

The Associated Press

Additional Photos Below

Good thing, otherwise there would be no one to look back on the year that was, 2012.

It may not have been the flashiest of years in Maine sports, but it was filled with intriguing stories that forced Mainers to think.

It was the year in which three of Maine's brightest young athletes -- Charlie Furbush, Mark Rogers and Ryan Flaherty -- proved they belonged at the major league level. And another Mainer, Brian Butterfield, joined the Boston Red Sox as their third-base coach.

Eleanor Logan won a second Olympic gold medal, joining a very elite group. And 17-year-old golfer Seth Sweet turned some heads with his win at the Maine Amateur.

The Boston Celtics decided they wanted to run the Maine Red Claws on their own. The Maine Principals' Association had a busy year, with rulings and reclassifications. Cheverus High set a Class A record for consecutive football wins but Thornton Academy took home the Gold Ball. And Scarborough High set the bar among local Class A schools with a bevy of state championships.

There was tragedy as well, with the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide dominating headlines for weeks.

Here's a look back at those stories, and others, that made 2012 so readable.

MAINERS IN THE MAJORS

There is a 1 percent chance of someone making it to the major leagues. Think about that. One percent!

This year, three Mainers did it. For pitchers Charlie Furbush and Mark Rogers, it was a second year in The Show. Furbush, of South Portland, became a stalwart in the Seattle Mariners bullpen, posting a 5-2 record with a 2.72 ERA. In 461/3 innings, he struck out 53 and walked only 15. Rogers, from Orrs Island, got a late-July call-up by the Milwaukee Brewers and proceeded to show why he was the team's No.1 pick (and fifth overall) in 2004. He pitched 39 innings, going 3-1 with a 3.92 ERA and 41 strikeouts.

And then there was Flaherty, the former Deering High star. He played the entire season with the Baltimore Orioles, platooning at second base. He batted only .216 but had a strong ending to the season. Getting a chance in the playoffs, he hit a home run and batted .273 as the Orioles pushed the New York Yankees to five games.

ANOTHER GOLDEN MOMENT

There are precious few Mainers who have won gold medals in the Olympics, even fewer who have done it multiple times. Eleanor Logan of Boothbay Harbor became one of the latter this year.

Competing in the women's eight crew, Logan won her second Olympic gold medal in last summer's London Olympics. She took to Twitter to thank her supporters, then tweeted that this medal tasted "even sweeter maybe" than the one from Beijing four years earlier.

Only 24, Logan has a chance for a third medal in four years in Rio de Janeiro, which would tie her with Portland swimmer Ian Crocker for most in Maine history. Seth Wescott is the only Mainer with multiple gold, twice winning snowboardcross since it was introduced in 2006.

EVERY RECORD MUST FALL

Cheverus High set a Class A record with 34 consecutive football victories this year, an amazing feat given the competitive nature of football in the state and a tribute to the man at the helm, John Wolfgram (who also coached the team with the previous record, South Portland). But the Stags fell a couple of wins shy of their ultimate goal.

Thornton Academy, behind the brilliance of junior back Andrew Libby and a gritty performance by its defense and linemen, beat the Stags 20-13 in the Western Class A final. Then the Trojans won their first Class A title in 24 years by beating Lawrence 37-23 in the state title game a week later.

A DOMINATING YEAR

Scarborough High, meanwhile, had quite a calendar year. The Red Storm won seven Class A state titles -- boys' and girls' lacrosse (each for the third year in a row), boys' and girls' soccer, boys' and girls' indoor track, and girls' outdoor track. In addition, its field hockey and baseball team each won a regional title.

And when you're talking about high school dominance, you must mention Skowhegan's field hockey program, coached by Paula Doughty. The Indians won their 11th state Class A title in 12 years, beating Scarborough 3-0 for their 54th consecutive win. They outscored opponents 147-2 this year.

MAKING THE RULINGS

It was a busy year for the MPA. It worked hard to come up with a plan to divide football into four classes instead of the current three. The MPA also stripped Cheverus of its 2010 Class A state boys' basketball championship for using an ineligible player, Indiana Faithfull, who went to court to retain his eligibility after the MPA ruled against him before the playoffs started that year.

The MPA also placed Lee Academy on two years probation for a recruiting violation, and earlier in the year voted to allow a co-op hockey program for Portland's public schools, a year after denying that same opportunity.

A TRAGIC ENDING

Jovan Belcher's story was tragic. The former University of Maine All-America linebacker had earned a role on the Kansas City Chiefs. But on Dec. 1, he shot and killed Kasandra Perkins -- his girlfriend and mother of his child -- then drove to Arrowhead Stadium where he killed himself in front of his coach, Romeo Crennel. Former teammates and coaches choked on words as they spoke about how much Belcher meant to them.

RED CLAWS GO PURE GREEN

For three years the Boston Celtics had an affiliation with the Maine Red Claws along with the Charlotte Bobcats or Philadelphia 76ers, or both.

After a third consecutive non-playoff season, changes were made. Jon Jennings, the man whose vision brought the Red Claws to Portland, and Coach Dave Leitao left the organization.

Five days later the Celtics announced they were going to be the sole affiliate of the NBA D-League franchise.

"I think that this opportunity creates a better chance for us to develop a better relationship," said Danny Ainge, the Celtics' president.

They hired Mike Taylor as coach, drafted the players, and the Red Claws are off to the best start (9-4 as of Saturday) in team history, aided by Boston stars such as Fab Melo and Kris Joseph.

COACHING CONTROVERSY

In mid-September, with the high school football season just starting to get interesting, Messalonskee Coach Wes Littlefield resigned days before a game. He had been accused of striking a player in practice and later was charged with an assault misdemeanor.

The charge was dropped by acting Kennebec and Somerset District Attorney Alan Kelley, who added that his office "does not condone the alleged conduct" of Littlefield.

Coaches across the state in all sports took notice.

A LEGEND DEPARTS

Bob Brown retired after 52 years of coaching basketball. Generally regarded as one of the finest coaches Maine has produced, he was a head coach at both the high school and college levels for 42 years. He was 73 when he resigned after 11 years at Cheverus. He won four Class A state championships and had a record of 476-154 at the high school level.

"I've been blessed," said Brown, whose last team went 14-6 and advanced to the Western Class A semifinals.

A DAUNTING DONATION

Maine's outdoors community rejoiced with the news that a 143-acre piece of land with a lakefront view of Mount Katahdin was being donated to Baxter State Park by a local timber company. The parcel includes 4,000 feet of Katahdin Lake frontage and provides a stunning view of the mountain.

The land was donated by Huber Resources Corp., and had been in the family since the 1940s. It fills a critical gap in the 4,000 acres surrounding Kathadin Lake. "It was very obvious to us the right thing to do with this property was to have it incorporated into Baxter State Park, and have it for all the people of Maine and for their great-great-grandchildren to be able to enjoy," said a company spokesman.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Eleanor Logan of Boothbay Harbor traveled to London over the summer and returned with a gold medal – her second – as part of the women’s eight crew. At 24, a third gold is possible.

The Associated Press

20121103_ABoysSoccer
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Trevor Sparda, top, and goalie Patrick Stanton celebrated a boys’ soccer state title – part of Scarborough’s dominating year.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

 


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