1. Yarmouth: The three-time defending Class B state champions (15-2-1) return stronger than last season, with even greater depth and speed. Senior Luke Groothoff, who Coach Mike Hagerty calls the best player in the state, will anchor the midfield again after notching 10 goals and six assists last year. Senior Max Coury and juniors Eric Labrie (15 goals) and Tahj Garvey are additional scoring threats. Cal Owen, who split time in goal with Michael Hagerty Jr. last season, will be the regular starter behind a pair of promising sophomore defenders: Aiden Hickey and John D’Appolonia. Despite the graduations of Hagerty and midfielders Henry Coolidge and Matt Dostie, the Clippers again figure to be the team to beat in Class B.

2. Gorham: The Rams (16-1-1) lost several important players from last year’s Class A South championship team: forward Jackson Fotter, midfielders Ethan Orach, Tyler Richman and Ryan Firmin, defender Ryan Hamblen and goalkeeper Alex York. It won’t be easy to replace Fotter’s 31 goals, but Coach Tim King said the Rams are bigger and more physical than in previous years. They retained five starters, including senior striker Kyle King – their top returning scorer with nine goals and six assists. Sophomore midfielder Andrew Rent is also expected to be a vital component to the team’s success, along with forward Sam Burghardt and defenders Aaron Farr and Garrett Higgins.

3. Scarborough: The Red Storm’s streak of regional championship appearances ended at five after losing to Gorham in the Class A South semifinals. Scarborough (12-4) graduated most of its starters, including forward Noah Stracqualursi, midfielder Garrett King, defenders Spencer Pettingill and Alex Giles, and goalkeeper Chris Franklin. However, it never takes the perennial powerhouse long to reload with fresh talent. Senior Alex Dobecki will anchor the midfield with his consistency and versatile skill set, and Jared Greenleaf, also a senior, is expected to lead the defense once he recovers from an injury. Coach Mark Diaz said his team is young but should fare well by the playoffs if healthy.

4. Portland: The sixth-seeded Bulldogs (12-4-2) upset the No. 3 seed (Deering) and No. 2 seed (Falmouth) en route to the Class A South final last year. That postseason success has instilled greater confidence in the squad. Portland will be stingy on defense and is returning a lot of upperclassmen – including goalkeeper Rowan Daligan and center back Quinn Clarke. Last season, Daligan totaled six shutouts and had a 1.07 goals-against average, while Clarke scored seven goals as a defender. Coach Rocco Frenzilli said the Bulldogs are still searching for an offensive threat to replace Alex Frank, who led the team with nine goals last season.

5. Deering: The Rams went 11-1-2 in the regular season but lost in the Class A South quarterfinals – 1-0 against Portland. Jonata Mbongo, the SMAA Defensive Player of the Year, graduated and speedy scoring threat Iessa Ramadan isn’t playing high school soccer this year. But the Rams return a large group of upperclassmen – including midfielders Robert Ochan, a senior, and Keto Tchiputo, a junior. That group has established great chemistry and will look to lead the Rams past the first round of the playoffs.

6. Falmouth: The second-seeded Yachtsmen (12-3-1) were ousted in the Class A South semifinals last season, falling in penalty kicks to sixth-seeded Portland – a team they hadn’t played before. This season, they will get to face their Class A competition before the playoffs as they make their debut in the SMAA. Though Falmouth lost nine starters, the team returns top offensive threats in forward Nate Arrants, who led the team in scoring last year with 12 goals and three assists, and Ben Wuesthoff, a midfielder whom Coach Dave Halligan regards as one of the best in the state. Sam Winkeler will anchor the defense while also serving as a scoring threat for the young squad.

7. York: The Wildcats (8-7-1) fell to Maranacook 2-1 in overtime in the Class B South semifinals last season. They have a good mix of veteran experience, with 14 returning seniors, and talented freshmen such as Alex Neilson and Quenton Convrey, both of whom Coach Eric Martens expects will contribute to the team’s success. York is strong defensively, with a trio of strong senior backs: James Peter, Dinon Hughes and Ryan Thurlow. Alex Nickerson, who had 15 goals and 10 assists last season, will lead the offense, but Martens said Zach Westman could be equally dangerous scoring threats, making the Wildcats a tough team to defend.

8. South Portland: After falling 1-0 to Scarborough in the Class A South quarterfinals, the Red Riots (12-4) return seven starters, including goalkeeper Riley Hasson and their top goal scorer, Charlie Cronin, who notched a hat trick in a 5-0 preliminary-round win over Sanford. Coach Bryan Hoy said South Portland is a little inexperienced defensively, but Hasson, who totaled nine shutouts, including seven straight, eases that pressure. The Red Riots also added striker Kyle Patterson, a transfer from Gorham, and boast a fast and talented group of forwards.

9. Greely: The Rangers (9-8) have reached the regional semifinals five years in a row and beat third-seeded Cape Elizabeth in the Class B South quarterfinals last year before falling to eventual state champion Yarmouth, 3-2 in overtime. After graduating nine starters, Greely is young and what Coach Mike Andreasen called “a work in progress.” However, the team retains a solid midfielder in Quinn Molloy and will benefit from the addition of Hazael Tshituka, a Deering transfer and talented forward who hails from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

10. Thornton Academy: After losing 2-0 to Falmouth in the Class A South quarterfinals, the Golden Trojans (9-5-2) graduated 12 seniors and seven starters. Coach Andrew Carlson said Thornton is rebuilding around four returning starters – including its top player, midfielder Chase Pierce – who will lead the young squad. But they face an uphill battle early in the season with two of the top teams in the state – Gorham and Scarborough – on their schedule in the first two weeks. With all the newcomers on the roster, Carlson is hopeful that the Trojans will find their rhythm in time for the playoffs.

– Taylor Vortherms

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