One year after a better-than-nothing-but-far-from-ideal abbreviated fall sports season, the good times returned in 2021.

Full schedules were played, championships were bestowed and, for the most part, Mother Nature cooperated as well.

The most impressive team hailed from Cheverus and wielded powerful sticks as the Stags field hockey squad enjoyed a season for the ages, as they rolled through the regular season without a blemish, then handled the Class A South field before downing perennial champion Skowhegan with stunning ease in the state final to win a championship for the first time. The Portland/Deering co-op team won a game for the first time in 66 tries and five years, then lost to Scarborough in the preliminary round of the playoffs. The North Yarmouth Academy/Waynflete co-op team won 10 games before losing to Lisbon in the quarterfinals.

The city of Portland produced two excellent football teams. Cheverus, in its first season playing at the eight-man level, dominated the opposition and won the large division championship, the program’s first Gold Ball in a decade. Portland hoped to join the Stags at the pinnacle, but after winning their first 10 games, the Bulldogs met their match in the Class B South Final against eventual state champion Marshwood.

Boys’ soccer delivered a champion as well. A most familiar champion, as Waynflete made it three in a row with a relatively new team that was at its best in late October and early November. Cheverus, Deering and Portland also qualified for the playoffs, but the Rams lost in the preliminary round to Bonny Eagle, and after the Bulldogs beat the Stags in overtime in their prelim, Portland was ousted in the quarterfinals by top-ranked Windham.

Girls’ soccer teams had their moments, too, as Waynflete enjoyed a bounce-back season and made it all the way to the Class C South semifinals before losing to Traip Academy. Deering showed great improvement and gave perennial powerhouse Scarborough a scare in the Class A South preliminary round before falling by a single goal. Portland lost to Marshwood in overtime in its prelim. Cheverus survived Bonny Eagle in overtime in the preliminary round, then lost to Gorham in the quarterfinals.

Golf saw Waynflete’s George Fahey win the Class C individual title and the Flyers placed third as a team in their first appearance on the big stage. Cheverus made it to the Class A state match and came in ninth.

The biggest story from the cross country trails saw Portland’s boys’ team win a first-time-in-a-long-time regional title, then place fourth at states, its best showing since 2007. The Bulldogs girls were seventh at states, their best performance since 1998. The Cheverus girls, Deering boys and both Waynflete squads made it to states as well.

On the volleyball court, Cheverus, Deering and Portland all lost in their first playoff match.

It’s time to move indoors and think winter sports, but before we do, here’s one last tip of the cap to the champions of autumn and a glimpse at the best stories of the season:

Portland edition fall champions

State
Cheverus Stags football, eight-man, large division
Cheverus Stags field hockey, Class A
Waynflete Flyers boys’ soccer, Class C

Regional
Portland Bulldogs, boys’ cross country, Class A South

Individual
George Fahey, Waynflete, Class C golf

Michael’s top five stories

5) Waynflete golf turns heads

Waynflete’s George Fahey shows his form en route to repeating as the Class C individual golf champion back in October. File photos

Prior to this fall, Waynflete’s golf program had produced individual greatness, but had never qualified for the state match as a team. This fall, under new coach Ben Boonseng, the Flyers’ individual brilliance continued and the team excelled as well. George Fahey, for the second year in a row, won the Class C individual crown, this time shooting a round of 73, good for a one-stroke victory. The Flyers finished with a team score of 336 and wound up just a stroke behind runner-up St. Dom’s and four shots off the pace of champion Kents Hill.

“I am beyond proud and overwhelmed with positive emotions for what the team has accomplished, both individually and as a team,” Boonseng said.

4) A win at last for Portland/Deering

On Sept. 13, 2016, Portland’s field hockey team beat Deering, 2-0. No Bulldogs player won a game in 2017, 2018, 2019 or 2020, the latter two years with Deering players (who last won a game in 2018) joining them on a co-op team. After starting the 2021 campaign 0-8, Portland/Deering finally broke through Sept. 28, blanking South Portland, 2-0, to snap a 65-game winless streak. Chloe Croce and Ainsley Dunn scored the goals.

“That win was a long time coming and was extremely gratifying,” said longtime Portland/Deering coach Beth Arsenault. “I am so happy for the girls, especially the seniors, because sticking this out and continuing to work hard has been very challenging, but they did it, and in doing so, they got to feel the reward and excitement that a win brings.”

3) Cheverus makes the most of first eight-man season

Cheverus’ football team had much to celebrate in winning the eight-man large division title earlier this month.

Cheverus was a competitive Class B South program in 2019, reaching the regional semifinals. Following that campaign, however, concerns about having enough players in future seasons led the school to make the announcement it was moving to eight-man football for the 2020 season, which never happened due to COVID-19. As it turned out, numbers weren’t an issue this fall and the Stags put on a show. Despite having two games canceled by COVID complications, Cheverus went 5-0 in the regular season, then shut out every postseason foe, capping its title run by overwhelming Waterville in the state game, 56-0. The Stags outscored the opposition, 380 points to 48.

“This was about our players and who they are,” said Cheverus coach Mike Vance. “The kids have been focused on this since we declared eight-man two years ago. It was a major commitment by all of these kids. A lot of time and effort.”

2) Waynflete boys earn delayed three-peat

Waynflete’s boys’ soccer team captured more hardware this fall.

Waynflete’s boys’ soccer team won Class C state titles in 2018 and 2019 and had its best team of all in 2020, going unbeaten (defeating multiple Class A foes along the way), but the Flyers weren’t able to make a postseason run due to COVID shortening the campaign. This year, despite a lot of new faces in new places, Waynflete made up for lost time. The Flyers did lose to Cape Elizabeth and Freeport and tied Greely and Yarmouth, but won every other contest before downing Sacopee Valley in the quarterfinals, digging out of an early hole to oust Lisbon in the semifinals, then rallying again to beat top-ranked Mt. Abram in the Class C South Final. Then, in the state game, Waynflete had to rally again and did so and held off Fort Kent, 2-1, to win a third successive Gold Ball with no end in sight.

“It’s really satisfying for this group,” longtime Flyers coach Brandon Salway said. “Last year was disappointing, to not have playoffs. We lost a great group and there wasn’t much pressure on the guys this year. They all had to step into new roles and they improved every week.”

1) Cheverus field hockey simply the best

The scoreboard and the celebration told the story when Cheverus’ field hockey team won its first Class A state title.

Cheverus’ field hockey program has enjoyed some memorable seasons, including a surprising trip to the Class A state final way back in 2010, but they all took a backseat to this autumn, when a Stags squad which featured a perfect blend of talented veterans and exciting newcomers, led by freshman sensation Lucy Johnson, rolled through the opposition en route to an elusive first state title. Cheverus was only tested twice in the regular season, holding off perennial power Scarborough in a 1-0 victory, then scoring late to edge host Massabesic, 3-2, in the finale. As the top seed in Class A South, the Stags rolled over Kennebunk (5-1) in the quarterfinals and Falmouth (7-0) in the semifinals, before eking out a 2-1 win over Scarborough in the regional final on Taylor Tory’s late goal. Many champions from this part of the state have buckled over the years when facing the daunting task of having to beat Skowhegan in the state final, but not Cheverus, which controlled play much of the way en route to an inspirational and history-making 4-1 win. Olivia McCartney played the hero with two goals, while Tory and Lily Johnson added one apiece. At long last, the Stags had no peer and its safe to say it won’t be the last time they ascend to the pinnacle.

“It’s a special group of girls,” Cheverus coach and one-time Stags standout Theresa Hendrix said. “Between their commitment, hard work and positivity, they’re great players, but they play so well as a team. I think that’s what made them so successful.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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