It was a calendar year that began with no sports, had a far-too-short winter campaign, then returned to life in the spring. The fall campaign was a success as well, but some concerning signs have returned in the winter.

All in all, 2021 had its highlights, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that will miss it, as COVID-19 yet again played far too large of a role, a role it isn’t exactly poised to relinquish.

With the calendar about to flip to 2022, here’s a look back at the tumultuous past 12 months:

January

A new year usually dawns with basketball and hockey teams well into their schedule and trends emerging, while indoor track, swimming, skiing and wrestling teams and individuals are gearing up to be at their best for the postseason, but that was not the case as 2021 began.

Games were supposed to start Jan. 11, but with Cumberland Country under a “yellow” designation from the Maine Department of Education in its color-coded system that determined the risk of community spread of the COVID-19 virus, athletic activities were put on hold.

After hoping for green, but staying yellow for multiple weeks, local athletes and coaches got good news Jan. 20 when the Maine Principals’ Association, along with state agencies, announced that teams in yellow counties could begin practicing immediately and ramp up to playing countable games, with a date of Feb. 8 selected by area school superintendents.

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February

Basketball teams played a limited schedule last winter and everyone involved had to be masked. File photos

The shortest winter sports season on record indeed began Feb. 8 and went for a little over a month and while the lack of a postseason put a damper on things, when the games began, even with participants masked up, they were certainly better than no action at all.

The Falmouth and South Portland boys’ basketball squads were clearly the best in the area, going through the month without a loss. Cape Elizabeth, under new coach Jeff Mitchell, Deering, North Yarmouth Academy, Waynflete and Yarmouth also enjoyed success.

On the girls’ side, Cheverus and Portland split two early games, which left everyone wondering what might have happened if they could have done battle in a Class AA North playoff game. Greely, Mt. Ararat, NYA and Yarmouth were other top teams. Deering defeated Cape Elizabeth on the 16th to snap a 22-game losing streak. Illustrating the difficulties of playing through a pandemic, Scarborough lost its first four games, then a COVID outbreak wiped out the rest of the schedule.

On the ice, the Cape Elizabeth, Greely and Portland/Deering boys were the top squads. The newly formed Cheverus/Yarmouth co-op team showed promise, while Scarborough only managed to play three times before its season ended prematurely at 2-1.

There was success on the girls’ side, too, as reigning state runner-up Cape Elizabeth/Waynflete/South Portland didn’t lose a game during the month, while Cheverus, Mt. Ararat/Morse and Portland/Deering also showed promise.

With college facilities unavailable, there were little to no indoor track action to speak of, swimming and skiing were limited as well and unfortunately, wrestling was the only sport that never saw action.

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March

Cheverus’ Lucia Pompeo was the state’s premier senior girls’ hockey player last winter, winning the Becky Schaffer Award.

The month of March didn’t begin with basketball and hockey champions being crowned, per usual. Instead, the abbreviated campaign came to an end the second week of the month.

Falmouth and South Portland’s boys’ basketball teams were both undefeated entering the month and the Red Riots were still perfect entering the final week, but Falmouth twice knocked off them off to finish with a record of 7-1, while South Portland boasted a record of 8-2. Deering had a big highlight as well, handing Falmouth its only loss in a thriller, then closing with successive victories over rival Portland to go 7-3. Brunswick finished 6-4, twice knocking off Morse (4-6) in the final week, including once in double-overtime, as the Dragons finished on a five-game win streak. Cape Elizabeth wound up 6-6, Cheverus 2-8, Freeport 3-7, Greely 3-8, Mt. Ararat 4-8, NYA 6-3, Portland 3-6, Scarborough 2-4, Waynflete 7-4 and Yarmouth 8-2.

Cheverus, which won its final nine games, and Portland (which featured college-bound stars Amanda Kabantu and Gemima Motema) were the top squads on the girls’ side, each winding up with nine wins (the Stags had just one loss, the Bulldogs two). Greely, in long-range bomber Camille Clement’s final campaign, wasn’t far behind, as it won its final nine games to go 11-1. NYA, led by dynamic sophomore point guard Angel Huntsman, was one of the most entertaining teams to watch and the Panthers beat every team on their schedule but Class AA power South Portland en route to a 9-1 campaign. Brunswick finished 6-4, Cape Elizabeth 2-7, Deering 1-8, Falmouth 5-5, Freeport 4-6, Morse 1-8, Mt. Ararat 7-4, South Portland (4-7), Waynflete (0-8) and Yarmouth 9-2.

The boys’ hockey story saw Cape Elizabeth earn a therapeutic 5-2 win at Greely on the 10th, as the Capers beat the team which had knocked them off in the prior two regional finals. Cape Elizabeth then defeated South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete in the finale to finish with a record of 6-2-2, as the young Capers set the stage for future success. Brunswick went 4-6, Cheverus/Yarmouth 5-5, Falmouth 5-6, Greely 7-4, Mt. Ararat/Morse 1-7, Portland/Deering 6-3 and South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete 3-5-1.

The Cape/SP/Waynflete girls’ team was left thinking what-if after going 8-1, losing only to Cheverus. The Stags, who boasted Becky Schaffer Award winner Lucia Pompeo, had a record of 7-3. Brunswick finished 3-6-1, Falmouth 1-7, Greely 0-10, Mt. Ararat/Morse 9-2, Portland/Deering 6-3, Scarborough 3-2 and Yarmouth/Freeport 5-6.

Good news did arrive at the end of the month, as spring sports began without a hitch and it was announced that there would be a full season with playoffs.

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April and May

Longtime Waynflete girls’ lacrosse coach Cathie Connors is swarmed by her players after winning the 300th game of her career.

While awaiting the start of baseball, softball, lacrosse, outdoor track and tennis, there was a very short wedge season for volleyball, which never got to play the previous fall.

Spring sports began on the 12th and it soon became clear a special campaign was in store.

On the diamond, South Portland’s march to a historic baseball championship started with wins in seven of its first eight contests. Cheverus, Portland and Scarborough would also be in contention in Class A South. In Class B South, reigning regional champion Freeport, along with Cape Elizabeth, Greely and Yarmout,h led the way. The Waynflete/NYA co-op team was making noise in Class C South.

Turning to softball, Cape Elizabeth didn’t lose a game in April or in May, and the Capers wouldn’t lose one in June either. Morse was also impressive in Class B South. NYA returned to varsity play with success in Class D South, while Brunswick (Class A North) and South Portland (Class A South) were also competitive. Scarborough, the perennial Class A champion, finally proved mortal, as a setback to Thornton Academy snapped its 66-game overall win streak and an unthinkable 111-game regular season win streak.

As always, local lacrosse teams dominated, none more so than the Cape Elizabeth boys, who so overwhelmed the opposition that discussion soon began whether or not it was the finest edition in the program’s rich history. Falmouth, NYA, Scarborough, Waynflete and Yarmouth were also in contention.

On the girls’ side, the biggest regular season story was written May 8, when Waynflete beat Cheverus, 7-4, giving longtime coach Cathie Connors her 300th victory with the program. The Flyers, new to Class C, were making a habit out of winning in dramatic fashion, but Freeport and NYA loomed. In Class B, Yarmouth, after many near-misses, appeared championship-ready, with Greely and two-time reigning champion Cape Elizabeth giving chase. In Class A, Scarborough was resurgent, while two-time champion Falmouth remained a powerhouse.

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Area track and tennis standouts geared up for their championship opportunities, and Yarmouth’s Sofia Mavor got a head start by winning the girls’ state singles tennis title.

June

A celebration nearly seven decades in the making erupted when South Portland’s baseball team beat Bangor in the Class A state final.

June brought the first full round of team championships to be bestowed since March 2020, and some very worthy squads got to bring home the hardware.

Outdoor track was first and Scarborough’s boys won Class A again as its recent dynasty continued.

Waynflete’s boys’ tennis team won Class C for the 13th consecutive time, while the Brunswick girls and Yarmouth boys also took home championships.

All three boys’ lacrosse state champions hailed from Forecaster Country, as Cape Elizabeth cemented its status as an all-time great team with a decisive 19-6 victory over Falmouth in the Class A state final, Yarmouth went back-to-back in Class B courtesy a hard-fought 13-10 win over Marshwood and Waynflete wound up atop Class C by virtue of a 17-5 victory over Oak Hill.

On the girls’ side, Falmouth’s quest for a three-peat was denied by a fantastic Kennebunk team, but the Navigators took the Rams to the wire before falling, 9-8. In Class B, Yarmouth, after four straight agonizing state game losses, finally got over the hump, holding off Greely, 13-8. The final game of the season, the Class C Final, between Waynflete and Freeport, might have been the most memorable, as the heroics of Flyers junior Jesse Connors put her team ahead to stay, and Connors knocked away a last-second Falcons’ game-tying bid, then she ran and celebrated the 9-8 victory with her mother and coach.

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Cape Elizabeth’s softball team capped the finest season in program history with a 19-4, five-inning mercy rule win over Winslow in the state game, its 20th victory without a loss. Scarborough’s three-year title run ended in astonishing fashion, as the Red Storm was upset by Falmouth in the Class A South preliminary round. Just four weeks after losing 15-0 (in five innings) to Scarborough, the Navigators went to Scarborough and sprung a 5-2 upset for the biggest win in recent program history.

The baseball tournament had ample drama, too, as top-ranked Yarmouth was upset by No. 16 Gray-New Gloucester in the opening round, Freeport made it back to states, but again couldn’t take the final step, losing to Old Town, 7-3. South Portland, the 6 seed, in Class A South, shook off recent playoff disappointments by winning the program’s first state title since 1952, edging Sanford in the preliminary round (6-5), out-slugging Bonny Eagle (11-6) in the quarterfinals, edging Cheverus (2-1) in the semifinals, blanking top-seed Thornton Academy (3-0) in the regional final, then getting past Bangor, 3-2, in the state game on a bases loaded walk.

July and August

With high school sports taking a hiatus, optimism was in the air that masks were a thing of the past and that crowds would no longer need to be limited, and for the most part, that would be the case in the upcoming fall sports season, which, like spring, produced ample thrills.

September

Brunswick’s girls’ soccer team emerged as a top contender in September and its season wouldn’t end until the Class A state final in November.

For the first time in two years, we had a full fall campaign, and it quickly became clear that local athletes would excel in all sports.

On the gridiron, Cape Elizabeth (Class C), Cheverus (eight-man large division), Freeport (Class D) and Portland (Class B) were the cream of the crop. Brunswick’s season would be suspended and ultimately ended by a hazing controversy.

Boys’ soccer saw usual suspects like Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Scarborough, Waynflete and Yarmouth lead the way, while on the girls’ side, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, NYA, Scarborough and Yarmouth were most impressive.

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Cheverus’ field hockey team broke from the gate by crushing every foe in sight, as it began its quest for a first championship. Cape Elizabeth hinted at a special season to come, while Falmouth and Scarborough were also strong. On the 28th, Portland/Deering blanked South Portland, 2-0, to snap a 65-game winless skid.

Cross country boasted some terrific individual talent, while local golfers geared up for the upcoming state match.

October

Freeport’s Eli Spaulding stole the show at the golf state championships, winning the Class B individual title.

The first championships of the fall were awarded in golf, where Yarmouth won the Class B team title for the first time, Falmouth captured Class A and three individuals – Waynflete’s George Fahey (Class C), Freeport’s Eli Spaulding (Class B) and South Portland’s Lucas Flaherty (Class A) – all won hardware as well.

Cross country held its state meet on the 30th, and Freeport’s boys’ team and Cape Elizabeth’s Hadley Mahoney (Class B South) finished first.

Scarborough’s volleyball team eked out a five-set win over Biddeford to win the Class A championship and celebrated in style.

Volleyball produced its first champion on the 30th, when Scarborough survived Biddeford in a five-set epic to take the Class A title.

The soccer and field hockey playoffs all winnowed down to a select few, while football’s postseason commenced.

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November

November joined June as the most championship-heavy month, and there were no shortage of thrillers.

Yarmouth needed five-sets to survive Cape Elizabeth and win a third consecutive Class B championship.

Volleyball saw two local teams prevail in five-set epics to win crowns, Scarborough edging previously unbeaten Biddeford in Class A and Yarmouth three-peating by coming from behind to squeak past Cape Elizabeth.

In field hockey, Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough lost in the regional final round, but Cheverus wouldn’t be stopped, capping its undefeated season with a decisive 4-1 win over perennial champion Skowhegan in the state game, as the Stags won a title for the first time in program history.

On the pitch, Waynflete’s boys’ soccer team defeated Fort Kent, 2-1, for a third straight Class C championship, and Yarmouth made it two in a row and six out of seven in Class B by blanking Winslow, 3-0. Brunswick got to the Class A state final but lost to Marshwood on a late goal, 2-1, while NYA reached the Class D state game but was blanked by Lee Academy, 5-0.

Two local girls’ teams ascended to the pinnacle as well, as Cape Elizabeth, which rode Emily Supple’s heroics to beat rival Yarmouth in the regional final, made it three consecutive championships, beating Hermon, 3-0, and in Class D, NYA completed a dominant, undefeated campaign with a 3-0 win over Wisdom.

That left football, where Portland went undefeated in the regular season and was the top seed for the Class B South playoffs, but the Bulldogs were beaten by eventual champion Marshwood in the regional final, 35-0.

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The results were better for Cape Elizabeth and Cheverus, however, as the Stags went undefeated and won the eight-man large division title in their first season at that level, 56-0, over Waterville, while the Capers survived Leavitt on the final play of the regional final before dominating Winslow, 53-6, to win the Class C state crown for the first time.

December

Lillian Finley and her Scarborough girls’ hockey teammates have high hopes this season.

While a new COVID variant rages and athletes are wearing masks, in some cases in front of limited crowds, the good news is that the winter sports season is underway and the hope is that it will be played to its conclusion, with champions being crowned.

Boys’ basketball sees South Portland as the favorite in Class AA South; with Cheverus, Deering and Portland very much in contention in Class AA North; Falmouth perhaps the team to beat in Class A South; with Brunswick, Greely and Morse giving chase; Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth among the top teams in Class B South; and NYA and Waynflete likely to make a run in Class C South.

On the girls’ side, Cheverus is living up to billing as the favorite in Class AA North; Falmouth, Brunswick, Greely and Mt. Ararat looking strong in Class A South; Yarmouth in contention in Class B South; and NYA appearing very formidable in Class C South.

On the ice, the Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth, Cheverus/Yarmouth, Falmouth, Greely, Scarborough and South Portland/Freeport/Waynflete boys all show signs of contending, while the Cape/SP/Waynflete, Cheverus and Scarborough girls appear particularly strong.

Indoor track, swimming, skiing and even wrestling have returned to normalcy as well.

We’re not out of the woods yet, and if 2021 taught us anything, it’s that nothing is guaranteed, but hopefully 2022 will prove even better and more triumphant.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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

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