Senior Kennedy Charles made the all-star team a year ago and will play a major role for the Bulldogs this fall as a rusher and receiver. File photos.

Coach: Jason McLeod (third year, 11-8 overall record)

2021 record: 10-1 (Lost, 35-0, to Marshwood in Class B South Final)

Top returners: Isaak Alkafaji (Senior), Gavin Bennett (Senior), Andrew Brewer (Senior), Kennedy Charles (Senior), Xander Smith (Senior), Reegan Buck (Junior)

Pivotal games: Sept. 3 @ Kennebunk, Sept. 9 LEAVITT, Sept. 16 @ Bonny Eagle, Sept. 23 OXFORD HILLS, Oct. 7 MARSHWOOD, Oct. 21 @ South Portland

Coach’s comment: “We graduated a lot, but we played a lot of kids last year too. We have five offensive and defensive starters returning. We have good senior leadership. We like what we have up front. The Marshwood (loss) was a catalyst for us to get in the weight room. Hopefully, it pays off. We won’t get outworked or outcoached. We have to learn how to win in the postseason. We have unfinished business.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The Bulldogs were enjoying a special and memorable season and were dreaming championship dreams when Marshwood came to town for the regional final and ended their season in agony. Portland lost many top players to graduation, including several league all-stars, but this year’s team is poised to be very strong again and will bow down to no one, in the regular season or postseason.


Senior captain Sam Esposito takes over this fall under center, replacing all-star Grant Crosby, now playing at Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts. Esposito stands 6-foot-4 and knows the offense well. Look for a relatively seamless transition there. The Bulldogs have multiple options as ball-handlers, including Brewer (a captain and top running back who is coming off an all-star season), Buck (a running back/wide receiver), Charles (a captain and reigning all-star, who also plays both running back and wide receiver) and senior Remijo Wani, an all-star a year ago at Deering, who transferred over and whom McLeod calls an ‘electric addition.’ The line will be as good as any behind Alkafaji, Bennett, Smith, senior Isaak Muse and sophomore Colin Kelly, who transfers over from last year’s eight-man large division champion Cheverus. Sophomore Brody Viola will see time at tight end.

Defensively, Portland has size and strength on the line in the form of Alkafaji, Bennett, Kelly, Muse, Smith and Viola. Brewer is the leader of the linebacker corps, which also includes junior Brayden Wales. The secondary boasts Charles, Wani and sophomore Aidan McGowan.

The Bulldogs have no breathers on their schedule and they’ll need to quickly get up to speed to contend. Portland plays powerhouse teams from three classes and will have to win enough games to qualify for the Class B South playoffs. That shouldn’t be a problem and while the Bulldogs likely won’t have as glowing a record this time around, they’re going to be much tougher to eliminate.


Senior Jack Fink returns on defense for a veteran and talented Portland boys’ soccer squad.

Coach: Rocco Frenzilli (36th year, 271-200-54 overall record)

2021 record: 10-6 (Lost, 3-2, to Windham in Class A South quarterfinals)

Top returners: Ben DiYenno (Senior), Jack Fink (Senior), Oliver Hettenbach (Senior), Charlie Howe (Senior), Ben Littel (Senior), Kosta Nedeljkovic (Senior), Nicky Paterniti (Senior), Aidan Perez (Senior), Finn Tidd (Senior), Brady Toher (Senior), Martin Kalala (Junior), Max Kierstead (Junior), Ford Myers (Junior), Francisco Samuel (Sophomore)


Pivotal games: Sept. 3 @ Scarborough, Sept. 7 MARSHWOOD, Sept. 16 @ Windham, Sept. 24 SOUTH PORTLAND, Oct. 6 @ Gorham, Oct. 15 CHEVERUS

Coach’s comment: “We have great kids who really work hard. Our numbers are really good and the kids are responding. We have 14 returning players and we have 32 of our 49 goals from last season returning. If we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be very competitive. These seniors have earned their opportunity. If we get a few breaks, we should be OK.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland will be more than OK this fall. In fact, the Bulldogs could find themselves playing into November if all goes well.

Littel returns in goal this season. New senior Mike Lacroix will also see time. Defensively, captains Hettenbach and Myers anchor a strong unit, which also includes DiYenno, Fink, Perez and Tidd. New seniors Tyler Bryant, Ruben Hunter, Jasper McCarroll-Christmas and Angel Orellana will make their mark. In the midfield, captains Kalala and Paterniti are joined by Howe, Kierstead, new junior Cristo Manuel-Brito and sophomore Ronan Mas. The scoring punch up front features Nedeljkovic, Samuel and Toher, along with a slew of new seniors, Sam Goodman, Exauce Lenge, Steven Martinez-Alvarez and Nico Millones. Juniors Brandon Chacon and Moise Kalamba-Clement, along with sophomore Paulo Joao, will be heard from as well.

Portland has experience and depth up and down the pitch and that could separate the Bulldogs from the opposition when all is said and done. The league is as deep as it’s ever been and there will be a lot of close games in the regular season, as well as the playoffs. Portland has crept agonizingly close to a Gold Ball in recent seasons. This could be the group that puts the Bulldogs over the top.


Senior Eliza Stein will be a handful for the opposition this season. 

Coach: Matt Bernstein (first year)


2021 record: 5-8-1 (Lost, 2-1, in overtime, to Marshwood in Class A South preliminary round

Top returners: Kendall Sniper (Senior), Eliza Stein (Senior), Anneliese Collin (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Sept. 2 SCARBOROUGH, Sept. 15 WINDHAM, Sept. 22 @ South Portland, Oct. 6 GORHAM, Oct. 11 FALMOUTH, Oct. 13 @ Cheverus

Coach’s comment: “We’re excited about a lot of the players returning to this year’s team and we’ve got some good new players and youth coming through. We’re looking to go out and play quality team soccer week-in and week-out and to really push ourselves to continuously improve as the season progresses. It’s a quality league with a lot of great teams and we look forward to the challenge of competing against those teams. We know that there are no easy games in this league and we relish that fact as an opportunity to raise our level each and every match. We believe that we have the players and, more importantly, the team unity to compete throughout the league. We are also eager to continuously build a high-quality team environment and to support each other to bring our best selves to all we do.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland begins a new era this fall, as after Curtis Chapin stepped down after a successful six-year run as coach, Bernstein takes over. Bernstein spent five years as an assistant with the always-competitive Portland boys and is eager to see what the Bulldogs girls can do in the weeks to come. There is reason for optimism.

Sniper and Stein were each league all-stars in 2021 and will lead the way this season. Sniper is a midfielder, while Stein, who stars in multiple sports, can play midfield or up top. Collin, an honorable mention selection last fall, will be a goal-scoring threat in the midfield and up top. Portland is bolstered by three newcomers: junior defender Josie Fitzjurls, freshman forward Ava Christensen and freshman goalkeeper Linda Nicholson.


The Bulldogs have some big tests early in the schedule and should quickly get an idea of where they stand in the pecking order. Look for this squad to be much stronger by season’s end than at the beginning. If all goes well, the program’s streak of consecutive playoff trips will hit nine and perhaps Portland can turn some heads once it gets there.

FIELD HOCKEY (co-op with Deering)

Coach: Beth Romano-Arsenault (23rd year)

2021 record: 1-14 (Lost, 9-0, to Scarborough in Class A South preliminary round)

Top returners: Sal Beyer-Lebrecque (Senior), Delainey Black (Senior), Hannah Caron (Senior), Hannah Dionne (Senior), Francesca Marinaro (Senior), Sophie Volk (Senior), Ainsley Dunn (Junior), Gabbie Harrigan (Junior), Hannah Hawkes (Junior), Deyoncé Ward (Junior), Erin Winship (Junior), Ruby Chase (Sophomore), Leah Sigfridson (Sophomore), Maya Zager (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: Sept. 1 @ Massabesic, Sept. 13 SOUTH PORTLAND, Sept. 21 @ Scarborough, Oct. 10 BONNY EAGLE

Coach’s comment: “Our overall squad is a little smaller this year, but we still have solid numbers and are glad to be able to continue to offer the program. We had decent summer participation, but had some challenges as well. Both the Deering and Portland school communities suffered monumental losses this summer when Deering lost senior Pedro Matala and Portland High lost teacher Donna Barnard, our former timer, so we are dedicating our season to them. We want to honor both of them by working hard and always putting our best effort forward while carrying ourselves with respect and dignity. We feel like if we keep the right perspective and consistently reach this goal, we will be competitive and can win some games. We graduated a big senior class, but I carried a large team last year to plan for that departure so we do still have several players returning. We finally got a win last year and definitely became more competitive and ultimately, we would love to keep that going and earn a playoff spot.”


The Forecaster’s forecast: The Portland/Deering co-op team made big strides a year ago when it downed South Portland to end a stretch of 65 games without a victory. This year’s squad is determined to pay tribute to the memory of those who were lost far too young by giving its all on the field. If all goes well, Portland/Deering will continue to work its way back into contention in what Arsenault has announced will be her final season at the helm of the program.

Up top, look for Caron, Dunn, Harrigan, Hawkes and Marinaro to be top scoring threats. The midfield features Beyer-Lebrecque, Black, Sigfridson, Volk (a captain) and Zager. On defense, Chase, Dionne (a captain), Ward and Winship will hope to hold the opposition at bay as the squad breaks in a new goalie, promising freshman Emma Walsh. Junior Kaitlyn Vigue, sophomores JoJo Philbrook and Lucy Susen and freshman Avery Black were also in the mix in goal at press time.

Portland/Deering will have its share of winnable games as the season progresses. Look for this squad to play hard every time out and to be a handful for the opposition by the time all is said and done.


Coach: Matt Nguyen (first year)

2021 record: 2-13 (Lost, 3-1, to Lewiston in Class A state play-in round)

Pivotal matches: Sept. 10 SOUTH PORTLAND, Sept. 14 @ Deering


Coach’s comment: “My goal is to create a safe, fun learning environment on the court while also making sure my players excel in the sport overall. For several years now, Portland High hasn’t been known for their volleyball program, however, I am here to make that change. I have a solid group of enthusiastic, talented players, and we are ready to make history.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland looks to rebound this season under a new coach. Nguyen played club volleyball at Holy Cross and has coached for many years.

The Bulldogs hope to improve as the season goes on and set the foundation for consistent success going forward.


Junior Nathan Blades will again be a top runner for Portland’s boys’ cross country team this fall.

(Boys) Kevin Woodhouse (third year)
(Girls) Frank Myatt (second year)

2021 results:
(Boys) 4th @ Class A state meet (Class A South regional champion)
(Girls) 7th @ Class A state meet

Top returners:
(Boys) Daniel Niles (Senior), Nathan Blades (Junior), Ben Prestes (Junior), Charlie Jacques (Sophomore)
(Girls) Tenley Flint (Senior), Greta Holmes (Senior), Molly Neuner (Senior), Alyssa Sigfridson (Junior), Ava Chadbourne (Sophomore), Samantha Moore (Sophomore), Ella Sobol (Sophomore)

Coach Woodhouse’s comment: “We hope to build on what we did last year, but we will face stiff competition from South Portland and Bonny Eagle. As the league gets stronger every year, we hope to be able to compete at the state level. Although we have lost three of the varsity top seven, we have grown our numbers close to 30.”


Coach Myatt’s comment: “Our numbers are up a little bit and I hope to grab a few more. We have a nice influx of freshmen. Two or three might crack the top seven. I’m blessed with great senior leadership. Three of them came in as highly-touted freshmen and now it’s their turn to pass on the legacy. We’re trying to build on last year. Getting back to states is the goal.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Both Portland teams made great strides a year ago and look to remain among the top contenders in the conference and at the state level.

The boys’ squad, which won the Class A South regional title last season, is coming off its best state meet showing since 2007 and four top returners, joined by a pair of key newcomers, hope to keep the good times rolling. Blades was 15th at last year’s Class A state meet and will be a force. Other returning scorers include Niles (24th), Jacques (37th) and Prestes (68th). Sophomore Sam Below-Haskins and freshman Owen Blades arrive to provide depth. Look for the Bulldogs to once again enjoy a successful campaign.

On the girls’ side, the story is equally promising. The Bulldogs return state meet scorers Moore (10th as a freshman, when she was named Portland Fall Athlete of the Year), Flint (25th), Sigfridson (29th), Holmes (50th) and Chadbourne (67th). Don’t be surprised if several of those girls move up even higher. Neuner and Sobol also took part at states a year ago and add depth. Several freshmen will be vying for spots as well, suggesting that the program will remain strong going forward. Portland qualified for the state meet just once between 1999 and 2018. Now, qualifying is merely the first goal. The Bulldogs are here to stay and this promises to be a memorable and successful campaign.


Coach: Mark Bay (second year)

2021 results: (DNQ for Class A state match)


Top returners: Henry Bibeau (Senior), Russell Dalton (Senior), Jackson Miller (Senior), Ryland Silva (Senior), Lucas Millken (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “With over 20 players, we have really strong numbers this year and will work to develop the JV program. Many first- and second-year students participated in the team’s first summer program, which focused on the short game. While competing against some of the SMAA’s elite number one and two players may be challenging, the strength of the team will be our 3 through 6 players, all of whom are capable of shooting in the low 40s. If the players continue to develop, we have an outside shot of qualifying for the state tournament. ”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland has some players to keep an eye on this fall and if all goes well, the Bulldogs could be a factor into October.

Bibeau, Portland High’s Spring Athlete of the Year for his baseball prowess, will be in the number one spot again. Milliken could really impress as well. Dalton, Miller and Silva all have experience, while senior Logan Rosmus, sophomore Adam Paradise and freshman Joseph Mancini will also be heard from.

As always, the Bulldogs will have their hands full in a tough division which features the likes of Cheverus, Falmouth, Scarborough and South Portland, but as long as Portland is playing its best when the qualifier rolls around, anything is possible. Look for a season of steady growth for this squad.

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

Comments are not available on this story.