JAELEN JACKSON, Senior – Football

Contributed photo

• Class B South Co-Player of the Year
• Class B South all-star, first-team
• Captain

Jackson led the Red Riots to their finest season this century, coming up huge in the biggest games.

Jackson, who played point guard on the boys’ basketball team, which won South Portland’s first state title in three decades back in March, has played football since the first grade and joined the Red Riots varsity as a freshman. Jackson feels that playing football has helped him on the basketball court as well.

“The physicality of football helps make me stronger for basketball,” Jackson said.

Jackson did a little of everything as a junior, playing quarterback, running the ball, even catching passes and being a top defender as well.


After reaching the pinnacle in basketball, Jackson enjoyed a fabulous senior football campaign. He rushed 195 times for 1,422 yards and 16 touchdowns. He threw for 1,222 yards and 13 touchdowns and produced 2,644 total yards from scrimmage and accounted for 29 scores. Defensively, Jackson had 102 tackles (46 solo), broke up three passes and intercepted three more. He also returned punts and kickoffs.

Highlights included two touchdowns throwing and another rushing in a confidence-building season-opening win over four-time state champion Marshwood, two TD passes and a scoring run in a victory at Gorham, 179 yards and three rushing touchdowns in a win at Noble, 250 combined passing and rushing yards and three TDs in a victory over Biddeford, three touchdown runs and a TD pass in a win at Scarborough (on his 18th birthday) and a touchdown run and a touchdown pass in a close loss to Portland in the “Battle of the Bridge.”

Jackson then elevated his game in the playoffs, leading the Red Riots to a quarterfinal round victory over Marshwood, then accounting for three scores in the semifinals where South Portland avenged an earlier loss with a win at Masssabesic. The Red Riots were beaten by Portland in the regional final, their first appearance in that game in 22 years, but Jackson bowed out with two more TD passes as well as one on the ground.

“A lot of people didn’t expect us to do what we did, but we knew what we had,” Jackson said. “It was a good season overall. Since my freshman year, I wanted to get South Portland back to the top. It was cool to come in and go as deep as we did. We took strides in the right direction.”

Jackson now looks to lead the boys’ basketball team to a repeat title and he will play baseball this spring. Jackson then hopes to play basketball in college.

His time as a signal caller and leader won’t soon be forgotten and will long be appreciated. Jaelen Jackson, South Portland’s Fall Athlete of the Year, was simply sensational and his team followed suit.


Coach Aaron Filieo’s comment: “Jaelen has had an incredible football career. Always determined, Jaelen has worked extremely hard to improve his size, speed, and knowledge of the game. Each year, Jaelen has shown steady improvement as a player while always leading his peers first and foremost. He’s continued to work hard, putting himself in a better position to contribute to the team. Jaelen’s willingness to help the team and lead by example has never wavered. He has combined toughness and grit throughout his career and made himself an outstanding football player. Jaelen has never backed down from a challenge and is a consummate competitor. Jaelen’s senior season has been the culmination of hard work and tremendous dedication to be the very best that he could be. As a captain, Jaelen exemplified leadership and citizenship. He was constantly leading by example through his high-level of play. He was very invested in the success of the team while trying very hard to be the best player possible. The players and coaches looked at Jaelen with great admiration, as he was always the hardest working player on and off the field. He truly was dedicated to this team and wanted to do his part to help us succeed. He simply does everything on field. His leadership and high level of play helped South Portland reach the regional championship game for the first time in 22 years. Jaelen embodies the meaning of student-athlete. Academically, he has consistently achieved honor roll status throughout his school career. Outside of the classroom, Jaelen carries himself with class and dignity in every capacity that he serves. It has been an honor and privilege to coach and work with him.”

File photo

Prior winners:

• 2021 Lucas Flaherty (golf)
* 2020 Jacob Ramos (cross country)
• 2019 Anthony Poole (football)
• 2018 Aleks Kaurin (soccer)
• 2017 Charlie Cronin (soccer)
• 2016 Khalid Suja (soccer)
• 2015 Gary Maietta (soccer)
• 2014 Henry Curran (soccer)
• 2013 Duncan Preston (football)
• 2012 Damjan Draskovic (soccer)
• 2011 Logan Gaddar (football)
• 2010 Nem Kaurin (soccer)
• 2009 Ryan Curit (football)
• 2008 Ryan Chapin (soccer)
• 2007 Nick Gaddar (football)
• 2006 David Knowland (cross country)
• 2005 Endy Carrera (soccer)
• 2004 Nolan Moon (cross country)
• 2003 Eric Giddings (cross country)
• 2002 Eric Giddings (cross country)
• 2001 Devin Shaw (cross country)

EMILY KEEFE, Junior – Field hockey

Contributed photo

• SMAA all-star, second-team
• All-State
* Golden Stick award winner

Keefe faced a ton of shots this fall, which is just the way she likes it, and she stopped most of them while emerging as one of the state’s best goalies.


Keefe started playing field hockey at a young age and began playing goalie in middle school. She also takes part in swimming and lacrosse, but playing goalie is a passion.

“I like the sense of competitiveness and I welcome the pressure,” Keefe said. “I don’t think, it’s just muscle memory.”

After being limited by the pandemic in her freshman season, Keefe was a league all-star as a sophomore. This fall, with South Portland joining Westbrook as a co-op program, Keefe was under siege a lot, but made 220 saves, just two shy of the state record, denying 81 percent of the shots she faced.

Highlights included 16 saves against Falmouth, 20 against Marshwood, 11 saves in a win over Portland/Deering, 23 saves against Scarborough, 17 against Thornton Academy and 13 versus Biddeford.

“The (co-op team) went better than I expected,” Keefe said. “We bonded really quickly.”

Following the season, Keefe was honored at the conference and state levels.


“I was bummed to be second-team SMAA, but making all-state was very exciting,” Keefe said.

Keefe, who has 414 career saves, is the secretary of South Portland’s junior class and has big plans for her senior season.

“I hope to break the saves record next year,” Keefe said. “I want to be all-state again, I hope to contend for Miss Maine (field hockey) and I’d like to commit (to playing in college).”

Considering how skilled and fearless she is, no one should doubt Emily Keefe, South Portland’s Fall Athlete of the Year, and her ability to achieve anything.

Coach Kaylee Whitten’s comment: “Emily has been the backbone of our team for three years now. She is a leader on the field and is able to communicate extremely well with her defense. She is more than willing to throw her body at every ball while remaining composed. She is a good role model on and off the field and her passion for the sport itself and her individual/team improvement is admirable. She lifts the team up when necessary but also holds her teammates accountable when it’s needed.”

Contributed photo

Prior winners:

• 2021 Pearl Friedland-Farley (volleyball)
* 2020 Lucie Beaulieu (field hockey)
• 2019 Ashlee Aceto (volleyball)
• 2018 Lydia Grant (field hockey)
• 2017 Molly Mawhinney (volleyball)
• 2016 Lydia Henderson (field hockey)
• 2015 Serena McKenzie (cross country)
• 2014 Casey Loring (cross country)
• 2013 Shannon Conley (cross country)
• 2012 Nyajock Pan (cross country)
• 2011 Nyajock Pan (cross country)
• 2010 Rebecca Roberts (field hockey)
• 2009 Karleigh Bradbury (soccer)
• 2008 Annelise Donahue (cross country)
• 2007 Annelise Donahue (cross country)
• 2006 Kristina Aceto (field hockey)
• 2005 Emily Haeuser (cross country)
• 2004 Courtney Albin (soccer)
• 2003 Christina Aceto (soccer)
• 2002 Andrea Giddings (cross country)
• 2001 Andrea Giddings (cross country)

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

Comments are not available on this story.