The Woodland boys basketball team is coming off a strong 2007-08 season, when the Dragons took Central Aroostook of Mars Hill to overtime in the Eastern Maine Class D final before falling to the eventual state champions.
And with the bulk of the roster back this winter, coach Troy Cilley’s club has been pegged as one of the teams to beat in the division.
Woodland displayed its potential during its season opener, jumping out to a 26-8 first-quarter lead en route to an 81-55 victory at Downeast Athletic Conference rival Machias.
But even getting to that point hasn’t been as easy as the final score indicated.
The Dragons are still recovering from a bout of mononucleosis that made its way around the school, leaving three key players at less than their best for the start of the season.
Eddie Flaherty, Chad James and Aaron St. Pierre are in varying stages of recovery from the illness, and while all three played in the season opener, none are yet back to 100 percent, according to Cilley.
“They want to play, and I want to play them,” said Cilley. “But with something like mono you have to be careful, so I’m keeping a close eye on them.”
St. Pierre is the closest to being all the way back physically, having scored 20 points — including four 3-point goals — in the game against Machias.
James and Flaherty also are getting healthier, but at a more gradual rate.
“I guess the good thing about it is we have more depth than I’ve ever had as a coach in high school,” said Cilley, who guided East Grand of Danforth to the 2001 Eastern D championship. “I can go eight or nine deep with out too much of a drop-off.”
Woodland also features veterans Scott Boomer, Keith Curtis, Jordan Perry and Ben Sears, and also is benefiting from the return of 6-foot-3 Corey Rolfe, who played at Sumner of East Sullivan last year.
Rolfe had team-high totals of 22 points and 19 rebounds — including 14 offensive rebounds — against Machias.
“He started for Flaherty and gave us a big lift,” said Cilley. “He’s got good instincts for rebounding.”
Woodland is expected to battle the likes of Central Aroostook, Fort Fairfield, Katahdin of Stacyville and Shead of Eastport for Eastern D bragging rights this winter, and can look back on its postseason effort last season as evidence of the possibilities.
“The boys had a good run,” said Cilley, also the school’s athletic administrator. “They showed a lot of heart and character when they upset Deer Isle-Stonington [in the semifinals] and when they kept fighting back against Central Aroostook. They gained a lot of respect, not just talent wise, but for fighting back.”
Yet Cilley expects circumstances to be different throughout the new regular season, as the Dragons will be cast in role of favorite much more often.
“I’d much rather be the underdog,” said Cilley. “With something like this we pay our respects to [Eastern C champion and neighboring] Calais, and try to approach it like they have the last few years. They won more than 60 games in a row and they always had that bulls-eye on their back.
“This year, we have to understand how hard it is mentally when you’re getting everyone’s best game every night.”
LTC honors Smith, O’Connell
Senior quarterback Derek Smith and coach Dan O’Connell of Class C state championship John Bapst of Bangor received top honors at the annual LTC postseason football banquet.
Smith was named the conference’s player of the year, while O’Connell earned coach of the year honors for the second straight season.
Smith, who played wide receiver for the Crusaders as a junior, moved into the quarterback role this year and completed 128 of 219 passes for 2,038 yards and 24 touchdowns, including 140 yards and two touchdowns in John Bapst’s 21-14 victory over Winthrop in the Class C state championship game.
Smith also rushed for 460 yards and seven touchdowns on 87 carries during the season.
He was named to the All-LTC first team at three positions: quarterback, defensive back and punter.
O’Connell guided John Bapst to an 11-1 record and the school’s first state championship since 1976, when the Crusaders shared the title with Marshwood of South Berwick and Jay. John Bapst lost its first game of the year to Bucksport in overtime, then ripped off 11 consecutive victories, including a 21-14 win at Bucksport in the LTC championship game preceding the state final.
Orono High School earned the conference’s team sportsmanship award as selected by the Eastern Maine Board of Football Officials. This marked the fourth time in the last five years that coach Bob Sinclair’s Red Riots have received the award.
Eddie Flaherty, a senior offensive guard and linebacker from Calais-Woodland, was the recipient of the inaugural Silvernail Academic Scholar Award. The award is presented by the LTC to a senior football player from one of its member schools based on academic merit involving such criteria as cumulative grade-point average and classes taken, such as honors classes and advanced placement classes.
The award is named for Andy Silvernail, who played offensive guard and linebacker at Bucksport during the late 1980s and went on to play at Dartmouth College, where a back injury curtailed his career.
Now a successful business executive in Wisconsin, Silvernail and his wife Shelby established a football-related scholarship beginning this year as an expression of gratitude for what playing the sport and competing in the LTC meant in shaping his life.
Flaherty earned All-LTC second-team honors on defense this fall while helping Calais-Woodland earn a playoff berth in its first season of varsity competition. The Silverados finished the regular season seeded fourth with a 5-3 record and defeated No. 5 Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln in the quarterfinals before bowing to top-ranked Bucksport in the semifinals.
BC’s Bradford wins Heisman
Brett Bradford, a senior at Bangor Christian School from Kenduskeag, and Hailey Chadbourne, a senior at Gardiner Area High School, recently were named state winners of the 2008 Wendy’s High School Heisman Award.
Bradford and Chadbourne subsequently were eligible to win Northeast regional honors, all leading to the naming of the national Wendy’s High School Heisman recipients during ESPN’s telecast of the college Heisman Memorial Trophy presentation on Dec. 14.
The high school Heisman award both male and female students who excel in academics, athletics and student leadership.
Bradford is a multisport athletic standout at Bangor Christian, and currently is a guard on the Patriots’ varsity basketball team. Chadbourne also stars athletically at Gardiner, and last weekend was named recipient of the 2008 Miss Maine field hockey award as the top senior player in the state.