If the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A boys basketball coaches know their league, then Dec. 4 should be a special night.
Not only is that opening night of the 2009-2010 season, but among the games on the schedule is a matchup of the top two teams in Eastern Maine Class A, according to the conference’s annual preseason coaches’ poll.
Hampden Academy is picked No. 1 in the 15-team league, while Bangor is ranked second, and those teams will clash in the first of two regular-season meetings on opening night at Red Barry Gymnasium in Bangor.
These teams last met in the Eastern A quarterfinals at the Augusta Civic Center last Feb. 15, when Bangor earned a 67-44 victory.
But Hampden Academy returns its team intact from a year ago, when the Broncos finished 11-8, a contingent led by 6-foot-6 senior Jacob Moore, who’s headed to play at Div. II Bentley University next winter, and senior guards Brad Dolan – a first-team all-conference choice last year – and Nolan Turner.
Coach Russ Bartlett’s Broncos also added one of the state’s top guards regardless of class in junior Graham Safford, a transfer from Camden Hills of Rockport who earned All-KVAC Class B first-team honors last winter while helping to lead the Windjammers to a 22-0 record and the state championship in that class.
Bangor counters with a tall, talented lineup back from last season’s 14-6 club that reached the Eastern A semifinals before falling to Edward Little of Auburn.
Veterans leading coach Roger Reed’s Rams will include 6-foot-6 senior center Clark Noonan, 6-4 junior forward Zach Blodgett, 6-3 senior forward Maxx Alexander and 6-4 senior forward Nate Henigan.
Defending regional champion Edward Little is ranked third in the preseason poll, followed by Brewer, Skowhegan, Brunswick, Cony of Augusta and Oxford Hills of South Paris.
Edward Little’s returning cast is led by 2009 Eastern Maine Class A tournament MVP James Philbrook and guard Yusef Iman, while Brewer has a new coach in Ben Goodwin with a solid veteran cast including guards Dom Drake, Ray and Tyler Bessette and center Nate Carson.
Skowhegan will rely on the frontcourt tandem of Jordan Taylor and Paul Verville, while Brunswick will be led by Rashon Edgerton and Stephan Carter.
Top players for Cony will include Ryan Minoty and Walker Cooper, while Oxford Hills has Cody Hadley and Matt Verrier — who already has accepted a baseball scholarship to the University of Maine — to lead its quest for a postseason berth.
Ayala returns to Ponies
Luis Ayala is back as the head wrestling coach at Foxcroft Academy, according to Tim Smith, the school’s athletic administrator.
Ayala guided the Ponies to a pair of Class C state championships and five consecutive Eastern Maine titles in eight years as the team’s head coach before stepping down at the end of the 2007-08 seasons due to professional reasons.
Ayala was switching teaching jobs at the time, and needed to take several college courses in conjunction with that change, a reality that conflicted with being able to coach last winter.
Foxcroft won back-to-back state titles in 2004 and 2005 under Ayala’s guidance, as well as five straight Eastern C titles from 2004 through 2008. Ayala also has led the Ponies to five Penobscot Valley Conference championships.
Ayala replaces Jayson Allain, who coached the team last year but currently is serving with the military in Afghanistan.
FA fullbacks carry load
One unsung element of Foxcroft Academy’s 14-13 victory over John Bapst of Bangor in Saturday’s LTC Class C championship game was the timely rushing of fullbacks Dylan Andrews and Cody Coiley.
Andrews, a 5-foot-8, 175-pound junior, and Coiley, a 5-9, 200-pound sophomore, combined to gain 51 yards on just eight carries, or 6.3 yards per attempt.
Andrews rushed five times for 29 yards while Coiley added 22 yards on three tries, and perhaps more importantly four of the duo’s ground gains netted the Ponies first downs.
“We had good success trapping with our fullbacks,” said Foxcroft coach Danny White. “We were successful enough with the fullbacks to be able to move the ball when we needed to move the ball.”
Records set in LTC
Foxcroft Academy’s 14-13 victory over John Bapst in Saturday’s LTC championship game capped off a record-breaking season in the Class C football conference, according to league secretary and statistician Mike Archer, athletic administrator at Orono High School.
Among the new regular-season records established, Foxcroft averaged 45.0 points per game, just edging the previous points per game average of 44.8 set by Hampden Academy in 1998.
Foxcroft quarterback Ryan Stroud also set a record for most touchdown passes throw during a season with 20, besting Robey Rhodes’ 18 scoring strikes in 1996.
Mattanawcook Academy established a new mark for points scored in a game with 85 during a win over Old Town.
That snapped the previous mark of 81 points scored by Hampden during a 1998 win over Orono.
Dexter and Calais-Woodland tied the mark for most points scored by two teams in a single game, combining for 106 points in Dexter’s 54-52 overtime win over the Silverados during Week 7. That total matches the LTC-record 106 points scored during Dexter’s 60-46 win over Mount Desert Island in 1976.