Graduation day is a time for reflection of a year gone by, so here are a few of the memories that come to mind from the 2010-11 sports year.
Few stories had as many dimensions as the undefeated run of the Stearns of Millinocket football team to the Class C state championship game.
The decline of the state’s papermaking industry over the last generation left Stearns as the smallest varsity football-playing school in Maine last fall, with fewer than 200 students overall and just 29 football players — 16 of them seniors.
But these Minutemen breathed new life into the Magic City with each victory, ultimately capturing the LTC title and advancing to the state final before quarterback Jared McGreevy was lost to a knee injury and emerging Western Maine power Yarmouth ended Stearns’ storybook run.
Much has changed in the region since then, including the recent closing of the East Millinocket paper mill and the loss of 450 more jobs. It leaves one to wonder if Stearns’ title quest was a swan song, and if economic reality finally will force that school and neighboring Schenck of East Millinocket to consolidate sooner rather than later.
Few photos published in these pages this year told as complete a story as a simple head shot of Bangor High School soccer star Phil Frost. There he was after the Class A state championship game, his face swollen and gauze in his nose, looking like a Mike Tyson victim after a face-to-head collision with a Portland player.
But beneath the signs of pain was a big smile — and who could blame him. Few players score three goals with a state title on the line, but that’s what Frost did in leading the Rams to a 3-2 victory and the gold ball.
Few programs faced higher expectations than the Camden Hills of Rockport boys basketball team. From the players’ formative days in youth programs and on a local outdoor court known as “the Rock,” the Windjammers have been the best in their class for more than a decade, and 2011 was no exception.
Led by the state’s Mr. Basketball Tyler McFarland and fellow Bangor Daily News All-Maine choice Keegan Pieri, Camden Hills was expected to win the Class B state title — and did, going undefeated for the second time in three years.
It’s an impressive legacy being left behind by McFarland, Pieri, guard Joel Gabriele and coach Jeff Hart in the last three years alone, with two state titles to their credit and just an overtime loss in the 2010 state final away from three in a row.
And few players sparked the instant sense of respect reserved from the likes of Kyle McKim, a senior from Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor.
Rather than lament life with a prosthetic left leg, which he has had since early childhood, McKim has embraced his circumstances to emerge as a three-sport athlete and leader at his school. This spring he is a captain and starting first baseman for the Trojans’ baseball team that will play in Saturday’s Eastern Maine Class B semifinals.
“It’s really easy to overcome, all you’ve got to do is think positive,” said McKim in March after receiving the Spirit of the Game Award from the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches.
That reads like the perfect graduation speech to me.