Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Windham football leaves fans and coaches proud after outstanding season

Windham senior quarterback Robert 'Will' Ledbetter heads
toward the end zone during the Class B State Championship
Game at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland on Nov. 20.
By Matt Pascarella

The Windham varsity football team has wrapped up an incredible season, finishing 9-1 and a tightknit unstoppable force since the beginning. Windham made it to the Class B State Championship Game against Marshwood at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland on Saturday, Nov. 20 and played their hearts out, falling 14-13.

In the second quarter, Windham senior Nick Garrison scored a touchdown and after a missed 2-point conversion, Marshwood led 14-6. Right before the end of the first half, Garrison intercepted a Marshwood pass and dashed 70 yards run into the end zone. After a successful point-after kick was good, Marshwood clung to a 14-13 halftime lead.

Neither Marshwood nor Windham would score in the second half and Marshwood’s one-point advantage held up as it won a fourth consecutive Class B title.

Windham was one of eight teams to reach the state championship game and team member predict continued success in the future.

“Coming into this week we felt confident,” said Windham senior and quarterback Robert ‘Will’ Ledbetter. “We practiced hard all week, thought our game plan was good enough to go, but just came in and fell up short at the end. I couldn’t ask for a better group of seniors and couldn’t ask for a better team; I love being around these guys and wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

For Windham senior Nick Garrison, these last three weeks have been a big confidence booster. During the championship game, Ledbetter fed him the ball perfectly where he needed it, but sadly the result didn’t turn out the way they wanted. Garrison said he couldn’t ask for better fan support, teammates, coaches and overall, and it was just a great experience for him.

“Easily this is the best class-act group we’ve had. This group is one of the most relentless groups we’ve ever had,” said Windham varsity football coach Matt Perkins.

He praised what the seniors have done for this program as their hard work goes beyond what you could imagine.

The seniors are leaders on and off the field and the coaches feel lucky to have been around these seniors and what they’ve done, Perkins said.

Marshwood won the championship game coin toss but chose to kick off. Windham junior Haddon Boyle received the kick on the 25-yard line.

On third down, Ledbetter passed to Garrison for an 18-yard gain. Marshwood would get the possession, but not for long. Windham junior Max Arbour tackled the Hawks and regained possession but a third and goal field goal attempt by Windham was blocked.

Arbour said people were calling Windham underdogs, and they took that as motivation.

The Hawks scored before the end of the first quarter and again in the second quarter.

Garrison had a 55-yard run in the second quarter. Later, it was first and 15 and Windham gained six yards. Ledbetter completed a pass to Garrison who scored a TD. An attempt for a 2-point conversion wasn’t successful and Marshwood was up 14-6.

Right before the end of the half, Garrison intercepted a Marshwood pass and ran it in ahead of the Hawks defense for a 70-yard return for a TD. At halftime, Marshwood only led by a point.

The second half was back and forth. Windham’s defense bulldozed the Hawks. Windham junior Logan Hirning recovered a fumble in the third quarter to give the Eagles the ball. A 3-yard pick up and it was second down. Ledbetter completed a pass to Arbour for a Windham first down.

A 15-yard penalty on Marshwood would move the ball forward for Windham. Ledbetter would run for a 16-yard gain before the end of the third quarter.

Windham was first and goal at the 18-yard line. Windham moved the ball closer and closer. On fourth down and goal, Marshwood got the ball on a turnover, but Windham’s defense held fast. Windham fans cheered their team on until the final buzzer.

“I thought they competed, and we got some gritty kids that play their tail off,” said Perkins. “I’m really proud of this group, they’re great young men and they’re just a pleasure to coach and be around. They care about each other first and it’s not about themselves, that’s what makes them so special.”

Perkins said he felt that the Eagles moved the ball very well, played well defensively and tackled well.

Garrison said the offense played well. He said it seemed like they had trouble trying to get the ball in from 5 yards out but driving down the field Windham had good momentum. He also thought the defense played well too.

Arbour said he’d like to thank the seniors, they really helped him through the year, and he looks up to all of them. He’s proud of the team. <

Windham’s Deb Lebel and Ben Schulz win ‘Soccer Coach of the Year’ honors

The Southern Maine Activities Association has
honored Deb Lebel, Windham High varsity
girls' soccer coach, left, and Ben Schulz, WHS
boys' varsity soccer coach as 'Coach of the
Year' for their respective  sports.
By Matt Pascarella

Windham High girls’ varsity soccer coach Deb Lebel and boys’ varsity soccer coach Ben Schulz and their teams each enjoyed amazing seasons. The girls won their third state title since 2013, becoming 2021 Class A champions. The boys made it all the way to the regional final and finished their season 15-2. As a result, the Southern Maine Activities Association honored Lebel and Schulz as SMAA 2021 Coach of the Year for their sports.

Coach of the Year is voted on by coaches within the SMAA league of 17 member schools. It holds significance because the votes are coming from a coach’s peers and really reflect not only a solid body of work, but personal and team character.

RSU 14 Athletic Director Rich Drummond said both teams represented Windham in a classy manner.

Others agree.

“Deb is vested in our players, first and foremost, as people and students, and the girls feel that each and every day,” said Windham girls’ soccer assistant coach Chris Aube. “She teaches these young ladies how to be successful in life and that translates to the soccer field.”

Lebel said she is humbled to be named SMAA Coach of the Year.

“Many coaches in the SMAA are extremely knowledgeable about the game ... so it’s nice to be respected by such a great group of people,” said Lebel.

Lebel got into coaching because she loved competing and benefited from being a part of sports. She was inspired by memorable high school coaches that pushed her but made it fun. After getting her Master’s in Sports Psychology, coaching was a way to take what she’d learned and incorporate it into creating successful teams.

A biology teacher at Windham High School, Lebel enjoys coaching because it’s nice for her to make a connection with the students outside the classroom.

She feels like some of her students perform better in the classroom for her when they find out she coaches. She’s suddenly earned respect because they share a similar passion. Lebel said it’s important to have female role models for female athletes.

“She’s competitive and likes to win and that’s something you want in every coach that you have is competitiveness,” said senior Sarah Talon. “She loves what she does ... and knows what it takes.”

This fall was a coach’s dream for Lebel. It’s rare to go 19-0 and win a state championship. She said the team’s chemistry was top notch and as a coach she had a strong supporting cast who help her each fall.

Talon said Lebel is awesome to have as a coach.

Windham High assistant varsity boys’ soccer coach and junior varsity boys’ soccer coach Mitch Hodge said it was motivating to work with Schulz, who has nothing but high hopes and desires for the program.

Sports has always played an important part of Schulz’s life, and he believes there are valuable life lessons that can be learned from athletics and being part of a team. He’s honored RSU 14 allows him to teach those lessons to the boys.

“It is always a proud moment for a coach to be recognized by his peers,” said Schulz. “There are so many deserving choices especially this year that to win it meant a lot.”

Windham senior Cole Washburn said Schulz pushed them to be great this season. He added if the team did not have a coach like Schulz or the other assistant coaches, they wouldn’t have been able to make it as far as they did.

It was exciting for Schulz to be a part of Windham’s successful soccer season. The community support along the way was amazing and he said he thought they put the boys’ soccer program on the map again.

When it came to the success of the season, Schulz said the efforts of the coaching staff were focused on putting the boys in a position to succeed, but ultimately it always comes down to the players. It was their hard work and commitment to the team and each other that propelled them forward.

For Schulz, the efforts made by his team on and off the field and the memories they have made for the rest of their lives validates his work.

He always believes in his players, and wants nothing but success for them,” That’s what makes him successful,” said Hodge. <

Friday, November 19, 2021

Windham varsity football contends for Class B state championship on Saturday

The Windham High School varsity football team will face 
Marshwood High School on Saturday in Portland for the
2021 Class B Maine football championship. 

By Matt Pascarella

It’s been 12 years since Windham last won the Class A state football championship, but that all could change Saturday afternoon when the unbeaten Eagles (9-0) meet Marshwood (8-3) at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland with the Class B title up for grabs.

In 2009, Windham captured the Gold Ball by defeating Bangor, 35-21, in the state championship matchup and last appeared in the Class A state title game in 2017, falling to Scarborough. Windham also appeared in the Class A state championship game in 2014 but ultimately fell to Thornton Academy in that game.

Now competing in Class B, Windham secured a berth in this year’s championship game by knocking off Lawrence, 42-35, in two overtimes in the regional finals at Lewiston High School on Saturday, Nov. 13.    

That was a close one and a real cliff-hanger that extended into two overtimes with Windham ahead for most of the first half, but Lawrence came back to tie the game at 21 before halftime.

After a scoreless third quarter, regulation ended with the game tied at 28. After the first overtime the game was tied at 35.

In the second overtime, Windham scored and led 42-35. The Eagles’ defense was able to hold back Lawrence for four downs to become Class B North champions.

With Lawrence to receive to open the regional title game, Windham sacked the Bulldogs within seconds. Later, the Eagles took over at Lawrence’s 27-yard line on a first and 10. Windham senior quarterback Robert ‘Will’ Ledbetter threw a 63-yard strike to senior Colby Mizner who ran the ball in for a touchdown. The kick was good, and the Eagles were up 7-0.

Lawrence tied the game up, but Windham forged ahead before the end of the first quarter when senior Nick Garrison scored.

Early in the second quarter, Lawrence tried to tie the game. Windham blocked the field goal kick and Eagles held a one-point lead.

Ledbetter completed a pass to Alex Yeaton for a touchdown and Windham led 21-13.

“We worked our butts off all season,” said Yeaton. “It’s just nice to hold that plaque at the end of the game, we really earned it.” He said that Windham will continue working hard; they want that gold ball.

Ledbetter said this was a gritty win and Windham Coach Matt Perkins told the team they had an opportunity to do something others do not have. Ledbetter said the team rose to the occasion and took that opportunity.

Windham defense stalled Lawrence late in the first half. Senior Tate Chork prevented a gain from the Bulldogs on Windham’s 25-yard line.

Lawrence managed to score again before the end of the half and got a 2-point conversion with the game tied at 21 at that point.

Lawrence took a seven-point lead early in the fourth quarter. But Garrison answered with a touchdown and the score was tied at 28.

“I thought we really rallied together as a team,” said Garrison. “Overall, it was a great team effort ... on both offense and defense, but we really had to come together at the end.”

Windham made one last attempt during regulation to score but were stopped by Lawrence.

In the first overtime each team had a chance to score from the 10-yard line in front of the end zone. The defending team had four chances to stop it. After one overtime, the game was tied at 35.

Windham scored in the second overtime and led 42-35. Windham junior Blake Peeples blocked a pass, and the Eagles were one defensive play away from a regional championship.

Garrison hit Lawrence’s quarterback as Lawrence was about to throw a pass and Chork knocked the ball down. That was the ballgame.

“We kept our composure; the composure we have of these guys is something special,” said Perkins. “We got some guys who are really strong leaders and guys that live in the moment.”

Perkins said the best thing about the team is they are great players and great kids. He is proud of how they represent Windham and their team.

Windham will play Marshwood in the State Championship at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland on Saturday, Nov. 20 at 2:30 p.m. <

Windham’s Talon to attend UMaine on full basketball scholarship

By Matt Pascarella

Windham senior Sarah Talon will attend the
University of Maine at Orono on a full
scholarship to play basketball next year. Talon
signed her Letter on Intent at Windham High
School on Monday, Nov. 15 in front of her 
family, friends, coaches and supporters.
Windham senior Sarah Talon has had the dream of playing Division I basketball since she first picked up a ball. Talon has made that happen through countless hours of work and practice and she verbally agreed to attend the University of Maine at Orono the summer before her sophomore year.

Talon made it official by signing a Letter of Intent in front of a big group of friends, family, coaches and supporters on Monday, Nov. 15 at Windham High School. She received a full scholarship to play Division I basketball and will major in sports medicine in college.

When Talon was little, she thought soccer was her strong suit, but realized in middle school she was better at basketball. She remembers watching Catherine McCauley player Allie Clement as well as her big sister Hannah. Clement and Hannah were role models of Talon’s; she wanted to do what they did. Talon wanted to play at Clement’s level and the collegiate level.

Talon has a love of the game which is what makes athletics important to her. She’s competitive and has the drive to rise to the occasion and succeed.

“That competitiveness is just incredibly unique with Sarah,” said Windham girls’ basketball coach Brody Artes. “[She’s] someone who is always looking to gain an advantage on the court and push her teammates, she just wants to win every single time down the floor. We don’t see a whole lot of athletes that have that drive that Sarah does each and every day.”

Talon has been dreaming about the day she would commit to play Division I basketball for a while and for it to finally be happening in front of everyone she loves is something she will never forget.

“I knew I couldn’t get to where I wanted to be by sitting at home; I had to go out and actually work for it. I had to wake up to those 5 a.m. mornings when I didn’t want to, and I had to come late at night even when I didn’t want to.”

Talon started a workout routine at New England Fitness and Athletics where she said they helped get her to become stronger, faster and more agile, along with everything she needed to do for basketball.

Thornton Academy junior Jessica Dow played on the Maine Attraction Amateur Athletic Union team with Talon. Dow described her as a leader. Dow said Talon has everyone’s back if they are behind in a game, Talon knows how to bring her team together and calm them down. She described Talon as an all-around good teammate.

Talon said she was definitely motivated to continue working harder by people who told her she couldn’t do it, no matter the reason. She used all those negative comments and transferred them directly to the basketball court.

“I proved them all wrong,” said Talon. “And it feels good.”

Talon said she’s grateful to her mom and dad and sister Hannah, for without them none of this would be possible. They have worked so hard over the years, the countless hours of driving, the money spent on hotels for tournaments and everything that has led to this moment.

She would also like to thank Shawn Legassy, Steve Haines, Diana Manduca and Dajuan Eubanks for their hard work and dedication to her and Blue Wave Basketball. Talon started Blue Wave around third grade and the mentioned individuals believed in her and knew she had a shot at something great.  <

U-13 and U-14 girls’ Windham Youth Soccer teams savor great playoff runs

Windham's Under-14 girls soccer team made it to the finals
against Merrymeeting on Sunday, Nov. 7 at Mount Ararat
High School, but fell in the title game, 2-0.
By Matt Pascarella

Windham Youth Soccer Association’s Under-13 and Under-14 girls’ teams enjoyed nice postseasons.

The U-13 team made it to the semifinals where they played Bangor on Sunday Oct. 31 at Freeport High School. Windham played tough but lost 3-2 in overtime.

The U-14 girls made it to the state championship on Nov. 7 at Mount Ararat High School against the Merrymeeting Soccer Club. Merrymeeting had strong defense, but Windham fought hard. Merrymeeting won 2-0.

To reach the semifinals, the U-13 Windham team played a very tough Portland Area Youth soccer team.  In that game, Windham seventh-grader Maya Dries put in what would prove to be the game winning goal and the defense, anchored by seventh-graders Eva Vancellette and Mackenzie Delewski were able to keep Portand scoreless to advance.

Windham had finished the regular season undefeated and only allowed two goals in during those games. The Lady Eagles entered the tournament ranked first overall. Windham fought fiercely against Bangor and tied it up at the end of regulation after Delewski scored at the start of the second half. Windham seventh-grader Leandra Woodman scored near the end of the second half to tie the game at two. But Bangor scored in overtime and prevailed.

“Scoring that goal was such an amazing feeling,” said Woodman. “Coming back from an injury was tough and I felt like I lost my position on the team, but my coach and teammates helped me get back in the game. It's a great team; we support each other.”

Windham’s U-13 had excellent goaltending by seventh graders Libby Hartwell and Chloe Poitras.

“This team came together this year ... and quickly connected and began playing as a team,” said Windham U-13 coach Brian Dries. “They rose to every challenge they faced, rebounding time after time to meet the next challenge.  In the playoffs, everyone had contributions to the success of the team.”

The U-14 Windham girls closed the regular season undefeated and earned the top seed in the Soccer Maine Championship Cup playoffs.

In the regional final against Scarborough, Windham was ahead 1-0 in the first half, but Scarborough tied the game before the half ended. Eighth-grader Marley Jarvais scored the game-winning goal to send Windham through to the state final for the third consecutive year.

“I don’t really think of it as if I scored that goal,” said Jarvais. “I think that the events and how we played lead us to score that goal and we worked all together.” 

Jarvais said it was great playing on the team. She didn’t think they would have gone as far if it wasn’t for their coaches and the team’s ability to get along as well as they did. 

Windham played Merrymeeting Soccer Club for the second time in their three years of reaching the state championship game. At halftime, Merrymeeting was up 1-0.

While Windham gave it their all and had many scoring opportunities in the second half, Merrymeeting’s defense was tough. Windham fought, but Merrymeeting pulled off a 2-0 win.

Windham finished second in the 2021 Champions Cup. 

 “We’re really proud of the way the team played this year,” said Windham U-14 coach Craig Broadbent. “None of their success would have been possible without their commitment to team goals. Windham has some of the best ball handlers, passers, defenders and goal scorers in the state.” <

Friday, November 12, 2021

Hail to the champions!

Windham High's varsity girls' soccer team celebrates after
defeating Brunswick to win the Class A North state soccer 
\championship on Saturday, Nov. 6. The team includes
Caitlyn Marsh, Liz Talbot, Liz Levesque, Mallory Muse, Kylie
  Ashlee Sawyer, Kyla Harvie, Amelia Mortero,
Stella Jarvais, Abbey Thornton, Hannah Lee, Tiana Salazar, Kayla Flanders,
Ashley Clark, Emily Talbot, Reilly Russell, Sarah Talon, and

By Matt Pascarella

Windham High School’s varsity girls’ soccer team’s entire season had been building to this moment and the team was ready and had what it took, defeating Brunswick, 3-1, in the Class A girls’ soccer state championship game played at Massabesic High School on Saturday, Nov. 6.

In earning the title, Windham finished the season undefeated at 19-0 and only allowed nine goals all season. It was Windham’s third state girls’ soccer championship since 2013.

Windham put three in the net in the first half to take a commanding lead. Although Brunswick (15-2) scored roughly halfway through the second half, they were no match for Windham’s indestructible defense.

“We didn’t really have any expectations,” said Windham senior goalie Eliza Trafford. “We knew that if we stayed supportive and worked together as a team, we could accomplish anything.”

Trafford, who had seven saves during the state championship game, said she was nervous, but that was good because it showed how important the game was to her.

Windham began the game as they pressured hard; they were first to the ball and controlled the field. They took shots on Brunswick’s goal, but Dragon defense kept the Lady Eagles in check and scoreless early on.

Brunswick couldn’t hold back Windham for long. 23 minutes and 38 second into the game, Windham junior Abbey Thornton with an assist from senior Sarah Talon put Windham ahead.

Thornton said it felt good to win a state championship.

“Everything we’ve done this whole season it’s finally paid off. We can relax, we’ve done it,” said Thornton.

Thornton knew it was going to be a hard game. As a team, if they put their game face on, they could not be stopped. She said the state championship was a goal this year.

Talon was next to score assisted by freshman Emily Talbot 28:53 into the half.

“The moment you pick up a soccer ball you dream about an accomplishment that big. I wanted it so bad, for everyone, for the seniors, for everyone. It was just really exciting ... [to score],” said Talon.

Windham did not let up and continued to pressure. With 46 seconds left, Thornton scored her second goal. Windham led 3-0 at the half.

“This [championship win] was nice coming off a Covid year,” said Windham varsity girls’ soccer coach Deb Lebel. This was her third state championship win at Windham High School and her sixth state championship win overall.

“These kids have worked pretty hard, I’m really proud of them,” Lebel said. “This group of seniors have been great leaders on the field and in the classroom. Great athletes, but academically they’re really strong.”

In the second half Windham was just as aggressive. They continued to play terrific defense.

Brunswick did find the back of the net once, but that was all the Lady Eagles allowed. As time was running out for Brunswick, Windham only strengthened their defense.

Brunswick had multiple corner kick scoring opportunities that Windham shut down. Less than three minutes remained in the half and Windham was able to maintain their lead until the final buzzer.

Talon said Windham was able to win through toughness, dedication to the game and positivity. She added they have really good team chemistry that they are really proud of and can put into success. She’d like to thank coaches and teammates for making it an unforgettable year; winning the state championship was a good sendoff for her as a senior.

“We kept just saying, ‘play your game; keep it on the ground, keep possession, go to the end line and feed it back in. Don’t kick and run,’” said Lebel.

Lebel saw a lot of unselfish play this year and added the team meshed very well and was inclusive. The upperclassmen took care of the freshmen. She felt positive team chemistry took Windham all the way. She added the team has a lot of speed up top, which is hard to defend, but that this is one of the most skilled teams she’s had in terms of footwork.

“It was incredible,” said Trafford. “We’ve all worked together as a team for many years and it’s just great as a last hoorah to experience something like this.” <

Windham football edges Skowhegan in semifinals to advance to regional championship game

Windham senior Tate Chork pushes Skowhegan junior Joseph
Cote to block his pass during the Class B North football
semifinal game at Windham High School on Nov. 5.

By Matt Pascarella

In what started as a completely scoreless game for the entire first half, it ended with Windham holding onto their reign this season as they beat Skowhegan 7-6 during the Class B North semifinal at Windham on Friday, Nov. 5.

At the start of the second half, Windham senior Robert “Will” Ledbetter charged up the field and into the end zone. The kick was good, and the Eagles led 7-0.

Skowhegan would score a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but a blocked kick by Windham left Skowhegan a point shy of gaining any traction.

“All of our guys stepped up,” said Ledbetter. “Defensively that was an amazing effort. I can’t thank [Windham] enough; those guys are the real deal.”

Ledbetter said this season has been a journey. Trying to stay disciplined and get better every week is what it’s all about. He is ready to begin getting better for when they will take on Lawrence. He said he is ready to play them tough.

Skowhegan won the toss, but deferred, so Windham received and began first and 10 from their 20-yard line. In the first quarter, Skowhegan got within first and goal. A fumble from the River Hawks and the Eagles recovered to put the ball on the 10-yard line. This blocked a scoring opportunity to keep the game tied at zero.

In the second quarter, Skowhegan got close to crossing into the endzone. A pass from the River Hawks was intercepted by Windham senior Tayshawn Lindsay and he made a break to the opposite end of the field after he denied Skowhegan the touchdown.

“I think it was our band but don’t break mentality [that enabled the win],” said Lindsay. “We got a lot of ... guys who just don’t give up – that’s the reason we won this game. Whoever we do play [in Regionals] they’re going to have a real fight on their hands.”

There was less than 7 minutes left in the game and Windham defense continued to do exceptional work. It was 3 and goal, River Hawks and after a false start Skowhegan fumbled and Windham recovered.

As the clock wound down, Windham was able to hold off the River Hawks. With 13 seconds left on the clock a false start lost Skowhegan six yards. Windham sacked and that’s the game.

“I think [Skowhegan] got inside our 10 a few times and we were able to stand tall and keep them out,” said Windham varsity football coach Matt Perkins. “Defensively we have a fight attitude where they find a way to get it done, just real proud of how tenacious and tough our guys are.”

Windham faces Lawrence at Lewiston High School in the Regional finals on Friday, Nov. 12. <