November 20, 2012

HIGH SCHOOL WINTER SPORTS SEASON: Polls, practices highlight 1st day

By Gary Hawkins ghawkins@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

With the culmination of the fall sports season Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland, high school athletics made a quick pivot Monday into winter.

click image to enlarge

TIME TO START: Hall-Dale High School’s Dani Sweet practices foul shots Monday on the first day of practice in Farmingdale.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Practices and tryouts in six sports -- basketball, wrestling, hockey, swimming, indoor track and cheerleading -- got under way Monday with skiing set to begin on Nov. 26.

"It's nice to be back," Cony hockey coach Chad Foye said.

Foye wasn't just talking about a return to hockey, but also a return to his home rink, the Bank of Maine Ice Vault. Cony and Gardiner both lost their rink in 2011 when the roof of the former Kennebec Ice Arena in Hallowell collapsed under the weight of March snow. The rink was rebuilt and renamed in the same location and, Monday, players were back playing and/or practicing at Kents Hill.

"It was a 40 minute ride every day," Foye said.

While Foye's Rams played their home games at Kents Hill, Gardiner played all 18 of its games on the road. So the return to Hallowell was welcome even at 5:15 a.m.

"They take care of us pretty good and it's good to be back there," Gardiner coach Jeff Ross said. "It's going to make a big difference."

Gardiner's 5:15 a.m. practice time applies only to Monday's -- on other days, the Tigers go at 4 p.m. -- and Ross is OK with it.

"You get kids that really want to be here," Ross said. "It shows their commitment (and) helps them appreciate what they have."

Both the Rams and the Tigers open their seasons Dec. 8 with Gardiner playing defending Class B state champion Greely. Both teams also play in round robin tournaments this weekend.

The Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A boys coaches released their preseason poll over the weekend and it's no surprise Hampden and Lawrence were voted 1-2.

"I think it's pretty accurate," said Cony coach Tim Bonsant whose Rams were picked sixth. "I know Hampden is the best team and Lawrence is very good. After that, there's a bunch of teams like us, Edward Little, Lewiston, Brunswick, all in the same ball park."

Bonsant had 32 players try out and this year will have to make cuts since Cony will field no freshman team. Tryouts are held over two days.

"We'll have five hours of pretty intense drills and scrimmaging to figure out who can do what," Bonsant said.

The Rams are scheduled to play a couple of exhibition games Saturday at the Chrisanne Burns/G&E Roofing Tip-Off tournament at Cony. The tournament honors Burns, a former Cony player who was killed in an automobile accident in 1993 over the Thanksgiving Day weekend.

"It's real tough," Bonsant said of his preparation. "We won't have any offenses in and I'll barely have a defense in. But that tournament is so important to the community."

There are two new basketball coaches this season. Chris Ranslow returns to Hall-Dale, a team he coached to the 2005 Class C state championship. He takes over on an interim basis for Jim Patrick, who is taking a sabbatical. John Spear will coach the Richmond boys team this season. He takes over for Phil Houdlette, whom he's assisted the past few seasons.

Gary Hawkins -- 621-5638

ghawkins@centralmaine.com

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