January 1, 2013

TOP 10 SPORTS STORIES OF 2012

Morning Sentinel Staff

On Sept. 19, something happened at the Messalonskee High School varsity football practice.

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Photo illustration by Sharon Wood and Scott Martin

Top 10 sports stories of 2012

1. Wes Littlefield saga
2. Skowhegan field hockey totally dominant
3. Mt. Blue football wins Class B title
4. Matt McClintock’s huge year
5. Bethanie Brown wins two NE titles in track, excels in cross country
6. Messalonskee baseball wins Class A title
7. Jim Bessey retires
8. Seth Sweet wins Maine Am
9. Football 4-class system on verge of passing
10. Colby’s Dom Kone wins two national sprinting titles

Within hours, Wes Littlefield was suspended from his job as Messalosnkee's head football coach and, hours later, resigned. On Sept. 21, Littlefield described what happened at Wednesday's practice as "a little incident with a kid that was blown out of proportion."

In the following week, Littlefield was summoned on a misdemeanor charge of assault. In late November, then-acting District Attorney Alan Kelley decided not to prosecute Littlefield, citing a lack of evidence.

The Littlefield case drew national attention and sparked ongoing debate and discussion as to what is acceptable behavior for a coach at practice. For those reasons, the Wes Littlefield accusation, resignation and subsequent lack of charges by the district attorney is the Morning Sentinel's top sports story of 2012.

Supporters of Littlefield, including his attorney, Jason Jabar, said Littlefield did nothing wrong, that Littlefield's actions were in line with coaching methods used for decades.

"If the prosecution would have gone forward, it would have sent a scary message," Jabar said.

Both sides agree that Littlefield's hand came into contact with a player's helmet. Walter McKee, the attorney for the player's family, said he believes Littlefield should not be allowed to coach again. McKee said Littlefield struck the player's helmet "with huge force," strong enough to unsnap buckles on the helmet.

"Setting aside whether the actions here were criminal, there is no coach -- I repeat no coach -- who can honestly say that they approve of the behavior here," McKee said.

In the short term, the sudden departure of their coach and ensuing controversy did nothing to slow down the Eagles. Following Littlefield's resignation, Messalonskee won back-to-back games by a combined score of 79-0. But the Eagles won just one of their final five games, and lost to rival Lawrence in the Pine Tree Conference Class A semifinals, 27-0.

Littlefield said he hopes to coach again. Whether this incident prohibits that or not remains to be seen.

2. Skowhegan field hockey totally dominant

The Skowhegan field hockey team entered the fall of 2012 with 10 Class A state championships over the past 11 years. They were clearly the most dominant high school sports team in Maine.

Then they went out and topped that.

Whatever superlative you want to use, it fits, because the Indians had a truly amazing season. Sure, several teams in Eastern A were in rebuilding mode, but what Skowhegan did was unprecedented in Class A.

The Indians scored 139 goals in countable games, breaking the previous record (for all classes) by 23. They allowed just two, both to Messalonskee's Kristy Bernatchez, who will play for the University of North Carolina next fall.

In Anne-Marie Provencal, Skowhegan had one of the best goalies in the state. But hardly anybody knew this, because Provencal, even though she played every game, saw only about 20 shots all season.

Halfway through the season, Skowhegan had outscored its opponents, 50-0. The Indians won their next four games by a combined score of 48-0. In their first two playoff games, they scored 25 goals and allowed zero, on zero shots.

Skowhegan's biggest test came in the Eastern A final, when the Indians pulled out a 2-1 victory over Messalonskee. That put Skowhegan in the state final against Scarborough, and it was something of a dream matchup. While Skowhegan was scoring at a record-setting pace, Scarborough had not allowed a goal in 18 games, and was attempting to become only the second team in United States high school field hockey history to go through an entire season without allowing a goal.

(Continued on page 2)

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