The end of each year brings with it many celebrated traditions. As the holiday gifts are unwrapped and put away, thoughts turn to the beginning of a new year and what may lie ahead. The end of the year also creates a time of reflection for many, a time when we search our collective memory banks reliving the past. Many news outlets will produce highlight videos and list their top stories from the year.
When I look back on 2014, I can close my eyes and many images come to the forefront of my mind. I see the sights, hear the sounds, and feel the feelings once again. These may not make a top ten list but each one’s journey is personal, we don’t all experience the same events.
The 2014 high school basketball tournament was the first held at the new Cross Insurance Center. Anticipation was high to see whether the new digs could measure up to the electric atmosphere of the venerable Bangor Auditorium. With the Presque Isle and MDI girls taking the floor on championship Saturday, both bands echoed through the halls. The roar of the crowd, the sounds, they felt familiar. We have a new home and what a grand home it is!
When I reflect back, I think of Zack Bartlett’s fast break lay-up in the final moments of Old Town’s state title victory over Poland. You see, the senior missed much of the tournament due to a hand injury. What a perfect way to cap a nearly perfect performance by the Coyotes.
Speaking of injuries, Bangor Christian’s Cody Collins was expected to be one of the Patriots’ top pitchers this past spring. Due to an elbow injury, Collins had limited duty on the mound for his youthful club. Before having surgery a week later, he hurled two dominant innings in the state title game while rallying the Patriots to their third consecutive state title. Collins also delivered the game winning RBI in the eighth inning in their 5-4 victory over Wiscasset.
Staying with baseball, what a year for our national pastime in Bangor. On the perfectly manicured surface of Mansfield Stadium, the Bangor Senior Leaguers went 4-0 in pool play, only to be ousted in the semifinals. The team from West University of Houston, Texas ended Bangor’s campaign and would win it all one day later.. I can still envision the big left arm of Texas’ John Doxakis as he shut down the Bangor offense, all 6’5″ of him. So dominant was Doxakis’ performance, the Bangor squad did not hit one ball out of the infield in the 7-0 shutout. New heroes emerged for Bangor throughout the week, highlighted in the final game of pool play with Brian Peirce turning in a stellar relief performance in the victory over Hawaii.
I can still see the sun setting over the home bleachers at Thornton Academy in the waning moments of Cheverus’ 48-41 double overtime victory over the Golden Trojans. In what might be the best high school football game I’ve ever attended, I remember Stags coach John Wolfgram standing off to the side, letting the players bask in the glow of their improbable victory. I had the opportunity a month later to witness the Stags on the other end of the emotional spectrum, with the stakes much higher. Against Windham in the regional final, it was the visiting Eagles who rallied in the fourth quarter, forcing overtime. A blocked PAT in overtime ended Cheverus’ season, sending the Eagles to gold ball Saturday.
Later on the same Saturday in Pittsfield, more than a football game took place. It was about two communities coming together in the wake of tragedy, losing people at too young an age. There was plenty of orange as well as purple and pink to be seen to honor the memories of their friends.
The high school football season began with 80+ degree heat and ended in the frigid 20 degree cold of late autumn. Despite the frigid cold at the University of Maine’s Alfond Stadium, Winslow’s Dylan Hapworth put on a show that won’t be soon forgotten in building a 49-0 halftime lead and rolling to the gold ball.
Memories will fade from the year that was 2014. What won’t be forgotten are the people met and places visited. It was about hearing veteran basketball coaches Roger Reed and Bill Casavant talking shop just following a hard fought tournament game. It was about caretakers of athletics being honored such as Jim Poulin and MDI’s athletic director Bunky Dow at the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association’s conference.
2014 was about new memories created at the Cross Insurance Center, the new home of the Eastern Maine Basketball Tournament. The year was about visiting new places. It was about sharing a ferry ride with a tired group of kids from Jonesport-Beals on the way back from Vinalhaven.
These are the moments I cherish from 2014. We can only hope 2015 has the same in store and more.