Aug. 31—1. Yarmouth: When Mike Hagerty says this is one of the best teams he's had in his 27 years as Yarmouth's head coach, that's saying something. Yarmouth has won 12 championships under Hagerty, including seven in the past eight seasons in Class B. The defending state champs return 12 talented seniors and four juniors, and add four highly skilled sophomores. Starting with senior keeper Ian O'Connor and moving forward, Yarmouth features an all-senior back four of center backs Jonny Fulton and Sam Lowenstein and outside backs Ben Flowerdew and Justin Dawes. Seniors Mihailo Medenica, Matt Gautreau and Adam McLaughlin lead the midfield, and more seniors spearhead the attack: Zach Turkel, Zach Kelly and Max Gilbert. Significant depth, team-first attitudes and positive energy are key components, Hagerty said.
2. Windham: Already established as a top program and coming off a hard-fought overtime loss in last year's Class A South final, Windham has a significant edge in experience compared to the other top programs in the SMAA. Coach Jeff Neal's team return eight starters and eight reserves from a squad that overcame injuries and won 10 straight games before losing to Scarborough in the regional final. Talented newcomers will provide even more depth. Several of Windham's top players are still juniors, including returning goalie Lukas Hammond, shutdown defender Connor LeClerc, 2022 second-team all-SMAA forward/midfielder Luke Cunniffe (nine goals, seven assists), and forward/midfielder Sam Rogers (5 goals, 3 assists). Senior Nick Marion is another exciting player up top, coming off an 11-goal, seven-assist season.
3. Deering: The Rams finished second in the Class A South standings last year, finishing with an 11-3-2 record. Coach Joel Costigan must replace several key players but is helped by having 19 seniors on the roster and several strong juniors, notably captains Ethan Fisher and Peter Sargent. Senior Daniel Landry is also a captain. Junior Alberto Lucas-Bayata and seniors Chandrel Mangele Laza and Simon Mboumba are experienced players who have shown in past seasons they can score and create.
4. Portland: The Bulldogs must replace 19 seniors and 75 percent of the goal scoring from last season. But Portland has looked deep and talented in the preseason and is capable of improving on last year's 10-6 record. It helps that midfielder Martin Kalala, a three-year player, is back, along with fellow seniors Ford Myers and Max Kierstead up top. Myers is a four-year varsity player and Kierstead has been on the team for three years. Veteran Coach Rocco Frenzilli also likes sophomore Baptista Muanda's play in the midfield.
5. Gorham: Coming off a 12-3-1 season that ended with a loss to Scarborough in the Class A South semifinals, the Rams return nine players and will be a veteran squad with 13 seniors. Coach Nick Viola expects senior keeper Ethan Homa to be a standout, replacing 2022 Varsity Maine All-State keeper Nick Phinney. Jack Luciano is a tenacious player who can break up plays in the midfield and finish in the offensive third. JT Morrell, a three-year player, brings speed through the midfield all the way to goal. Fellow seniors Cole Smith, Jackson Landry and Riley Ottoson also are key returnees for a team expecting to make a deep playoff run.
6. Cape Elizabeth: The Capers bring back many strong players and added some new talent to help offset the graduation of seven key seniors from last year's team, which went 13-0-1 in the regular season and reached the Class B South final. Senior Sam Cochran leads the midfield along with junior Tully Hadar and newcomer Rory O'Grady. Coach Ben Raymond expects his team to be strong defensively, with Charlie Song, Cam Leonhirth, Henry Moore and senior newcomer Nathan Ashe. There is also firepower from Alex van Huystee, who will move up from defense, joining Keegan Lathrop, Grant Kelley and sophomore Harry Converse. Five players are pushing for the goalkeeping position.
7. Scarborough: The Red Storm are the defending Class A South champions and finished 16-2. Coach Mark Diaz always puts out a talented team, and senior forward Kilson Joao is on the very short list of preseason Player of the Year candidates. But, Scarborough also graduated most of its starting lineup and first wave of depth. Diaz expects his team to still be in the top tier. But a lot could change. South Portland (10-4 last year) has quality across the field. Westbrook (5-7-3) and Kennebunk (6-6-3) are playoff teams looking for further improvement. Recent state champions Marshwood (2021) and Falmouth (2019) graduated a ton but are still established programs with winning patterns. In other words, there are few easy games in Class A South.
8. Mt. Ararat: The Eagles return 14 players — nine with significant starting experience — from last year's 12-2-2 team that was knocked out in the Class A North semifinals by eventual state champ Brunswick. The Dragons have graduated virtually their entire varsity team, and the Eagles are ready to capitalize with a team built around the defense of four-year starting keeper Jacob Fullerton and the center back tandem of junior Ethan Berry and senior Keegan Rowe. Berry has the ability to change the game from the back or step forward and create scoring. Ethan Palmer is another returning defense-first player in the midfield. Look for three-year starter Ben Therriault, a 6-foot-2 midfielder, and junior forward Aaron Paul to lead a scoring-by-committee offense.
9. Greely: The Rangers return seven starters from a squad that went 8-7-1, with a playoff win. Coach Mike Andreasen believes he has up to six players who can be the best player on the field on a given night, but not one clear standout. The midfield should be strong, with second-team WMC pick Keegan Hale, fellow junior Owen Piesik and senior Aaron Park, who previously played for Seacoast United's development academy team. They should be able to get the ball to wings Sam Kim and Sam Dudek and forward Bez Mendelsohn for scoring chances. The defense will be led by returning sophomore keeper Landon Dominski.
10. Waynflete: The Flyers have a new coach in Will Burdick, a 2016 Waynflete graduate who was the head coach at Gray-New Gloucester the past two seasons. Burdick inherits a tough schedule and a team that no longer has 52-goal scorer Myles Culley. Midfielder Jacob Woodman, keeper Nico Kirby and center back Dana Bigelow are the only returning starters, and the varsity roster is small. For the first time in five years, Waynflete looks beatable in Class C, and teams like Traip Academy (12-4, three losses to Waynflete), 2022 Class D champ North Yarmouth Academy (now in Class C) and Mt. Abram (regional finalist in 2021 and 2022) won't be sending sympathy cards.