Edward Little’s Cam Yorke drives past Windham’s Kaleb Cidre during a Class AA North quarterfinal in Auburn in February. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Edward Little lost some of its star power for the 2019-20 season, but not the respect of its peers in Class AA North.

The Red Eddies narrowly edged out Deering for the top spot in the Class AA North preseason coaches poll despite graduating the conference’s player of the year, Wol Maiwen. No doubt that is partially out of respect for the consistent excellence of coach Mike Adams’ program, but the coaches also know Adams’ senior class has the talent, leadership and big-game experience to be the team to beat.

If the poll’s drop-off from Deering (51 points) to No. 3 Windham (33) is any indication, the coaches believe the second tier beyond EL and Deering could be a dog fight. In that regard, both Oxford Hills and Lewiston could make a case for feeling slighted as the bottom two teams in the survey. The Vikings suffered major graduation losses after falling to EL in the regional semifinals each of the past two years but will still have sufficient athleticism to give opponents fits with coach Scott Graffam’s defense-first approach. The same can be said for the Blue Devils, who have a new injection of energy, enthusiasm and confidence under first-year coach Ronnie Turner.

CLASS C SOUTH

Defending state champion Winthrop had some graduation losses of its own, led by another two-way catalyst Cam Wood. The Ramblers still figure to be among the favorites in C South and the Mountain Valley Conference because they still have a strong mix of defensive intensity, offensive balance and varsity experience.

MVC rival Boothbay and Waynflete of the Western Maine Conference loom large, too. Overall, the region should be more wide-open than in recent years, leaving room for a young team such as Dirigo or Monmouth to make noise at tournament time if they mature in a timely fashion.

CLASS A SOUTH

Can Leavitt pull off the rare back-to-back football-basketball championship seasons? Can coach Mike Hathaway pull off the even rarer trick of coaching both teams to a gold ball? It’s a tough task, particularly in a region with three-time defending state champion Greely and perennial powerhouses Falmouth, York and Kennebunk. The Hornets have a dynamic inside-outside balance and momentum from last year’s 15-win season to build from as well as a tough schedule to prepare them for the rigors of the tournament.

Gray-New Gloucester moves up from Class B after reaching the regional semifinals each of the past two years. The Patriots will do so with perhaps the youngest team in coach Ryan Deschenes’ eight-year tenure.

CLASS B SOUTH

The Mountain Valley Conference sent two delegates to the Portland Expo last February, Mountain Valley and Spruce Mountain. Both had quarterfinal exits followed by significant graduation departures. Injuries suffered at the end of football season exacerbated Spruce’s depth concerns heading into the season. Yet both teams could factor in the MVC and secure berths to Portland.

Lisbon, Oak Hill and Poland are both aiming for returns to the Expo with maturing rosters. Freeport and Maranacook will likely be the favorites when everyone converges in the Forest City in February 2020.

CLASS A NORTH

After a return to their winning ways in one season under Travis Magnusson, the Mt. Blue Cougars called on an alumnus, Troy Norton, to take over when Magnusson stepped down. It’s Norton’s first varsity job, but he and his young team expect to have a steep learning curve in a tough region that ranked Cony and Hampden Academy as the favorites in the preseason poll.

CLASS D SOUTH

It isn’t very often that Rangeley coach Jeff LaRochelle can send an all-senior starting five out for the opening tip, but the Lakers have that luxury this year if they choose to use it.

More than varsity experience, though, LaRochelle believes the key to his Lakers improving upon last year’s quarterfinal exit is their commitment to defense and up-tempo offense. They will likely have to get through defending state champion Forest Hills, which will likely be favored again.


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