It might be the longest road trip made by a Maine high school basketball team. The Forest Hills boys and girls basketball teams open the season this weekend at Vinalhaven. From the time they leave Jackman at 9 a.m. Friday morning to the time they step off the ferry on Vinalhaven Island, it’s a five-hour trip, said Anthony Amero, the school’s boys basketball coach and athletic director.
The schools play a boys and girls doubleheaders, with games Friday night and Saturday morning, with each making the long trip every other year. The season-opening games between Forest Hills and Vinalhaven go back a couple decades, Amero said.
“That way, if we have bad weather, we have all season to get it done,” Amero said.
The Tigers will leave Jackman at 9 a.m. Friday, stop in Rockland for lunch, and take the 2:45 p.m. ferry to Vinalhaven. The ferry arrives in Vinalhaven at 4 p.m., and while the girls game is scheduled to tip-off at 5, it sometimes starts a little later if the Tigers need some time to adjust, Amero said.
Some players, Amero said, are more affected by the long boat ride than others.
“Some of the kids it does affect,” Amero said. “You can see it in their play… I have three sophomore starters who have never been out there before, so I’m interested to see how they do.”
The players will spend the night at the homes of Vinalhaven players.
“A kid may room with a kid whose parents roomed together 25 years ago,” Amero said.
Saturday’s games begin at 8:30 a.m., with an eye toward the 1 p.m. ferry back to the mainland.
“If you’ve got a lead, you don’t call a timeout,” Amero said. “Everyone wants to get on that boat. The refs let them play a little bit.”
The Tigers follow this weekend’s trip with a game on Tuesday against Seacoast Christian of Berwick at the Augusta Civic Center. Because the schools are a four and a half hour drive from each other, they agreed to play two regular season games on neutral courts. On Jan. 22, Forest Hills and Seacoast Christian will play at Thomas College in Waterville.
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The Skowhegan Area High School wrestling team opens the season Saturday with a meet at Westbrook High School. Ten schools will compete, including some of the best teams in Class A, Skowhegan coach Tenney Noyes said.
“It’s the first year we’ve gone to this meet,” Noyes said. “This one, for us, is huge.”
The Indians are one of the preseason favorites in Eastern Class A, and Saturday’s meet gives them a chance to wrestle against athletes from some of the top teams in the state, including defending Class A state champion Marshwood, and last year’s state meet runner-up, Massabesic. Perennial Class B contender Mountain Valley of Rumford is scheduled to compete at Westbrook on Saturday, along with Cony, one of Skowhegan’s rivals in Eastern Maine.
“Typically, we don’t see these teams until the state championship. This allows us to see guys we may face,” Noyes said.
Saturday’s meet can also serve as a barometer for Skowhegan’s wrestlers, Noyes said.
“It can be a very good gauge for what a guy needs to work on,” Noyes said. “It’s a long season. This weekend’s a good start, but a lot of things can happen.”
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For a high school swimming coach, one of the jobs at an early season meet is making sure the swimmers follow all the rules, or in the case of newcomers to spot, know the rules.
“Most of the kids are back to it after a lot of time off,” Waterville coach Bob Johnston said. “When they get into a real race, they tend to forget.”
Usually, the swimmers need to be reminded of the little things, like not jumping the gun on the start, or touching the wall with both hands on certain strokes.
Waterville’s season opening meet Friday at the Alfond Youth Center was moved up to start at 7 p.m. The Purple Panthers host Class A Edward Little of Auburn.
“Edward Little has a much larger team than we have, but we have quality, not quantity,” Johnston said.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242