1. Two different teams from two different schools felt a sense of loss during the fall sports season.

Not only did Winthrop and Messalonskee high schools rally around their teams, so did their communities, and so did people from other parts of the state who were moved to help those grieving the loss of Kelsey Stoneton or Cassidy Charette. That spirit of community is why this is the Morning Sentinel’s top sports story of 2014.

Stoneton, a 17-year-old standout student and athlete at Winthrop High School, died from a pulmonary embolism on Aug. 2 at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Supporters gathered for a candlelight vigil and a memorial of flowers, cards and stuffed animals outside of Stoneton’s home. Within 10 days, supporters had raised thousands of dollars to help the family pay for funeral expenses and set up a schoarship in Kelsey’s name.

Stoneton’s death came just two weeks before the start of the fall sports season. She was a captain and one of the best players on the field hockey team, and players and teams from other schools expressed their support with cards, flowers and donations.

Before their season opener, the field hockey team retired Kelsey’s number 8 and unveiled a corner of the scoreboard dedicated to her memory.

“Kelsey is still very much a part of this team,” Winthrop coach Jessica Merrill said. “We will use her spirtit to guide us through whatever hurdles are in our path.”

On Oct. 11, Charette, an outstanding student and soccer player from Oakland, was killed in a hayride accident in Mechanic Falls. Community members, including Charette’s friends and teammates, gathered at Messalonskee High School the following day to console each other, then held a candlelight vigil at the Red Barn in Augusta and raised thousands of dollars to help other victims of the accident and start a scholarship in Charette’s name.

Charette’s team returned to the field three days later for their game against Bangor. Players from the visiting team handed out roses to each member of the team and coaching staff. That night, another candlelight vigil in Waterville drew over 100 attendees.

“We believe in Messalonskee, and our community has certainly lived up to the moniker ‘Messalonskee Strong,’ these past few weeks,” Messalonskee principal Jon Moody said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our staff, our kids, our parents and our community.”

2. John Winkin dies.

John Winkin taught generations how to play baseball. While coaching at Colby College, the University of Maine and Husson University, Winkin won more than 1,000 games. When Winkin died on July 19 at age 94, his legacy as the father of Maine baseball was well cemented.

At his memorial service in August at Colby’s Lorimer Chapel, Winkin’s influence as a friend and mentor was emphasized, and dozens of friends, family and former players took turns telling stories of Winkin.

“He was by far the smartest man I ever came in contact with in my life,” former Colby men’s basketball coach Dick Whitmore said, adding that Winkin was the greatest coach in the history of Maine.

Stump Merrill was an assistant coach under Winkin at Maine before joining the New York Yankees organization. Merrill managed the Yankees in 1990 and 1991, and credited Winkin with helping him advance in his baseball career.

“Without John Winkin, I question whether this would have happened,” Merrill said.

Winkin’s influence will be felt in Maine baseball for years. Husson’s baseball and football facility, the Winkin Complex, bears his name. Each year, the state’s top high school baseball player is given the Winkin Award.

3. Winslow wins the Class C football state championship.

After coming up just short of a title as Class C runner-up in 2012 and 2013, the Winslow High School football team broke through in 2014, winning the gold ball with a dominating 62-14 win over Leavitt in the state championship game.

The Black Raiders went 11-0 this season, winning their first state title since 2001. Winslow had just one game decided by less than a touchdown, a 26-25 come-from-behind win at Foxcroft Academy on Oct. 10.

The state game was a rematch of the 2013 game, and Winslow took control early. The Black Raiders scored 28 points in the first quarter and led 49-0 at the half. Senior running back Dylan Hapworth scored seven touchdowns in the state game and accounted for 300 all-purpose yards.

“We worked so hard for this,” Hapworth said on the field after the game. “So many practices. So many hours.”

For the next year, a Winslow jersey will join those of every other high school football champion from New England in a display at the New England Patriots Hall of Fame at Gillette Stadium.

4. Ian Wilson wins five state titles in one year, steps down as Waterville track and field coach

“Dynasty” might not be a strong enough word to describe what Ian Wilson created as coach of the Waterville indoor and outdoor track and field programs. After signing on as coach in the late 1990s, Wilson won 25 state titles as coach of the Purple Panthers. Since 2007, the Waterville girls indoor and outdoor track teams have won 14 of a possible 16 state titles.

Four of Wilson’s titles came during 2014, as Waterville took the boys and girls state championships in both indoor and outdoor track.

In July, Wilson told his teams that he would be resigning as Waterville track and field coach to take a position as an assistant at Colby College.

“The knowledge of track that guy has is unbelievable. He really knows what he’s talking about,” said Waterville’s Jordhan Levine, who won three state titles in the outdoor season. “When he tells us to do something, it’s without a question you do it because you know he knows what he’s talking about.”

Wilson stayed on as coach of the Waterville girls soccer team. The Purple Panthers were trying to win a state title, even though Western B teams had won 13 consecutive state championship games. No matter. When Wilson coached Waterville to the Class A title in 2008, it was the first state title in that class for any team north of Topsham in 22 years.

So Wilson was used to guiding teams that make history, and he did it again this fall. Pilar Elias finished with 37 goals and 24 assists. Lydia Roy added 23 goals and eight assists. Roy also scored in overtime of the state final, as Waterville defeated Cape Elizabeth, 1-0.

5. Messalonskee wins Class B ice hockey state championship.

Like the Winslow football team, the Messalonskee High School ice hockey team entered the season as a two-time state runner-up. On March 8, the Eagles kicked aside two years of being close with a 6-1 win over Gorham in the Class B state championship game at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.

“We talked about losing the last two (state games) this week,” Messalonskee senior Chase Cunningham said after the state game win. “We tried to forget them, but it’s hard to forget.”

It was the first ice hockey state championship for Messalonskee, and the argument could be made that the Eagles were the top team in the state, regardless of class. Messalonskee went 21-0-0 and took a 7-2 regular-season win over eventual Class A champ Famouth.

The Eagles outscored their playoff opponents, 22-5, including a 9-3 win over Presque Isle in the regional finals.

Cunningham completed an outstanding career, scoring 82 points for the season, to finish with a school record 251 career points, 100 goals and 151 assists.

6. Winslow wins Class C field hockey state title

Winslow’s state championship run actually began with its last game of 2013: A one-goal loss to Foxcroft in the regional final. With most of the players back this fall, the Black Raiders prepared for the regular season with a challenging slate of preseason games, then dominated the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B on the way to the No. 1 seed in Eastern C.

“Especially after last year, I thought, ‘Maybe it’s just not meant to happen,'” Winslow coach Mary-Beth Bourgoin said. “But I had to believe that with the crew I had coming back — they literally let it burn in them from last year to this year — they were pretty focused.”

During a magical season, Winslow beat three of the teams in the Class B regional finals, and also tied Eastern A champion Skowhegan in the KVAC championship game. The Raiders defeated Mattanawcook, Mount View and Dexter in the Eastern C tournament, then dispatched Lisbon, 3-1, at Thomas College to win the state title.

The backbone of Winslow’s success was a defense led by goalie Delaney Wood, sweeper Katie Smith, and backs Brooke Haskell, Ciera Poulin and Alyssa Wood. Winslow didn’t have one go-to player on offense, but players like Sarah Wildes, Natalie Greene, Mackenzie Winslow, Jess Greeley, Poulin, Haskell and others all scored big goals.

The state title was the first for Winslow field hockey since the Raiders won three straight Class B Gold Balls from 2000-02.

7. Skowhegan wins Class A softball state title

Skowhegan had three returning starters at the same positions entering the spring. Though the Indians always seem to be among the top teams in Eastern A, this wasn’t a group that was thinking championship.

“We didn’t have high expectations coming into the season,” outfielder Mikayla Toth said. “We were just thinking, win as many games as we can, and we’ll stick together.”

As usual, Skowhegan found a way to be playing its best as the weather got warmer. The six seniors on the team led the way, and Skowhegan’s high-powered offense featured Taylor Johnson hitting .553, Toth at .474, as well as Andrea Quirion and Eliza Bedard at .400. Skowhegan hit .381 as a team, and had a top-notch pitcher in Kaitlyn Therriault.

The Indians didn’t overpower anyone in the Eastern A tournament, winning three straight one-run games. The last was a 3-2 victory over Cony in the regional final, after the Rams had already beaten Skowhegan three times in 2014.

It was Skowhegan’s fifth appearance in the state final under coach Lee Johnson, and the first win. Johnson got to share Skowhegan’s 7-3 win over Thornton with Taylor Johnson, his daughter and a Skowhegan senior this spring.

“He was probably the happiest coach I’ve ever had,” Quirion said. “I’ve never seen a coach cry, and he started crying in the sixth inning — like, ‘We’re going to win this.'”

After much deliberation, Johnson decided to remain as Skowhegan coach, and will lead the Indians again in 2015.

8. Madison wins Class C softball state title

As long as Madison had Emily McKenney in the circle, the Bulldogs were going to be a favorite for the Class C title. This spring, McKenney was 19-1 with 0.54 ERA, while allowing just 48 hits and striking out 199 batters in 130 innings.

But Madison also had a stellar offense — one so good that McKenney’s .451 average was only fourth-best in the lineup. Kirsten Wood batted .493, Madeline Wood hit .453, Kayla Bess came in at .452, and Aly LeBlanc was also over .400, at .417. Madison also stole 76 bases, led by Bess with 21 and Kirsten Wood with 17.

The Bulldogs didn’t have that kind of stratospheric offense in the playoffs, but didn’t need it. Madison scored four runs in its final three games, winning 1-0, 2-0 and 1-0.

In the regional final, Madison earned a 2-0 win over Hall-Dale, with Madeline Wood driving in the go-ahead run with a triple. The Bulldogs beat Calais in the state final on an inside-the-park home run by Wood in the fifth inning. McKenney spun a three-hit shutout with nine strikeouts.

“It’s amazing,” Kirsten Wood said after the game. “We’ve worked so hard for this.”

9. Brandon Berry wins a title, then faces surgery.

Most of Bandon Berry’s second year as a professional boxer was a success. The welterweight from the small town of West Forks began 2014 on the roll he began in 2013, with nothing but wins.

On Oct. 11, Berry won the Northeast Junior Welterweight title with a unanimous decision over Eric Palmer at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. The win improved Berry’s professional record to 8-0.

Everything changed for Berry on Nov. 15. Berry injured his left shoulder early in a fight against Freddy Sanchez at the Portland Expo. Sanchez earned a technical knockout win in the fourth round, the first loss of Berry’s career.

Berry’s injury is a torn labrum, and he has surgery scheduled for mid-January. That will be followed by three months of rehab. Berry hopes to be back in the ring by mid-year, if not sooner.

“I’ll use this as a positive thing. The doctors tell me I’ll be able to do cardio the day of surgery. I’ll bring a whole new level to cardio. I used to go to the gym, and spend an hour on the bag or hitting the mitts. Obviously, that’s out of the picture,” Berry said in December. “There’s nothing you can do about it. You can be positive, or you can let it be a setback.”

10. Carrabec wins Western C girls basketball title

The Carrabec girls had never played in a Class C state championship game, and nobody really expected them to in 2014. The Cobras were 5-14 in the 2012-13 season and had reached the regional final only once — back in 1997.

With a deep rotation of players, Carrabec just kept winning, and completed the season with an 18-5 record and the Western C title. The Cobras often started a lineup of Hannah Atwood, Emma Pluntke, Jessica Vaillancourt, Macy Welch and Mickayla Willette. During the playoffs, those five players were complemented by a bench including Baylee Atwood, Liberty Chestnut, Jerzee Rugh and Kate Stevens.

Atwood was named Most Valuable Player of the Western C tournament, but the award could have easily gone to Welch as well. The nine strong players carried the Cobras through four victories in the Western C tournament.

Carrabec lost the state final to Calais, but it was still the finest and most memorable season in the program’s history.

“It was an incredible season. It really was,” Carrabec coach Skip Rugh said after the state final. “As it progressed, they became more and more of a team. It wasn’t a group here and a group there. They are one tight unit, and these are memories they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives.”