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Houlton girls win second straight state title (from Bangor Daily News Online)

posted Feb 27, 2016, 5:26 AM by RSU 29 Webmaster

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff
Posted Feb. 26, 2016, at 10:03 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 26, 2016, at 11:22 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The Houlton High School girls basketball team won the Class C state championship a year ago and became one of few teams to ever capture a title in a higher class the next year Friday night.

Sophomore center Kolleen Bouchard poured in 21 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds, both game-highs, as the Shiretowners beat Gray-New Gloucester 48-35 in the Class B state championship game at the Cross Insurance Center.

The Shires wound up 21-1 and Gray-New Gloucester finished at 17-5.

Houlton turned in an exceptional defensive performance, holding the taller Patriots to a 32.6 percent shooting performance from the floor.

“Our defense was phenomenal,” said Houlton coach Shawn Graham, whose team was tenacious in its player-to-player and also successfully pressured the Patriots full-court from time to time.

“They took away everything we did [well],” said Gray-New Gloucester coach Mike Andreasen, who noted that the Shires did a nice job fronting the ball and helping out on their entry passes into the paint.

“Our defense was huge,” Bouchard said. “There were times when we trapped and they wouldn’t even get a shot off.”

Natalie Hill had 10 points, four rebounds and four assists for the winners. Rylee Warman had nine points, four rebounds and four steals and Aspen Flewelling scored eight points.

Skye Conley had 13 points and six rebounds for the Patriots. Alanna Camerl had six points and six rebounds.

Bouchard not only scored and rebounded, she provided a steady influence on the court as she had the ball much of the time. She also blocked three shots.

Her rebounding was impressive because the Patriots had four players who were at least 5-foot-9.

“I knew I needed to get position and rebound because I’m the tallest player on our team and I have the longest arms,” said Bouchard, who is Houlton’s only player taller than 5-9 at 5-10.

“She was the field general,” said Andreasen. “I had an assistant coach once tell me that you are going to win more games than you lose if you have the best player on the court. She was the best player on the court tonight.”

“She’s a very, very talented player,” said Gray-New Gloucester junior forward Isabelle DeTroy. “Whenever they needed a point or a foul shot, she came through for them.”

Houlton took the lead for good by scoring the last six points of the first half to break a 13-13 tie.

Natalie Hill hit a 10-foot jumper off a Kristen Graham pass, Bouchard passed to Hill for a fast break layup and Bouchard grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast to coast and laid it in.

Houlton outscored Gray-New Gloucester 14-8 in the third quarter to build the lead to 33-21.

Bouchard’s six third-quarter points were sandwiched by 3-pointers by Aspen Flewelling and Rylee Warman. Warman also had a top-of-the-key jumper in the period.

The Patriots never gave up and closed the gap to 38-33 with three minutes left in regulation on a Skye Conley basket in the paint and seconds later a DeTroy steal and pass to Alicia Dumont for a layup.

But that’s as close as the Patriots would get.

Graham called a timeout and told his Shires “basketball is a game of runs. They’ve had their run. Let’s get a couple of buckets and put them away. We’ve been in that situation before and we used it to our advantage.”

The Shires received a pair of foul shot from Warman and, after a Gray-New Gloucester miss, Bouchard grabbed the rebound and was fouled.

She made both free throws to make it 42-33 with 1:45 left.

DeTroy converted a Dumont pass but two more free throws from Hill and Hill’s basket off a rebound sewed it up

"Teen without arms finds his place on Houlton High School football team" (Bangor Daily News Article -September 26, 2015)

posted Sep 27, 2015, 3:46 AM by RSU 29 Webmaster


Ashley L. Conti BDN
(Ernie Clark, BDN Staff - Photo by Ashley L. Conti BDN)  HOULTON, Maine — A warm late-summer afternoon was like any other practice opportunity for the Houlton High School football team.

More than 35 Shiretowners methodically went about conditioning drills before turning to refining the plays designed to beat their next opponent, and their uniform look in practice jerseys, shoulder pads and black-and-white helmets served to emphasize the team concept rather than the individuals within the roster.

That’s just the way Isaac Lufkin likes it.

A 16-year-old junior on coach Brian Reynolds’ club, Lufkin loves both the collisions and camaraderie that come from playing football and is having an impact on his team, as well as its opponents, despite being born with no arms.

The 5-foot-8, 110-pound Lufkin serves as a place kicker and defensive nose tackle, seeing most of his duty at the junior varsity level but relishing the chance to be part of the rebirth of football at Houlton — where the Shiretowners started the second season of their reincarnation as a varsity sport with a 2-1 record heading into Friday night’s game at undefeated Medomak Valley of Waldoboro.

“I just like the contact,” said Lufkin, who also enjoys listening to Eminem and whose favorite player is former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. “It’s something that’s fun, and I’m just happy being on the team anyplace as long as I can help.”

Lufkin already has had a historic moment this season, kicking the first successful extra point of Houlton’s modern football tenure during a preseason game against John Bapst of Bangor.

“After the game when he came through the line I gave him the game ball,” John Bapst head coach Dan O’Connell said. “I said it wasn’t because of the fact that you don’t have arms, it’s about the fact that you’re doing what you’re doing and inspiring people — I know for one we are inspired by what you’re doing, so keep it going.”

The opportunity to play on the line for the first time in his young football career has added fuel to Lufkin’s determination not only to inspire but to help his team succeed.

“I’m getting better at it,” Lufkin said. “I haven’t figured out how to tackle yet, though, and I’m not very big so that’s a struggle at times.

“But I like being part of a team because you’re with guys who have your back and you can have their backs. It’s more just about having that trust.”

It’s trust his teammates, particularly his comrades along the line of scrimmage, eagerly share.

“His positive attitude is like an aura,” Houlton freshman lineman Dolton Nason said. “He makes the best of every situation and that just kind of spreads around the team.”

Getting his kicks

Much of Lufkin’s early physical activity was focused on developing core strength and flexibility that allow him to use his legs and feet to perform basic activities such as dressing himself and writing.

That, combined with the mantra “If I can’t then I won’t” stressed with him by his mother, Lori Williams, provided much of the motivation for Lufkin to develop independent living skills and become a problem solver.

That was accomplished without the use of prosthetic limbs, which Lufkin tried but opted against because he had become so adept at using his feet that artificial arms might hinder further development.

“I use my feet for mostly everything,” Lufkin said. “Other people teach me to do things, too, and if I see something done, sometimes I try to do it in a way that works for me.”

Lufkin’s use of his highly developed core and lower-body strength initially did not include organized sports.

“I never really did sports when I was little because people didn’t think I could do it,” he said. “I just kind of knew about them.”

He dabbled with soccer but by age 10 was drawn to the aggressive nature of football.

“Normally, I would be playing soccer, but football feels like more of a team game for me,” Lufkin said. “In soccer you help the next person you’re passing to. In football every single person helps make the play.”

Lufkin first concentrated on kicking and taking advantage of his leg strength, which led to worldwide attention as a high school freshman playing football in Providence, Rhode Island.

Using his kicking accuracy and knack for effective onside kicks that could be recovered by teammates, he helped Classical High School to the 2013 Division II freshman football state championship.

Classical High, ironically, had a previous armless kicker, Chris Schumman, who helped its 1963 team win a state title.

“Classical gave Isaac a shot,” Williams said, “and his passion for football kind of grew after that because they didn’t treat him any differently. They didn’t tell him he couldn’t do it.”

While the mere chance to compete was a significant reward, Lufkin’s story was featured on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” He subsequently was interviewed by television personalities Glenn Beck and Arsenio Hall and invited with his mother by the National Football League to attend Super Bowl XLVIII between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos.

While at the Super Bowl, Lufkin was visited in his suite by former President Bill Clinton, and he later received a letter of commendation from President Barack Obama.

“It was a blowout game [Seattle won 43-8], but it was fun,” Lufkin said.

Home on the line

Lufkin and his mother moved last October back to her native Houlton, where she since has remarried.

Lufkin enrolled at Houlton High School and joined the Shiretowners’ outdoor track team last spring, competing in the long jump and sprints.

“I was not very good,” he said. “I just wasn’t in shape.”

Conditioning was less of an issue when Lufkin joined the Houlton football program for preseason practices in mid-August.

“His leg strength and his core strength were definitely a benefit for him,” Reynolds said. “You can see how he gets it in how he dresses and when you see him put the ball on the tee. He does all of our exercises, sometimes he has to put his own touch on it but he does them all. He never wants to sit back, he never wants to be a spectator.”

While Lufkin had an established reputation as a kicker, he sought a more active role on his new team.

“I asked him what he wanted to do so I could help him be a better player and he said, ‘I’d kind of like to try the line,’” Reynolds said. “I said, ‘How about nose guard,’ and he said ‘sounds good.’”

Lufkin is joined by Nason, Jordan Hostetler and Colby Callnan along the front line for Houlton’s junior varsity defense.

“There’s really no difference with Isaac except he’s very quick,” Nason said. “He can get a lot lower and then hit somebody mid-body before they can react.”

Early in the season Lufkin’s quickness occasionally worked against him, particularly without a corresponding ability to wrap his arms around the ball carrier.

“He’s fairly quick,” Reynolds said, “so his first couple of plays on the line he just knifed right between the guard and the center and got in the offensive backfield and bumped into people, but they eventually figured out a blocking scheme for him and it went from trying to get past people to occupying people.”

That’s been one of the biggest adjustments for Lufkin, being content as a nose tackle with occupying offensive linemen so his teammates can make the tackles.

“Most of the time at this level it’s jet sweeps and outside pitches so I just read the play and if it comes to the middle I try to stop it and if it goes outside I try to get blocked so that gives someone else a chance to make the play,” he said.

Lufkin typically gives away considerable size to his opponent, but his response reflects how he has dealt with challenges throughout his life.

“On the third or fourth play of our [JV] game against Dexter he really got knocked over but he was right back up again,” Reynolds said. “I think they thought they’d knock him down and he’d stay down, but he doesn’t and that’s kind of the whole concept he brings to the team, that he doesn’t give up.”

Lufkin’s teammates readily acknowledge that contribution.

“It’s great to see someone trying to do stuff that people usually think they can’t do,” Hostetler said. “He fits right in with us and it’s helped us become a better team together.”

The relationship also has been valuable to Isaac Lufkin.

“We learn what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are,” he said. “Someone’s weakness might be someone else’s strength, so we help each other.”

MPA Approves Cooperative Hockey Team (WAGM TV)

posted Sep 17, 2015, 2:28 PM by Dewayne Morse   [ updated Sep 17, 2015, 2:46 PM by RSU 29 Webmaster ]

 The Maine Principals Association Interscholastic Management Committee approved a request from Houlton and Hodgdon to add Southern Aroostook and Katahdin students to the cooperative hockey team. 

    The request was made by SAHS and Katahdin Principal Jon Porter. The Houlton and Hodgdon School Boards approved the coop team and sent it to the MPA who accepted the request today. Porter made the inquiry because a student at Southern Aroostook had been playing in the Southern Aroostook Minor Hockey Association in Elementary and MIddlle School and wanted to play varsity hockey. Houlton Athletic Director Bruce Nason said Houlton and Hodgdon have run a cooperative team for over a decade. The team will continue to compete in Class B.

Houlton High School Recipient of U.S. News Bronze Award

posted Sep 8, 2015, 9:55 AM by RSU 29 Webmaster   [ updated Sep 17, 2015, 2:44 PM ]

RSU 29 students thrive after grade switch, say administrators (Bangor Daily News Article)

posted Aug 20, 2015, 6:11 AM by RSU 29 Webmaster   [ updated Aug 20, 2015, 6:15 AM ]

(By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff)  HOULTON , Maine— Despite a year of significant change in the RSU 29 school district, teachers and administrators within the schools said that students adjusted well and there were no serious problems this year.

“We really could not have asked more from our students,” said Candy Crane, principal of the Houlton Elementary School. “They really stepped up, adjusted well and they did everything that we expected of them. It was a great year.”

The numerous changes in the district, which serves the communities of Houlton, Hammond, Littleton and Monticello, were caused by the closing of the Wellington School in Monticello at the end of the school year in June 2014. The school board voted to close the school due to declining enrollments and rising expenses. Closing the school, which served 66 students from pre-kindergarten through grade three at the time, was expected to save the district $109,000 a year.

As a result, all pupils but the third graders from Monticello began this school year at Houlton Elementary School, approximately 13 miles away.

All the third graders from both the shuttered Monticello school and Houlton Elementary were sent across the street to the Southside School, which had previously only served students in grades four through six. That move led to the sixth graders being moved up to Houlton High School, which at that point had only housed seventh through 12th grade students.

Crane said that Houlton Elementary School had a huge kindergarten enrollment this year, with 75 youngsters, and a total school enrollment of 412 students. The administration did not have to make any changes to the facility, she said, and there were no changes to instructional material. She added that the district’s transportation director worked “very hard” to rework bus routes so that students from Monticello did not have to spend too long on the busses or rise too early.

“There was one or two complaints, but that is it,” she said.

At Southside School, Principal Cindy Peterson also said the entire school of 290 students worked together to “create a great school environment.”

“We spent spent a lot of time on team building for students and for our staff, because half of them were new teachers who had come from other schools,” she said. “We had an open house over the summer to ease any anxieties our new students had and their parents had. We seem to have gotten everyone on the same page so that everyone in the building feels like this is a family.”

She said that the biggest challenge, especially for the third graders who came over from Houlton Elementary School, was the lack of playground equipment. While the elementary school has a substantial playground, Southside has only aging basketball hoops, slides and tetherball equipment.

“The biggest complaint is that there is nothing to do out there,” said Crane. “There is fundraising going on to see what can be done over the next few years to get equipment there.”

Next year, however, there will be some changes, including returning to having students eat lunches with their peers in the same grade and ending a pilot project called “looping,” which had some home room classes staying with their teacher for two consecutive years in a row.

At the high school, Superintendent Mike Hammer said Friday that the sixth grade change also was a success.

“I think it worked out really well,” he said. “Next year the sixth, seventh and eighth grades will be on the same schedule and they will not have to be separated as much. The concerns that some of the parents raised about bullying and the sixth graders mixing with the high schoolers too much never materialized. I credit the principal and the vice principal for that. We were able to keep them separated, the sixth grade had recess at different times, and we were able to keep separate entrances for them, so there were few problems.”

At this point, Hammer said he cannot give a dollar amount for how much was saved by closing Wellington School, but said the district did save funds by closing the facility.

Houlton students give money to strangers, ask them to ‘pay it forward’ (Bangor Daily News Story)

posted Aug 20, 2015, 5:59 AM by RSU 29 Webmaster   [ updated Aug 20, 2015, 6:02 AM ]

(By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff) HOULTON, Maine — When parents take their children to the grocery store, it sometimes turns into an experience where the youngsters beg the adults to spend money on candy, sugary cereal and other treats that the family does not often need.

But when adults walked into the Andy’s IGA in Houlton on Sunday, they saw an entirely different scenario, when student council members from the Houlton Southside School decided to distribute cash to strangers as part of a random-acts-of-kindness project. The only catch was that the students asked the recipients to one day “pay it forward” themselves.

It was an initiative that Leanne Faulkingham, a teacher at Houlton Southside School and the student council advisee, said Wednesday that she was thrilled to have been a part of.

The school educates students in third through fifth grade.

“We had been talking for awhile about a project that we could do at the end of the school year, and the students came up with this and were very excited about it,” she said.

The money came from funds the students had raised in the school store, which Faulkingham said the youngsters were diligent about opening and operating every school day.

“We had $150 in cash, and the students’ goal was to hand it out to certain shoppers as a random act of kindness and ask them to one day pay it forward to someone else,” Faulkingham said.

The teacher said 17 children accompanied her to the store on Sunday.

“We had practiced for a while in the classroom about what to say when we approached people in the store with the money,” she said. Then on Sunday, “we followed [shoppers] around and kind of observed them and just handed out between $20 and $40 to people who the students felt might benefit from it the most. Most people were just shocked.”

Faulkingham said the project came about as part of a yearlong initiative about learning how to give back to the community.

“I have been so impressed about how these students have just given and given and given all year long,” she said. “Besides the school store, we have had a family dance, and the kids have taken that money and put it toward the fundraising campaign to build a desperately needed new playground here at the school, and they brought in more than $700 from taking part in the Bridge to Hope breast cancer walk, paid money to wear certain items like hats on hat day, sold popcorn, and done other little fundraisers. They have just been fantastic about giving back and being in service to others.”

What was even more satisfying, however, was seeing how their service on Sunday affected others.

“There was one man there that I knew who was with his son,” said Faulkingham. “I knew that he really could benefit from the money, as he and his wife just adopted two young children from the foster care system. He accepted the money, thanked the children, paid for his groceries and then gave the change to his son.”

The best story of the day affected all of the children, according to the teacher.

“The best one was a woman who was there, and she tried to give the money away to some employees in the store,” she said. “But when she realized she could not, [because of company policy] she just said, ‘I have to tell you that we just moved to Maine from Massachusetts and we don’t have enough cash to go back there and pay for the tolls to get our one last load of belongings here to Maine, but now we do. This must be a sign that we are really going to like this area.”

Faulkingham said the woman hugged each of the students before she left the store.

“I asked one of the students how that made him feel, the feeling of giving,” she said Wednesday. “And he said that it made him ‘feel all fuzzy’ inside. And that was the point, to teach them the snowball effect of kindness and generosity and how giving just once can go a long way.”

At the end of the day, the generosity continued.

While they had planned to travel from the grocery store to Houlton Farms Dairy Bar to use some of the money to treat themselves to ice cream, the students quickly realized they had given all but $17 away.

And even though they walked quite a distance from the grocery store to the dairy bar and were hungry, the students either ordered baby cones to stay within their $17 budget or students who had brought along money of their own shared it with others.

“It was wonderful to see,” Faulkingham.

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