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Rich Kimball Rich Kimball
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The Sports Edge The most wonderful time

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The recent cool, damp weekend was a friendly reminder that the dog days of summer will soon be making way for fall and everything that goes with that in Maine. Some tend to view the autumn as a harbinger of what follows; I prefer to take a deep breath of that chilly morning air and celebrate what I think of as the best our state has to offer.

Maybe it's because I'm also a teacher, but I love September and October. The warm days, cool nights and brisk mornings with the smell of wood smoke in the air signify a new beginning - not only with school, but with the busiest of sports seasons.

High school students are already in practice mode for football - as well as soccer, field hockey and cross country. We're not quite at the level of Texas here, yet those Friday night lights (and sunny Saturday afternoons) are a wonderful tradition that draw generations of fans and bring communities together. Along with the older kids playing, our fall weekends are also filled with youngsters piling in the family car for soccer games which are, for many, their first foray into organized sports. Even a one-time mediocre cross country runner like me can't take in certain fall scents without flashing back to the high school trails of some four decades in the past.

If college sports are your thing, you need not travel far to take in some quality action. The University of Maine football team - under new coach Joe Harasymiak, the youngest Division 1 boss in the nation - is poised for an exciting year. The so-called experts have picked them ninth in the ultra-tough Colonial Athletic Association, but the smart money says they will be better than that - a team that no one in the country will look forward to facing.

Over at Husson University, veteran coach Gabby Price, who draws young people to his sport like no one else, has a ton of young men raring to go. Their goal? Nothing short of a trip to the NCAA playoffs.

There's great soccer and field hockey to follow as well, with UMaine's Scott Atherly and Josette Babineau each fielding teams that will contend for conference titles and beyond.

As far as the pros, wellif the reign of error of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hasn't driven you away, the Patriots get to find out exactly what they have in young QB Jimmy Garoppolo while Tom Brady whiles away his four game suspension. Meanwhile, the Red Sox - despite the clumsy efforts of manager John Farrell - should at least be in the midst of a pennant race until we reach the autumnal equinox.

I never want to wish away our too-short summers but, I'm also looking forward to the fresh start and the excitement that fall brings. For a couple of months, we can turn off the A/C without turning on the furnace, grab a sweater, get out of the house and enjoy what, for my money, is the most wonderful time of the year.

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