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GORHAM – Scarborough’s Sam Neugebauer heaped up seven goals vs. the Rams at USM’s Hannaford field on Saturday afternoon, April 15, leading his boys to victory in a season-opening rivalry bout. The Storm offense worked a ferocious number on Gorham’s defense, allowing Neugebauer to snipe point after point for a 15-9 final.
Scarborough head coach Joe Hezlep praised Neugebauer. “This is 12 years of me coaching Neuge,” Hezlep said. “I’ve known Sam since he was knee-high to a duck. He can get away with a few things the other kids can’t, and when you put it on film and see the results, it’s hard to argue with.”
“It’s a great learning experience,” said Rams head coach Dan Soule. “We’re early. We’ve had a couple weeks of practice, and we’ve got a lot of guys who didn’t even play varsity last year…We know we’re not going to be the same team in two weeks, five weeks; we know we’re going to get better, and, once we actually get outside on our field, we’ll get some better reps and some better prep for our next game.”
Scarborough kicked off the scoring with three in a row: Cam Thibault added the team’s first just under three minutes in, Drew Cusson added their second a minute and half later, and Mason Parks added their third less than a minute after that. Clearly, the Storm had caught Gorham a bit off their guard.
“We did a better job today of not settling for a weak shot, of continuing to work hard to find a better shot,” Hezlep said. “We watched both films from last year’s Gorham games, and we went over both shot charts, and we could see that if we took a bad shot against [Gorham goalie Carter Landry], it didn’t have a chance…He is so all over those, sometimes it’s not even worth shooting.”
“Carter couldn’t have done anything,” Soule said. “It’s the six guys in front of him, needed to do a better job of protecting him topside, making sure [Scarborough] didn’t get on top of us to get those shots off, which they did.”
Soule called timeout after the Storm’s opening barrage. He tried to settle his boys, and instructed them to fight harder. The pep-talk worked: When the Rams returned to the field, they promptly took control, settling into a comfortable attack pattern for the first time all afternoon.
Finally, with roughly five minutes remaining in the opening quarter, Dom Lorello put Gorham on the board, blasting a point past Scarborough netminder Dominic Joy from the outside-right. 45 seconds later, Ram Sam Burghardt – a key newcomer to the Gorham squad – escaped with the ball up the right side of the field; Burghardt soon dished forward to Lorello for a quick redirect past Joy. Then, with 3:39 to play before the buzzer, Chris Tucker capped the Rams’ resurgence on a quick, underhand scoop-shot.
Not for long, however, would the scoreboard read even-stevens. Neugebauer closed the quarter with a Scarborough pair, one from the top-right at 3:15 and another after curling around the Gorham net with a mere 6.5 second to play.
Lorello opened the second with a man-up notch for the Rams, keeping them hot on their visitors’ heels at 5-4 – but Neugebauer soon responded, completing his (first) hat trick. Brady Rioux for Gorham and Marco Manfra for Scarborough then traded points, before Neugebauer struck again.
Neugebauer, it seemed, was the straw likeliest to break the Rams’ collective back. Gorham defensive standout Mat Anderson clung admirably to Neugebauer all afternoon, but the Storm’s speedy ball movement and Neugebauer’s own ability to slink into open territory, receive a quick pass and fire with nil setup simply proved overwhelming.
“The matchup was great,” Soule said of Anderson vs. Neugebauer. “The issue wasn’t the matchup one-on-one; the issue was more the off-ball defense.”
“Mat Anderson is one of the best defenders in the State,” said Hezlep; “he does a great job on-ball. I think the big difference today was [Marc Guerrette] and Marco, who were able to initiate and [force Gorham’s] defense to have to help, and Sam was able to just catch the ball and shoot it…When he’s catching it and getting a chance to square to the net, he’s pretty tough to stop.”
Jake Dupuis added one for Gorham with 4:36 remaining before the break, but Neugebauer answered a mere 11 seconds later. Soule again called timeout. Shortly after the teams’ return to the field, the Rams went man-up on a hard Scarborough push to Alex York, but Gorham couldn’t ultimately convert and the score stood 9-6 at the half.
The third quarter belonged to the Storm. Scarborough outpaced the Rams 4-1 in those 12 minutes, prying open a 13-7 advantage on contributions by Neugebauer, Andrew Granzier and Guerrette. Gorham’s lone tally during the stretch came from Alex York.
Unless the Rams could pull a seven-goal rabbit from their helmets in the fourth, it appeared the day would go against them. Alas, they couldn’t, and it did: The teams split the final quarter, hashing two goals apiece – Scarborough’s by Manfra and the Rams’ by York and Cam Wright – for the 15-9 result.
“They kept doing what they were doing,” Soule said of Scarborough’s approach in the latter half, “heavy cuts from up top, moving the ball, going open-set and rotating in and out, which we didn’t react to well.”
Hezlep didn’t expect the game to end in quite the way it did. “I honestly think the reason the score got that way was because it was sloppy on both ends,” he said. “All three phases of the game for both teams, I don’t think either coach is going to be like, ‘That was a great game.’
“We happened to finish a few more opportunities than they did, but also, when you look at our roster, we return a lot of kids that have that experience, and they’ve got some guys just learning. Coach Soule’s going to do a great job, and they’re going to grow fast…but week one, this year, it might’ve benefited us a bit, just having that.”
Among the tactical keys for Scarborough was holding the Rams’ big scorers – including York and Wright – at bay. “We just had to understand where they were,” Hezlep said. “Early on, we did not do good job of that, and they actually created a lot of offense, whether it was them breaking a guy down and forcing us to help and we didn’t help correctly. But we settled down, went back to basics.”
“We needed to move the ball more,” Soule said of the Storm’s shutting down his big scorers. “We didn’t do a great job of running the ball and moving the ball, which made it easier for their defense.”
Scarborough jumps out to a promising 1-0 start on the season; the reigning State Champions (and the early favorites this time around) face off next at South Portland on Friday, April 21.
Gorham, meanwhile, slips to 0-1. They travel to Biddeford on the 21st.
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
Marc Guerrette cuts in toward the Gorham goal on the attack for Scarborough.
Scarborough’s Cam Thibault and Gorham’s Adam McKenney do battle.
Scarborough’s Sam Neugeubauer and Gorham’s Mat Anderson locked horns all game.
Storm defender Ryan McDonnell keeps close to Ram attackman Alex York.
Gorham’s Jake Dupuis faces off with Scarborough’s Mason Parks.