PORTLAND—At the start of the 2015 season, Brunswick’s boys’ lacrosse team was highly touted and full of promise.
By the middle of May, the Dragons had become something special.
And Saturday morning at Fitzpatrick Stadium, they entered into legend by becoming state champions for the first time in eight seasons, denying South Portland an opportunity to repeat.
The Dragons and Red Riots christened the new turf on the state’s biggest lacrosse stage and as expected, put on a 48-minute display of skill and heart.
Brunswick, bolstered by a perfect record, which included confidence-building wins over perennial powerhouses Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth during the regular year, made an immediate statement when senior All-American Cam Glover hinted at a big day to come with an unassisted goal just 91 seconds in.
Senior Tyler Sullivan and Glover a second time beat South Portland standout senior goalie T-Moe Hellier to give the Dragons a 3-0 lead after one period and when Sullivan scored again, unassisted 32 seconds into the second quarter, it looked like Brunswick might be en route to an easy victory, but the Red Riots are proud defending champs and quick goals from unheralded senior Chris Mitchell and senior Andrew Whipple restored some confidence. A Mitchell transition goal made it 6-4 Dragons at halftime and the stage was set for second half fireworks.
When seniors Eben Babbidge and Kam Andrews scored in a 38-second span early in the third period, South Portland had completed its comeback, but the Red Riots could never take the lead and when senior standout Matt Brooks answered for Brunswick with 6:17 to play in the frame, the Dragons went on top for good.
The game then turned in the final minute of the third, as with 28.4 seconds to go, Brooks scored for some breathing room and with time running out, in the pivotal sequence of the game, sophomore defenseman Christian Glover stole the ball, raced in and with 0.8 seconds on the clock, fired a blast from his long stick which got past Hellier for a momentum-turning tally and a 9-6 lead.
The Red Riots were still within three goals with under eight minutes to play, but unassisted strikes from Brooks and Cam Glover opened it up once and for all and Brunswick put the finishing touches on its 13-9 victory.
The Dragons finished the year a perfect 16-0, can legitimately stake their claim as the state’s finest team, won the program’s second all-time championship and first since 2007 and ended South Portland’s title defense and excellent campaign at 13-2 in the process.
“It feels absolutely awesome,” said longtime Brunswick coach Don Glover. “It’s a great accomplishment for the program. To be in the top four is always our goal. To play solid lacrosse is a statement for us as a program. Winning a state championship is an honor. To do it with 16 seniors is a feather in our cap.”
Since going their separate ways following last year’s postgame handshakes, Brunswick and South Portland have been on a collision course, knowing that the other would stand in the way of this year’s ultimate goal.
The Dragons have turned emphatic victory into an art form this spring, only being seriously tested once and passing that test in glorious fashion.
Brunswick opened with a 13-7 home victory over visiting rival Mt. Ararat, then won by 20 goals (21-1) at Edward Little. After a 19-12 victory at Messalonskee, the Dragons romped at Oxford Hills (18-2) and at home over Cony (19-3), won with surprising ease at reigning Eastern B champion Yarmouth (14-8) and made a statement with a 12-3 win at Lewiston. On May 16, two-time defending Class B champion Cape Elizabeth came to town riding a 25-game win streak and the Capers left on a one-game losing streak after Owen Ginty’s overtime goal gave Brunswick a 15-14 victory in the best game of the year. The Dragons followed with a 16-2 home win over Edward Little, a 15-5 triumph at Mt. Ararat, a 17-13 home victory over Messalonskee and close with a 26-3 home drubbing of Morse to go 12-0 and earn the top seed in Eastern Class A.
Brunswick’s rampage through the regional field was even more impressive than its regular season dominance, as the Dragons won their three playoff games by an average of 20-5. After beating No. 8 Mt. Ararat by a 21-4 margin in the quarterfinals, Brunswick ousted fourth-ranked Cheverus in the semifinals, 18-8. After two relatively close regular season meetings, No. 2 Messalonskee was no match in the Eastern A Final, as the Dragons pulled away for a 21-4 victory to reach the state game for the second year in a row.
South Portland took its share of graduation hits, but with the likes of junior Jack Fiorini, Hellier and Whipple back, was still viewed as the favorite in Western A and lived up to billing.
The Red Riots romped over Biddeford in their first outing, 21-3, then handled host Cheverus, 15-6. After dominating host Marshwood (23-1), visiting Westbrook (17-5) and host Kennebunk (19-4), South Portland finally got a stern test in Saco, but Mitchell’s overtime goal allowed them to escape Thornton Academy, 8-7. The Red Riots then went to overtime again, at home versus two-time defending Eastern B champion Yarmouth, and fell short, 7-6. South Portland regrouped and had no trouble with visiting Deering (15-5), host Portland (12-2), visiting Bonny Eagle (23-2), visiting Massabesic (25-4) or visiting rival Scarborough (14-4) to finish 11-1 and first in Western A.
After a quarterfinal round bye, the Red Riots eliminated fifth-ranked Gorham by a 16-7 score in the semifinals and No. 2 Thornton Academy with surprising ease in the regional final, 12-4.
The teams had met just once previously in the postseason, last year’s 10-8 South Portland victory in the state game, which featured four goals from Duncan Preston and a dozen saves from Hellier.
That was the Red Riots’ lone prior state game appearance, but Brunswick has been playing in state finals since 2002 (see sidebar below). The Dragons lost that one to Cape Elizabeth, 15-7, but Brunswick won its lone prior championship in 2007 (holding off Portland, 12-9). Since then, the Dragons have fallen to Scarborough (8-6 in 2008), Portland (9-3 in 2009) and last year to South Portland.
Saturday, Brunswick started fast and with the game on the line, wouldn’t be denied its destiny.
Red Riots senior Lucas Michaud won the opening faceoff, but South Portland turned the ball over and the Dragons came out firing.
After Brooks shot wide and Hellier saved a bid by Sullivan, Cam Glover gave Brunswick the jump with 10:29 to go in the first period with an unassisted tally.
After senior Kyle Woodruff shot wide for the Dragons, the Red Riots got their first settled offensive possession, but Fiorini had a shot saved by Brunswick senior goalie Mitchell Smith, Mitchell bounced a shot over the cage and Fiorini was denied again by Smith.
Ginty, hero of the Cape Elizabeth game back in May, had a chance to make it 2-0 with 7:18 left in the first, but he shot wide. Cam Glover then shot just high in transition and Brooks missed wide.
Finally, with 3:38 showing, the Dragons got their second goal, as Brooks set up Sullivan for a shot which Hellier couldn’t stop.
A Brunswick delay of game penalty put South Portland man-up for 30 seconds, but its lone shot, from Fiorini, was saved by Smith.
With 13.5 seconds to go in the opening stanza, Cam Glover got the ball up top and unleashed a rocket that even Hellier couldn’t stop and the Dragons took a 3-0 lead to the second quarter.
There, the Red Riots got their offense going.
First, Brunswick went up 4-0 on an unassisted Sullivan goal 32 seconds in.
South Portland’s second man-up opportunity resulted in its first goal.
Mitchell, who has scored so many goals for the Red Riots this season, scored unassisted with 10:26 to play before halftime to break the ice.
After another Dragons’ penalty, South Portland capitalized again with strong special teams play as Mitchell fed Fiorini for a man-up goal which cut the deficit to 4-2.
Brunswick would respond out of a timeout as Don Glover clearly said something inspirational to his son, Cam Glover, who struck unassisted with 8:06 to go for a 5-2 lead.
Following the goal, Red Riots junior defenseman Nick Mezzanotte broke his stick and when he came off the field, he threw it and part of the stick wound up in the stands, which resulted in his ejection.
“He got a little frustrated,” said South Portland coach Tom Fiorini. “I have to be honest, I think the second unsportsmanlike call was unnecessary. I don’t think his throwing a stick gave an advantage or disadvantage to anybody. I think (the ejection) was uncalled for a in a championship game.”
The Dragons went man-up for two minutes, but Hellier robbed Woodruff and at the other end, Whipple got the ball near the goal, fell to his knees, then shot past Smith to make it 5-3 with 7:28 remaining.
Brunswick got the goal back at the 6:21 mark, when sophomore Josh Dorr passed to Sullivan, who finished (Hellier gambled and tried to steal the pass, leaving an open net) for a man-up goal and a 6-3 advantage.
With 4:40 remaining, in transition, Mitchell would scorein transition and the Red Riots were again within two, 6-4.
South Portland had a chance to draw even closer when it went man-up, but Andrews was robbed in front by Smith and Whipple shot wide.
After Brooks, Cam Glover and Sullivan all were just off target, Smith registered another save, on Michaud, and as time wound down, Fiorini shot wide and Michaud was again denied by Smith.
Statistics were pretty even in the first half, as the Red Riots had a 6-5 edge in faceoffs and a 19-18 edge in ground balls, while the Dragons held a 17-16 shots advantage.
Brunswick was able to maintain its lead thanks in large part to six timely saves from Smith.
South Portland completed its comeback in the third quarter, but Brunswick reasserted control by period’s end.
After Mitchell shot high to start the second half and Whipple had a shot saved, the Dragons appeared primed to take a three-goal lead, but Hellier made a sensational doorstep save on Sullivan.
At the other end, with 8:14 to go in the quarter, Fiorini passed to Babbidge, who beat Smith to pull the Red Riots within one.
Then, with 7:36 left, Whipple found Andrews on the far side of the goal and before Smith could react, Andrews finished and the game was deadlocked, 6-6.
If South Portland had grabbed the lead, it might have gone on to another championship, but Brunswick responded in impressive fashion.
Brooks, who was held relatively in check in the first half, managed to slip a defender and score unassisted with 6:17 to play in the third and the Dragons were back on top to stay.
“When I get the short stick (defender), I know I can usually beat him around the corner,” Brooks said. “At the beginning of the game, I wasn’t getting it too much. The opportunities were just there in the second half.”
After senior Tyler Hillis shot wide in an attempt to double Brunswick’s lead, the Red Riots pushed hard for the equalizer, but Fiorini shot wide, Whipple had a shot saved and Smith stopped another Fiorini bid.
At the other end, Brooks hit the post and Woodruff sent a shot wide.
South Portland then went man-up again, but its lone shot, from Fiorini, went just wide.
Late in the half, after a turnover, Christian Glover appeared to have a great look at an empty net, but Hellier scrambled back to make the stop.
The save had consequences, however, as junior defenseman Brian Elsemore was shaken up on the play and didn’t return, further weakening the Red Riots’ defense which was already without Mezzanotte.
After Hellier saved a shot from Brooks, it appeared there wouldn’t be much separation between the teams going to the fourth, but in the final 30 seconds, the Dragons turned the tide for good.
First, with 28.4 seconds to go, Brooks again scored unassisted.
South Portland won the ensuing faceoff and looked to answer, but Christian Glover forced a turnover, pounced on the ground ball, raced into the offensive end and with time about to expire, he fired a rocket past Hellier.
With just 0.8 seconds showing, Brunswick had a 9-6 lead and all the momentum.
“I saw time running down and I heard, ‘Green!’ from the coaches, which means go, and I just gave my all,” Christian Glover said. “Luckily, it went in. I’m pretty comfortable with the ball. We rode the wave going into the fourth quarter.”
“I was the first guy to run and jump on him,” Cam Glover said. “It was a great thing.”
“(Christian’s) an exceptional player,” Don Glover added. “(He and Cam are) different in their own way. Christian was an attackman at one point. He switched to LSM. He’s a gifted longstick middie. He’s stepped up. That the m.o. of our team. You can focus on one piece of our team and another steps up.”
To their credit, the Red Riots fought hard down the stretch, but the Dragons weren’t about to let it slip away.
After Whipple hit the post and Smith denied Fiorini, Brunswick went up 10-6 on an unassisted goal from Cam Glover. Hellier saved a shot from Dragons senior Ryan Croatti to keep hope alive and after going man-up, South Portland pulled within 10-7 when Fiorini set up Mitchell with 7:52 to play.
The Red Riots weren’t able to build on that goal, however, as 45 seconds later, Brooks scored again unassisted and with 5:19 left, Cam Glover scored his fifth and final goal, also unassisted, to make it 12-7 and push South Portland to the brink.
Whipple got a goal back, unassisted, 40 seconds later, but with 3:55 to play, Brooks scored unassisted and while the Red Riots got a final goal with 50.9 seconds remaining (Andrews from Whipple) it was nowhere near enough
The final horn sounded at 11:37 a.m. and after so many close calls in recent seasons, Brunswick finally had its championship, 13-9.
“I’m so excited to bring the title back to Brunswick, it’s a surreal feeling,” Cam Glover said. “Credit to South Portland. They’re a great team. We knew what we had to do in the offseason. The 16 seniors pushed each other. We had to produce and get better game-by-game. Luckily, it came down to today and we produced. It was a great team win. A good start was hugely important. We made runs, they made runs. At the end, we had to play better as a team and produce on the scoreboard.”
“It means everything,” Brooks said. “We knew we’d come here and leave it all on the field and I think we did. It was a dogfight the whole game. Everybody stepped up today. Our goalie, our defense, our attackmen, our middies.”
“Going into a game with 16 motivated seniors, I knew we had the confidence, depth and conditioning,” Don Glover added. “Our style of play is transition and we tried to capitalize on it. Second half, we rebounded after the tie, refocused, dug in and played our game. I wouldn’t say it was avenging last year, I’d say it was familiarity. Last year, sitting and waiting gave us a stale first half and in the second half, we played very well. Today, playing the 10 a.m. game with no games before us was like a normal game. The kids focused from the get-go.”
Cam Glover led all players with five goals.
“Cam is so quick,” Tom Fiorini said. “His footwork is so quick. He’s a smart lacrosse player. His lacrosse IQ is high. I suspect he’ll have a lot of success at Springfield College next year.”
Brooks finished with four goals and also had an assist. Sullivan scored three times and Christian Glover added one pivotal goal. Dorr also had an assist.
“We’ve got a ton of great scorers, Matt, Tyler Sullivan, all of our attack,” Cam Glover said. “One guy would step up, then another would step up. It’s hard to defend a team with multiple scorers.”
Smith stopped 12 shots and enjoyed a great defensive effort in front of him.
“We did it as a team,” Christian Glover said. “We worked as a unit and communicated. We worked our hardest for ground balls. (Mitchell’s) incredible. He doesn’t get as much credit as he should. He’s always there to keep us in games.”
The Dragons had a 38-35 edge in ground balls. They were paced by seven from Woodruff, six from Brooks and five from Christian Glover. Brunswick overcame 18 turnovers.
Don Glover was emotional after the game when asked what it meant to win a championship coaching his sons.
“Having the boys on the team working hard for this for a long time is a special moment,” he said.
The Glover boys echoed that sentiment.
“It’s even better playing for Brunswick lacrosse with those two,” Cam Glover said. “It’s a bonus.”
“It means a lot having them at home and on the field,” Christian Glover said. “I like it. It works out.”
South Portland got three goals from Mitchell, two apiece from Andrews and Whipple and one each from Babbidge and Fiorini. Fiorini and Whipple both had two assists, while Mitchell added one. Hellier made eight saves in his swan song. Michaud won 13 of 24 faceoffs and collected a game-high 10 ground balls. Hellier finished with six. The Red Riots had a 40-35 shots advantage (shots on cage were even, 21-21) and committed a respectable 15 turnovers, but ultimately, were left frustrated.
“(Brunswick’s) a great team,” Tom Fiorini said. “They’re deep, they’re well coached. They played a little smarter and a little harder than us today. They did a great job. We had that lost stick and that hurt us in the middle of the field and when Brian went down, I was down to a freshman and a sophomore and a sophomore who had never really played longpole before and that made a big difference in the second half.
“I have to give my kids a lot of credit for staying after it and not giving up until the last whistle. I thought at 10-7 we could still make a run. We had plenty of time. I know we can put the ball in the cage. We just didn’t shoot well today. They had a good game plan and we fell short. I knew how good Brunswick is. I knew it would be tough from the get-go. I knew we needed a little luck. We didn’t have it today. It was a good run. I’m pretty happy.”
South Portland graduates an accomplished senior core, which includes Andrews, Babbidge, Michaud, Mitchell, Whipple, defensive stalwart Trent Lloyd-Rees, Kyle Halvorsen, Brett Soucy and the finest goalie in program history, Hellier.
The 2016 Red Riots will build around Jack Fiorini and hope to get back to the big stage.
“I have a good core of kids coming back and nice group coming in, but I’m going miss my seniors,” Tom Fiorini said. “I’ve had those kids since third grade. It’s been a long, fun relationship.”
Brunswick will be decimated by graduation, as 16 special players depart.
“(The seniors have) meant an incredible amount to the program,” Don Glover said. They’ve travelled to Lake Placid to play. They’ve done all the little stuff together. (Winning states was) great for them.”
Despite the losses, this program will reload and make a run at another championship next spring.
“We’ll need some players to step up since we’re losing 16 seniors,” Christian Glover said. “With our coaching staff, I think we can do it.”
“We have depth in the program,” Don Glover said. “Our two eighth grade teams will look at those guys leaving and they’ll want what they had. There’s a lot of kids who have been waiting. It will be their time in the limelight.”
Brunswick senior Matt Brooks scores one of his four goals.
Brunswick senior Cam Glover is watched by South Portland senior Chris Mitchell and senior goalie T-Moe Hellier.
Brunswick sophomore Christian Glover plays the ball as South Portland senior Eben Babbidge hounds him.
Brunswick sophomore Josh Dorr tries to slow imposing South Portland junior Jack Fiorini
Brunswick senior Tyler Sullivan shoots into an open goal as South Portland senior goalie T-Moe Hellier can’t respond. Sullivan had three goals in the win.
South Portland senior Chris Mitchell goes airborne to shoot over Brunswick sophomore Christian Glover.
Brunswick junior Jon Snell defends South Portland senior Andrew Whipple as Dragons senior goalie Mitchell Smith looks on.
South Portland celebrates one of its nine goals.
South Portland senior captains (from left) Andrew Whipple, T-Moe Hellier and Chris Mitchell receive the runner-up trophy. The Red Riots valiantly battled back from a four-goal deficit, but couldn’t repeat.
To the victor goes to the spoils and the Dragons were happy to show off the championship trophy following Saturday’s win.
A sea of orange-clad Brunswick fans had a lot to get excited about Saturday.
Scarborough 8 Brunswick 6
Brunswick 12 Portland 9
Cape Elizabeth 15 Brunswick 7
Brunswick’s boys’ lacrosse team celebrates its 13-9 win over South Portland in Saturday’s Class A Final. The Dragons avenged last year’s state game loss, won their second championship and first since 2007 with a superb 48-minute effort.
Jason Veilleux photos
More photos below.
B- 3 3 3 4- 13
SP- 0 4 2 3- 9
10:29 B Ca. Glover (unassisted)
3:38 B Sullivan (Brooks)
13.5 B Ca. Glover (unassisted)
11:28 B Sullivan (unassisted)
10:26 SP Mitchell (unassisted) (MAN-UP)
10:03 SP Fiorini (Mitchell) (MAN-UP)
8:06 B Ca. Glover (unassisted)
7:28 SP Whipple (unassisted) (MAN-DOWN)
6:21 B Sullivan (Dorr) (MAN-UP)
4:40 SP Mitchell (unassisted)
8:14 SP Babbidge (Fiorini)
7:36 SP Andrews (Whipple)
6:17 B Brooks (unassisted)
28.4 B Brooks (unassisted)
0.8 B Ch. Glover (unassisted)
9:07 B Ca. Glover (unassisted)
7:52 SP Mitchell (Fiorini) (MAN-UP)
7:07 B Brooks (unassisted)
5:19 B Ca. Glover (unassisted)
4:39 SP Whipple (unassisted)
3:55 B Brooks (unassisted)
50.9 SP Andrews (Whipple)
B- Ca. Glover 5, Brooks 4, Sullivan 3, Ch. Glover 1
SP- Mitchell 3, Andrews, Whipple 2, Babbidge, Fiorini 1
B- Brooks, Dorr 1
SP- Fiorini, Whipple 2, Mitchell 1
Faceoffs (South Portland, 13-11)
B- Schlosser 8 of 20, Brooks 3 of 4
SP- Michaud 13 of 24
Ground balls (Brunswick, 38-35)
B- Woodruff 7, Brooks 6, Ch. Glover 5, Schlosser 4, Ca. Glover, Rogers, Sullivan 3, Croatti 2, Ginty, Hillis, Kousky, Smith, VanVranken 1
SP- Michaud 10, Hellier 6, Lloyd-Rees 4, Fiorini, Whipple 3, Angell, Mezzanotte, Mitchell 2, Andrews, Babbidge, Nappi 1
Shots on cage
B (Smith) 12
SP (Hellier) 8