PORTLAND—Most teams refer to themselves as a family and hope to win a championship.
Then there’s the Cape Elizabeth boys’ lacrosse team, which does more than just talk about being a family, it’s a literal family and once again is a team without peer.
Not only did the Capers feature the three Thoreck brothers (sons of athletic director Jeff Thoreck) for the second year in a row, but this spring, Cape Elizabeth’s roster included freshman Finn Raymond, son of longtime coach Ben Raymond, and freshman Ben Carroll, the son of assistant coach Charlie Carroll.
And this Cape Elizabeth family is becoming a dynasty on par with the Mings.
Saturday afternoon on the brand new turf at Fitzpatrick Stadium, the two-time defending Class B state champion Capers once again met rival Yarmouth with the big prize at stake and continuing a theme this season, Cape Elizabeth got the opponent’s best effort, but with a championship at stake, the proud Capers made sure they penned yet another inspirational chapter to their legacy.
The Clippers delivered the first blow, by scoring just 22 seconds into the game and later took a 2-0 lead as Cape Elizabeth started slowly. It took six minutes for the Capers to get on the board, but a goal from junior Riley Pillsbury got them started.
After Yarmouth stretched its lead to 3-1 on sophomore Bill Jacobs’ second goal with 8:22 to go before halftime, the Thoreck brothers got their team back in the game, as senior Griffin Thoreck and sophomore Owen Thoreck (from Griffin Thoreck) scored to make it 3-3. The Clippers weren’t impressed, however, and retook the lead, 4-3, on a late goal from junior Matthew Beatty to put the Capers behind at the half for the first time all season.
Champions elevate their game when they absolutely have to and to no one’s surprise, Cape Elizabeth flipped the switch in the third period, tied the score 82 seconds in on a man-up goal from junior R.J. Sarka, then went ahead for good when unheralded junior J Bottomley scored unassisted with 8:36 left. Senior Ben Shea added an unassisted goal to give the Capers a 6-4 lead heading for the third period and while Cape Elizabeth’s defense was its usual smothering self, holding Yarmouth at bay, the Capers couldn’t deliver the fatal blow.
Then, with 3:58 to play, Beatty scored again and suddenly the Clippers were only down a goal. Yarmouth got a chance to tie the score, but fittingly, Cape Elizabeth’s defense forced a turnover and the Capers ran the clock down to 15 seconds before Owen Thoreck scored to clinch it and Cape Elizabeth, for the third year in a row, went on to win the Class B state title, 7-5.
The Capers finished 13-2, won Class B for the fourth time, captured a championship for the record 19th time, beat Yarmouth for the 15th time in a row and ended the Clippers’ season at 12-4 in the process.
“Everybody thinks we just show up and win every single time,” Ben Raymond said. “But people don’t know what goes into it every day. I’m biased, but I think we probably work harder than anyone else in the state to stay at this level.”
Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth meet in the state final so often you get the impression the teams have a red carpet into the game, but it’s never quite that easy and both squads were pushed this year.
Yarmouth opened with a 17-2 home win over York, then lost at Cape Elizabeth, 6-3. The Clippers downed visiting Greely (11-6) and won at Lake Region (15-0), but lost at home to Brunswick (14-8) before flipping the switch, enjoying a 14-3 home win over NYA, eking out a 7-6 overtime win at defending Class A champion South Portland, holding off host Falmouth, 8-6, dominating visiting Waynflete (9-1), then rolling at Kennebunk, 10-2. After a 14-5 home loss to Cape Elizabeth, Yarmouth closed with an 8-3 victory at NYA to earn the No. 2 seed in Eastern B.
The Clippers were dominant in the regional tournament, downing No. 7 Winslow in the quarterfinals, 18-2, third-ranked Gardiner in the semifinals, 14-2, and finally NYA, the No. 4 seed, 10-4, in the Eastern B Final to make it to the state game for the third year in a row and the 10th time in 13 seasons.
Cape Elizabeth, meanwhile, romped at Waynflete in its opener, 18-6, then held off visiting Yarmouth, 6-3. Wins at Kennebunk (16-8) and at home over Wells (21-0) and Scarborough (10-4) were followed by a 19-11 victory at Falmouth, but on May 16, the Capers dropped a thrilling 15-14 overtime decision at Brunswick for their first loss in two years, snapping a 25-game win streak. They bounced back with a vengeance, defeating visiting Greely (13-1) and York (20-2), rolling at North Yarmouth Academy, 18-2, then making a powerful statement, riding eight fourth quarter goals to a 14-5 win at Yarmouth. Cape Elizabeth got an important wakeup call in its finale, losing at home to rival Falmouth on Senior Night, 11-9, to finish 10-2.
The Capers still held the top seed in Western B and after earning a quarterfinal round bye, they crushed No. 5 Kennebunk in the semifinals, 16-2, then avenged the Senior Night loss by pulling away in the second half to eliminate second-ranked Falmouth, 12-4.
“If we hadn’t lost those two games, we might not have been here,” Raymond said. “We learned a lot against Brunswick. They’re a quality team. We probably learned more from losing that game in overtime than if we squeaked out a victory there. Falmouth took it to us on Senior Night. That got our kids focused. We spent two solid weeks of fitness to get back in shape. The kids learned and executed on the field.”
Since the Maine Principals’ Association started sanctioning boys’ lacrosse in 1998, there have only been three seasons (2007, 2011, 2012) that either the Capers, the Clippers or both didn’t take part in the state final.
Cape Elizabeth’s dominance goes back to the 1980s (see sidebar, below). The Capers won 11 straight titles between 1987 and 2000, then took the crown again in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2010 and the past two seasons.
Yarmouth won championships in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009.
Entering play Saturday, Cape Elizabeth had beaten the Clippers in six of nine previous state games, including 7-4 in 2013 and 6-3 a year ago.
This time around, Yarmouth again hung tough, but again, the Capers found a way to celebrate.
Clippers junior Ricky Tillotson won the opening faceoff, the ball came to senior Joe Oliva and Oliva set up Jacobs, who beat Cape Elizabeth junior goalie Alex Narvaez for a 1-0 lead just 22 seconds in.
Yarmouth continued to carry play, but Oliva was denied by Narvaez.
The Capers then went man-up, but Shea shot wide.
With 8:21 to go in the first period, in transition, senior Henry Oliva fed his brother, Joe Oliva, and Oliva finished for a 2-0 advantage.
Cape Elizabeth didn’t panic and with 6 minutes left in the first, got on the board, when Pillsbury scored unassisted.
Late in the first, the Clippers were frustrated as freshman Henry Venden hit the post and Joe Oliva shot wide.
Just seven seconds into the second quarter, Capers senior defenseman Noah Haversat took a one-minute slashing penalty, but Yarmouth couldn’t capitalize as Beatty shot high and another Beatty shot was denied by Narvaez.
After the teams got back to even strength, Oliva shot wide, senior Will Garrett had a shot saved by Narvaez and with 8:50 to go before halftime, Narvaez stuffed a shot off the stick of senior Samuel Morris.
The Clippers finally solved Narvaez again 28 seconds later, when Jacobs fired a rocket top shelf to make it 3-1.
Yarmouth almost went up by three, but senior Tim Pietropaoli was denied by Narvaez and Cape Elizabeth’s offense finally kicked into gear.
With 6:06 left in the half, 20 seconds after Haversat shot wide, Griffin Thoreck made a quick spin move around a defender, then shot past Clippers senior goalie Connor Hoehle to make it 3-2.
The Capers drew even two men-up with 2 minutes to go, as Griffin Thoreck passed to Owen Thoreck, who fired a shot Hoehle couldn’t stop.
Thirty-five seconds later, Owen Thoreck tried to give Cape Elizabeth its first lead, but Hoehle made the save.
Yarmouth went back ahead, 4-3, when Pietropaoli set up Beatty with 45.7 seconds to go. Joe Oliva almost added another goal 18 seconds later, but Narvaez made another save.
That save paled in comparison to the one Hoehle made on Griffin Thoreck with just 6.5 seconds remaining, as he robbed the All-American right in front, and the Clippers had the lead at halftime over the Capers for the first time since May 28, 2010 (the night Cape Elizabeth started its current win streak against Yarmouth).
The Clippers won six of nine first half faceoffs, had a 23-15 advantage in ground balls and a 16-11 edge in shots, but couldn’t open up a bigger lead.
“You never feel good against Cape Elizabeth,” Yarmouth coach David Pearl said. “That’s a good team over there. They’re very streaky and capable.”
Just 29 seconds into the second half, Henry Oliva received two one-minute slashing penalties and the Capers pounced, as Griffin Thoreck set up R.J. Sarka to tie the score with 10:38 to go in the third.
“The halftime message was to continue the momentum that we felt like we had, but we came out and immediately got a penalty and it didn’t go well,” Pearl lamented.
After Shea shot just high, Bottomley scored his latest in a series of clutch goals, scoring unassisted after a nice move with 8:36 to go to put Cape Elizabeth ahead to stay.
“I think our heads weren’t exactly in it in the first half,” Bottomley said. “We had jitters. There’s a lot of pressure and that got to us a little in the first half, but we got rid of the jitters and we ran our plays. I’ve been practicing a move where I come around, throw a fake to Ben, then when the defender looks, I sneak behind. It worked perfectly.”
Jacobs almost tied the score in transition, but Narvaez made the save.
“(Alex) made amazing saves.,” Connor Thoreck said. “He’s awesome.”
With 2:19 left in the quarter, Griffin Thoreck set up Shea for a goal and Cape Elizabeth had a little breathing room, 6-4.
“There was some frustration in the first half,” Raymond said. “That’s been our biggest struggle. Not execution on the field, more execution in their minds. Not getting too high or too low. There’s always going to be another play. That’s the focus they have to have.”
The Capers wouldn’t score again until the waning seconds, but they had enough of a cushion.
Early in the fourth quarter, Hoehle kept Yarmouth within two by robbing Griffin Thoreck again. The Clippers then went two men-up, but Joe Oliva shot high on the lone opportunity.
After Cape Elizabeth senior Noah Wolfinger took a penalty, Jacobs shot wide.
Hoehle prevented both Owen Thoreck and Sarka from extending the lead and that paid off as with 3:58 to go, playing man-up, the Clippers pulled within one when Garrett set up Beatty on the doorstep and Beatty beat Narvaez to make it 6-5.
Capers senior Jack Drinan won the ensuing faceoff and after running a minute off the clock, Griffin Thoreck attempted a shot which Hoehle saved. Cape Elizabeth kept possession and Bottomley had a shot saved, giving Yarmouth a chance to tie the score.
The Clippers transitioned to offense, but in one final powerful statement, Haversat knocked the ball away from Pietropaoli and sophomore Ben Ekedahl came up with it.
Cape Elizabeth called time out and then ran down the clock as Yarmouth tried desperately to force a turnover.
With 15 seconds left, Shea, from behind the goal, spotted a wide open Owen Thoreck in front and fed him for the clincher.
“I saw the wide open look,” Owen Thoreck said. “I saw Ben behind and I yelled for the ball and we did what we always do. That did it.”
“As long as we’re setting picks and getting open, it’s not terribly hard to stall,” Bottomley said.
The Capers ran out the clock from there and once again got to engage in a wild celebration after a 7-5 victory.
“It feels really good,” Griffin Thoreck said. “It’s a relief to win and to keep the streak going. We build on our tradition in Cape. It feels good to win my last game and win with (my brothers). We struggled a little bit in the first half. We talked at halftime about needing to relax. We settled into our offense. Our defense had much better communication. We buckled down and got the win.”
“We executed and did what Coach had to say,” Connor Thoreck said. “We were a little nervous and a little stressed out. You could tell on the bench. After halftime, we came out strong.”
“We’re all relieved that it’s over and we did what we did,” Owen Thoreck said. “We didn’t think it would be this close, but we got it done and that’s all that counts. We’re happy, yes, but we’re relieved we’re not the team to lose.”
“It always seems like whenever we play Yarmouth they score early, then we get our heads on straight,” senior defenseman Noah Wolfinger said. “We never get down on each other. Being behind at halftime gave us a kick in the behind. We had to get it going. We expected to do as well as we did against Falmouth, but Yarmouth was bitter about losing to us before and made it a great game. It’s a testament to ‘Raymos’ and Charlie Carroll and their coaching. They always have a plan. If we execute it, we know we’ll win the game. Being able to year after year know you’ll be a top team, if not the top team, it’s hard not to have a chip on your shoulder.”
“We played really well in the second half,” Raymond added. “The defense really played well. The only concern we have on defense isn’t necessarily the other team scoring, more that we’ll get a penalty, because we’re so aggressive. The kids moved their feet and threw quality checks. We picked up ground balls. We got a little transition. Offensively, we got a few goals. (Yarmouth) did a great job. They have offensive threats. They’ve got good defenders and their goalie did an outstanding job. He saved at least four one-on-ones in tight.”
Cape Elizabeth’s offense was balanced, as Owen Thoreck had two goals and Bottomley, Pillsbury, Sarka, Shea and Griffin Thoreck all scored once. Griffin Thoreck had three assists and Shea finished with one.
“(Balance is) a tribute to all our kids,” Raymond said. “When defenders shut down our top players, other kids have to step up.”
Narvaez made seven saves. Drinan and Pillsbury collected a team-high five ground balls. The Capers turned the ball over 18 times and forced 25 Clippers turnovers. Cape Elizabeth had a 25-24 shots advantage (shots on goal were 12-12).
After the game, the family theme was resounding.
“There’s nothing better than playing with my brothers,” Connor Thoreck said. “It’s been amazing.”
“I’ve learned from Griffin more of how to move the ball and not just take it myself,” Owen Thoreck said. “You move the ball and find open looks. I love being part of the family.”
“It’s been pretty cool coming up through the youth program,” Griffin Thoreck said. “You can’t wait to be on the team. Ben and Charlie are great coaches. Owen and I are on the same line. Connor helps out. We can read each other and get to the spot we want to be.”
“I think we’re at the point now coaching where we’ve literally known these kids since the day they were born,” Raymond added. “We’ve watched them grow up. It’s a special thing to be such a big part of their lives. Having Finn do a great job on faceoffs as a freshman was great. I didn’t know if he’d make the team, but he worked hard. I don’t know what I’ll do without Griffin. It’s been 12 seasons together every single day. He’ll probably be happy to see me go and have someone else yell at him for awhile. We’ll miss him and every other senior.”
Yarmouth got two goals apiece from Beatty and Jacobs and one from Joe Oliva. Garrett, Henry Oliva, Joe Oliva and Pietropaoli had one assist apiece. Tillotson won 12 of 16 faceoffs. Hoehle made five saves.
“Connor was great,” Pearl said. “He made big saves. He always comes up big. I’m very proud of him.”
The Clippers had a 42-35 ground ball advantage, as Tillotson had a game-high eight and Joe Oliva collected six.
“Penalties killed us,” Pearl said. “Those conversions really hurt us. This game came down to possessions. They had more opportunities to score than we did and a team like that will score. The guys played really well. I think we could have beaten this team. I think we should have won this game, but I told them how proud I am. Some of the guys are disappointed, but I told them they’ll face bigger disappointment. This was just a game. This team got better every single day. They were a joy to be around.”
Yarmouth loses 10 seniors, including Hoehle in goal, both Olivas, Garrett, Morris, Pietropaoli, defensive standouts Garrett Flanagan and Sam Rouda, Luke Bray and Jonathan LaMourie.
“I’ll miss all the seniors,” Pearl said. “I spend more time with them than my own children in the spring and they’re like my children. I know we’ll keep in touch and they’ll be here next year to cheer us on when we play Cape again.”
Indeed, the Clippers expect to get back to the state game in 2016 and expect to find a familiar foe awaiting them.
“We’re a very young team, but the guys got great experience,” Pearl said. “Cape reloads and we’ll reload again. I thought the third time would be a charm. Hopefully the fourth time will be a charm. We’ll keep plugging. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t love it and I do love it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Cape Elizabeth will be hard hit by graduation, especially on defense where Drinan, Haversat and Wolfinger all depart. Caswell, Andrew Kelly, Shea and Griffin Thoreck (who will play next year at Lynchburg College in Virginia) will be big holes to fill on offense. Reese McFarlane and Devon Forde also graduate.
“We’ll miss Griffin, but he’s playing on an unbelievable team next year and he’s probably going to win a national championship,” said Connor Thoreck. “I can’t wait to go out and watch him.”
“The seniors lost to Falmouth in the regional final their freshman year,” said Raymond. “Every time they’ve been to a state final, they’ve won. They haven’t lost on this field.”
Weep not for the Capers, who will have Bottomley, Narvaez, Sarka, Connor Thoreck and Owen Thoreck back, among others.
Another title run is quite possible.
“We definitely want it again,” Bottomley said. “There will be pressure and it will be hard to live up to the hype, but we’ll buckle down all year and try to get better.”
“It’s going to be hard losing the seniors,” Connor Thoreck said. “They’re so good and athletic and talented, but I think we’ll come out and play our best. It will be up to to us to get out there and do well.”
“We’ve got a lot of good kids coming back,” Raymond added. “We want to be at the point where the kids feel the stress of not wanting to break the streak because it’s important to feel that.”
Yarmouth junior Matthew Beatty passes the ball over Cape Elizabeth senior Griffin Thoreck.
Cape Elizabeth senior Andrew Kelly defends Yarmouth sophomore Matt Dostie.
Yarmouth junior Matthew Beatty slows the progress of Cape Elizabeth senior Cole Caswell.
Cape Elizabeth senior Griffin Thoreck looks for a shot.
Yarmouth freshman Henry Venden lies prone between Cape Elizabeth senior Noah Wolfinger (18) and junior R.J. Sarka.
Yarmouth sophomore Bill Jacobs eludes Cape Elizabeth R.J. Sarka and scores one of his two goals.
Cape Elizabeth senior Andrew Kelly possesses the ball.
Yarmouth senior Samuel Morris is slowed by Cape Elizabeth senior Noah Haversat.
Yarmouth senior Garrett Flanagan defends Cape Elizabeth sophomore Owen Thoreck.
Cape Elizabeth senior Noah Wolfinger controls the ball.
Cape Elizabeth’s fan section shows its approval late in the game.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Connor Thoreck looks for someone to hug at the final horn.
Cape Elizabeth senior captains (from left) Ben Shea, Griffin Thoreck, Noah Wolfinger and Jack Drinan show off the latest addition to the Capers’ overstuffed trophy case.
Cape Elizabeth 9 Yarmouth 8 (OT)
Cape Elizabeth 15 Brunswick 7
NYA 13 Cape Elizabeth 10
Cape Elizabeth 10 NYA 8
Cape Elizabeth 11 Waynflete 3
Cape Elizabeth 16 NYA 9
Cape Elizabeth 16 Mt. Blue 9
Cape Elizabeth 11 Yarmouth 10 (OT)
Cape Elizabeth 20 Back Bay 15
Cape Elizabeth 16 Hyde 9
Cape Elizabeth 13 NYA 7
Cape Elizabeth 9 NYA 6
Cape Elizabeth 8 NYA 6
Cape Elizabeth 11 Hebron 7
Hyde 11 Cape Elizabeth 10
NYA 9 Cape Elizabeth 8
Cape Elizabeth 9 Yarmouth 8 (OT)
Cape Elizabeth 11 Yarmouth 10 (OT)
In a rite of spring, Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ lacrosse team celebrates another Class B championship Saturday after holding off Yarmouth, 7-5, to make it three straight.
Jason Veilleux photos.
More photos below.
Y- 2 2 0 1- 5
CE- 1 2 3 1- 7
11:38 Y Jacobs (J. Oliva)
8:21 Y J. Oliva (H. Oliva)
6:00 CE Pillsbury (unassisted)
8:22 Y Jacobs (unassisted)
6:06 CE G. Thoreck (unassisted)
2:00 CE O. Thoreck (G. Thoreck) (TWO MEN-UP)
45.7 Y Beatty (Pietropaoli)
10:38 CE Sarka (G. Thoreck) (MAN-UP)
8:36 CE Bottomley (unassisted)
2:09 CE Shea (G. Thoreck)
3:58 Y Beatty (Garrett)
15.0 CE O. Thoreck (Shea)
Y- Beatty, Jacobs 2, J. Oliva 1
CE- O. Thoreck 2, Bottomley, Pillsbury, Sarka, Shea, G. Thoreck 1
Y- Garrett, H. Oliva, J. Oliva, Pietropaoli 1
CE- G. Thoreck 3, Shea 1
Faceoffs (Yarmouth, 12-4)
Y- Tillotson 12 of 16
CE- Raymond 3 of 9, Drinan 1 of 7
Ground balls (Yarmouth, 42-35)
Y- Tillotson 8, J. Oliva 6, Beatty, Hoehle, H. Oliva 4, Dostie, Jacobs, Rouda 3, Flanagan, Pietropaoli 2, LeBlanc, H. Venden, J. Venden
CE- Drinan, Pillsbury 5, Haversat, Narvaez 4, Caswell, O. Thoreck 3, Bottomley, Raymond, Shea, Wolfinger 2, Ekedahl, C. Thoreck, G. Thoreck 1
Shots on cage:
Y (Hoehle) 5
CE (Narvaez) 7