CAPE ELIZABETH—It appears that nothing, not even a slow start against a proud, determined opponent, is going to slow the Cape Elizabeth Express this spring.
Saturday evening at Hannaford Field, the two-time defending Class B champion Capers boys’ lacrosse team hosted perennial powerhouse Scarborough in a compelling midseason, crossover contest and it was the underdog Red Storm who came out hot.
Goals from Cam Nigro and Cam Thibault in just over a minute’s time produced a 2-0 lead, but Scarborough wouldn’t score again for 33 minutes.
That’s because on a night when Cape Elizabeth’s prolific offense had its share of trouble against Red Storm goalie Isaac Rico (17 saves), the Capers’ defense once again proved to be the team’s backbone.
Cape Elizabeth drew even by the end of the first quarter, thanks to a late goal from sophomore Owen Thoreck, who for the second year in a row, had a terrific game against Scarborough, and with 7:06 to play in the first half, sophomore Connor Thoreck scored to put the Capers ahead to stay.
By halftime, Cape Elizabeth enjoyed a 6-2 advantage and when senior Ben Shea scored late in the third period, the lead was up to 8-2.
The Red Storm finally brought their long drought to an end when Nigro scored man-up with 1:49 to go in the third quarter and while Scarborough also got the first goal of the fourth, the Capers slammed the door thanks to goals from senior Cole Caswell and freshman Finn Raymond and went on to a 10-4 victory.
Owen Thoreck scored four times, Caswell added three goals and Cape Elizabeth improved to 5-0 with its 24th straight victory, dropping Scarborough to 3-3 in the process.
“It’s good to be tested and to compete,” said Capers coach Ben Raymond. “Scarborough’s a quality team. They’re well-coached. They’re athletic. We’d much rather have competitive games.”
Over the past decade, the powers have combined for 10 state championships, with the Capers winning four in Class B in that span, including the past two, and the Red Storm capturing six in Class A.
This season, while Scarborough is reloading, yet dangerous, Cape Elizabeth is viewed as not only the best team in the state, but one that could perhaps by the time the year is through become one of the great squads in program and by extension, state history.
The Red Storm stumbled out of the gate with home losses to Westbrook (6-5) and Falmouth (11-10), then got back on track with victories at Thornton Academy (4-3), at home over Portland (17-0) and at Deering (16-10).
The Capers romped at Waynflete in their opener, 18-6, then held off visiting Yarmouth, 6-3, in a state game rematch. Wins at Kennebunk (16-8) and at home over Wells (21-0) followed.
Despite their proximity, the teams don’t traditionally play that often (see sidebar, below). Last spring, they met for the first time in five years in a countable game with Cape Elizabeth prevailing in Scarborough, 10-5.
Saturday, the Red Storm proved they could go toe-to-toe with an elite program, at least for awhile, as they rocked the Capers early, but Cape Elizabeth’s depth, talent and pride ultimately proved to be too much to overcome.
Just 2 minutes, 2 seconds in, Nigro finished a feed from Sam Ware and Scarborough had the first goal. After a penalty to Capers defenseman Noah Haversat, Thibault scored a man-up goal with 8:52 to play in the first quarter for a 2-0 advantage.
That would prove to be the Red Storm’s highwater mark, however.
Seconds after Capers junior R.J. Sarka hit the post (not the last time that would happen), Owen Thoreck scored unassisted to break the spell.
Late in the first half, Nigro hit the post at one end and Connor Thoreck hit the crossbar and Shea hit the post at the other.
Finally, with 5.9 seconds to go in the frame, seconds after Scarborough was called offsides, Owen Thoreck managed to beat Rico with a fortuitous bounce and Cape Elizabeth, despite being outplayed in the first 12 minutes, was back even at 2-2.
Rico stood on his head in the first quarter with seven saves.
The Red Storm missed out on a couple man-up opportunities early in the second period and the Capers went on top to stay when Connor Thoreck finished unassisted with 7:06 to play before halftime.
A mere 48 seconds later, Owen Thoreck took a pass from senior Andrew Kelly and beat Rico to make it 4-2.
In the final minute, Cape Elizabeth got some breathing room, as first Caswell scored on a rebound, then Owen Thoreck scored unassisted to give the hosts a 6-2 advantage at the break.
The Capers enjoyed big advantages in ground balls and shots, but didn’t lead by more because Rico had 10 saves.
Cape Elizabeth continued to add to its lead in the third quarter.
With 7:27 to go, Caswell got his second goal, unassisted.
With 2:40 left, junior Riley Pillsbury set up Shea for a goal to make it 8-2.
For most of the first quarter, all of the second and the first 10 minutes of the third, Scarborough wasn’t able to generate many shots, because it wasn’t keeping hold of the ball and when it did, the Capers stellar defense, featuring Haversat, seniors Jack Drinan and Noah Wolfinger and sophomores Ben Ekedahl and Peyton Weatherbie, smothered any looks they momentarily saw.
“We lost a lot of good poles last year to graduation, but we’ve switched over Noah Haversat and Jack Drinan, who have been great assets,” said Wolfinger, who is healthy again after seeing his promising football season ruined by a knee injury. “We played good team defense. It’s just a mentality. It’s great to have great athletes on offense that we go against every day. The level of competition in practice is why we can maintain our success. It helps translate on the field.”
“Our defense is awesome,” Owen Thoreck said. “Playing against them in practice, you just know they’re good. It’s hard to dodge on them, they’re quick on their feet. It’s great to have them.”
“Having that defense allows us to have nights where we’re not great offensively,” Raymond added. “They had very little possession after the first quarter. Our defense does a good job not just taking the ball, but getting the ball upfield.”
Finally, with 1:49 to go in the third, playing man-up, Nigro finished a feed from Braeden Kane and after 31 minutes, 3 seconds, the Red Storm tickled the twine, but only cut the deficit to 8-3.
Scarborough had a chance to creep closer late in the third, when it momentarily went three men up, but a missed shot turned the ball back over to Cape Elizabeth and the hosts retained a five-goal lead heading to the fourth period.
There, with 7:01 left, Kane scored unassisted to give the Red Storm faint hope, but Caswell countered that goal with an unassisted tally at 4:50. After Connor Thoreck, Shea and Owen Thoreck all hit the post, Shea set up Finn Raymond for a goal which brought the curtain down on the 10-4 victory.
“It feels great to come out and compete with a good team and come out with a ‘W,'” Wolfinger said. “I feel good about our guys. We’re improving each week. It was just nerves coming out in a good game, but we settled down. We were never shaken. We kept our heads up and we knew if we kept shooting, they’d go in.”
Cape Elizabeth was led by Owen Thoreck, who scored four times. Thoreck also had two key goals in last year’s win over Scarborough.
“We stuck to our plays, got the ball to the shorty and dodged on their shorty and it worked out,” Thoreck said. “The fans were out and I love hearing them.”
Caswell had three goals and played a solid all-around game.
“Cole was outstanding in every aspect,” Ben Raymond said. “From ground balls to playing good defense and when he scores goals, that’s just a bonus. He had nice goals tonight.”
Finn Raymond, Shea and Connor Thoreck also scored goals. Kelly, Pillsbury and Shea each had one assist. Narvaez only had to make two saves.
The Capers enjoyed a commanding 56-25 advantage in ground balls, as Drinan had a game-high eight and Owen Thoreck finished with six. Cape Elizabeth overcame 16 turnovers and outshot Scarborough, 43-26 (27-6 on cage).
“(Scarborough) did a good job,” Ben Raymond said. “Their goalie played really, really well. Their defense did a nice job at the beginning creating problems for our offensive players. We were a little out of control at the beginning. I’d rather see the score higher with all the shots we had. We had the 35-40 shots we want to get to, but we didn’t convert as much.”
Scarborough got two goals from Nigro and one apiece from Kane and Thibault. Kane and Ware each had one assist. Rico dazzled with 17 saves.
“Rico stood on his head tonight and played terrific and the defense played really well in front of him, but eventually, shots are going to go in because they have terrific players,” said Red Storm coach Joe Hezlep. “Rico’s always been a very solid goalie. What’s different is how well he commands the defense. He and Kevin Caldwell are always talking back there and keeping us together as a unit.”
Nate Howard won 7 of 10 faceoffs (each team won nine) and led the Red Storm in ground balls with six. Scarborough turned the ball over 28 times.
“It never really got discouraging,” Hezlep said. “The mistakes we were making were mistakes we could fix at halftime. It’s not like we had to go to practice. It’s just execution and Cape’s just crisper in the things they do. They’re really good. A lot of their really talented players are young. Their continued maturity will help them develop. We could have done a better job. We didn’t give ourselves enough of a chance time-of-possession-wise.”
Scarborough gets to play its next three games at home. Wednesday, the Red Storm welcome Cheverus. The following week, Windham and Marshwood pay visits. After going to Gorham and hosting Biddeford, Scarborough closes with a compelling showdown at defending Class A champion South Portland June 2.
Don’t be surprised if the Red Storm are clicking on all cylinders by the time the games mean the most.
“We have some good days and some bad days, but we’re definitely having more good days,” said Hezlep. “We have to make sure the bad days go away and we take care of our business.”
Cape Elizabeth has a brutal week upcoming, as it goes to rival Falmouth Tuesday, then travels to Bowdoin College Saturday morning to face reigning Eastern A champion Brunswick.
“You better believe we’re looking forward to Falmouth,” said Owen Thoreck. “Their offense is very good. We’ll get a good game.”
“(Falmouth’s) playing well,” Raymond said. “They’re a team that’s improving. They’ll definitely be fired up. It should be fun.”
After hosting Greely and York, the Capers visit North Yarmouth and Yarmouth, then close at home June 2 against Falmouth.
While Cape Elizabeth again has that championship look, the Capers know they still need to get better.
“We have a target on our back and it’s up to us and the guy next to us to keep up the intensity in practice every day,” Wolfinger said. “We’ve been able to rise to the occasion so far.”
“The guys are responding fine (to the expectations),” Raymond said. “It’s nothing really new for them. I don’t think they really even notice it. They know whoever shows up will play hard against us. We’er focused on us and we’re less focused on the other team. We feel if show up and do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be fine. If we execute the offense and the defense plays as it should, it doesn’t matter what the other team’s best players do.”
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Connor Thoreck tries to elude a Scarborough defender.
Cape Elizabeth senior Jack Drinan does what he loves best, possess the ball.
Cape Elizabeth senior Griffin Thoreck looks for operating room.
Cape Elizabeth senior Jack Drinan defends Scarborough’s Nate Howard.
Cape Elizabeth junior goalie Alex Narvaez collects the ball.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Owen Thoreck sends Scarborough’s Anthony Quintiliani flying.
Scarborough goalie Isaac Rico stood tall all night, making 17 saves.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Peyton Weatherbie tries to keep up with Scarborough’s Cam Thibault.
Cape Elizabeth head coach Ben Raymond (foreground) and assistant coach Charlie Carroll share their opinion with the officials.
Cape Elizabeth junior goalie Alex Narvaez reminds the world that the Capers are number one following the victory.
@ Cape Elizabeth 8 Scarborough 2
West Region quarterfinals
@ Cape Elizabeth 13 Scarborough 1
@ Cape Elizabeth 14 Scarborough 0
@ Cape Elizabeth 15 Scarborough 1
Cape Elizabeth junior R.J. Sarka finds himself horizontal as a couple Scarborough defenders look on during the Capers’ 10-4 victory Saturday night.
Ben McCanna photos.
More photos below.
S- 2 0 1 1- 4
CE- 2 4 2 2- 10
9:58 S Nigro (Ware)
8:52 S Thibault (unassisted) (MAN-UP)
6:18 CE O. Thoreck (unassisted)
5.9 CE O. Thoreck (unassisted) (MAN-UP)
7:06 CE C. Thoreck (unassisted)
6:18 CE O. Thoreck (Kelly)
44.0 CE Caswell (unassisted)
24.7 CE O. Thoreck (unassisted)
7:27 CE Caswell (unassisted)
2:40 CE Shea (Pillsbury)
1:49 S Nigro (Kane) (MAN-UP)
7:01 S Kane (unassisted)
4:50 CE Caswell (unassisted)
2:33 CE Raymond (Shea)
S- Nigro 2, Kane, Thibault 1
CE- O/ Thoreck 4, Caswell 3, Raymond, Shea, C. Thoreck 1
S- Kane, Ware 1
CE- Kelly, Pillsbury, Shea 1
S- Howard 7 of 10, Jepson 2 of 6, Garber 0 of 2
CE- Raymond 6 of 14, Spencer 3 of 4
Groundballs (Cape Elizabeth, 56-25)
S- Howard 6, Thibault 4, Murray 3, Hayward, Jepson, Lagerquist 2, Caldwell, Garber, Guerette, Kane, Nigro, Tanner 1
CE- Drinan 8, O. Thoreck 6, Raymond, Shea, C. Thoreck 5, Sarka, Weatherbie 4, Caswell, Ekedahl, Haversat, G. Thoreck 3, Pillsbury, Wolfinger 2, Kelly, Narvaez, Spencer 1
Shots on cage:
S (Rico) 17
CE (Narvaez) 2