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Cheverus sophomore goalkeeper Harrison Bell makes one of his 12 saves during Tuesday’s Class A South quarterfinal at Gorham. Bell’s heroics weren’t enough for the Stags, however, as their season ended with a 3-2 setback.
Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.
More photos below.
GORHAM—A mere 13 minutes into Tuesday evening’s Class A South quarterfinal, Cheverus’ boys’ soccer team trailed host Gorham by two goals and was on the verge of getting run out of town.
But the Stags refused to go quietly, rose off the deck and made things very interesting.
The Rams went ahead, 1-0, on a goal from senior captain Sam Burghardt in the fourth minute, then doubled their advantage with 27:35 to play in the first half when senior Nolan Brown scored off a corner kick, but the hosts couldn’t complete the early knockout blow.
Cheverus got some life with 9:20 to go before halftime as off a corner kick of its own, junior Ian Haines finished.
Gorham again threatened to pull away in the second half, as with 24:06 to go, junior Brenden Waterman scored on a rebound, but again, the Stags roared back, cutting the deficit to a goal with 5:59 on the clock when junior Tanner LaFlamme finished.
Cheverus never could get a good look at the tying goal, however, and its season came to a close with a valiant 3-2 setback.
The Rams improved to 12-2-1, advanced to meet either No. 2 Falmouth or No. 7 Deering in Saturday’s semifinal round and in the process, ended the Stags’ campaign at 9-6-1.
“Tonight wasn’t our night,” said Cheverus coach Matt Andreasen. “We lost to a better team. They were a tough matchup for us, but the kids showed a lot of character coming back. They gave us an iota of hope at the end.”
Cheverus only mustered four wins in 2016 and missed the playoffs for the first time in 23 seasons, but this fall, the Stags returned to form nicely (see sidebar, below, for stories), posting an 8-5-1 regular season record. As the No. 6 seed in Class A South, Cheverus dispatched No. 11 Bonny Eagle, 4-2, in Saturday’s preliminary round to advance.
Gorham, meanwhile, as the defending regional champion, started with a pair of victories and after settling for a tie against South Portland and losing at home to Portland in a regional final rematch, won seven straight. The run ended with a one-goal loss at Falmouth, but the Rams won their final two to go 11-2-1 and earn the third seed in the region.
On Oct. 12, host Gorham eked out a 1-0 victory on Burghardt’s goal.
The teams had squared off four prior times in the playoffs (see sidebar, below, for results), with each winning twice. The most recent encounter came in the 2015 Class A South quarterfinals, a 2-1 Stags’ victory.
Tuesday, on a very comfortable 65-degree evening, which thankfully stayed dry, there would be more offense, but the Rams were able to hold on and advance.
Gorham came out firing, as in the second minute, sophomore Andrew Rent fired a low shot which Cheverus sophomore goalkeeper Harrison Bell saved.
Bell wouldn’t be as fortunate the next time, as Burghardt came racing in alone and while Bell tried to cut off the angle, Burghardt fired a low shot past him, into the net for a 1-0 lead just 3 minutes, 25 seconds into the game.
After Bell denied senior Kyle King and Rent and junior Kevin Mollison shot just wide, the Rams earned a corner kick and with 27:35 left in the half, senior Nick Sturtevant served the ball in front and Brown steered it home to extend the lead to 2-0.
“We seemed a little over-the-top in warmups, antsy and ready to go, but Gorham is an experienced team,” Andreasen said. “They have size and we’ve struggled all year defending set pieces.”
After Bell saved a Rent shot, the Stags finally got their first shot, but junior Michael Nason was denied by Rams junior goalkeeper Trevor Gray.
With 10:10 to go, Nason had another look, but Gray saved it, setting up a Cheverus corner kick.
The Stags couldn’t convert on that one, but they got another chance and with 9:20 on the first half clock, Haines got to the loose ball and banged it home to cut the deficit to 2-1, a score which would hold up going into the half.
Gorham had an 8-4 edge in shots on cage in the first 40 minutes, but six Bell saves kept Cheverus within hailing distance.
As they did to start the game, the Rams came out hot in the second half and were eventually rewarded with a third goal.
After Bell saved a shot by Brown, Burghardt missed high, Bell robbed King and King missed just wide on a header, the Stags tried to tie it, but a pass from junior Nolan Doherty to Haines was broken up at the last second by Gorham senior Aaron Farr.
After Bell denied Brown, junior Cooper Lyons and Rent (with a kick save), the hosts made it 3-1 with 24:06 to play off a wild sequence.
The goal was set up by the throw of junior Michael Knight, which was headed on target by King, but the ball hit the crossbar. Luckily for Gorham, however, the rebound bounced out front to Waterman and he finished to extend the lead to two.
Again, Cheverus battled back.
After senior Luc Dionne shot high and Bell robbed Lyons and Mollison, Dionne shot high again.
The Stags continued to pressure and with 5:59 to go in regulation, LaFlamme got to a loose ball in the box and sent it past Gray to cut the deficit back to a single goal.
Cheverus hoped to score again and extend the game, but the Rams turned up the defensive intensity and managed to control the ball and run out the clock on their 3-2 victory.
“These guys have been great all year,” Andreasen said, of his team. “They’re kind of a blue collar group. They’ve been gritty and tough and they work hard.”
Cheverus was out-shot, 15-6, but got 12 saves from Bell.
“Harrison is phenomenal,” Andreasen said. “He’s grown into his own as a keeper. What a kid he is. He’s like a leader as a sophomore. I’m lucky to have had him two years and I’m lucky to have him two more years.”
The Rams had a 4-2 edge in corner kicks and got four saves from Gray.
Gorham’s quest to keep its run going won’t come easily Saturday. The Rams lost their regular season meeting at the Yachtsmen, 1-0, Oct. 10. The teams have no playoff history.
The Rams and Deering played a thriller in Gorham Sept. 5, which saw Gorham score twice in the second half to rally to win, 2-1. Gorham has beaten Deering in seven of eight prior playoff encounters (with a 1-0 victory in the 2013 Western A quarterfinals the most recent).
After going from four wins to nine, including a postseason victory, the Stags had much to hail this fall.
“We made progress,” Andreasen said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Cheverus projects to be very competitive again in 2018.
“I only lose two starters,” said Andreasen. “Luc is a tough matchup. He’s a finisher and they don’t grow on trees. Chris St. John is a leader in the back. They’ll be tough to replace, but my junior class is very passionate about the sport. They love soccer. We have good sophomores back too. I think if we get in the weight room and have a good offseason, we can take another step forward.”
Cheverus junior Owen Burke throws the ball in.
Cheverus junior James Shimansky plays the ball.
Cheverus sophomore goalie Harrison Bell prepares to deny Gorham senior Sam Burghardt.
Cheverus senior Luc Dionne tries to get past Gorham senior Nolan Brown.
Cheverus junior Owen Burke and Gorham sophomore Ryan Farr fight for possession.
2015 Class A South quarterfinals
Cheverus 2 Gorham 1
2008 Western A preliminary round
Gorham 2 Cheverus 1
1986 Western A preliminary round
Cheverus 3 Gorham 2 (8 corner kicks)
1982 Western A preliminary round
Gorham 2 Cheverus 0