PORTLAND—It wasn’t exactly how the Cheverus boys’ soccer team hoped to end a successful regular season, but the Stags will quickly shake off Tuesday afternoon’s 1-0 loss to Gorham at Boulos Stadium and get ready for what they hope is a deep playoff run.
A momentary lapse just before halftime resulted in the game’s lone goal and despite some good looks in the second half, Cheverus never could answer as it finished the 2013 campaign 9-4-1.
The Stags will next take the field Saturday in a preliminary round playoff contest and they believe they’re in for a strong showing.
“We just wanted to get out injury-free,” said Cheverus coach Bill LeBlanc. “It’s unfortunate we’ve had a little tailspin of late.”
Cheverus has quietly become one of the top contenders this fall. After opening with a hard-fought 1-0 loss at Deering, the Stags knocked off visiting Marshwood (5-1), host Windham (2-0), Biddeford (1-0) and Sanford (4-0), then battled host Portland to a 1-1 draw. A 3-0 home loss to defending Class A champion Scarborough followed, but Cheverus turned around to win five in a row, downing visiting Thornton Academy(4-0) and Massabesic (3-0), host South Portland (1-0), visiting Bonny Eagle (4-2) and host Noble (5-0) before suffering a 2-1 double overtime loss to Westbrook Thursday of last week.
Perennially strong Gorham won its first three games, lost at home to Deering, 1-0, then captured its next four before an agonizing 2-1 overtime home loss to Scarborough (on a penalty kick no less). The Rams then played host Portland to a 1-1 draw and lost at home to Noble before righting the ship with wins over Thornton Academy and Massabesic.
Since Gorham joined the Southwestern Maine Activities Association in 2005, it had won five of nine meetings (with one resulting in a tie, see sidebar, below), including a preliminary round playoff game in 2008 and last year’s encounter (2-1 at home).
The teams also played in a pair of prelimnary round playoff games in the 1980s, with the Rams taking a 2-0 decision in 1982 and the Stags prevailing, 3-2, after eight rounds of penalty kicks, in 1986.
Tuesday, Cheverus was seeking its first win over Gorham since a 3-2 triumph Sept. 3, 2010 in Gorham, but instead, the Rams made it three in a row over the Stags.
Not much happened in the first half until the final 10 minutes.
First, senior Austin Bell directed a header that appeared ticketed for the upper netting, but Stags senior goalkeeper Charlie Mull leaped to punch the ball over the crossbar, giving Gorham a corner kick.
With just over seven minutes to go, a free kick from sophomore Andrei Vile from midfield when through the hands of Rams junior goalkeeper Matt Bennett, giving the hosts a corner.
With 6:04 left, freshman Tyler Richman’s blast was saved by Mull.
Cheverus got a corner kick with just under a minute to go, but couldn’t produce a shot and Gorham transitioned to offense and earned its own corner with 15 seconds left.
The ball came to junior Cole Houghton in front, who fired a shot which rang off the post, landed in front and was pounced upon by freshman Jackson Fotter, who sent the rebound past Mull for a 1-0 lead with just 4.8 seconds to go before the break.
“We didn’t mark up, we didn’t have a sense of urgency at the end of the half and they got one,” LeBlanc said.
Cheverus had ample chances to draw even in the second half.
With 23:10 to play, on a corner, the ball sat free in front before finally being cleared by the Rams.
Four minutes later, Stags sophomore Brady Levesque crossed the ball, forcing Bennett to sprawl to corral.
Levesque had another chance with 14:43 remaining, taking a nice header pass from senior Zach Poulin before shooting just wide.
With 10:45 left, a Vile free kick from 30-yards out was denied by Bennett.
A minute later, a one-timer from sophomore Mackenzie Hoglund went just wide.
With 7 minutes to go, off a corner, Vile sent a header just high.
With 3:30 remaining, off another corner, senior Nate Smith headed a shot on goal, but it never got through traffic.
Then, with 2:41 to go, a 35-yard free kick from Hoglund was headed out of harm’s way and the Stags wouldn’t get another look as Gorham went on to the 1-0 victory.
“Their defense is solid and we’re a fast team that needs more space,” said LeBlanc. “This is a smaller field for soccer. This year, we haven’t played well at home against the better teams. We didn’t generate offense, but we will.”
Gorham (which wound up 10-3-1) projects to be the fifth seed in Western A and will likely host Windham in a preliminary round playoff game Saturday.
Cheverus, meanwhile, will go in seventh and expects to play Westbrook, a little over a week following the overtime loss.
“We’ll play Westbrook and see how we do,” said LeBlanc. “Last time, Westbrook was playing for their playoff lives. They knew it. They beat us and we need to show up a little stronger. Maybe it benefits us having lost to them. I’m sure the boys will circle the wagons and we’ll be fine. There’s no tomorrow.”
Cheverus senior Isaac Yeboah gets a step on a Gorham defender.
Cheverus senior Nate Smith and Gorham freshman Tyler Richman get tangled up.
Cheverus sophomore Mackenzie Hoglund fires a shot.
Cheverus senior Joe Smith traps the ball.
Cheverus senior Jamie Biegel collides with a couple Gorham defenders.
Cheverus senior Felix Delvecchio runs past Gorham sophomore Erik Andreasen.
Cheverus sophomore Brady Levesque goes up for a header.
@ Gorham 2 Cheverus 1
Gorham 6 @ Cheverus 3
Cheverus 3 @ Gorham 2
Gorham 2 @ Cheverus 1
@ Cheverus 3 Gorham 1
Western A preliminary round
Gorham 2 Cheverus 1 (played at Deering)
Cheverus 4 @ Gorham 1
Gorham 3 @ Cheverus 1
Cheverus 0 @ Gorham 0 (tie)
Western A preliminary round
@ Cheverus 3 Gorham 2 (8 rounds of PKs)
Western A preliminary round
@ Gorham 2 Cheverus 0
Cheverus senior Jamie Biegel soars for a header during Tuesday’s regular season finale against Gorham. The Stags fell, 1-0.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.