(Ed. Note: For the complete Cheverus-Scarborough Class A state final game story, with additional photos and a detailed box score, please visit theforecaster.net)
Cheverus coach Deke Andrew (who’s been aided mightily in recent seasons by highly respected assistant Jason Hurley) has been as instrumental in promoting the sport of lacrosse in Maine as anyone, but despite having competitive teams, Andrew and the Stags hadn’t been able to reach a state final.
Until this year.
Cheverus not only advanced to the state final, where it fell short against now three-time champion Scarborough, but the Stags got there virtue of some memorable playoff victories.
After falling short of the playoffs last spring, Cheverus hit its stride this season, overcoming an opening loss at Deering to go 8-4, good for the No. 4 seed in Eastern Class A.
The Stags had little trouble with No. 5 Messalonskee in the quarterfinals, 9-2, then earned arguably the biggest win in their history with a 9-8 overtime upset win at Brunswick in the semis.
Wednesday, Cheverus avenged a regular season loss with a 4-2 victory at Deering to move on to the state final.
That one, as expected, was a 48-minute battle.
The Rams had won the regular season matchup by the same score, but this time, the Stags prevailed, thanks to 12 saves from goalie Colm Pusey and second half goals from Tom Lawson and Tommy Sullivan proved to be the difference in a 4-2 victory. Lawson also scored in the first half and Cam Olson had the other Cheverus goal.
“We just went hard the whole time,” Andrew said. “We never let up. We fought hard and got ground balls. The defense was smothering. We had a great game plan. Coach Hurley did a great job.”
For Deering, which finished the season 9-6 after a second straight regional final setback, Matt Flaherty had both goals.
“In the first half, we must have had a shots advantage,” said Rams’ first-year coach Jon Dubois. “We had possession 70 percent of the time. Colm just stood on his head. We got frustrated later when we needed goals and couldn’t score. They didn’t outplay us. It just didn’t fall our way. I’d have loved another shot at Scarborough in the state game, since I’m very familiar with their system.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way the boys performed. We had a good team. I’m happy the guys responded to the new systems. They went with the flow. We played the toughest Class A schedule. Our schedule and level of teams we play helped us in the playoffs. It was a great run. The kids were wonderful.”
Deering loses some key players to graduation, most notably Flaherty, top scorer Anthony Verville and two-time All-American Karl Rickett.
“Anytime you lose a two-time All-American, it’s tough,” Dubois said, of Rickett. “He had 12 goals in eight games and won 75 percent of his faceoffs. In a possession game like lacrosse, that’s tremendous. Kids like him don’t come around very often. Anthony Verville had almost 30 goals. Mart Flaherty led us in ground balls, goals and assists. He’ll be a huge piece missing in the midfield. Those three seniors especially are big losses.”
Despite the departures, the Rams are now used to competing deep into June and the 2013 edition will be heard from again.
“We’ll have a good squad returning,” Dubois said. “We’ll have closer games, but we’ll have a successful season. We have good guys coming up to fill holes.’
In the state final Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium, Cheverus battled the state’s premier Class A power.
The teams didn’t play in the regular season and had squared off just once previously in the postseason, a 12-1 Scarborough victory in the 2009 quarterfinals.
They last met April 23, 2011, a 4-1 win for the Red Storm at Cheverus.
Saturday, the Stags made Scarborough work for it, but the defending and soon-to-be champions controlled the second half and sealed the deal.
Cheverus came out confident and scored the game’s first goal with 9:56 to play in the first quarter when Brent Green took a pass from captain Spencer Amberson and beat Scarborough goalie David Pearson, who would play a major role as the game progressed.
The Red Storm drew even 37 seconds later when Jon Blaisdell shot past Pusey.
The Stags threatened to go back on top, but Amberson hit the post and Pearson made the first of his many impressive saves, denying Warren Murray.
Then, with 2:30 remaining in the first, Ryan Pallotta scored unassisted to make it 2-1 Scarborough.
Pearson kept it that way when he robbed Cheverus senior Cam Olson 24 seconds later.
After Pearson preserved the lead by denying Amberson with Scarborough playing man-down, the Red Storm took a 3-1 advantage on a crafty bounce shot by John Wheeler through a screen that Pusey couldn’t stop.
With 3:08 left before halftime, Cheverus ended an 18 minute, 48 second scoring drought when Tommy Sullivan finished unassisted after a turnover, but at the 1:05 mark, Pallotta, while fighting off a defender, managed to shoot and score.
As time expired (actually with 0.5 seconds officially to go), Lawson finished a pass from captain Colie Walsh and it was 4-3.
But by the end of the third period, the Red Storm had the game completely in hand.
Seconds after his shot was saved by Pusey, Wheeler utilized a spin move to shake a defender and scored at the 10:27 mark for a 5-3 lead.
Then, it was Pearson time.
Seventeen seconds later, Jack Sutton was robbed by the goalie. At the 8:40 mark, Walsh had his bid turned away. With 6:52 remaining in the third, Sutton was again denied.
The final 65 seconds of the quarter put Scarborough over the top.
First, Pallotta scored in transition to make it 6-3.
Then, with 33.4 seconds left, Blaisdell found Pallotta in transition and he finished again and just like that a two-goal lead had mushroomed to four entering the final stanza.
Cheverus not only had been flustered by Pearson in the quarter, but had turned the ball over nine times.
“(Scarborough) put pressure on us,” Andrew said. “The guys received the ball with sticks on their hands and that made it difficult to make catches. That’s their bread and butter. They make you make mistakes, but there were also plenty of balls we could have caught.”
The Red Storm made it official in quarter number four.
After Sutton had been robbed again by Pearson at one end, Scarborough took an 8-3 lead when Pallotta took a pass from Blaisdell and finished at 9:03. If that wasn’t enough, Pallotta assisted on the next tally, as Cam Loiselle beat Pusey to make it 9-3 with 7:52 to go.
The Stags got one goal back with 6:32 remaining when, playing two men-up, Sutton finally managed to beat Pearson after taking a pass from Murray.
Cheverus could get no closer, however, and lost, 9-4.
Green, Lawson, Sullivan and Sutton did the Stags’ goal scoring. Amberson, Murray and Walsh all had assists. Pusey stopped 10 shots. Sullivan won 7 of 10 faceoffs, Sutton 5 of 6.
Cheverus had a 55-50 advantage in ground balls, as Walsh led the way with seven. Amberson, Sullivan and Sutton all had six.
The Stags outshot Scarborough, 35-34 (20-19 on cage), but were hindered mightily by 33 turnovers.
“We came out strong,” said Andrew. “We had a lot of scoring opportunities in the first and second quarters, but it didn’t fall. Then, they started to take advantage of us in transition. They got a little bit of a run going and we couldn’t shut it down. The guys weren’t nervous. We came out loose, ready to play. We just made costly mistakes. I didn’t expect this at all. I felt like it would be a close game to the end. When they got a four-goal separation, we just tried to keep going and stay positive.”
Despite falling short Saturday, the Stags had a season to remember, one that exceeded the hopes of virtually everyone.
“Honestly, I thought from the beginning, we had a good team,” Andrew said. “When you mix young and old, with freshmen and sophomores on offense and juniors and seniors on defense, it takes awhile to come together. It just grew and got better and better all year. We didn’t made the playoffs last year and the program got to a place we’d never been. It’s tough to get to this point and come up short like this.”
While Cheverus parts ways with some key accomplished seniors, the roster is bursting with talented underclassmen who already have a state championship appearance under their belts. Look for the Stags to be back in this game soon.
“The future’s bright,” Andrew said. “Offensively, we have a freshman that put up 40 goals. He’s outstanding. We have a sophomore’s who takes a lot of shots and scores at the midfield. We’re in a position we’ve never been in before. We can actually have players hurt and still be fine. We’ve never had that kind of depth. That’s a pleasure.”
Cheverus senior captain Tommy Sullivan prepares a shot while Scarborough junior Chris Cyr tries to catch up during Saturday’s Class A boys’ lacrosse state final.
As he did so often on the football field, Cheverus senior Cam Olson hurdles a Scarborough defender. Olson’s heroics weren’t enough, however, as the Stags fell to the Red Storm, 9-4.