PORTLAND—On a bitterly cold, sleet-filled afternoon not fit for man or beast, the defending Eastern Class A champion Cheverus boys’ lacrosse team began a new era in triumphant style.
Thanks to a player who was red-hot in the first half.
Junior Jack Sutton put on a show, scoring five times as the Stags raced to a 7-2 lead over host and rival Deering at Memorial Stadium. By the end of three quarters, Cheverus had a commanding nine goal lead and although the Rams came on strong in the fourth, the Stags emerged triumphant in the teams’ mutual opener, 12-6.
Sutton finished with five goals, Tom Lawson added three and Nick Schleh had two as Cheverus began the new year 1-0, dropping Deering to 0-1 in the process.
“We’re still getting to know each other,” said first-year Stags coach Bill Bodwell. “Everything’s new. New coaches, new players. (The guys) work hard and love the game. They’re smart lacrosse players. That’s been the easy part. We’re starting to feel more comfortable in our offense. We made good decisions and created space. We had good, hard dodges.”
Deering and Cheverus have established a nice rivalry of late and both have been in the title mix.
Last spring, in the opener, the Rams beat the Stags, 4-2, but in the Eastern A Final, Cheverus returned the favor by the same score. The Stags went on to lose in the state game to Scarborough, 9-4.
In the offseason, Deke Andrew, the only coach in Cheverus program history, stepped down and was replaced by Bill Bodwell, who led Lewiston to the 2011 Class A Final (also losing to Scarborough).
The Stags returned many offensive weapons and that potency was on display Friday, despite consistent rain, sleet and even a few snowflakes.
It took just 27 seconds for Cheverus to break the ice as Lawson scored unassisted, beating Rams goalie John Deloach.
Deering pulled even with 8:43 to go in the first period as Adam Rodriguez set up Rick Murray for a shot past James Biegel, but with 4:07 remaining in the stanza, the Stags went on top for good as Sutton scored unassisted.
Sutton would strike again unassisted 46 seconds later.
Before the quarter was over, Schleh and Sutton added unassisted tallies and Cheverus had a commanding 5-1 lead.
The Stags had made the most of the conditions to put a stranglehold on the contest.
“We’re in Maine, so we have to get used to (the weather),” Sutton said. “I just tried to keep running and stay warm. Our offense really started shaping up. We have new offensive sets and we’re working hard in practice. We moved the ball and it started to click.”
Things didn’t get any better for the hosts in the second quarter as Sutton (from Schleh, with the Stags playing two men up) and Sutton (from Pat Sullivan, man up) pushed the lead to 7-1.
With 1:35 remaining before halftime, Deering ended a 19 minute, 8 second drought and the Stags’ 6-0 run as Alec Halpin scored unassisted, but that only pulled the Rams within 7-2 at the break.
Deering had its chances to crawl back in the game, but multiple turnovers doomed the cause.
After a 12:36 drought of its own, Cheverus made it 8-2 with 5:36 left in the third quarter as Schleh set up Hilmar Smith for a goal.
The Rams got a goal back, courtesy Halpin unassisted, but late in the period, Sullivan (unassisted), Schleh (unassisted), Lawson (from Alex Nason) and Lawson again (from Alex Grant-Roy) scored to push the lead to 12-3 heading for the final quarter.
There, Deering carried play and got unassisted goals from Halpin and Fritz Gemmer and another tally from Murray (assisted by Sam Hornblower), but it was far too little, too late and Cheverus went on to the 12-6 victory.
“Deering’s a good team,” said Sutton. “We’ll definitely see them again in the playoffs. It’s bragging rights for now. It’s a big win for us.”
“(Cheverus) came out fast and strong and beat us to a lot of ground balls,” lamented Deering coach Jon Dubois. “Their goalie played well. When their goalie plays well and they beat us to ground balls, it’s going to be an uphill battle. We did play really well in the fourth quarter.”
Sutton led the way with five goals.
“Jack loves lacrosse,” Bodwell said. “He works hard at it. He’s quick. He has a nice shot.”
“We knew their offense goes through (Sutton),” Dubois said. “We knew he’s fast and likes to dodge. We knew we had to slide early. (We were down five) before we really started to slide on him. We shut him down in the second half, but it was too little, too late.”
Lawson had three goals, Schleh two and Smith and Sullivan one apiece. Schleh also had two assists, while Grant-Roy, Nason and Sullivan all had one.
Biegel stopped 14 shots.
Cheverus won 12 of 21 faceoffs, committed 21 turnovers (most of which came in the fourth quarter) and put 22 shots on cage to 20 for the hosts.
For Deering, Halpin scored three times, Murray twice and Gemmer once. Hornblower and Rodriguez both had one assist. Deloach made 10 saves.
The Rams were doomed by 19 turnovers.
“It’s sloppy out, but we practiced in this for two weeks,” said Dubois. “It’s a possession sport. Possessing the ball gets us goals and keeps them off the scoreboard. We didn’t possess as well as Cheverus today.”
Only just begun
Deering will return to action Wednesday at Marshwood, then has its annual showdown with rival Portland Friday at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
Look for the Rams to vastly improve as the weeks go on.
“We have 11 more tries,” said Dubois. “We’re young. We have guys still learning the system. We have teams on our schedule that are beatable and we have games that are tough. We’ll show up.”
Cheverus hosts Thornton Academy Wednesday and plays host to South Portland next Saturday.
The Stags have done a good job adjusting to a new system and should only get better.
“It was hard to lose basically our whole starting defense and our goalie, but we changed some things up offensively and defensively,” Sutton said. “We look forward to a good year.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Deering’s Brett Harmon is defended by Cheverus’ Alex Grant-Roy.
Cheverus’ Nick Schleh fires a shot for a goal in the first half.
Deering’s Fritz Gemmer fires a shot.
Deering’s Billy Farrell puts the clamps on Cheverus’ Tom Lawson.
Cheverus’ Jack Sutton (11) and Warren Murray celebrate after a first half goal.
Cheverus’ Jack Sutton prepares a shot during the first half of Friday’s season opener at Deering. Sutton scored five times to lead the Stags to a 12-6 victory.
Cheverus 12 Deering 6
C- 5 2 5 0- 12
D- 1 1 1 3- 6
11:33 C Lawson (unassisted)
8:43 D Murray (Rodriguez)
4:07 C Sutton (unassisted)
3:32 C Sutton (unassisted)
1:53 C Schleh (unassisted)
40.6 C Sutton (unassisted)
8:55 C Sutton (Schleh) (2-men up)
6:12 C Sutton (Sullivan) (man up)
1:35 D Halpin (unassisted)
5:36 C Smith (Schleh)
4:06 D Halpin (unassisted)
3:05 C Sullivan (unassisted)
2:18 C Schleh (unassisted)
2:00 C Lawson (Nason)
28.6 C Lawson (Grant-Roy)
3:42 D Halpin (unassisted)
1:49 D Gemmer (unassisted)
1:32 D Murray (Hornblower)
C- Sutton 5, Lawson 3, Schleh 2, Smith, Sullivan 1
D- Halpin 3, Murray 2, Gemmer 1
C- Schleh 2, Grant-Roy, Nason, Sullivan 1
D- Hornblower, Rodriguez 1
Shots on cage:
C (Biegel) 14
D (Deloach) 10