YARMOUTH — Early in the second half of Wednesday’s boys’ lacrosse game at North Yarmouth Academy, the Cape Elizabeth Capers didn’t even remotely resemble the championship squad they hope to become.
By game’s end, however, the Capers were right back in the discussion of top contenders after a smothering defensive effort and a 7-0 run erased a 7-3 deficit and led the way to an 11-9 victory over the Panthers.
Cape Elizabeth won eight of 10 faceoffs, forced 21 turnovers and had a 21-7 shots advantage in the second half as it righted the ship and improved to 5-1 on the season.
“We had our ups and downs,” said Capers coach Ben Raymond. “We played really well in the second half. We did what we were supposed to do the entire game.”
Making a statement
Cape Elizabeth lost its opener, 8-6, at Yarmouth, but carried a four-game win streak into Wednesday’s game. Saturday, the Capers were 20-3 victors at Deering behind senior Jon O’Hearn’s five goals and four assists and three goals each from seniors Mike Holden (who also had five assists) and Ben Lydon (two assists) and junior Tommy Foden.
NYA was coming off a dramatic 11-10 come-from-behind home win over Kennebunk and was 3-1 on the year.
Last season, Cape Elizabeth beat the Panthers twice, 15-7 and 10-6. The Capers hadn’t lost to NYA since May 14, 2007 (14-4).
Wednesday, Cape Elizabeth took a 1-0 lead just 17 seconds into the game when Foden fed Holden, but the hosts answered on a goal by sophomore Finn Hadlock (from classmate Dylan Seely). With 7:37 left in the first, the Capers went up 2-1 when O’Hearn took a pass from Holden on the fast break and beat NYA senior goalie Matt Ward (16 saves). The Panthers made it 2-2 later in the first on a goal from junior Phil Champoux (from junior Cam Smith), whose shot beat sophomore Jack Ross.
The Panthers then got some separation in the second quarter.
NYA took its first lead, 3-2, on an unassisted goal from junior Gus Wellin midway through the period. After Cape Elizabeth drew even on Holden’s man-up goal (from O’Hearn), the Panthers closed the first half on a 3-0 run, getting three tallies from junior Tom Gildersleeve (one unassisted on a nice individual move, another from Hadlock a man-up, and a third from Wellin) to lead 6-3 at halftime.
Cape Elizabeth had an edge in shots and ground balls in the first 24 minutes, but 15 turnovers put it in a hole.
When Hadlock (on a long pass from Gildersleeve) scored just 46 seconds into the third quarter, the Capers appeared on the ropes, down 7-3, but as it turned out, they had the Panthers right where they wanted them.
By third quarter’s end, Cape Elizabeth was within a goal thanks to 11 forced turnovers, a 3-1 edge in faceoffs and tallies from O’Hearn (assisted by Foden), junior Ben Brewster (unassisted) and Holden (from junior Harper Nelson).
The Capers finally drew even with 8:04 to play when junior Will Desena scored unassisted. Just 10 seconds later, Brewster (after winning the faceoff) fed O’Hearn, who passed to Holden for the go-ahead goal.
Unassisted tallies from O’Hearn and Foden pushed the lead to 10-7 with 4 minutes to play.
Finally, with 2:32 to go, NYA ended the 7-0 run and its 20 minute, 42 second drought when Wellin scored unassisted, but with 1:27 left, Foden fed Smith man-up and Smith scored to make it 11-8. The Panthers accounted for the 11-9 final score when Wellin batted home a shot at the final buzzer.
“We didn’t change much in the second half,” Raymond said. “Our offense settled down a little bit. We’ve worked all week on getting more transition goals. We got better looks in tight. Defensively, we played great in the second half. We let up goals in the first half because we were slow on slides. We pressured more in the second half and took the ball away. Ben Brewster was unbelievable in the midfield.”
Holden finished with four goals, one assist and four ground balls. O’Hearn scored three times and added two helpers. Foden added a goal, three assists and five ground balls. Roos made four saves.
Cape Elizabeth finished with a 13-8 advantage in faceoffs, won 57 ground balls (Brewster led the way with 11), forced 34 turnovers and had a nearly 2-1 (40-21) advantage in shots on goal.
The road for the Capers (third in both the latest Western Class B Heal Points standings and coaches’ poll) doesn’t get any easier. They host red-hot, undefeated Portland Saturday night.
“We haven’t seen Portland,” Raymond said. “They have some good defenders. K.R. (Jurgelevich) is a great player. They’re having a great season. It should be fun.”
Monday, Cape Elizabeth visits South Portland. Wednesday, the Capers are home with Greely.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mhoffer