Four city boys' lax teams primed for playoffs; Portland's repeat bid looking good
Portland's first-ever Class A boys' lacrosse championship a year ago appeared to come at a pretty steep price as the Bulldogs graduated most of their impact players and were expected to come back to the pack in 2010.
Instead, the Bulldogs capped the second undefeated regular season in program history (the first was in 2005) with a stirring 16-12 home win over Scarborough last Wednesday behind an unfathomable 10 goals from junior standout Caleb Kenney. That win gave Portland a 12-0 mark and allowed it to leapfrog Brunswick for the top spot in the final Eastern A Heal Points standings, giving the Bulldogs a bye into Saturday's semifinal round.
Deering and Cheverus will also be in the Eastern A field (all three city teams were moved from west to east this year to balance the regions).
The Rams wound up 7-5 and earned the No. 4 seed, setting up a home quarterfinal round test against No. 5 Lewiston Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
The Stags finished 6-6, good for the sixth and final spot. Cheverus goes to No. 3 Messalonskee for the quarterfinals Wednesday.
In Western B, Waynflete's late-season surge paid dividends as the Flyers wound up 8-4, good third in the region. Waynflete will go to powerhouse No. 2 seed Cape Elizabeth in Saturday's semifinals (4 p.m.).
Coach Eric Begonia and his staff have turned Portland into one of the state's premier powers. Never has that been more evident than this season as the Bulldogs have simply regrouped and carried on the greatness.
"I'd be lying if I said I thought we had the potential to do this," Begonia added. "I said last June 20 (after winning the state title) that the cupboard was definitely not bare and that there were anchors at every position. The young kids have stepped up."
"We have the guys write goal sheets every year," he added. "The one common thing was to be good friends off and on the field and develop chemistry and for everyone to play a part. The team mentality's been established for awhile now and it's nice to see that continue."
Portland will host either Deering or Lewiston in the semifinals Saturday (game time hadn't been determined when this issue went to press). The Bulldogs downed both teams in the regular season, rallying for a 12-10 victory at the Blue Devils in arguably their toughest game on May 8 and rolling, 16-1, at home over the Rams two weeks later.
Portland has never faced Lewiston in the playoffs. The Bulldogs eliminated Deering in the 2005 (6-4), 2006 (8-6) and 2007 semifinals (16-9).
Portland (fourth in the latest coaches' poll) knows it will play the remainder of the season on its home turf (Fitzpatrick Stadium is the site of the state games).
"We have to keep working hard," Begonia added. "It's a one-game season. Going 12-0 is nice, but we have to go back to work. Having homefield advantage is always a goal. Having the state game here is definitely an advantage for us."
Back in the hunt
Deering missed out on the postseason in both 2008 and 2009, but this spring, despite myriad injuries, the Rams (who fell, 9-4, at Bonny Eagle in the regular season finale last week) managed to wind up 7-5 and earn the No. 4 seed.
"I'm pretty proud of them," said Deering coach Bob Rothbart. "It's a very good group. A lot of different guys have come through at different times for us. We had to learn how to do things without (injured junior standout) Carleton (Allen). We're healthy now. Everyone but Carleton is back. We'll be at full speed.
The Rams and Lewiston didn't meet this year in the regular season and have no playoff history.
"Lewiston is obviously dangerous," Rothbart said. "Their scores have been all over the place. I really don't know what to expect. It will be nice to be at home. I never know who is going to come through for us. A lot of guys are scoring goals. If we do what we're capable of, we can probably play with anyone."
Cheverus was a question mark entering the season and lost its first two games, but a four-game win streak jump-started the Stags and they wound up 6-6, despite losing, 7-6, at home to Gorham in the finale last Wednesday, good for the No. 6 spot.
"Our 6-6 record is indicitive of the ups and downs of our play," said Stags coach Deke Andrew. "The kids know what we are capable of and were excited not only to grab the last playoff spot but earn a rematch with Messalonkee."
Cheverus is in the postseason for the 11th year in a row. The Stags lost, 10-7, at Messalonskee back on May 7. The teams have no playoff history.
"(Messalonskee is) very athletic, very skilled and very well coached," said Andrew. "Our kids enjoyed the trip up there and we're excited to get another shot at them."
If Cheverus is able to spring an upset, it will go to second-ranked Brunswick (10-2), the defending regional champion, Saturday in the semifinals. The teams didn't meet this year and have no playoff history.
When Waynflete suffered a 16-3 home loss to Cape Elizabeth last Wednesday to wind up 8-4, it looked as if the Flyers might be the odd team out of the Western B playoff mix. Instead, thanks to a win later that day by North Yarmouth Academy (a team Waynflete beat on May 25) at York, the Flyers managed to not only make the four-team field, but jump all the way to third.
"I didn't think it would be an issue, but we played a lot of teams that were worth absolutely no points," longtime Waynflete coach Bob Johnson said. "Our seniors have done so much for us. It was a long time since we last beat NYA. It's one of the nicest group of kids I've had for a long time."
Waynflete (ninth in the coaches' poll) now has the unenviable task of visiting the red-hot No. 2 Capers (9-3) in Saturday's semifinal round. Just last year, Cape Elizabeth eliminated the Flyers, 14-2, in the semis. The Capers also ended Waynflete's season in the 1998 semifinals, the 1999 state final, the 2002 divisional semifinals and the 2008 semis.
"I think we're a much better team than we showed (last week against Cape)," Johnson said. "We can play much better."
The Eastern A and Western B Finals are Wednesday, June 16, on the field of the higher remaining seeds. The Class B state final is Saturday, June 19, at 12:30 p.m. The Class A state game is the same day at 5:30 p.m. Both games are at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org