Red Storm repeat; Scarborough boys' soccer wins third Class A crown in five years, 2-1 over Brunswick
SCARBOROUGH—This time around, it wasn't even all that agonizing.
The Scarborough boys' soccer team won three prior state championships under coach Mark Diaz, but none of them came in regulation.
Saturday morning, on their home turf, the Red Storm won a title the conventional way, getting a first half goal from senior standout Trevor Hoxsie, a second half tally from senior Chase Beech and a strong defensive effort throughout in a 2-1 victory over the Brunswick Dragons in the Class A state final.
Scarborough increased its win streak to 36 games, completed its second straight undefeated championship run and cemented its status once and for all as the premier Class A team in the state this decade.
"We thought we'd be OK, but there's no way we thought we'd go 18-0 (again)," said Diaz. "Things worked out for us. I thought we played really well today, especially at the end of the first half. Those were two nice goals."
Since 2003, the Red Storm have lost all of six games, four of which came in the postseason. Of those four, two came on penalty kicks and another was in overtime. Scarborough reached the Class A Final in 2003 and lost to Mt. Ararat on PKs. Two years later, against the same foe, the Red Storm returned and got a measure of revenge with a penalty kick win. In 2006, Scarborough was favored to repeat, but lost in overtime of the state final to Bangor. Last fall, the Red Storm went to overtime with the Rams again in the state game, but emerged victorious on senior Ian Philbrick's goal. Then, a huge chunk of Scarborough's impressive roster graduated.
Not to worry, the 2009 Red Storm were as good as ever.
Scarborough opened with a 10-0 win at Massabesic and never looked back. The Red Storm were tested with a little more frequency they have been in years past in Southern Maine Activities Association play, but still were able to get past the likes of Portland (3-0), Gorham (1-0), Cheverus (5-0), Kennebunk (1-0) and Windham (6-0) en route to a third straight unbeaten regular season (and a fourth in five years).
Scarborough (which outscored the opposition 68-2 in the regular year), earned the top seed in Western A and promptly dispatched No. 9 South Portland (4-0) and No. 4 Portland (7-2, thanks to a six-goal second half flurry) in its first two playoff tests. Then, Wednesday night, in the Western A Final, the Red Storm endured a mighty scare from No. 3 Windham, advancing only after senior Nate Tolman scored in overtime.
Brunswick, meanwhile, was once again a force in Eastern A. The Dragons, who last reached the state game in 2007 (and lost 1-0 to Greely), went 12-1-1 in the regular year (falling only to Lewiston, 1-0, in the third game, and tying Erskine, 1-1) and wound up second to Bangor in the region. After blanking No. 7 Waterville 3-0 in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Hampden Academy 1-0 in the semis, Brunswick shocked the top-ranked Rams, 2-1, in double-overtime in the regional final, to set up a first-ever state game matchup with Scarborough. The teams did previously meet in the 1975 Western A semifinals (a 5-0 Scarborough win) and the 1976 semis (a 3-2 Scarborough victory).
Saturday at Scarborough (the site was pre-selected by the Maine Principals' Association), the Red Storm had enough to slay the Dragons yet again.
Just 1 minute, 2 seconds in, Scarborough sophomore Andrew Jones' rush was broken up as the Red Storm set an early tone.
In the 14th minute, Brunswick appeared to take the lead when senior standout Justin Rosner beat Scarborough senior goalkeeper Tennessee Peters, but the score was erased due to an offsides ruling.
Peters came up big two minutes later, denying junior Garrett Brann on a free kick.
The Red Storm got the jump in the 21st minute.
Tolman played a long pass ahead to the talented Hoxsie, who eluded a defender, but was taken down, leading to a yellow card and a free kick. Hoxsie, from 20 yards out, then calmly buried his opportunity, beating Dragons senior goalkeeper Peter Morrell with a low blast to the goalie's left.
"Nate Tolman sent the long ball in off the counterattack," Hoxsie said. "I got past the defender. Another kid got in front of me and fouled. On the free kick, I was thinking that it was a shot I was practicing a lot. I tried to curl it around the wall and put it in the open net on the other side."
Brunswick tried to answer, but on a corner kick, senior Zach McMillan's serve scooted through the box untouched and a minute-and-a-half later, junior Matt Kasabian's rush was broken up by Red Storm senior Andrew Nigro. With 14:26 left in the first half, in the last good scoring chance of the first 40 minutes, Hoxsie's blast was denied by Morrell.
Scarborough wasn't content to sit on its lead in the second half and set out to double it.
Just 22 seconds in, Hoxsie deked one defender, but another Dragon was able to clear the ball out of harm's way. After McMillan was denied by Peters at the other end in the 45th minute, the Red Storm took a 2-0 lead when Beech (from junior Brett Leighton) scored with 28:07 remaining in regulation. Leighton's feed to the far right side of the box was one-timed home by Beech and Scarborough appeared in solid control.
Brunswick responded by moving Morrell out of the goal, in favor of McMillan and it paid off with 21:30 to play when an innocent looking sequence led to a score. With the Red Storm pressuring, a Dragon defender pounded the ball forward and Morrell raced past a defender and headed it past a surprised Peters who was caught in no-man's land. The ball found the net and suddenly things had tightened up, 2-1.
"When they played it back in, he flicked it over me," Peters said. "I guess I came out too much."
"When we get the ball up to Peter, he's tough," said longtime Brunswick coach Peter Gardner. "He's a great goalkeeper as well."
The invigorated Dragons looked to tie it up, but only had a couple more good opportunities. One came in the 64th minute, when on a corner kick (Brunswick had a 4-0 advantage in the game), Morrell's rush was broken up. With 12:22 to play, another corner set up senior Jesse Benedict in front, but his blast was high.
Less than a minute later, at the other end, Hoxsie looked to ice it, but his low blast was saved by a diving McMillan. With 4:03 left, Hoxsie broke in one-on-one on the goalie, but was robbed. Freshman Austin Downing got the rebound, but his shot was also saved.
"We were controlling the play so well, but we were nervous on the sidelines," Diaz said. "I think the guys turned it up and answered (the Brunswick goal). We never stopped. We didn't sit back and had chances."
The Dragons weren't able to counter-attack as the Scarborough defense stiffened. The Red Storm then ran out the clock and celebrated their 2-1 victory and another Class A championship.
"Two years in a row, this is the best feeling in the world," Hoxsie said. "After they cut it to 2-1, it was stressful. We knew they were right back in it. I don't think we let them take too much momentum. We had a bunch of chances at the end.
"I think what we have on this team is that the younger players play for the seniors who are going away. We wanted to do something really special this year and go back-to-back. We all played hard and worked as a team. After the season, when we went 14-0, not many expected that. We even expected a loss after losing so many guys, but we came out strong and put down the hard teams, like Gorham, Kennebunk and Windham. In the playoffs, we came out and had two good wins. In the Western Maine Final, it was tough, but we kept our composure. We knew we could do it."
"It feels excellent," Peters said. "It started out slow, but we had a strong finish. Last year, I was on the bench the whole time. Now, I have all this playing time. It's a different feeling. We tried to work together and stay with our marks. They're strong in the air. We tried to stop that. There are no individuals on this team. It's all teamwork."
"We said Bangor went up 1-0 on them and they came back, so we knew they wouldn't quit," Diaz added. "They're too well coached and they're too talented. We knew they'd come back. Even up 2-0, we knew they'd make it interesting. I really think Wednesday night was the key for us. A game of that magnitude, sudden death overtime. Surviving that made me comfortable, we'd been in the fire.
"I have to give my seniors credit. They work so well with the young guys and they let them grow up. That was the key for us. We picked up momentum."
Brunswick finished 15-2-1, one goal shy of the Gold Ball.
"I'm very proud of them," said Gardner. "The kids worked hard and deserve all the credit. We made it close. There's no question Scarborough's a good side. I thought the kids didn't give up. Basically, we've played the same way all year. What we might lack in abilities here and there, we don't lack in heart and desire."
As for the now two-time Class A state champion Red Storm, they'll once again feel the graduation hit, but there's no question they'll be considered the team to beat in 2010.
"I'm happy with my junior class," Diaz said. "I have a lot of guys coming back. The freshmen and sophomores got a lot of good experience this year. It'll be tough to replace these seniors. We'll do what we do, try to get better and hope it works out."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org