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Portland boys' lax rolls in opener

Sports

Portland boys' lax rolls in opener

PORTLAND—On a chilly Wednesday evening that felt like anything but spring, the two-time defending regional champion Portland boys' lacrosse team showed why it will likely be a major factor when the weather warms up.

Hosting Bonny Eagle at an under-construction Fitzpatrick Stadium, the Bulldogs got off to a slow start in the season opener, but absolutely dominated the Scots in the second half, outshooting the visitors, 30-7 in the final 24 minutes and scoring the last 10 goals of the game en route to a 14-2 triumph.

Senior All-American Caleb Kenney returned from injury to score twice and dish out four assists. Classmate Bronson Guimond and junior Seamus Kilbride had three goals apiece and eight different players scored in all as Portland earned the first of what figures to be many victories this season.

"We had to adjust, but we were much better in the second half," said Bulldogs ninth-year coach Eric Begonia. "We possessed and moved the ball. The goal was to be unselfish and I think we did that offensively. We had a lot of guys chip in, which is always the goal."

New beginnings

Portland has been among the boys' lacrosse elite since 2005, won Class A in 2009 and went undefeated a year ago before losing in the state final, 8-6, to Scarborough. Graduation took its toll on the program, but the Bulldogs return three centerpieces that most coaches would salivate over, Kenney, Guimond and junior goalie Ryan Jurgelevich.

A year ago, Portland beat host Bonny Eagle, 17-4.

Wednesday, the Bulldogs managed to hit their stride after a slow start.

The first goal came 1 minute, 54 seconds in when Kenney (who missed the indoor and preseasons with a shoulder injury) took a pass from Guimond and beat Scots' goalie Ronny Broulot.

"I definitely missed (playing)," said Kenney. "I couldn't play indoors or anything. I feel good. My shoulder didn't bother me at all. The challenge is to get up to game speed."

The visitors tied the game on a shot from Nate Hopkins, but with 7:37 to go in the 12-minute first period, Guimond set up junior Jason Webster for a goal that put Portland ahead to stay.

It stayed a 2-1 game until 3.9 seconds remained when junior Peter Matt scored unassisted.

After seven-plus scoreless minutes in the second quarter, Guimond (from Kilbride) scored for a 4-1 lead, but with 3:19 remaining before halftime, Hopkins scored again to make it 4-2.

The Bulldogs got some breathing room in the final minute of the half as Kilbride (from Guimond) scored with 47.6 seconds to go and with just 2.9 seconds on the clock, Guimond took a pass from senior Charlie Marr and scored to make it 6-2 at the break.

Portland was even more dominant in the second half.

With 9:03 to play in the third quarter, Guimond scored unassisted. Two minutes later, Kenney fed senior Gary McDonald for a goal. Kenney set up Kilbride with 3:19 remaining and with 1:43 left, sophomore Max Pierter scored unassisted and just like that, the Bulldogs were in control, 10-2.

"A big thing this year since we lost a lot of offensive firepower from last year is we have to possess a lot," said Kenney. "With that, some of the guys are hesitant to shoot. In the second half, we got a lot of open looks and the guys fed the ball nicely."

The fourth period proved to be academic as goals from Kenney (unassisted), McDonald (from Kenney), Kilbride (from Kenney) and freshman Mike Fuller (from Webster) induced a running clock and Portland went on to the 14-2 win.

"I'm pretty happy," Begonia said. "In the locker room, the talk was to move the ball. (Caleb's) going to draw a crowd. He distributed well. Bronson was key. (Senior Pat) Cormier on the faceoff was dominant. He got the ball in our hands. We shuttled guys in on defense."

Guimond (who also had three assists) and Kilbride led the offense with three goals each. Kenney and McDonald added two goals each. Fuller, Matt, Pierter and Webster all scored once. Kilbride, Marr and Webster each had one assist.

Statistically, Portland dominated most facets.

Cormier won 12 of 19 faceoffs. Jurgelevich made seven saves. The Bulldogs grabbed 52 ground balls, led by Kilbride (11), Guimond (seven) and Kenney (seven). Portland had a 50-21 shots advantage (29-9 on frame). The Bulldogs did turn the ball over 21 times, while forcing 17.

Bonny Eagle got the two goals from Hopkins and 15 saves from Broulot.

Portland looks to go 2-0 Saturday when it plays at Noble. The Bulldogs return home next Wednesday for what could be a good test versus perennial contender Kennebunk.

The team's still a work in progress, but so far, so good.

"Our offense is running on all cylinders," Kenney said. "I'm liking what I'm seeing. We click on and off the field. It's a blast. We have to focus on Noble, then we have a big one with Kennebunk. I'm looking forward to those."

"Noble will be a tough one," Begonia added. "We haven't played on grass all year. It's a good challenge for us. We'll see how it goes. Kennebunk's a big one for sure. One step at a time."

                 Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net and followed on Twitter @foresports