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Bulldogs survive in OT against Lewiston

Sports

Bulldogs survive in OT against Lewiston

PORTLAND—The host Portland Bulldogs and visiting Lewiston Blue Devils boys' lacrosse teams packed so much drama into 48 minutes that regulation wasn't sufficient to decide their showdown Tuesday night at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

It took an extra 57 seconds to determine a winner and that team was the Bulldogs when senior standout Caleb Kenney fed a wide open junior Seamus Kilbride in front of the Lewiston goal and Kilbride ended matters with his third goal of the contest, which gave Portland a pivotal 9-8 victory.

The Bulldogs blew a 5-1 first half lead and allowed the Blue Devils to tie the score with 5.4 seconds showing in regulation, but won the opening faceoff in overtime and never gave the visitors a chance to complete the comeback as they improved to 4-0 on the season, stretching their regular season homefield win streak to 17 games, while dropping Lewiston to 3-1.

"It was a just a great finish," said Portland coach Eric Begonia. "I'm happy to win a game like this. It's huge for us. A lot of the teams we play are above us right now in the Heal Points. It's been a long time since we've lost a regular season game at home. There's a lot of pride for these guys to play on this field and preserve that aspect as well."

Growing rivalry

Lewiston is hoping to get to Portland's level, as one of the state's premier teams.

The Blue Devils managed to get to the state final in 2006, but lost to Scarborough. Since then, they've taken a backseat to Brunswick and after the Portland schools got reclassified into Eastern Class A a year ago, to the Bulldogs.

Last year, Portland rallied at Lewiston to win a regular season thriller, 12-10, then eliminated the Blue Devils in the semifinals, 9-5. The Bulldogs weren't able to repeat as Class A champions, falling, 8-6, to Scarborough in the title game.

While Portland returns an All-American in Kenney, this team is more mortal than in year's past. The Bulldogs won their first three 2011 outings, 14-2, over visiting Bonny Eagle, 17-1, at Noble and 8-7, over an upset-minded visiting Kennebunk squad.

Lewiston also started 3-0, defeating host Edward Little (16-4), visiting Mt. Ararat (7-3) and host Brunswick (15-1).

Tuesday's contest started 30 minutes late due to a middle school track meet going longer than expected, but the game proved to be worth the wait.

Portland asserted control early as Kenney set up junior Jason Webster for a goal 3 minutes, 59 seconds into the 12-minute first period. Neither team would score for over six minutes, but with 1;40 to go , Kenney deked and shucked and jived with a pair of Blue Devils defenders for the better part of 30 seconds before getting free for a shot that eluded Lewiston senior goalie Jesse Leeman. The visitors got a goal back 33 seconds later as senior Sam Cloutier scored unassisted, but with 12.4 seconds showing, Kenney scored on a rebound and it was 3-1 Bulldogs after one.

When Kilbride (from Kenney) and Kenney (unassisted) scored goals in the middle of the second stanza to make it 5-1, it looked like Portland might pull away, but the Blue Devils got back within three on senior Curtis Robinson's unassisted goal in the final minute.

The Bulldogs looked to end all doubt in the third quarter, but Leeman single-handedly kept his team in the game, making seven saves, most of them superb.

Lewiston made it a 5-3 contest a minute, 14 seconds in to the second half on an unassisted goal from Robinson following a nice move. Just 22 seconds later, however, Kilbride set up senior Bronson Guimond for a goal to restore the three-goal advantage.

With 9:49 left in the third, senior Elliot Chicoine scored for the Blue Devils (from senior Cody Dussault), but with 5:52 to go, Kilbride (from Webster, in transition) answered and it was 7-4.

Thanks to Leeman, it stayed that way until the fourth, when the visitors were able to complete their rally.

An unassisted goal from junior Brandon Tiner with 9:27 left cut the Lewiston deficit to 7-5. With 6:50 to play, Chicoine scored unassisted and suddenly, the Blue Devils were only down 7-6. When Robinson scored an unassisted goal with 4:39 remaining, Lewiston had tied the score.

"Lewiston's so well-coached," said Begonia. "They have virtually the same team back from last year. We thought they'd make a run. They earned every goal they got."

The Bulldogs went back on top, 8-7, when, after a long clear from junior goalie Ryan Jurgelevich, Guimond raced in and scored with 3:58 to play.

It looked like that would be the game winner, but with 1:10 showing, Portland turned the ball over and the Blue Devils had a final chance.

With 35.7 seconds left, Chicoine's shot was deflected to the side, where Cloutier corralled it. With 25.6 seconds to play, Tiner fired a bid to tie the score, but it went wide. Lewiston then got the ball to Cloutier, who fought his way around the defense, around the crease to Jurgelevich's left, then, with 5.4 seconds showing, fired a shot into the net that forced overtime.

In Maine high school boys' lacrosse, teams play four-minute periods until a team scores, often known as "sudden victory."

Indeed, on this night, victory would come suddenly to the hosts.

The pivotal opening faceoff of overtime was won by Portland senior Pat Cormier after his counterpart jumped early. The Bulldogs then worked their way into the offensive zone and to no one's surprise, the ball came up top to Kenney. With Lewiston's defense overly concerned about Kenney's ability to drive and launch a long-distance rocket, the Blue Devils momentarily lost sight of Kilbride and that was all she wrote.

Kenney found his man, Kilbride turned and one-timed a shot past Leeman and the Bulldogs stormed the field to celebrate the 9-8 win.

"I was in the open spot and just scored," said Kilbride. "We run everything on offense through Caleb. We found spots. We moved around all game. We got guys open. I didn't think about it at that point. I just caught and shot. It was big. I knew we had to keep playing well. (Lewiston) wouldn't lay down. They'll win some games. It's a big win for us. We have to beat the teams we should. These are fun, but I'd prefer not to be in that situation to begin with."

"That was a blast," said Kenney. "The plan was to win the faceoff. We were going to call a timeout, but we really trust our offense. We swung it around. I saw Seamus open on the crease and he buried it. I was surprised he was so wide open. I thought his defender slid over to the goalie's right. He didn't slide back. It was a nice catch and shoot. It was good lacrosse today. It was fun."

Begonia was confident his team would come through.

"We relied on experience," Begonia said. "Those guys have seen a lot of action. It all started with the faceoff. Patty Cormier's gotten us here and we trusted him. The other guy jumped and we got possession. That was huge. I was tempted to call a timeout, but I decided not to use it and relied on our experience and trusted the guys to make the right decisions move well. We call it 'being on the hunt.' By definition, Seamus got open. Caleb just draws a crowd. He turns a lot of heads defensively and they left Seamus all alone. It was a perfect shot with a lefty goalie. He tucked it around off-stick side."

Kenney led all scorers with four goals and had three assists, the last being the biggest. Kilbride had three goals, including his first overtime winner. Guimond and Webster also scored and Kilbride and Webster added assists. Kilbride had a game-high nine ground balls, while Guimond and Kenney both grabbed seven. Jurgelevich made four saves.

"We're winning and building experience," said Begonia. "We have young guys stepping into roles. Jason Webster's coming up big. Seamus is becoming a finisher. Caleb and Bronson are quite a tag team. We're six or seven strong on defense. Ryan makes big saves."

The game was Portland's first to go to overtime since a 7-6 loss to Cheverus in the 2008 regional quarterfinals. It was the Bulldogs' first OT victory in at least eight years.

For Lewiston, Robinson had three goals, Chicoine and Cloutier two apiece and Tiner one. Dussault had the Blue Devils' lone assist. Robinson led the team with eight ground balls, while Dussault and junior Chris Rancourt both had seven. Leeman made a dozen saves.

Lewiston won 12 draws to Portland's eight, but Cormier got the biggest one. Rancourt went 12-of-20, while Cormier finished 8-of-20.

Each team had 19 turnovers. The Blue Devils outshot the Bulldogs, 33-29, but Portland had more shots on frame (21-12).

"That call off the faceoff hurt," said Lewiston coach Bill Bodwell. "Our starting (longstick middie, Justin Millette) and (top defensive-midfielder, Eric Michaud) are in Florida. We made a lot of substitution errors. It When you play a team like Portland with one of the best coaches in the state, that hurts. Their offense is top-notch."

Rematch?

Lewiston is back in action Thursday at home versus Oxford Hills. Saturday, the Blue Devils host Messalonskee. They figure to be one of the top Eastern A seeds when all is said and done.

"We hope to be heard from," Bodwell said. "The region's up for grabs."

As for Portland, it turns right around and hosts Marshwood Wednesday. Saturday, the Bulldogs go to Massabesic.

Big games at Messalonskee, Deering and Scarborough still loom.

"I think it'll be tougher this year," Kenney said. "But I absolutely love the challenge. We have things to tweak in the midfield. The defense came up big today."

"I'm very happy where we're at right now," said Begonia. "We have a short turnaround, then we have some big games ahead of us."

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.