Scarborough boys down Lewiston, go back-to-back
PORTLAND—The Scarborough boys' lacrosse team once again is the cream of the Class A crop.
Saturday morning at Fitzpatrick Stadium, the Red Storm got a superb defensive effort, just enough offense and held off a plucky effort from Lewiston to win the state title for the second year in a row and fourth time since 2006, 6-4.
Scarborough stymied the Blue Devils early and grabbed a 3-0 lead, but Lewiston rallied to even the score at 4-4 with just over two minutes to go in third period. Then, with 49.8 seconds showing in the stanza, Red Storm sophomore standout John Wheeler scored his lone goal of the game, Scarborough added another tally early in the fourth and the defense and sophomore goalie David Pearson did the rest as the Red Storm finished 14-1, ending the Blue Devils' season at 13-2.
"Lewiston is one heck of a lacrosse team," said Scarborough coach Joe Hezlep. "They play hard. It was a fun game. We haven't had too many close games. It was nice to see our boys come out and respond."
Five years after
When boys' lacrosse split into two classes in 2006, Scarborough and Lewiston squared off in the inaugural Class A Final. That one was all Red Storm, as they dominated, 14-2, to win their first championship.
Scarborough also won Class A in 2008 (8-6 over Brunswick) and again last year in underdog fashion (8-6 over Portland).
This season, as the favorite, the Red Storm didn't disappoint and made Western A their personal playground. Scarborough opened with an 11-0 home win over South Portland, held off host Cheverus in the rain (4-1) and downed visiting Noble (14-2), before running into powerhouse Falmouth and losing at home, 13-3. The Red Storm bounced back with easy wins over host Thornton Academy (10-0), Kennebunk (9-1) and Bonny Eagle (17-5). After erupting in the second half to win at eventual Eastern B champion North Yarmouth Academy (12-5), Scarborough toyed with Windham (19-1), Gorham (12-1) and Massabesic (15-1) before closing with a 9-4 home victory over Portland, in a state final rematch.
The Red Storm easily wound up ranked first in Western A and drew a bye into the semifinals. There, Scarborough dispatched No. 5 Marshwood, 12-3. In Wednesday's regional final, the Red Storm shot to a 6-0 lead and went on to eliminate No. 3 Thornton Academy, 8-3.
Lewiston, meanwhile, a semifinalist in 2010 (losing to Portland, 9-5), has emerged as one of the finest teams in the state. The Blue Devils suffered a 9-8 overtime loss at the Bulldogs on May 3, but beat everyone else, including defending Class B champion Cape Elizabeth, by a stunning 8-7 margin, to go 11-1, good for Eastern A's top seed.
Last Saturday night, Lewiston got a measure of revenge with an emphatic 15-6 home victory over No. 4 Portland in the semifinals. Wednesday, the Blue Devils hosted and beat No. 2 Deering, 9-6, in the regional final to advance to their second state final.
This game was much closer than the 2006 affair, but ultimately had a familiar result.
Just 51 seconds in, the Red Storm got the jump when senior Peter Moore snuck past two defenders then beat Lewiston senior goalie Jesse Leeman for a 1-0 lead. With 2:08 to play in the 12-minute opening quarter, Moore did it again unassisted, dodging a defender before scoring to make it 2-0.
"We played our game today," Moore said. "Our defense came out and played solid. I saw holes and I wanted to get us off on a good foot."
As time expired in the first period, the Blue Devils' best offensive chance came when Leeman raced down the field and got free for a rare shot, but it went wide.
Scarborough won all three first period faceoffs, had a commanding 14-6 edge in ground balls and fired 9 shots to 3 for Lewiston. Five Leeman saves kept the game close.
Blue Devils coach Bill Bodwell told his team between periods that it had gotten its bad quarter out of the way and to settle down.
"We probably should have possessed and relaxed a little more," said Bodwell. "This is the fourth time (the Red Storm has) been here in six years. It's our first time. That may have had something to do with it. Sometimes what you do in practice doesn't come together the way you hope."
Lewiston was then much more effective in period number two.
The Red Storm did take a 3-0 lead when junior Jon Blaisdell scored unassisted with 7:36 to play in the half, flicking a loose ball in front into the cage hockey-style. A minute later, Blaisdell almost made it 4-0, but his shot hit the post.
Then, the Blue Devils answered.
With 4;34 remaining in the half, senior standout Curtis Robinson beat a defender and scored unassisted. With 2:49 left, Robinson struck again, this time taking advantage of a rare defensive breakdown to beat Pearson unassisted, cutting the deficit to 3-2.
"(Curtis has) done that all year," Bodwell said. "He's a good attackman. Scarborough was smart. They flooded that side against him."
Scarborough got a little breathing room with 8:29 to go in the third period when senior Nate Hopkins scored unassisted, ending an 11 minute, 7 second drought, but at the 7:12 mark, senior Sam Cloutier scored on a delayed penalty for Lewiston and it was a one-goal game again. After Leeman robbed Blaisdell and junior Ryan Pallotta on successive shots, the Blue Devils transitioned and looked to tie the score. First, Cloutier shot wide. Robinson was then robbed in front by Pearson. Finally, with 2:24 to go, senior Ryan Lemelin took a pass from Robinson and finished, tying the game at 4-4.
Lewiston appeared to have all the momentum, but the defending and soon-to-be champs had an answer.
His name? John Wheeler.
One of just two sophomores in the state of Maine to be named first-team all-conference this season, Wheeler was stifled most of the day by the Blue Devils' defense, but with 49.8 seconds to go in the third, he got free on the wing and threw a low shot past a helpless Leeman to put Scarborough on top for good, 5-4.
"I was trying to get the ball and get my game going," Wheeler said. "It opened up. It was a big goal."
"There's a reason there's only two all-conference sophomores in the state," Hezlep said. "He wasn't getting the looks he wanted. They played great defense on him, but he wasn't going to be denied."
It was still anyone's game as the fourth period began, but the Red Storm weren't about to let this championship slip away.
With 10:14 to play, Pallotta gave the Red Storm some breathing room with an unassisted goal with the teams playing 5-on-5. That made it 6-4 and that score would hold, but Lewiston made life interesting down the stretch.
With 4:05 remaining, Cloutier set up junior Matt Melanson right in front, but Pearson made the save. With 3:34 to go, junior Brandon Tiner's look was denied by the goalie. With 3:08 showing, Lemelin's shot ticked off the top of the crossbar.
The Blue Devils then had a man-up opportunity, but turned the ball over and saw Cloutier shoot wide. With 1:56 left, senior Elliot Chicoine shot wide. With 1:18 to play, Robinson's bid was saved by Pearson and that was that.
The final seconds were marred by physical play and the ejection of Lemelin and Scarborough junior defender Garrett Hazelwood.
At 11:36 a.m., the final horn sounded and the Red Storm were champions again, by virtue of their 6-4 win.
“It was a great way to go out on top," Moore said. "(The end of the game) was probably the longest six minutes of my life. We did well though. Last year, we surprised people. This year, we knew we were supposed to win it. We had to just play to our potential and get it done.”
“We got a battle today," Wheeler said. "We got a scouting report and knew they had a good goalie and had an All-American defender. Our defense was fantastic. We knew what kind of offense they wanted to run. Our defense talked and slid. We did it all year."
"We played an amazing game," added Hopkins, who hopes to play lacrosse next year at St. Joseph's College. "We needed Peter's amazing goals. David was incredible in the pipes. This was the best game I've seen him play. Ryan Pallotta was incredible. He had a great goal. Jon Blaisdell and John Wheeler moved the ball quick. Our defense was amazing. That was the best game of our lives. We've played since third grade and up. It'll be hard to let it go, but this is the best way to end up. It's all the coaching staff. They work hard. They teach us what to do. All the coaches have been inspiring to us."
Speaking of the Scarborough coaches, Hezlep said his confidence and faith in his team never wavered.
“My team's very invested in turning my hair gray early," Hezlep said. "We weathered a storm. At 4-4 I still felt pretty good. I knew we had plays left to make and we did. I always enjoyed the journey. That's why we do it. We didn't feel like the underdog last year and we didn't this year. Our guys knew they had it.”
Moore was Scarborough's lone multiple goal scorer, with a pair. Blaisdell, Hopkins, Pallotta and Wheeler had one goal each. All six Scarborough goals were unassisted. Hopkins had a game-high nine ground balls. Junior Andrew Jones collected five. Pearson made only four saves, but they were all critical.
"He hasn't gotten quite the recognition he deserves, since he doesn't see many shots, but the shots he sees, he stops," Hezlep said.
The goalie also got plenty of help from his big brother, senior Mark Pearson, and the whole Scarborough defense.
“Me and my brother we really wanted to play hard today," Mark Pearson said. "He made saves and I made sure shots didn't get to him. Garrett Hazelwood did a great job on one of the best guys in the East. We know how to keep a lead. The only ones (David) let in were the ones I was screening. Sophomores don't (play like he did). We knew what we had to do and we didn't need a lot of goals. We decided we'd just win it.”
For Lewiston, Robinson had two goals and an assist, while Cloutier and Lemelin each scored once. Lemelin and senior Sheldon Jones shared team honors in ground balls with five apiece. Leeman stopped 11 shots with playing with unbeknown to most, a broken hand.
"My goalie broke his hand in warmups (in the semifinals against Portland) and has played three games with a broken hand and showed me more guts than I've ever seen in my life," Bodwell said. "I've never had a better goalie."
The Red Storm won 8 of 14 faceoffs, as Senior Drew Harvey went 4 for 5 and Hopkins 4 for 9.
"We watched the Lewiston guy clamp the ball and saw his move," Hopkins said. "We noticed he wasn't moving his right foot to block the ball. That helped us a lot. We had to be really quick. He's a fast faceoff guy. We had to be quicker and more physical."
Junior Chris Rancourt did the honors on all 14 faceoffs for the Blue Devils and was victorious on eight occasions.
Scarborough finished with a 41-31 advantage in ground balls, forced 25 turnovers (while giving the ball away 24 times) and outshot Lewiston, 34-21 (17-8 on cage).
The Blue Devils graduate 15 seniors, including several at key positions, but the program has established itself as a top contender and hopes to be back in the mix in 2012.
“Scarborough had a good game plan today," Bodwell said. "I got outcoached. I wish I could have done more to help these boys. It's a gutsy team. Some of the finest young men I've been associated with. I couldn't be more proud of this team.
"My boys, unlike some of the southern schools, they don't go to camps and play in the summer. Hockey's always going to be No. 1 in Lewiston. We hope lacrosse kicks in now and then. We have good guys coming up. Awfully talented guys who don't see field time since we have good players. We'll be strong at midfield. We have attack positions to fill.”
Scarborough, meanwhile, loses 16 seniors, but as always, will have plenty in reserve next season when it will likely be the favorite again.
"We're looking good for next year," Wheeler said. "We have a strong junior class. It looks bright."
"We graduate 16 seniors," said Hezlep. "We have a lot of spots to fill. We'll be in good shape going into next year. Our freshman class can flat out play."