PORTLAND—Depth and resilience were the theme for the Deering boys’ lacrosse team Friday night at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
Visiting fierce rival Portland, the Rams raced to a 6-0 lead as six different players tickled the twine, but the Bulldogs battled back and entering the fourth period, appeared to have all the momentum, down just 6-3 while holding Deering scoreless for nearly 15 minutes.
But it turned out these Rams saved their best for last as unheralded junior Isaac Santere broke the spell with an unassisted tally 33 seconds in and senior Brett Harmon put it away with two goals in just under two minutes.
Deering, behind three goals from Harmon and two apiece from Santere and senior Billy Farrell, went on to a 10-3 win, improving to 2-1, while dropping Portland to 0-3.
“It’s always nice to beat the Bulldogs,” said Rams coach Jon Dubois. “It’s a big city thing. There’s a certain pride in beating your buddies from the same city.”
Over a six year span between 2005 and 2010, Portland defeated Deering eight straight times (please see sidebar) by a composite 98-37 margin. That included playoff wins in 2005, 2006 and 2007. The Rams finally ended their skid in 2011 and beat the Bulldogs twice a year ago, 9-5 in the regular season and 7-6, in overtime, in the Western A quarterfinals.
Both teams have a vastly different look in 2013 as each graduated an All-American.
Deering, which lost Karl Rickett, among other key contributors, began with a 12-6 home loss to Cheverus, then evened its record with a 7-4 victory at Marshwood.
Portland, which has to replace standout goalie Ryan Jurgelevich, welcomed a new coach this season in Mike DiFusco, a one-time NYA and Cape Elizabeth standout. The Bulldogs, in addition to their graduation losses, have been hampered by several injuries to key players and opened with losses at Thornton Academy (9-4) and Massabesic (6-3).
Friday, despite an early injury to senior Rick Murray, hero of last year’s playoff win, the Rams got the jump and never looked back, even if there were some scary moments.
Prior to the start, in a poignant ceremony, Portland retired the number 17 of the late Devon Merritt, Class of 2008, who passed away last month.
Once the game started, the hosts were getting possession early, courtesy senior faceoff specialist Liam Brochu, but the Bulldogs had trouble holding on to the ball and Deering took advantage.
With 7:25 to play in the first quarter, Farrell took a pass from junior Alec Halpin and beat Portland sophomore goalie Andrew Hoekstra to put the visitors ahead to stay.
Four minutes later, Halpin set up junior Geoff Mathews and it was 2-0.
The Rams got the ball right back and junior longstick Sam Hornblower scored assisted to give his team a 3-0 lead after one quarter.
Deering kept the pressure on in the second, going up 4-0 just two minutes in when Fritz Gemmer set up Santere for a goal.
With 4:08 left before halftime and the Rams playing man-up, Harmon took a pass from Halpin and finished for a 5-0 lead.
Then, with just under three minutes remaining, freshman Sambath Sao got in the scoring column, taking a pass from Santere and scoring to make it 6-0.
But just when it appeared as if Deering would win in a rout, Portland responded.
With 44.3 seconds to go before halftime, the hosts got on the board as sophomore Joe Emerson set up classmate Connor Bruce for a goal.
That tally appeared to awaken the Bulldogs, who completely dominated quarter number three.
Portland had the majority of possession, had a big edge in shots and its defense forced several turnovers in the frame.
Junior Luigi Grimaldi bulled his way to the goal for a score with 9:09 left and in the final minute of the stanza, sophomore Brady Green tickled the twine to cut the deficit to 6-3 and seemingly give the Bulldogs momentum.
With the game on the line, however, Deering responded.
Just 33 seconds into the fourth quarter, Santere scored unassisted, ending a 15 minute, 24 second drought and pushing the lead to 7-3.
Harmon then took center-stage, scoring unassisted with 8:58 to go and again with 7 minutes left, pushing the advantage to an insurmountable 9-3.
“(Portland) started playing man, so we switched up our game,” Harmon said. “We took it to them and possessed the ball and put it in the back of the net. We have a pretty diverse team. A lot of new guys and raw talent coming in. That’s helped us as a team.”
With 6:15 to play, Farrell (from Harmon) scored again, Deering never looked back there and went on to a 10-3 triumph.
“Portland used to always slaughter Deering,” Harmon said. “It’s nice to see in my four years that we turned it around.”
“I wanted to make sure that we continued to play clean lacrosse,” Dubois said. “(Portland) played zone in the first half, then shut us out in the third quarter with man. They stayed in man obviously in the fourth. We stayed in our rotation. I put in Harmon at attack. He never played attack a day in his life and had three (goals). When the kids step up like that, it makes my job easy. We had our best shooter out. We needed guys to step up. They shared the ball. Like Tom Brady throws it to the open guy. We threw it to the open guy and tried to make it as easy as possible.”
Harmon led all scorers with three goals, while Farrell and Santere each had a pair. Hornblower, Mathews and Sao all had one tally.
Halpin assisted on three of the goals, Gemmer, Harmon and Santere each had one helper.
Deering lost 10 of 17 faceoffs, as Gemmer went 6 of 16 and Harmon won his lone chance.
The Rams did win 21 ground balls (Hornblower had five, Gemmer four).
“We’ve worked hard on ground balls,” said Dubois. “I tell these guys we have to possess the ball. In any sport, time of possession is important. You can’t score if you don’t have the ball.”
Deering had 19 turnovers, but forced 22. The Rams had a big edge in shots 43-19 (17-9 on frame) and got six saves from senior goalie Jon Deloach.
For Portland, Bruce, Green and Grimaldi all had a goal. Emerson had the lone assist. Hoekstra made seven saves. Brochu was 10 of 17 in faceoff opportunities. The Bulldogs finished with 26 ground balls, paced by four each from Brochu and Emerson and three apiece from Grimaldi, junior Anthony Green and sophomore Josh Sullivan.
“It was tough for us,” DiFusco said. “We were always on the run. We got into a hole again. Third game in a row. We started doing the right things in the third quarter and got momentum going. Then, they put a couple back in and it was tough for us to start putting a few together.”
Portland seeks to get in the win column Wednesday, when it hosts Gorham. The Bulldogs are hoping to get healthy and get over the hump.
“We’re just asking the next guy to step up every day,” said DiFusco. “Everyone has to be ready to play. We have to improve every day in practice. The team we have right now isn’t the team we want to have a month down the road. Every day we learn things we have to improve on. The kids we have want to be better lacrosse players. I’m learning it’s a process. I have to make sure everyone has their heads up every day when they leave the building. Know what they have to work on and what they’re doing well. We just have to get the next one.”
Deering, meanwhile, hopes to extend its win streak Wednesday, when it hosts Westbrook.
“We had to clean some stuff up after the Cheverus game and we did,” said Harmon. “We need to keep our heads on the field. We need to play our game and possess the ball.”
“We still need to work on our defense,” said Dubois. “Our positioning and our slides. That’s what killed us against Cheverus. We’ll get to work on that. We don’t take anybody lightly.”
Deering’s Alec Halpin fires a shot as Portland’s Anthony Green closes in.
Portland’s Liam Brochu runs past Deering’s Billy Farrell.
Deering’s Max Hornblower defends Portland’s Brady Green.
Deering’s Jon Deloach and Portland’s Luigi Grimaldi fight for a loose ball.
Deering’s Sam Hornblower (center) celebrates with teammates Fritz Gemmer (11) and Alec Halpin after a first half goal. The Rams went on to a 10-3 win at Portland.
More photos below.
D- 3 3 0 4- 10
P- 0 1 2 0- 3
7:25 D Farrell (Halpin)
3:10 D Mathews (Halpin)
2:52 D S. Hornblower (unassisted)
9:57 D Santere (Gemmer)
4:08 D Harmon (Halpin) (MAN-UP)
2:51 D Sao (Santere)
44.3 P Bruce (Emerson)
9:09 P Grimaldi (unassisted)
31.7 P Green (unassisted)
11:27 D Santere (unassisted)
8:58 D Harmon (unassisted
7:00 D Harmon (unassisted)
6:15 D Farrell (Harmon)
D- Harmon 3, Farrell Santere 2, Hornblower, Mathews, Sao 1
P- Bruce, Green, Grimaldi 1
D- Halpin 3, Gemmer, Harmon, Santere 1
P- Emerson 1
Faceoffs (Portland, 10-7)
D- Gemmer 6 of 16, Harmon 1 of 1
P- Brochu 10 of 17
Shots on cage:
D (Deloach) 6
P (Hoekstra) 7
@ Portland 16 Deering 1
@ Portland 19 Deering
@ Portland 9 Deering 8
Western A semifinals
@ Portland 16 Deering 9
Portland 9 @ Deering 5
Western A semifinals
@ Portland 8 Deering 6
@ Portland 15 Deering 4
West Region semifinals
@ Portland 6 Deering 4
@ Deering 8 Portland 5