Deering sophomore Iessa Ramadan gets past Cheverus senior Will Peterson and goes on to score the first goal of Thursday night’s 3-0 victory. Ramadan later added a second goal as the Rams improved to 11-1-1.
Chris Lambert photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—Deering’s boys’ soccer team has much to look forward to this season.
Cheverus, however, now has to look ahead to 2017.
Thursday evening at Memorial Field, the Rams continued their stellar play and extinguished the playoff hopes of their rival in the process.
Deering, which learned last week that a slow start can prove fatal, produced a first half to remember amid the raindrops, taking a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute, thanks to a tremendous individual play from sophomore Iessa Ramadan.
With 12:24 remaining in the first half, senior Jonata Mbongo doubled the lead.
The Rams didn’t let up in the second half, but the Stags battled hard to the end, just missing a couple of chances which could have made things interesting.
Ramadan then ended all doubt with his second goal with 12:09 to play and Deering went on to a 3-0 victory.
The Rams improved to 11-1-1, ended the Stags’ season at 4-10 and snapped Cheverus’ postseason streak at 22 years in the process.
“We were excited to play Cheverus,” said Ramadan. “We were hyped to start fast. We had to start strong in this game.”
Deering entered the 2016 season highly touted and have the Rams ever lived up to billing, actually exceeding the hype.
Deering opened with a rare victory at Scarborough (1-0), then held off host South Portland (2-1), won at home over Biddeford (2-1), Sanford (3-0) and Westbrook (1-0) and blanked host Bonny Eagle (2-0). After settling for a scoreless home tie versus Gorham, the Rams blanked host Windham (4-0) and Noble (7-0) and beat visiting Marshwood, 3-1, before finally meeting their match last Thursday, when they were upset at Massabesic, 3-1. Deering got back on track Tuesday with a 2-0 home victory over Thornton Academy.
Cheverus opened with 1-0 losses to visiting Portland and host Marshwood, then beat host Massabesic, 3-1. After a 4-2 home loss to Westbrook, Cheverus defeated visiting Noble (5-0) and host Windham (4-1). The Stags lost at Thornton Academy, 2-0, then blanked visiting Biddeford, 3-0. That would prove to be their last victory, however. After a 4-0 home loss to Scarborough, Cheverus fell at Bonny Eagle (3-2), at home to Gorham (6-0), at South Portland (1-0) and at home to Sanford (2-1).
Entering the game, since 2004, Deering held a 9-5-1 edge against Cheverus (see sidebar, below), but last fall, the host Stags eked out a 1-0 home victory in the regular season finale.
Thursday, on a warm night (57 degrees at kickoff) with a steady light rain falling in the background, the Rams put on a clinic.
Deering possessed the ball most of the first half and it wasn’t long before Stags freshman goalkeeper Harrison Bell was under assault.
Just over three minutes into the game, Ramadan unleashed a low shot which Bell had to sprawl to save.
Seconds later, off a free kick, senior Erick Pereira’s low shot was blocked by Bell, but the rebound came free. Junior Robert Ochan wasn’t quite able to get to it, however, and it rolled out of bounds.
With 29:12 left in the first half, Ramadan got his team on the board, taking a pass from senior Bill Turahimbawe, beating two defenders, then firing a shot which Bell was able to slow but not stop and Deering had a 1-0 lead.
“I get so excited when I drive in,” Ramadan said. “I try and beat defenders and score a goal. I curved it and the field was so wet, the keeper couldn’t stop it.”
Cheverus’ first good look came in the 24th minute, but sophomore Jack Mullen’s shot was saved by Rams senior goalie Mustafa Kadhim.
After Ramadan just missed in a bid to double the lead, Mbongo managed to do so.
With 12:24 showing, Mbongo ripped a blast just inside the far post which Bell dove and got a fingertip on, but it wasn’t enough to keep the ball out of the net for a 2-0 Deering advantage.
The hosts almost struck again a minute later on a corner kick, but Ochan’s shot was kicked out by a Stags’ defender, Ochan’s rebound shot was blocked and junior Muzammel Osmani Azizi’s follow up bid sailed high.
Ramadan almost got his second goal with 7:20 to go, when he had a shot deflected by a defender, but it rolled just wide.
Three minutes later, Osmani Azizi’s left footed shot just rolled wide of the far post and the Rams took a two-goal lead to the half.
Deering ousthot Cheverus, 11-3, in the first 40 minutes.
Chances weren’t as prevalent for the Rams in the second half and the Stags had some near misses as they tried to cut into the deficit.
After a header from Cheverus sophomore Owen Burke on a corner was cleared, sophomore Michael Nason shot just high and Kadhim got to sophomore Tanner LaFlamme’s serve in front.
Junior Luc Dionne then had a pair of looks, but one rocket went just wide and a long free kick was knocked aside by Kadhim.
With 13:52 to play, senior Will Peterson got a promising shot off on a corner, but Kadhim made the save and the visitors wouldn’t get another good look.
Ramadan produced the clincher with 12:09 to play, again making things happen with his speed and elusiveness. After racing through the defense, Ramadan momentarily lost the ball, but it bounced off senior Chris Irakoze right back to Ramadan and Ramadan finished to extend the lead to 3-0.
“I got through the defense, then it hit Chris and it bounced back to me and I shot,” Ramadan said.
“(Iessa’s) a Ramadan,” said Deering coach Joel Costigan. “That helps. He’s very much like his brother, (senior) Hisham (Ramadan), with his speed and obviously, like (former Rams standout) Hany (Ramdan), with his skill. He has speed and strength with the ball and he has the mindset of scoring. He has a competitive attitude. That’s something that is hard to teach.”
The Rams’ defense slammed the door from there and Deering prevailed, 3-0.
“Tonight was the best first half we’ve played all year, with the exception of maybe the Scarborough game,” Costigan said. “We needed to prove something in the first half and we talked about that in warmups and we were tremendous.
“It’s been a great season. I have a good group of senior leaders. I have five captains and they’ve all been tremendous. It’s been exciting to watch the guys play. They continue to play smart in space and they have tremendous skills. That (Massabesic) loss emphasized something we already knew, that we had been starting poorly, without energy.”
The Rams had a 16-7 shots advantage and got seven saves from Kadhim.
Cheverus got 13 saves from Bell and enjoyed a 3-1 edge in corner kicks, but couldn’t finish.
“All season long, I’ve been happy with our ability to respond to a challenge,” said first-year Stags coach Matt Andreasen. “There wasn’t much to play for in the second half, but we came out and battled and that shows the character of the team. (Deering’s) just unbelievably athletic. They have grown men on the feed, physically speaking. They have some guys with Division One bodies and we’re playing boys against men. They’re explosive and they’ll be a tough matchup in the playoffs. They defend well, they have firepower and their keeper’s good.”
For the first time since Bill Clinton’s first year in office and the last time the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series, Cheverus (ranked 15th in the Class A South Heal Points standings, where only 12 teams qualify) will miss the playoffs, but believes it will bounce back strong in 2017.
“The future is bright for this team,” Andreasen said. “It’s been a process, but it’s been fun watching the guys get better and grow. Hopefully they’ll take the next step. I challenged them to be better soccer players in June than they are tonight. If this season is an indication, they will be.”
The Stags graduate Peterson, Doug Brooks, Ben Hanna and Nik Hase, but return everyone else.
“Will was our heart-and-soul,” Andreasen said. “I feel badly for him because he’s a great goalkeeper who starts on a high level club team, but we needed him in the field. His leadership will be hard to replace. Nik is our other captain, who had mono, so we couldn’t transition him in until later in the year. We had two other seniors who didn’t play much, but they were great character guys.
“I have a lot of talent coming back and I have Harrison back in goal for three more years. Better days are ahead.”
Deering (currently ranked second behind Gorham in Class A South) has one regular season game left and it’s a big one, as the Rams will host rival Portland Tuesday.
“We think we can beat any team,” Ramadan said. “We’ve done a lot of team building. We build each other up. We just have to start strong and finish strong.”
“We’re really just looking at the next game,” Costigan said. “The guys know if we don’t show up, we can get beaten by any team. They know when we show up, we can be the best. There are top tier teams, but we’ve seen other teams play well too. Any game could be upset. I want to make sure the guys are prepared enough, so that’s not the case. The last couple years, I think we’ve gone out earlier than we should have. We don’t want that to happen this year.”
Cheverus sophomore Nolan Doherty heads the ball away from Deering sophomore Iessa Ramadan.
Deering senior Bill Turahimbawe heads the ball over Cheverus sophomore Tom Gordon.
Deering senior Jonata Mbongo races toward the goal.
Deering senior Pedro Lusogandio defends Cheverus junior Luc Dionne.
Cheverus sophomore Tanner LaFlamme tries in vain to keep Deering sophomore Iessa Ramadan from the ball.
Cheverus junior Luc Dionne shields the ball from Deering junior Caleb Delano.
@ Deering 1 Cheverus 0
Deering 1 @ Cheverus 0
Western A preliminary round
@ Deering 2 Cheverus 1 (4-3 PKs)
Cheverus 3 @ Deering 0
Western A preliminary round
@ Cheverus 2 Deering 0
Deering 2 @ Cheverus 1
@ Deering 1 Cheverus 0
@ Deering 1 Cheverus 1 (tie)
Deering 4 @ Cheverus 1
Western A quarterfinals
@ Deering 2 Cheverus 1 (OT)
@ Deering 2 Cheverus 0
@ Cheverus 2 Deering 1
Cheverus 2 @ Deering 1