PORTLAND—The Deering boys’ soccer team was outpossessed, outshot and for much of the night, outplayed by the visiting Cheverus Stags Friday evening at a very rainy Memorial Field.
But when all was said and done, the Rams weren’t down and out.
Instead, the Stags were out of the playoffs.
In a Western Class A preliminary round showdown of teams most familiar with each other, good scoring chances were few during 80 minutes of regulation and 30 more of overtime, necessitating penalty kicks to determine a winner.
Deering got its lone goal of the game late in the first half when senior Billy Farrell scored in transition, but Cheverus drew even with 25:19 to play on a rebound tally from junior Joe Smith.
Neither team tickled the twine again until the PK round, when the Rams made four of their five opportunities to just three for the Stags.
When Farrell tucked his past Cheverus junior goalkeeper Charlie Mull to end it, Deering was equal parts exhilarated and relieved as its win went in the books at 2-1, the Rams improved to 9-3-3, ended the Stags’ season at 7-7-1 and advanced to face the Rams from York County, Kennebunk, in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round.
“It’s not a fun way to win a game,” said Deering coach Joel Costigan. “I’ve been on the other side. I felt they outplayed us most of the game, bottom line.”
Deering went 6-8-1 last fall and reached the playoffs for the first time in four years. This season, it really came on as the regular season progressed. The Rams started with a tie and two losses, but one of the setbacks, a 2-0 home decision to rival Portland Sept. 6, turned into a 1-0 victory by forfeit after the Bulldogs learned they’d used an ineligible player. Down the stretch, Deering went 5-1-2, including a six-game unbeaten streak to end the regular season. The Rams earned the No. 5 seed, their highest since 2007.
Cheverus, a semifinalist in 2011, began the year 3-0, lost four straight, enjoyed a 4-0-1 surge, then closed with successive losses to wind up with the 12th and final seed in the Western A pool.
The teams had previously met in the postseason in the 2000 semifinals (a 3-0 Cheverus victory), 2001 first round (a 5-1 Stags’ triumph), 2003 quarterfinals (a 3-0 Cheverus win), 2007 quarterfinals (a 2-1 Rams’ victory, in overtime) and last year in the preliminary round (2-0 Stags).
In the regular season meeting, Oct. 11, the Rams beat the host Stags, 1-0.
Friday, Cheverus carried play for much of the first half, but Deering went into the break on top.
Rams sophomore goalkeeper Anthony Russo helped keep the Stags off the board with a couple nice saves that led to corner kick opportunities for the visitors, on which they failed to capitalize.
Junior Joe Smith and freshman MacKenzie Hoglund also couldn’t finish early chances.
With 4:46 left in the half, Deering transitioned and Farrell did the rest, beating Mull with a shot that made it 1-0 Rams.
“I was really just looking to cross it in and it was a lucky goal,” said Farrell. “It went right in. We got a break.”
In the second half, the Stags possessed most of the way, but were stymied for the better part of 15 minutes before pulling even.
Hoglund fired a 20-yard free kick low and on target with 32:28 to play and Russo bobbled it, leading to a corner kick, which was cleared.
Six minutes later, a pretty diving header by Cheverus junior Jamie Biegel was denied by an even more gorgeous save from a diving Russo.
“We have a great keeper,” said Costigan. “He’s really picked up his game since the beginning of the season. He’s become one of the better keepers in the league.”
With 25:19 left in regulation, the Stags drew even.
Biegel got the play started with a shot that Russo saved, but Smith was there to pound home the rebound and it was 1-1.
Down the stretch, each squad looked for the winner.
With 17:06 to go, Mull beat Farrell to a through ball and moments later a free kick by Deering junior Ben Peterson deflected through the box to set up a corner kick (each team had four for the game), but it was cleared.
With 11:27 remaining, a Rams’ defender barely got to a cross to knock it away and set up a corner kick, which resulted in no shots.
The game would go to overtime.
In Maine high school boys’ soccer playoffs, teams play two 15-minute, “sudden victory” OTs and if there’s no resolution, it’s on to PKs.
Thirty minutes of overtime didn’t result in a single promising chance or shot and it would indeed come down to penalty kicks.
In PKs, each team selects five shooters and they alternate chances. If the score is still tied after five attempts, teams take turn in “sudden victory,” PKs until there is a winner.
Mull took the first kick for Cheverus, but hit it right at Russo, who made the save, giving the hosts the early jump.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” said Russo. “Everyone’s on me. I kind of just guessed on that one. It’s a guessing game and I hope for the best. I look at their plant foot and basically guess off that.”
Deering senior Nathan Finberg was first for the home team and he nailed his shot into the left corner, while Mull dove to his right.
Stags sophomore Patrick Mourmouras and Rams junior Gabe de Oliveira then traded successful shots, making it 2-1 Deering.
Cheverus senior Andrew Rose then converted, but Deering sophomore Stephen Ochan was denied by Mull and with two kickers remaining, the PK round was tied, 2-2.
Junior Derek Hammond gave the Stags the momentary lead when he converted high and to Russo’s left, but with the pressure on. Rams senior Brett Harmon made his shot, making it 3-3 with one shooter left.
Biegel would go last for Cheverus, but his shot was high and Farrell stepped to the line with a chance to win it.
With all eyes on him, Farrell calmly tucked a low shot to Mull’s left as the goalie dove right and that was that.
Deering 2 Cheverus 1 (4-3 PK).
“There were nerves after nerves,” Farrell said. “Everyone on the line was like, ‘You’ve got this, Billy.’ I was just trying to keep my cool. I’ve done this before. I didn’t let anything get into my head. It was just repetition. I look to see what the goalie does, but I normally do the same thing every time. It felt good. Cloud nine.
“We all got nervous when they answered. Throughout the season when someone scored on us, we hung our heads. We tried to keep our cool and put it together. We were trying to score (in overtime), but we knew PKs were close. It’s a great feeling. This is the farthest we’ve been in some time.”
“We stick together as a team,” said Russo. “We don’t really get down on each other. We work hard in practice and it shows on the field.”
“We practiced PKs yesterday and it worked out,” added Costigan. “We work on it in practice. From the goalkeeper’s and shooter’s perspective. We talked to them about going out and having it be mechanical. You can’t take PKs on emotions.
“We still have a lot we need to work on. I think a win like this will bring us closer. Cheverus is a very good team. They have seniors. It’s not a fun way to lose.”
The Stags felt they’d done enough to prevail, but learned the hard way how fickle soccer can be.
“It’s been this way all year for us,” lamented Cheverus coach Bill LeBlanc. “We’ve been in every single game. We’re not a finishing squad. We had 70 percent of the play. It was tough weather conditions. (Deering’s) a good squad. I thought their goalie was exceptional. He made good saves. It’s an unfortunate way to end a game, but it has to end. We practiced all week. We had a sequence of five guys. We had the right people in the right spot. I told the guys who missed them, it’s not on them, it’s on all of us because we had chances. We should have been up 2-0 at halftime.
“We had some injuries to deal with, some other off the field stuff we dealt with this year. The seniors brought us together as well as they could. We missed a big-time goal scorer like we had last year and that snakebit us.”
Look for Cheverus to be back in hunt next fall, extend its postseason streak to 20 seasons and make a deeper playoff run.
“We have really good kids coming back,” LeBlanc said. “We should be really strong next season.”
As for Deering, it goes to 9-2-3 Kennebunk Wednesday for the quarterfinals. The teams settled for a 1-1 draw Oct. 2 at Kennebunk. The teams last met in the 2004 preliminary round (a 1-0 Deering triumph).
The Rams from Portland know it won’t be easy.
“We had a good game with them,” said Russo. “We hope to get a good result.”
“We played a great game against them, but it could go either way, honestly,” said Farrell. “They’re a great team. We’re a great team. It should be a great game.”
“(Kennebunk’s) not a fun place to play,” Costigan added. “It’s a grass field. They’re a very, very good team with a strong midfield. We’ll be a big underdog.”
Cheverus junior Joe Smith plays the ball up the field whil Deering sophomore Stephan Ochan gives chase.
Deering junior Ben Peterson’s slide tackle denies Cheverus senior Andrew Rose.
Deering senior Kuba Chandler shields the ball from Cheverus senior Andrew Rose.
Deering senior Jimmy Fasulo and Cheverus freshman MacKenzie Hoglund go after a ball in the air.
Deering junior David Bujambi tries to knock the ball away from Cheverus senior Jimmy Campbell.
Cheverus junior goalkeeper Charlie Mull makes a save during PKs.
Deering senior Billy Farrell is mobbed by teammates senior Nathan Finberg, junior David Bujambi and senior Kuba Chandler after his first half goal gives the Rams a 1-0 lead.
After Deering senior Billy Farrell converts his PK to give the Rams the win, the victors pig-piled on the field.
Cheverus 3 @ Deering 0
@ Cheverus 2 Deering 0 (Western A preliminary round)
Deering 2 @ Cheverus 1
@ Deering 1 Cheverus 0
@ Deering 1 Cheverus 1 (tie)
Deering 4 @ Cheverus 1
@ Deering 2 Cheverus 1 (OT) (Western A quarterfinals)
@ Deering 2 Cheverus 0
@ Cheverus 2 Deering 1
Cheverus 2 @ Deering 1
Deering sophomore goalkeeper Anthony Russo makes a save during the penalty kicks phase of Friday evening’s Western Class A preliminary round game versus Cheverus. The Rams won the PKs, 4-3, and took the game, 2-1.
More photos below.