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BRUNSWICK—If only the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight had half this much action.
Saturday morning at Howard F. Ryan Athletic Field on the campus of Bowdoin College, two giants of the local boys’ lacrosse world squared off in a delicious crossover showdown which produced nearly 50 minutes of action that no one on hand will ever forget.
Two-time defending Class B state champion Cape Elizabeth paid a visit to the underappreciated Brunswick Dragons, the defending Eastern A champions, who were itching to prove themselves to fans from outside the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference and were hoping to avenge a one-sided defeat to the Capers from last spring.
What resulted was a dizzying display of offensive brilliance, a series of punches and counter-punches that left everyone holding their breath.
Brunswick came out fired up and behind seven first quarter saves from senior goalie Mitchell Smith and a pair of tallies from senior Matt Brooks, opened up a 4-2 advantage.
When senior Kyle Woodruff scored 41 seconds into the second period, the Dragons had a 5-2 lead, but Cape Elizabeth erupted and reminded fans why it has had no peer for so long.
Facing its biggest deficit to date this season, the Capers scored seven unanswered goals, with five different players tickling the twine. Senior Griffin Thoreck had three goals in that span and helped Cape Elizabeth take a seemingly secure 9-5 advantage to the break.
But as the Capers owned the second quarter, the Dragons were even more dominant in the third.
As it did to start the game, Brunswick remained the aggressor, snapped Cape Elizabeth’s run just 15 seconds in to the new half when Brooks scored unassisted. Trailing, 10-7, midway through the third, the Dragons rattled off four goals in less than four minutes, capped by a man-up strike from senior standout Cam Glover, to take a stunning 11-10 lead with 12 minutes to play.
Or so we thought.
Griffin Thoreck scored to tie the game, 11-11, but goals from Brooks and senior Ryan Croatti put Brunswick up by two. Capers junior R.J. Sarka and Woodruff traded goals, leaving Cape Elizabeth down two with 2:47 to play, but 19 seconds later, Owen Thoreck scored unassisted and with 41.7 seconds remaining, Thoreck struck again and as it turned out, 48 minutes weren’t enough to decide a winner, as the heavyweights went to overtime tied, 14-14.
With senior Ian Schlosser dominating the faceoff circle, it was no surprise that Brunswick got possession to start overtime, but the Dragons turned the ball over, giving the potent Capers a chance to win it. On three different occasions, it appeared Cape Elizabeth might sneak out of town with a win, but Brunswick stood tall and went back on offense.
And out of a timeout, the Dragons put the finishing touches on arguably the biggest regular season win in program history.
An unlikely hero, senior Owen Ginty, would be the one to end it, scoring unassisted with 2:03 to go in the first four-minute, “sudden victory” OT session and after 115 riveting real time minutes, Brunswick had itself a win for the ages, 15-14.
Woodruff scored five times, Brooks added four goals and Glover had three to help neutralize the five scored by Owen Thoreck and four from Griffin Thoreck as the Dragons improved to 8-0, essentially locked up the top seed for the playoffs and dropped the Capers to 6-1 as their three-year, 25-game win streak came to a halt.
“This is a statement for the state to remember,” said longtime Brunswick coach Don Glover, who got a wonderful birthday present . “Crossover games are very important. Regardless of your class or league, these types of games better our sport. It means a lot for Brunswick lacrosse, absolutely, but it means more in my eyes than just a win for a program.”
While Cape Elizabeth stands alone among high school boys’ lacrosse programs, Brunswick also has a rich, longstanding tradition of excellence and while the teams rarely meet, they do have some history.
For starters, Glover coached at Cape Elizabeth back when the sport was in its infancy in Maine.
“I have very fond memories of coaching at Cape Elizabeth,” Glover said. “I was there in 1992, for one year as an assistant coach with Charlie Burch and Chris Richards. It’s special for me to play against Cape.”
Way back in 2002, the Capers held off the Dragons in a regular season shootout, 16-11, at Cape Elizabeth, then capped an undefeated championship season with a 15-7 victory in the state game, played in Kennebunk.
The following May 17, Brunswick edged the visiting Capers in an overtime classic, 9-8.
Then, the teams didn’t play for 11 years before the rivalry was renewed last season, when host Cape Elizabeth romped, 16-2.
The Capers went on to win a second straight Class B championships, while Brunswick got to the Class A state game, only to lose to South Portland.
So far this spring, both teams have passed every test.
The Dragons opened with a 13-7 home victory over rival Mt. Ararat, romped at Edward Little (21-1), won at Messalonskee (19-12) and Oxford Hills (18-2), handled visiting Cony (19-3), then passed two road tests in impressive fashion, downing defending Eastern B champion Yarmouth (14-8) and previously undefeated Lewiston (12-3).
The Capers romped at Waynflete in their opener, 18-6, then held off visiting Yarmouth, 6-3, in a state game rematch. Wins at Kennebunk (16-8) and at home over Wells (21-0) and Scarborough (10-4) were followed by Tuesday’s explosive 19-11 victory at Falmouth.
Saturday morning, on the Bowdoin turf, the teams left little doubt that they’re the two best in the state.
The only question was which would emerge with the victory.
Any concern that the Dragons would be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the moment and their foe was assuaged immediately, as Schlosser won the opening faceoff and got the ball to Woodruff, who had a great look just two seconds in, but shot wide.
Cape Elizabeth would score first, as Owen Thoreck struck unassisted with 10:25 to play in the first quarter, but after a slashing penalty to Capers sophomore Connor Thoreck, Brunswick pulled even man-up, as Glover finished a feed from Brooks with 8:26 to go.
With 6:36 remaining, after Cape Elizabeth junior goalie Alex Narvaez made a save, Croatti pounced on the rebound and one-timed it into the net to give the Dragons their first lead, but with 3:52 to go, the Capers drew even, 2-2, when Griffin Thoreck set up senior Ben Shea, who had seven goals in Tuesday’s win at Falmouth.
Shea wouldn’t score again.
The rest of the quarter belonged to Brunswick, as Brooks scored unassisted with 3:15 showing, then did so again with 56.6 seconds to play, giving the Dragons a 4-2 lead after 12 minutes of action.
Cape Elizabeth enjoyed a 15-9 edge in shots in the first period, but Smith’s seven saves allowed Brunswick to enjoy an advantage.
Prior to the start of the second quarter, the Capers were called for having an illegal stick, allowing the Dragons to have a minute man-up and with 11:19 to play in the half, they pounced, taking a 5-2 lead when senior T.J. Sullivan set up Woodruff for his first goal in transition after a Cape Elizabeth turnover.
But just when Brunswick was feeling good about its play, the Capers flipped the switch in a way only they can.
A mere 21 seconds after Woodruff’s goal, Griffin Thoreck scored unassisted. Twenty-seconds after that, Owen Thoreck did the same and just like that, the deficit was one, 5-4.
The tying goal came 8:53 before the half, when Shea set up senior Cole Caswell.
Then, with 5;52 showing, senior Andrew Kelly scored unassisted to give Cape Elizabeth its first lead since 1-0.
After sophomore Peyton Weatherbie forced a turnover at one end, junior R.J. Sarka scored unassisted at the other with 3:47 left and after Sullivan missed a golden opportunity to stem the tide, missing wide on an open net, Griffin Thoreck scored twice in a seven-second span in the final minute (the first goal unassisted and the second from freshman Finn Raymond after Raymond’s faceoff win) to make it 9-5 Capers at the break.
Cape Elizabeth’s lead could have been even larger, as it held a 28-15 shots advantage, but Smith’s 11 saves kept his team alive.
Brunswick didn’t panic at halftime, instead regrouping.
“The beautiful part of this sport is the ebb and flows,” Don Glover said. “At halftime, I just said, ‘Relax and enjoy the game.’ We knew we just had to come back to basics.”
Sure enough, Schlosser won the faceoff, the ball came to Brooks and Brooks finished unassisted to snap an 11 minute, 34 second scoring drought and the Capers’ 7-0 run, returning momentum to the Dragons.
With 8:33 left in the third quarter, in transition after a nice Smith save on Connor Thoreck, Brooks set up Woodruff for a goal making the score 9-7.
Cape Elizabeth got a goal back at the 6:24 mark, when Owen Thoreck scored unassisted, but with 4:30 to go, Woodruff scored from Cam Glover and with 2:35 left, on the fastbreak, Sullivan set up Woodruff for a goal which cut the deficit to one, 10-9.
After Brunswick failed to pull even in a man-up situation, as Narvaez denied Glover, Ginty shot wide and Woodruff had a shot blocked, the hosts made it 10-10 when Ginty set up Glover with 1:12 remaining.
Making matters worse for the Capers, Connor Thoreck was called for unnecessary roughness and the Dragons again had a man-up chance and this time converted, as Brooks set up Glover for a goal which improbably put Brunswick back on top, 11-10, with 32.4 seconds left.
“We felt like we were still in it at halftime,” Brooks said. “We needed four goals. We kept going and the game was back-and-forth right to the end.”
“It was a great second quarter and just a bad third quarter,” lamented longtime Cape Elizabeth coach Ben Raymond. “We had some penalties creep in and take the flow out of the game. We slid early in the third quarter when we didn’t need to at times. We didn’t get as much pressure on the ball at times. We’re just up and down. When we’re good, we’re really good, but it’s not as consistent as it needs to be.”
The Dragons would take the lead to the palpitating fourth period.
Early in the fourth, Brunswick went man-up for 30 seconds, but Narvaez denied Ginty. Cape Elizabeth then had a man-up chance, but Shea’s shot was blocked by a defender.
With 10:09 remaining, Griffin Thoreck scored unassisted to tie the score, 11-11.
After Sullivan shot wide for the Dragons and Shea was robbed by Smith, sophomore Christian Glover, in transition, fed Brooks for a goal which put Brunswick ahead, 12-11, with 8:13 to play.
The Dragons took a two-goal lead when Sullivan fed Croatti in transition with 6:03 left, but with 5:10 remaining, after corralling the ball in his defensive end, Sarka raced coast-to-coast for an unassisted tally to cut the Capers’ deficit to 13-12.
Brunswick retook a two-goal lead when Cam Glover set up Woodruff with 2:47 to play, but Cape Elizabeth refused to fold, pulling within one 19 seconds later on an unassisted strike from Owen Thoreck.
Schlosser won the faceoff, but the Dragons turned the ball over. The Capers gave it back, but again, Brunswick failed to possess and after failing to even register a shot playing man-up for 30 seconds, the Dragons turned the ball over again with just over a minute to play.
That gave Cape Elizabeth a chance and the Capers wouldn’t be denied.
After Shea had a shot blocked, the ball came to Owen Thoreck and he bulled his way through the defense before beating Smith to make it 14-14 with 41.7 seconds remaining.
There was still plenty of time for a team to win it in regulation, but after Schlosser won the faceoff, Cape Elizabeth senior defensive standout Jack Drinan forced a turnover and after the Capers gave it back, a wild bid from Cam Glover with 3.2 seconds showing was well off target and it was on to overtime.
Teams play as many four-minute OTs as necessary to determine a winner, but it was clear on this day, with so many offensive standouts on the field, that it wouldn’t take long.
Again, Schlosser won possession for the Dragons, but they weren’t able to get a shot off, as they turned the ball over and Connor Thoreck took possession.
Cape Elizabeth then got the ball to Owen Thoreck, who appeared to have a good look, only to have his shot blocked. Shea pounced on the rebound and launched a shot, but it sailed high.
The Capers kept possession and this time, the ball came to junior Riley Pillsbury behind the cage. Pillsbury worked his way around, hoping to fire a quick shot, but Brunswick’s defense stood strong and Pillsbury lost the ball, with Christian Glover gaining possession.
The Dragons got the ball across midfield, then called timeout to set up the winner.
“I said, ‘Just go. Just move. Settle down and play,'” Don Glover said.
The ball came to Ginty, who looked to pass, then realized he had a lane. Ginty raced in, reared back and shot and while Narvaez made contact with the shot, he couldn’t stop it and the ball continued into the net to win it for the Dragons, 15-14.
“I wanted it to be me on the sidelines, but I didn’t think it would really happen,” Ginty said. “I got a little breathing room. I looked to my right and to my left and I knew I had to do it. I didn’t think it would go in because it hit the goalie, but then it went in. I got a lucky bounce. We’ve buckled down in practice, staying after and shooting. We waited for this moment. Coming in, we thought this was possible. It was awesome.”
At 12:04 p.m., a wild celebration ensued.
“They had momentum going to overtime, but this group of guys is a family,” said Brooks. “We trust our teammates. Our coaches are unbelievable. (The final play) was basically setting up in our formation and getting the ball to Owen or Cam. You move the ball, see an opening and go. Owen saw it and everybody trusts him. We went up early and we knew they’d come back. They’re the best, no doubt about it. We got a little overwhelmed last year, but we had a great game plan this time and stuck to it. It’s not the state championship, but it felt like it because everyone wants to beat Cape. It could have gone either way.”
“I honestly didn’t know what to think, I was just so overjoyed,” Schlosser said. “I just ran out there and gave (Owen) a big hug. It’s hard to explain what a big win this is. It means everything. We knew this would be the biggest game we were going to play. This drives into our heads that we can go far in the playoffs and we can win states. This is the biggest step toward it.”
“We felt good about getting a possession and an opportunity,” Don Glover added. “We didn’t get a shot, but we have faith in our defense. We played good D and came back down on offense. (Owen’s) an A-line midfielder going off to college to play. He’s a leader who stepped up at a key point. It was awesome.
“We knew Cape’s exceptional. There were a lot of key markups. Ben’s a great coach. There were a lot of little things he was doing that we countered. The chess game. We knew we were coming in as the underdog and we were OK with that. They’re more skilled than us, but tactically and as a group, we knew we could compete. We had to play a great game. Both teams played exceptional. There were a lot of ebb and flows, which is what you want to see. The guys just believed intrinsically. I have an exceptional group of seniors who have been playing for a long time and they believe in themselves.”
Woodruff paced a prolific offense with five goals. Brooks added four, Cam Glover had three, Croatti finished with two and Ginty had the biggest one of all.
Ten of Brunswick’s 15 goals were assisted, as opposed to just three by Cape Elizabeth. Brooks and Sullivan both had three helpers, Cam Glover finished with two and Ginty and Christian Glover each added one.
The Dragons were an efficient 3-of-6 man-up.
Smith’s 16 saves were instrumental in helping Brunswick prevail.
The Dragons finished with a commanding 22-10 advantage in the faceoff circle, as Schlosser won 21 of his 30 opportunities (Brooks went 1-for-2).
“The difference was having my wings draw their man out and having my team there pumping me up,” Schlosser said. “I knew I had to start winning faceoffs and getting us possession. We couldn’t let them have it. Their attack is their best asset. I wasn’t sure at the end because with the longstick (Drinan), I wasn’t sure what he’d throw at me. He’s very good. I just had to get it out to my wing players and I’m lucky we picked up the ball.”
“If Ian hadn’t won all those faceoffs, who knows,” said Brooks. “He’s unbelievable at what he does. He controls the game. He does his job so the rest of us can do our jobs.”
“Ian’s an exceptional faceoff kid,” Don Glover added. “He has a focus. We’re very fortunate to have him. His possession led to goals.”
The Dragons had a 50-48 edge in ground balls (Schlosser led all players with 12, while Brooks finished with 10, Cam Glover seven and Christian Glover six).
Brunswick overcame 30 turnovers.
For Cape Elizabeth, Owen Thoreck had five goals, Griffin Thoreck added four, while Sarka finished with two and Caswell, Kelly and Shea each had one.
Raymond, Shea and Griffin Thoreck all had assists,
The Capers didn’t score on either man-up opportunities.
Narvaez made eight saves.
Drinan and Sarka had a team-high 10 ground balls.
Cape Elizabeth enjoyed a 44-37 shots advantage (30-23 on cage) and committed 22 turnovers.
“(The game) had its moments,” Ben Raymond said. “It could have been cleaner on both ends. The turf magnified missed passes. Balls rolled out of bounds that might have otherwise stayed in. We did exactly what we wanted to do, came back and forced overtime, then had the possession we wanted. We got a good look, but it got blocked. We got the ball back and Riley got a good look, but he turned to throw it back and it fell out of his stick and went the other way. I will say if we get possession in overtime, we should win the game. It is what it is.
“It was two really good teams. They knew what they were doing. Hopefully we’ll get to continue to play each other. There’s not as many really good teams as there are average teams. It would be great to play them every single year. We’d love to play them twice.”
Both teams now return to league play with an eye on locking up the top seed in their respective regions.
Cape Elizabeth (first in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) looks to bounce back when it plays at home Tuesday for the first time in 10 days when Greely pays a visit. After hosting York Friday, the Capers go to NYA and Yarmouth, then finish at home against Falmouth.
“I thought we had their attention after Falmouth, but we’ll focus on being more consistent,” Raymond said. “We need to refocus and move on to Greely on Tuesday. Luckily that’s at home. (Greely’s) a team that’s up-and-coming in our conference. We’ll practice tomorrow night and make sure we get everybody’s attention and get back to business. It’s a long season. The kids are upset right now not getting an undefeated season.”
Brunswick (first in Eastern A) is back in action Wednesday when Edward Little pays a visit. After going to Mt. Ararat Friday, the Dragons close with home games versus Messalonskee and Morse.
Brunswick’s ultimate goal is to win its second Class A championship (and first since 2007) June 20 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
“Now we know we can play with anyone,” Brooks said. “We have to play like we did today. We have to minimize mistakes and play our game. Like (New England Patriots coach) Bill Belichick says, ‘Do your job.’ Our defense has to get the ball, get it to the middies and get it on attack. We have to play confident. We tend to get in the zone in these big games.”
“I think we get overlooked and we’re the underdog and that’s what we need,” Ginty said. “Our main goal is to win a state championship. We think we have a chance at that now. We’re a brotherhood.”
“This is a step, it’s all it is,” added Don Glover. “We preach very religiously that it’s one game at a time and to focus on the next game. We have some games left. We have to finish up the season, hopefully be in the KVAC championship, then chip away at it one game at a time.”
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Owen Thoreck shoots on Brunswick senior goalie Mitchell Smith.
Cape Elizabeth senior Noah Wolfinger arrives too late as Brunswick senior Matt Brooks scores one of his four goals.
Brunswick sophomore Josh Dorr contorts his body and fires a shot.
Saturday’s hero, Brunswick senior Owen Ginty, launches a shot from the side of the cage.
Cape Elizabeth senior Jack Drinan defends Brunswick senior Cam Glover.
Cape Elizabeth senior Griffin Thoreck fires a shot. Thoreck scored four times.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Owen Thoreck celebrates after scoring one of his five goals.
Cape Elizabeth junior R.J. Sarka fights through Brunswick senior Cam Glover.
Brunswick senior Ian Schlosser controls the ball after one of his 21 faceoff wins.
Brunswick senior Eric Kousky gives Cape Elizabeth senior Ben Shea a shove. Shea, who had seven goals in Tuesday’s win at Falmouth, was held to just one by the Dragons’ defense.
Brunswick senior goalie Mitchell Smith, who made 16 huge saves, is congratulated following the win.
@ Cape Elizabeth 16 Brunswick 2
@ Brunswick 9 Cape Elizabeth 8 (OT)
@ Cape Elizabeth 16 Brunswick 11
Cape Elizabeth 15 Brunswick 7
Brunswick senior Owen Ginty (22) is mobbed by his teammates after his overtime goal shocks previously undefeated Cape Elizabeth, 15-14, in Saturday morning’s instant classic. The Dragons snapped the Capers’ 25-game win streak.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
CE- 2 7 1 4- 14
B- 4 1 6 3 1- 15
10:25 CE O. Thoreck (unassisted)
8:26 B Cam Glover (Brooks) (MAN-UP)
6:36 B Croatti (unassisted)
3:52 CE Shea (G. Thoreck)
3:15 B Brooks (unassisted)
56.6 B Brooks (unassisted)
11:19 B Woodruff (Sullivan) (MAN-UP)
10:58 CE G. Thoreck (unassisted)
10:37 CE O. Thoreck (unassisted)
8:53 CE Caswell (Shea)
5:52 CE Kelly (unassisted)
3:47 CE Sarka (unassisted)
41.6 CE G. Thoreck (unassisted)
34.4 CE G. Thoreck (Raymond)
11:45 B Brooks (unassisted)
8:33 B Woodruff (Brooks)
6:24 CE O. Thoreck (unassisted)
4:30 B Woodruff (Cam Glover)
2:36 B Woodruff (Sullivan)
1:12 B Cam Glover (Ginty)
32.4 B Cam Glover (Brooks) (MAN-UP)
10:09 CE G. Thoreck (unassisted)
8:13 B Brooks (Ch. Glover)
6:03 B Croatti (Sullivan)
5:10 CE Sarka (unassisted)
2:47 B Woodruff (Cam Glover)
2:28 CE O. Thoreck (unassisted)
41.7 CE O. Thoreck (unassisted)
2:03 B Ginty (unassisted)
CE- O. Thoreck 5, G. Thoreck 4, Sarka 2, Caswell, Kelly, Shea 1
B- Woodruff 5, Brooks 4, Cam Glover 3, Croatti 2, Ginty 1
CE- Raymond, Shea, G. Thoreck 1
B- Brooks, Sullivan 3, Cam Glover 2, Ginty, Ch. Glover 1
Faceoffs (Brunswick, 22-10)
CE- Raymond 8 of 25, Drinan 1 of 4, Spencer 1 of 3
B- Schlosser 21 of 30, Brooks 1 of 2
Ground balls (Brunswick, 50-48)
CE- Drinan, Sarka 10, Wolfinger 5, Caswell, Haversat, Shea 3, Ekedahl, Kelly, Narvaez, Raymond O. Thoreck 2, Pillsbury, C. Thoreck, G. Thoreck, Weatherbie 1
B- Schlosser 12, Brooks 10, Cam Glover 7, Ch. Glover 6, Croatti, Hillis 3, Ginty, Kousky, Rogers 2, Dorr, Snell, Sullivan 1
Shots on cage:
CE (Narvaez) 8
B (Smith) 16