Gorham rallies to stun Scarborough in early season showdown

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Gorham senior goalkeeper Alex York comes out to break up the rush of Scarborough senior Cam Thibault during a showdown of two of the best teams in Class A South Tuesday night. The Rams rallied to win, 2-1, beating the Red Storm for the first time since 2010.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

SCARBOROUGH—Gorham’s boys’ soccer team always plays perennial powerhouse Scarborough down to the wire, but in recent seasons, the Rams hadn’t been able to get that extra goal and send the Red Storm to defeat.

So when Scarborough senior Garrett King scored with just 39.5 seconds to go in the first half of the teams’ showdown Tuesday night at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex, it looked like the Rams were in for more agony, but this year’s team, the Class A South favorite in the minds of many, had other ideas.

Gorham carried play most of the second half and its hard work paid off with 23:23 remaining, when senior Jackson Fotter set up junior Kyle King for the tying score.

The Rams and Red Storm had gone to overtime in each of their previous four regular season meetings and appeared destined for an extra session again, but with 9:01 to go in regulation, senior Tyler Richman beat a defender, then scored the biggest goal his team has mustered in a long, long time for a 2-1 lead.

Gorham’s defense slammed the door from there and for the first time in six seasons, the Rams were able to solve the defending Class A South champions, prevailing, 2-1.

Gorham improved to 3-0 on the young season, ended Scarborough’s eight-game unbeaten run in the series and dropped the Red Storm to 2-2 in the process.

“It’s been a long time for Gorham to beat Scarborough home or away,” Richman said. “It’s a big deal for us, but it’s a long season and we’ll see them again.”

“(Gorham’s) a good team and it was a good test for us,” said Red Storm coach Mark Diaz. “It’s what we expected. We knew it would be a good, close game. We wanted some questions answered and we got them answered.”

Frustration ends

Scarborough has long stood alone in the league and a year ago, went undefeated for the ninth time in a dozen years and earned the top seed in the playoffs for the 11th time in 12 seasons, but the Red Storm fell just short in the state final, losing to a juggernaut from Lewiston, 1-0.

Scarborough opened the 2016 campaign with a 1-0 home loss to Deering, but returned to form with wins at Sanford (4-1) and Bonny Eagle (3-0).

Gorham had a stellar 12-1-1 record in 2015, but the Rams were upset by Cheverus in the quarterfinals.

Gorham came in to this year facing lofty expectations and opened the new season by romping at Biddeford (9-3) and holding off visiting South Portland (2-0). 

Scarborough and Gorham have long been rivals, dating to the 1970s, when each program won multiple championships in the early years of the sport (the Red Storm won two of three playoff meetings in that decade).

Even after both schools joined the SMAA over a decade ago, the games have remained competitive.

In last year’s meeting, the teams settled for a scoreless tie at Gorham. That marked the fourth straight regular season meeting that the rivals had to go to overtime (a 0-0 draw was the result in 2012, Scarborough won, 2-1, in overtime in 2013 and the teams tied, 1-1, in 2014). 

Entering play Tuesday, since the Rams joined the SMAA in 2005, the Red Storm held a 10-2-4 edge (including a 5-0 mark in the postseason)

This time around, on a beautiful 77 degree evening with a brisk 15-mile-per-hour wind wreaking havoc, Scarborough was hoping to extend its unbeaten streak against Gorham to nine, but thanks to their second half surge, the Rams beat the Red Storm for the first time since Sept. 16, 2010 (2-1 in Scarborough).

Both goalies were solid in the first half, as each team generated some strong chances.

In the third minute, Red Storm senior goalkeeper Chris Franklin kicked away a Fotter bid.

In the fifth minute, Scarborough’s coaches were irked when senior striker Noah Stracqualursi was brought down in the box and no call was made.

In the eighth minute, Gorham senior Ryan Firmin launched a long shot which Franklin hauled in.

A minute later, at the opposite end, the Red Storm’s first chance came when King twirled and crushed a 30-yard blast that appeared ticketed for the upper right corner, but senior keeper Alex York leapt and tipped the ball away at the last second. It led to a corner kick, but Scarborough didn’t manage a shot.

In the 14th minute, off a corner, King had a shot blocked and a rebound shot from junior Sam Burghardt sailed high.

After Rams junior back David Higgins broke up a rush by Stracqualursi, York slid and saved a free kick off the foot of Red Storm junior Jared Greenleaf.

In the 24th minute, Franklin had to field a bending, 25-yard free kick from Fotter which came out of the defensive wall.

Scarborough transitioned to offense and Stracqualursi had a golden opportunity, but his bid for the far post was denied by a gorgeous diving save by York.

It appeared the contest would be scoreless at the half, but with 39.5 seconds to go, after Franklin took a free kick from just inside the midfield stripe, the ball carried into the box, deflected off a defender and came right to King, who ripped a shot that York could only slow but not stop and the Red Storm had a 1-0 lead at halftime.

“We deserved that goal, but they deserved their goals too,” Diaz said.

Scarborough had a 4-3 edge in first half shots and took five corner kicks to three for Gorham and appeared to have all the momentum, but the Rams regrouped at halftime.

“Coach gave us a good halftime talk,” Richman said. “As a team, we realized we didn’t come here to lose. We had an extra chip on our shoulder like we always do against Scarborough.”

Gorham pressured for the equalizer, but Franklin grabbed the ball out of a crowd on one threat and Franklin beat Burghardt to a loose ball in the box on another.

Then, with 23:23 remaining, the Rams’ hard work was rewarded, as in transition, Fotter spotted an open King and King one-touched a shot that Franklin couldn’t reach, into the net and just like that, the game was tied, 1-1.

“I don’t know if I settled them down rather than light a fire under them,” said Gorham coach Tim King. “We were lackadaisical in the first half and we didn’t play the way we’re capable of playing. I got on my senior leadership and they played a fantastic second half.”

After Rams junior Nolan Brown took a shot that Franklin had to slide to save, Firmin sent a shot high and Fotter twice was denied, the visitors went on top to stay.

The goal came with 9:01 left as a ball was played ahead and somehow, Richman came out of a group of defenders with the ball and some operating room. He dribbled in, then launched a left-footed shot that beat Franklin high for a 2-1 lead.

“I found space, drove into it and got it past the keeper,” Richman said. “It was a little bit of a blur. We didn’t have a good first half and we all knew that, but we turned it on for the second half. That’s how we can play.”

“We settled down and Tyler made a great play,” Tim King said. “He shielded his man off and finished with a great left-footed shot. That was coming because I felt we were carrying the play at that point.”

Scarborough was staggered.

“I think it was just a direct ball over the top and one of my guys mis-trapped it, they got it, he came in from an angle and scored a nice goal,” Diaz said.

Down the stretch, the Red Storm had a couple chances to equalize, but on a throw in from Greenleaf, junior Marco Manfra shot high and on a serve into the box from junior Brandon Wasser, York got to the ball first.

Gorham ran out the clock from there and at 6:42 p.m., after nearly six years of frustration, celebrated its 2-1 win over Scarborough.

“This is huge for confidence,” Richman said. “We’re coming off a hard fought win over South Portland too.”

“Scarborough is such a great program,” Tim King said. “They’re hard to play against because they always pressure and they’re so good. I expect we’ll see them again. It feels good, I won’t lie.”

Franklin made seven saves to four for York and the Red Storm had a 7-3 advantage in corner kicks, but suffered a second home loss in the same regular season for the first time since 2001.

“It was a good game, certainly a tale of two halves,” Diaz said. “I just thought we sat back too much in the second half. We didn’t handle the moment very well, but we’ll learn from it and we’ll get better.  They have a lot of experienced guys back, but we’ve always played similar styles. That’s what always makes it a good game.”

No time to celebrate

Gorham is back in action Thursday at Bonny Eagle. The Rams host Sanford Tuesday, then have a Battle of the Rams 48 hours later at Deering.

As big of a victory as it was, Gorham isn’t satisfied with beating Scarborough in mid-September. The Rams’ goals are much bigger.

“I’d rather be an underdog personally, but we’re handling the pressure,” Richman said. “We’re on the right track.”

“(Scarborough’s) a great team, so whenever we can beat them, it feels great, but it’s a long season and there’s a lot of improvement that will go on with both teams,” Tim King said. “We’ll enjoy it tonight, then get back to work tomorrow. We have a lot of talent, but you have to put that together with hard work. I have high hopes for these guys, but we’ll have to prove ourselves every day. We play in a strong league and if we don’t come to play, we’ll get beaten. We want to live up to those expectations, but we’ll take it one game at a time.”

Scarborough has another test Thursday, this one at South Portland. The Red Storm are then idle until next Thursday, when Biddeford pays a visit. The following week brings showdowns at dangerous Cheverus and Portland.

Don’t write off this proud program just yet.

“I’m confident we’ll bounce back,” Diaz said. “The guys want to get better. We’ve lost by one goal two times to good teams. This team will have something to say. I’m not making any predictions, but I have smart players and this has been a learning experience for them.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Scarborough senior Noah Stracqualursi fires a shot past Gorham junior Garrett Higgins.

Scarborough senior Marc Guerette tries to boot the ball, but is confronted by Gorham senior Ethan Orach.

Scarborough junior Jared Greenleaf runs down a loose ball.

Scarborough senior goalkeeper Chris Franklin grabs the ball in traffic as junior teammate Owen Tyson and Gorham senior Ethan Orach loom.

Scarborough senior Garrett King and Gorham junior Nick Sturtevant meet in the air.

Scarborough junior Marco Manfra tries to get the ball from Gorham junior Garrett Higgins.

Scarborough senior Garrett King is mobbed by seniors Noah Stracqualursi (10) and Alex Giles (19) after scoring a goal in the final minute of the first half. The Red Storm weren’t able to hold on.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.