Gorham ruins Scarborough's opener in double OT

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Gorham junior Alex York leaps into a teammate’s arms after scoring in the second overtime to give the Rams their first-ever victory over Scarborough, 9-8, Saturday evening.

Photos courtesy Adam Birt/ The Current.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

SCARBOROUGH—History was made Saturday evening at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex, but not the kind of history the Scarborough boys’ lacrosse team was looking for.

Hosting Gorham in what proved to be a memorable season opener, the Red Storm jumped to an early 2-1 lead, then couldn’t score for over 13 minutes as the Rams grabbed the lead and gained some confidence.

When Gorham junior Cam Wright scored with 3.2 seconds left in the first half, the visitors had a stunning 7-3 lead.

Not surprisingly, Scarborough awakened in the second half, turned up its defensive intensity and rode terrific ball movement to pull even.

After scoring three unanswered goals in the third quarter, the Red Storm tied the score 15 seconds into the fourth period when sophomore Marco Manfra set up junior Sam Neugebauer to make it 7-7.

With 4:47 to play, the Rams snapped their 19-plus minute drought when senior Tristan Brunet scored unassisted, but again, Scarborough rallied and when Manfra set up Neugebauer with 1:09 remaining, the game was deadlocked, 8-8, and it would stay that way into overtime.

A first four-minute OT didn’t produce a winner, so it was on to a second extra session, where with 2:22 left, Wright fed junior Alex York, who scored one of the biggest goals in Gorham’s history to give the Rams a 9-8 victory, their first ever over the Red Storm.

“It was a great game,” said Gorham coach Dan Soule. “Both teams played hard. I’m proud of the effort and grit we played with today.”

“Coach Soule has them working hard,” said Scarborough coach Joe Hezlep. “They flat-out grind. They took advantage of their opportunities. Credit to them.”

Getting started

Scarborough won Class A championships in 2006, 2008 and every year between 2010 and 2013, but each of the past two seasons, the Red Storm were ousted in the semifinals by Thornton Academy. Last spring, Scarborough almost rallied from a six-goal fourth quarter deficit before falling just short and the Red Storm hope that they can build on that effort and combine it with the typical large amount of talent on the roster to produce a champion.

Gorham went 10-4 a year ago, reaching the Western A semifinals before losing to South Portland, 16-7.

Last year, Scarborough won at Gorham, 8-3.

Saturday, on a pleasant mid-April evening (the temperature at the start was 54 degrees), the Rams finally solved the Red Storm.

The first hint that Scarborough might be in for a frustrating night came when senior Cam Nigro won the opening faceoff, collected the ground ball and raced in for a great scoring chance, but was denied by Gorham junior Carter Landry just five seconds in.

The Rams got on the board 77 seconds into the game on a goal that was identical to the one that ended matters nearly two hours later, as Wright fed York for a shot which beat Red Storm junior Dominic Joy for a 1-0 lead.

Scarborough answered with an unassisted tally from Neugebauer with 10:13 to play in the first period, then went up, 2-1, when Manfra finished Nigro’s feed with 8:05 left.

Gorham drew even thanks to a man advantage with 7:22 to play in the first, when Brunet set up senior Joe Gallant, then went on top, 3-2, thanks to another man-up goal, as Wright set up York with 3:35 left.

The Rams extended their lead in the second period.

With 10:27 remaining in the half, Wright scored unassisted.

A rebound goal from junior Brady Rioux 25 seconds later made it 5-2.

After Scarborough sophomore Brandon Wasser hit the post (the first of six such unfortunate bounces to afflict the hosts), Thibault set up junior Marc Guerette to snap a 13 minute, 21 second drought and a four-goal Gorham run, cutting the deficit to 5-3 with 6:44 left in the first half.

The Rams kept the pressure on, as Brunet scored unassisted with 2:31 to go before the break.

It looked like Gorham would take a 6-3 advantage to halftime, but with 3.2 seconds remaining, sophomore Chris Tucker intercepted a Joy clear and passed to Wright, who finished to make it a four-goal lead and seemingly give the Rams all the momentum.

Scarborough came out with much more intensity in the second half and got back in the contest.

First, the Manfra-to-Neugebauer combination struck with 7:25 to go in the third period.

With 1:32 remaining, Thibault finished unassisted to cut the deficit to two.

With 4.3 seconds showing, Thibault fought through the defense before beating Landry and heading for  the final stanza (or what we thought would be the final stanza), the Rams, who could barely hold on to the ball, not to mention manage a shot thus far in the second half, were clinging to a 7-6 lead.

Fifteen seconds into the fourth quarter, after a Gorham turnover, Manfra set up Neugebauer in an optimal position again and Neugebauer tickled the twine to tie the score, 7-7.

“They adjusted a little bit and took away our first slide and forced us to slide from a different angle, which we’re not used to,” Soule said. “We tried to make adjustments. But they’re quicker, faster and more athletic. That hurt us in the third and fourth quarters.”

After Thibault and Neugebauer both hit the post with potential go-ahead shots, the visitors finally rediscovered their scoring touch.

With 4:47 left, Brunet managed to score unassisted, ending a 19:17 drought, and the Rams had an 8-7 lead, but again, it wouldn’t last.

With just over a minute to go, after Guerette just missed wide, Manfra once more found Neugebauer for the goal which made it 8-8 with 1:09 to go.

Gorham almost won it in the final minute, but with an attacker wide open in front, a pass went awry.

Thibault then tried to play the hero, but Landry saved his shot with 3.7 seconds left and it was on to overtime.

In boys’ high school lacrosse, teams play four-minute, “sudden victory” OT sessions until a winner is determined.

In the first overtime, Wright won the opening faceoff and tried to quickly end matters, but his shot was saved by Joy.

After a Rams’ turnover, Nigro almost ended it, but he too hit the post.

Nigro then had a shot saved by Landry and shot wide and as time wound down, Nigro and Guerette were both denied, sending the game to a second OT.

There, Wright again won the faceoff, but turned the ball over.

Neugebauer then got the ball in close and circled around the cage, but was ruled to be in the crease, giving the ball back to Gorham.

After junior defender Mat Anderson shot wide, the Rams kept possession and at 7:53 p.m., with 2:22 showing in the second OT, Wright found York one last time and York’s shot beat Joy, giving Gorham a 9-8 victory.

“Cam came around the net, he faked it, I curled, I was there and shot it and it went between the goalie’s legs and went in,” York said. “It feels so great. I can’t describe how great it feels. It was a team effort. It wasn’t me at all. I was just part of it. It’s just a wonderful night. We worked the whole 48 minutes and overtime. It’s just a storybook ending.”

“They played tighter on Cam and Alex and didn’t allow them to get the ball, so we utilized different ways to get them free,” Soule said. “That opened up Alex down low. We got lucky and he made a big shot.”

At last, Gorham had vanquished Scarborough.

“We came out and lacked energy in the second half,” York said. “We didn’t do what we did in the first half. We knew in overtime, we had to kick it to another level and it came out in our favor.”

“We hoped we could do a few more things right and we did today,” Soule said. “I’m very proud of my team.”

The Rams got three goals from York, two apiece from Brunet and Wright and one each from Gallant and Rioux. Wright also had three assists, while Brunet and Tucker had one apiece. Landry came up big with 20 saves.

“Not a lot of goalies can stop a guy coming downhill really fast with a good shot,” Hezlep said. “Carter made us look bad at times. He’s really good. He’s worked at his craft and it shows.”

Gallant had a team-high seven ground balls.

Gorham overcame 36 turnovers.

Almost

The Red Storm got four goals from Neugebauer, a pair from Thibault and one apiece from Guerette and Manfra.

Manfra had three assists and Nigro and Thibault each had one.

Joy stopped 13 shots.

Scarborough won 12 of 20 faceoffs, had a 43-41 edge in ground balls (Nigro easily led the way with a dozen), outshot Gorham, 51-33 (28-22 on frame) and committed 29 turnovers.

Despite long scoring droughts and trailing most of the way, Scarborough almost earned a win and has plenty to build on.

“At this point, outcomes are more based in how we play,” Hezlep said. “Twenty-four minutes didn’t go well and (30-plus) minutes went pretty darn well. Even when things didn’t go well, the effort was up. That’s what we’re looking for. We’re young defensively. We have three sophomores playing and our senior doesn’t have a ton of experience. We had to simplify things and talk more. We got some great looks.”

Fun continues

Gorham looks to improve to 2-0 Friday when Biddeford pays a visit.

The Rams won’t sneak up on anyone in the weeks to come. They’re clearly a legitimate contender.

“It’s the first game and we have many more big games to come,” York said. “I look forward to it.” 

“Moving forward, it’s a big stepping-stone, a big accomplishment for these kids and the program,” Soule said. “Hopefully we’ll carry this confidence forward. We have a lot of work to do. We’re clearly not perfect. Looking at the program itself, each year we take another step toward where we want to be. (Scarborough’s) not the team we might play in the playoffs and we’re not the team we can be moving forward as well.”

Scarborough returns to action Tuesday at Biddeford, then Friday has a huge early-season showdown when defending regional champion South Portland pays a visit.

The Red Storm have started seasons with losses before and always regroup. The 2016 edition should be no different.

“This is just game one,” Hezlep said. “What we take from it is we’ll continue to get better every day. We put stock in getting better, not wins and losses. The second half showed we’re willing to do it.”

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

Scarborough junior Cam Thibault bulls his way through the Gorham defense.

Scarborough junior Marc Guerette is congratulated by classmate Sam Neugebauer after a goal.

Scarborough sophomore Marco Manfra plays keepaway from a Gorham defender.

Scarborough junior Sam Neugebauer prepares a shot.

Scarborough sophomore Brandon Wasser possesses the ball in the midfield.

Scarborough senior Cam Nigro fires a shot.

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