Southern edition Spring Coaches of the Year
TOM FIORINI, SOUTH PORTLAND LACROSSE
Fiorini long believed that South Portland could be a champion. He had his doubters, but this spring, he and a special group of Red Riots reached the pinnacle as his unwavering belief paid big dividends.
As a result of his passion for the sport and for his championship effort, Tom Fiorini gets The Forecaster's nod as our Southern Edition Spring Coach of the Year, of a boys' team.
Fiorini grew up in New York state and didn't take long to discover lacrosse. He had his first stick in the third grade and soon forsake baseball (his father's sport) to follow his older brother John on to the lacrosse field.
Fiorini also played tight end in football and forward in basketball in high school, where his senior lacrosse season was spent playing for another brother, Peter. After playing two years of lacrosse in community college, Fiorini played club lacrosse all over the country.
Next came coaching, something he began with the Back Bay program in 1990, when lacrosse was in its infancy in Maine.
After a long stint in the working world, Fiorini returned to coaching in 2006 as South Portland's JV coach and the coach of the middle school program. In 2008, he inherited a varsity program that had little history.
The climb to the top was arduous and often disheartening, as the Red Riots suffered their share of playoff heartbreak, but entering 2014, South Portland was the clear favorite.
The Red Riots demonstrated early that they were something special, scoring goals with abandon, handling defending Eastern A champion Cheverus, avenging last year's playoff loss to Kennebunk, then winning at perennial powerhouse Yarmouth for the first time. South Portland won its first 11 games before running into four-time defending state champion Scarborough, which knocked the Red Riots down a few pegs with a 14-8 victory.
But even after that loss, Fiorini believed his team was the best and instilled that message. South Portland was the top seed for the Western A playoffs and earned a bye into the semifinals, where it handled Gorham.
Then, in the regional final against Thornton Academy, it appeared as if more agony was in store when the Red Riots trailed by two goals in the final minute, but spurred on by a timely Fiorini stick-check on the Golden Trojans' talented faceoff specialist, which resulted in a penalty and that player not being available for the pivotal play of the game, South Portland rallied for three goals in the final minute, tying the score with six seconds to go, then winning it with 1.9 seconds showing.
That state game was a bit of an anticlimax, but a victory over Brunswick gave the program its long-awaited championship.
“I was confident we could do it,” said Fiorini, who had the thrill of sharing the title run with his sophomore son, Jack. “We had so many horses. So many kids who could score.”
Fiorini, who works at Three Dollar Dewey's in the Old Port when he's not involved in lacrosse (even then, he's thinking about it), hopes to continue coaching and winning more titles.
“I enjoy being with the kids and lacrosse is a game I love dearly,” Fiorini said. “I hope to go many more years.”
That's good news for a program that now knows how to win and expects to keep doing so. Tom Fiorini, our Southern edition boys' team Spring Coach of the Year, has delivered a champion at long last.
2013 Andy Strout (Cape Elizabeth tennis)
2012 Chris Hayward (Cape Elizabeth baseball)
2011 Craig MacDonald (Scarborough tennis)
2010 Ben Raymond (Cape Elizabeth lacrosse)
2009 Jim Cronin (Scarborough baseball)
2008 Joe Hezlep (Scarborough lacrosse)
2007 Craig McDonald (Scarborough tennis)
2006 Tobey Farrington (Scarborough lacrosse)
2005 Dave Weatherbie (Cape Elizabeth track)
2004 Todd Day (Cape Elizabeth baseball)
2003 Ben Raymond (Cape Elizabeth lacrosse)
2002 Andy Strout (Cape Elizabeth boys' tennis)
JEFF PERKINS, CAPE ELIZABETH LACROSSE
Perkins faced many challenges this season, but got his team to overcome time and again and he led them to a place they long dreamed of, but had never before reached. Despite being compromised by graduation and injury, somehow, he and his charges came from nowhere to win a first-ever Western B title.
Such an historic accomplishment convinced The Forecaster to name Jeff Perkins our Southern edition Spring Coach of the Year, of a girls' team.
Perkins, who was also named Coach of the Year in 2012, lived in Cape Elizabeth when he was young, but moved away when he was 12. In high school, he played football, basketball and baseball. He went on to play football (wide receiver) at Plymouth State (N.H.).
Perkins dabbled in coaching football out of college, but really got in to that aspect of athletics when his older daughter Talley started playing lacrosse. He became a youth level coach and spent four years as Cape Elizabeth's varsity team's assistant, running the defense, before becoming head coach in 2012.
That year, the Capers went undefeated and appeared poised to win it all, but they lost a second half lead and a triple overtime heartbreaker to eventual champion Waynflete in the regional final. In 2013, Cape Elizabeth got back to the Western B Final and again lost to the Flyers.
After Talley Perkins (Boston University) and two-time Spring Female Athlete of the Year Lauren Steidl (Princeton) graduated, the Capers knew they'd have their hands full challenging in a deep Western Class B this spring, but Perkins had no idea just how difficult it would be.
Cape Elizabeth got off to a 4-2 start (losing at Kennebunk and Waynflete), then, on May 20, disaster appeared to strike when almost-impossible-to-stop senior Hannah Newhall was sidelined with a collarbone injury in a loss to Yarmouth.
The Capers could have given up and Perkins turned to his team to get a feel on how they wanted to play.
"We had to go back to the drawing board after losing Hannah and that was a challenge," Perkins said. "I didn't lie to the girls. We were at a crossroads, but they wanted to go after it and that was fun to see."
Behind seniors Abby McInerney and Liz Robinson, Cape Elizabeth won four in a row before closing with a home loss to Waynflete, the Capers' 24th straight setback at the hands of the nemesis Flyers.
Cape Elizabeth fell to the number three seed for the playoffs and promptly handled Falmouth in the quarterfinals, but all that meant was another trip to Waynflete for the semifinals where heartbreak was sure to follow.
The Capers got off to a fast start, then fell behind in the second half, 8-6, and appeared finished, but this year's team proved to be undeniable. After tying the score, McInerney won it late and after 12 seasons and 25 tries (25 being Perkins' old high school number and a number worn by both Talley and younger daughter, Maisie), the Waynflete dragon was slain at last.
Keeping the good times rolling, Cape Elizabeth edged Kennebunk in an overtime thriller in the regional final (Robinson scored the winner) and for the first time in the Maine Principals' Association-sanctioned era, the Capers played for a championship.
The story didn't have the ultimate happy ending, as despite eight goals from McInerney, Cape Elizabeth lost to a talented Yarmouth squad, but it was a ride to remember.
“It was quite a whirlwind,” said Perkins. "I 'Belichicked' them and told them to trust their teammates and do their job. You saw that in the playoffs. We were confident at the end. The Waynflete game gave us confidence against Kennebunk. There was no deer in the headlights look.”
Perkins, who lives in Cape Elizabeth and also has a lacrosse playing son, Tate, who is about to enter high school, plans to coach as long as his family, work and commitment with the Maineiax premier program allows.
He's certainly shown an ability to get the Capers to the biggest stage and produce memorable results. Jeff Perkins, our Southern edition girls' team Spring Coach of the Year, saved his best work for this season.
2013 Tom Griffin Scarborough softball)
2012 Jeff Perkins (Cape Elizabeth lacrosse)
2011 Marcia Wood (Scarborough lacrosse)
2010 Ralph Aceto (South Portland softball)
2009 Ralph Aceto (South Portland softball)
2008 Tom Griffin (Scarborough softball)
2007 Tom Griffin (Scarborough softball)
2006 Joe Henrikson (Cape Elizabeth softball)
2005 Jim Hartman (South Portland softball)
2004 Susan Ray (Cape Elizabeth tennis)
2003 Tom Griffin (Scarborough softball)
2002 Jack DiBiase (South Portland softball)