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Scarborough survives scare from Deering

Sports

Scarborough survives scare from Deering

SCARBOROUGH—The two-time defending Class A state champion Scarborough boys' lacrosse team got a stern test from an underappreciated opponent, headed by a familiar face, Wednesday evening.

On a chilly night more appropriate for March than May, Deering hung tough with the prolific Red Storm throughout and pulled within a goal midway through the final period, but despite several chances, the Rams never could pull even and Scarborough held on for a 7-6 victory, improving to 6-0 and dropping Deering to 4-2 in the process.

The Red Storm, four days removed from its first test of the campaign, featured a balanced offense, sparked by three goals from junior standout John Wheeler, and relied on junior goalie David Pearson to make 18 saves, several of them at critical times, to turn back the valiant Rams.

"It's been really good for us to have close games," said Scarborough coach Joe Hezlep. "It was a great game. Deering had a phenomenal performance."

State final preview?

Scarborough has won each of the past two Class A state championships and four overall dating back to 2006. The Red Storm returned 14 seniors and some solid underclassmen this spring and not surprisingly, has lived up to its preseason billing as the favorite.

Scarborough rolled in its first four outings, downing Westbrook (17-1), Biddeford (12-0), Bonny Eagle (17-2) and South Portland (10-1), Saturday, the Red Storm went to North Yarmouth Academy and eked out a 4-3 decision in a game that served as a benefit for the Wounded Warriors Project.

Deering is coming off the best season in program history, one which saw the Rams lose to Lewiston in the Eastern A Final (the Portland schools are classified in the East for lacrosse). Coach Bob Rothbart stepped down and was replaced by Jon Dubois, who spent 2011 as an assistant with Scarborough (Rothbart is still with the Deering program as an assistant).

The Rams opened 2012 with a 4-2 victory over Cheverus. After dropping a 7-4 home decision to Marshwood, Deering beat city rival Portland, 9-5. Wins at Westbrook (9-4) and Bonny Eagle (18-5) followed.

The Scarborough-Deering rivalry has been one-sided. The Red Storm had won six of the eight overall meetings, including each of the past five, dating back to an 8-4 Rams' victory on April 26, 2005. Scarborough won the lone postseason encounter, 5-1, in the 2004 first round.

Wednesday's battle was the first between the teams since a 13-1 Scarborough win exactly three years prior. This time around, it was much closer, but the Red Storm managed to hold on.

After both teams turned the ball over multiple times at the start, the visitors had a chance to play man-up and took a 1-0 lead when senior Matt Flaherty set up classmate Anthony Verville.

Scarborough drew even with 4:09 to play in the first quarter when Wheeler got on the board, taking a pass from senior Ryan Pallotta and beating Deering goalie Nick Martin

Playing a man-up, the Red Storm made it 2-1 when junior Jurien Garrison grabbed a rebound and finished with 3:07 to go in the period, but it took the Rams, or more specifically senior standout Karl Rickett, five seconds to answer.

Rickett won the ensuing faceoff, collected the ground ball and raced in before firing a shot Pearson couldn't snare, deadlocking the contest, which is how it would remain entering the second quarter.

With 7:45 to play in that stanza, Wheeler put Scarborough back on top with an unassisted tally, but once again, Deering responded.

This time it took 22 seconds, but an unassisted goal from Flaherty made it 3-3.

The Rams then had to kill two minutes of penalties and did so, but with 3:21 left before halftime, the Red Storm went on top for good as Wheeler passed to open senior Jon Blaisdell for a shot Martin couldn't stop, making it 4-3.

In the final minute, a terrific individual effort from Wheeler extended the lead.

Wheeler took a pass from senior Luke Erwin, eluded a defender with a spin move, then fired a shot into the net, making it 5-3 with 37.7 seconds showing.

While the Rams won seven of nine faceoffs and had a 16-15 edge in shots, Deering found itself down by two.

The Rams crept within a goal when, two men-up, Flaherty set up Verville for a score.

Moments later, Deering, playing man-up, had a couple great looks to tie, but Pearson made saves on both.

Then, with 1:03 to go in the penalty plagued third period, Pallotta ended a nearly 12-minute drought when he took a pass from junior Dalton Finley and scored, giving Scarborough a 6-4 advantage heading for the fourth quarter.

There, seconds after senior Kellen Smith hit the post, senior Jeffrey Oddy scored unassisted and it looked as if the Red Storm was in control, up, 7-4.

Instead, the Rams would fight to the final horn and almost force overtime.

Deering made it a 7-5 game when Flaherty set up sophomore Bailey Koch for a goal at the 7:34 mark.

When Flaherty assisted on yet another goal, this time to junior Rick Murray, the Rams only trailed 7-6 and 6:40 still remained to be played.

Down the stretch, Deering did all it could to pull even.

With 3:15 to play, the dangerous Rickett forced a shot that Pearson saved.

With 56 seconds showing, Flaherty attempted a tough angle shot, but again Pearson stood tall. With 11 seconds to go, Rickett fired a shot wide. Verville had one final chance, but his desperation heave with two seconds on the clock was way wide of the mark and the horn sounded on Scarborough's 7-6 victory.

"I'm not sure we rushed the shots," Dubois said, of the endgame. "It's hard to get a good look against these guys because they play sound defense. Coach has them tuned in well. You have to earn everything against them."

"It was kind of scary there," Pearson said. "They came strong on us. It was hard to keep up with them. It felt like we had the momentum after the seventh goal, but they came back strong, which we expected would happen. We had to stay strong. We had good defense. They gave me shots I could see. I just had to make the saves. Having the NYA close game helped our defense come together."

"It was fun," added Hezlep, who will coach in an all-star showcase at Disney World in July. "They have some stud athletes. Flaherty, their whole defense, Rickett. Those guys can really play. They were familiar with a lot of the stuff we do. We just have to execute better. I have no problem telling the other team what we do. As long as we do it well."

Wheeler paced the Red Storm offense with three goals. Blaisdell, Garrison, Oddy and Pallotta also scored. Erwin, Finley, Pallotta and Wheeler had assists as Scarborough showed its balance.

"We needed players to step up in a big game like this," Wheeler said. "It was good to see. They played aggressive so we tried to use the pressure against them and use backdoors. We got some garbage goals we probably shouldn't have gotten."

"It's about time (we had balance)," said Hezlep. "We've looked for that a lot. We changed up how we rotated our middies. Our guys were fresh at the end. I felt like that was a huge difference going down the stretch."

Pearson, who hasn't received the acclaim some feel he's due, played like an all-star goalie Wednesday, making 18 saves.

"Somehow he's still not an all-conference goalie," said Hezlep. "He's a heck of a kid. He's playing so well. He's locked in. He made a big difference with saves and clearing the ball after. He really helped us."

As expected, Deering's Rickett dominated the faceoff circle, winning 11 of 15 opportunities. Smith went 3 of 11 and sophomore Austin Doody 1 of 4 for Scarborough.

The Red Storm had 57 ground balls to 43 for Deering. Blaisdell led the way with 13, Jones had nine, Erwin seven and Wheeler six.

Scarborough turned the ball over 28 times and only managed to score once in eight man-up opportunities (Deering was two for four). 

"That's going to be a point of emphasis going forward," Hezlep said. "Taking advantage of those opportunities. We've doing some things really well, but we're not doing some of the little things very well. Staying out of the penalty box and throwing and catching. "

For the Rams, Verville scored twice, while Flaherty, Koch, Rickett and Verville each had one goal. Flaherty also had four assists. Martin made 10 saves. Flaherty led all players with 14 ground balls. Rickett added seven.

"Matt's certainly coming along," said Dubois. "He's one of the better midfielders in the state. We can rely on Karl to do 70 percent on faceoffs. Our team leans on those senior captains. They pick us up and help us win games."

Deering committed 27 turnovers. It had a 35-26 advantage in shots on goal (24-17 on cage).

"It was good to be back and it was good to play a good game against the two-time defending Class A champs," Dubois said. "They're the team you circle on the schedule. We're happy how we played. I thought we had a good scout on them. I thought we had a good matchup. Our defense is pretty solid and their offense is pretty solid. It was a battle of the titans we looked forward to. Unfortunately, we got killed with eight penalties. We were two-men down twice. We killed them off, which shows a lot about our defense, but we left Wheeler and Blaisdell all by themselves. I wish we could get those back."

Second half

With six regular season games remaining, both teams top the Heal Points standings in their respective regions and each has reason for optimism.

The Rams are back in action next Wednesday versus Windham. They go to defending Class B champion Falmouth three days later for their next big test.

"We can use this as motivation going forward," said Dubois. "There's nothing to hang our heads at 4-2. We wanted to get this one. It would have helped us tremendously with the Heals, but the guys will feed off it. Coming out here and running with the best team in Class A is tremendous for us. We still have some tough games left. Falmouth, Greely, TA.

"We want to play with Falmouth. We won't look past Windham, but we'll start tuning up for Falmouth. It's another opportunity for Deering to come out and show we're on the map for lacrosse. We're happy to play in Eastern A. Getting through this schedule will give us a great opportunity to be successful in the playoffs. Hopefully, we'll see (Scarborough) one more time. That's our team goal. That's where we want to be. That's what we're aiming for."

Scarborough (which has now won 17 consecutive games) will get more challenges as the month of May progresses. After visiting Portland Friday, the Red Storm hosts Gorham next Wednesday. Games versus Kennebunk, Yarmouth, Marshwood and Thornton Academy close the regular season.

"We have to work on passing and catching and knowing our defensive packages.," said Pearson. "The more we do reps on those, the better we'll be."

"We have to keep working hard, keep our mind on each game and not look ahead," Wheeler said. "Of course we like the bulls-eye. We like the challenge."

"I can't believe we're halfway done," Hezlep added. "We need to improve on some of the simple stuff. We have good things happening, we'll be OK. It's good coming down the stretch, we have Portland, Kennebunk, Yarmouth, Marshwood, Thornton. It's a good way to end the season. It'll be fun."

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

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Scarborough senior Jon Blaisdell fires a shot past Deering goalie Nick Martin for a second period goal.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Deering senior Matt Flaherty tries to drive around Scarborough senior Andrew Jones during Wednesday's contest. Both players played a major role in the game.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Deering senior Alex Stilphen attempts to keep dangerous Scarborough junior John Wheeler away from the goal. Wheeler scored three times in the Red Storm's win.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Deering's Steven Doman holds Scarborough senior Jon Blaisdell at bay.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Scarborough senior Kellen Smith gets tangled up by Deering senior Karl Rickett.