Cheverus boys get in the win column, down Deering
PORTLAND—Cheverus' boys' lacrosse team, the two-time defending Eastern A champion, got slapped with a cold dose of reality earlier this week when it went to Thornton Academy and suffered an unexpected loss.
With a showdown at preseason favorite South Portland looming, the Stags welcomed city rival Deering to Boulos Stadium Friday afternoon and knew they had no margin for error.
And Cheverus quickly put its loss in the rearview mirror thanks to a stellar offensive display.
Junior Nick Schleh scored three first period goals as the Stags opened a 6-3 lead. Cheverus then turned to its defense, holding the Rams scoreless for nearly 20 minutes. as it opened up a 10-3 advantage by halftime.
The Stags never looked back in the second half and rolled, 17-7, behind four goals apiece from Schleh and junior Thomas Lawson. Cheverus got goals from eight different players and balanced its record at 1-1 as it handed Deering a loss in its first outing.
"We've worked hard in practice on playing at a higher level," said Stags second-year coach Bill Bodwell. "We've placed a little more emphasis on being stronger and tougher and faster. The big thing for us is sharing the ball. That's what we needed to do."
Friday was Deering's regular season opener, while Cheverus sought to bounce back from a 9-8 loss at Thornton Academy in its first game Tuesday.
"I think we came out with expectations we shouldn't have had at TA," Lawson said. "We had a chip on our shoulders. That was a wakeup call."
"Thornton's a good team," said Bodwell. "I'd say they outhustled us. They battled hard."
Entering Friday, over the past decade, the teams had split 10 encounters (please see sidebar, below), which included the Stags' 4-2 win at the Rams in the 2012 Eastern A Final.
Last year, Cheverus won at Deering in less than ideal conditions, 12-6.
This time around, Deering hung tough for awhile, but ultimately, Cheverus' offensive skill and depth proved to be way too much to overcome.
The Rams struck first, 1 minute, 59 seconds in, when senior Alec Halpin scored unassisted, beating Stags senior goalie James Biegel.
The Stags got on the board 36 seconds later, when Schleh set up Lawson for a shot which eluded Deering sophomore goalie Lenny Sarem, who was seeing his first varsity action.
Cheverus went ahead, 2-1, when senior Pat O'Hanlon scored unassisted, but back came the Rams, who drew even on another Halpin unassisted tally with 8:04 left in the first quarter.
Off a faceoff win 12 seconds later, the Stags retook the lead, as Schleh scored his first goal, unassisted, but with 6:31 left in the frenetic first period, Deering senior defensive standout Sam Hornblower fed sophomore Andrew Johnson for a man-up goal which made it 3-3.
The Rams wouldn't score again until the second half.
Cheverus took the lead for good with 4:14 left in the quarter, when Schleh scored unassisted.
After Halpin hit the post, Lawson set up senior Jack Sutton for a goal and with 18.1 seconds remaining, Schleh capped a stellar first quarter with an unassisted tally and the Stags led, 6-3.
Cheverus' offense wasn't quite as prolific in the second period, but its defense completely smothered Deering.
It took 3:37 for the Stags to score, as Lawson fed O'Hanlon, who did the honors.
Sutton then found Schleh for a goal and an 8-3 lead with 7:53 to go in the half.
Lawson returned to the scoring column with 6:31 left, scoring unassisted, and 24 seconds later, he took a pass from Sutton and finished to give Cheverus a commanding 10-3 lead at halftime.
In the first 24 minutes, the Stags outshot the Rams, 27-11 (16-5 on frame) and forced 11 Rams turnovers.
A big reason for Cheverus' dominance was the faceoff brilliance of sophomore Alex Nason, who helped the Stags win 10 of 15 opportunities, giving them a big edge in possession.
"Alex has done well," said Bodwell. "He's a good faceoff guy."
To its credit, Deering didn't fold in the second half and made things interesting early in the third quarter with a pair of quick goals.
With 10:49 to go in the frame, senior Isaac Santerre took a pass from freshman Nate Richards and beat Biegel to end a 19 minute, 42 second drought. Santerre then set up Halpin for a goal with 9:18 remaining and the Rams were back within five, 10-5.
They would draw no closer.
Cheverus restored order as junior James Kane took over.
Kane took a pass from Lawson and scored with 7:11 to go in the third.
With 4:26 left, he finished a feed from Sutton.
Then, nine seconds later, after Fritz Gemmer, the former Deering faceoff man who recently transferred to Cheverus, won possession, Kane took a pass from Lawson and scored again to make it 13-5.
Lawson (from Gemmer) scored to push the lead to nine with 2:53 left, but Johnson answered for Deering.
Then, with a minute left, junior Keegan Thomas set up Frank Curran and Curran finished to make it 15-6 Stags with 12 minutes to go.
The fourth period was academic, but Cheverus managed to outscore the visitors, 2-1, as Thomas (from Gemmer) and Nason (unassisted) sandwiched tallies around a Richards strike (from Halpin) to account for the 17-7 final score.
"I'm happy with what we did today," Lawson said. "We focused in practice on our game as a whole and on our defense. Our offense was strong as well. We were clicking. Biegel was huge as well. Getting all that possession was huge."
The Stags were paced by four goals each from Lawson and Schleh, three from Kane and two from O'Hanlon. Curran, Nason, Sutton and Thomas all tickled the twine once.
Sutton had three assists, Gemmer and Lawson two apiece and Schleh and Thomas both added one.
Biegel made six saves.
Cheverus had a commanding edge in ground balls, 53-33 (Nason had a game-high 10 and Gemmer finished with six), and outshot Deering, 47-24 (31-13 on frame). The Stags turned the ball over 18 times, but forced 19 Rams giveaways.
Most impressively, Cheverus won 19 of 27 faceoffs.
The Rams had their moments, but ultimately couldn't hang with the more experienced and talented Stags.
"The first quarter was decent," said Deering third-year coach Jon Dubois. "It was a reasonable deficit. We were moving better off ball to start the game, but kids get complacent. Then, they beat us in all three phases of the game. The out-transitioned us. They beat us on offense and defense. They have our faceoff guy from last year. He won like 68 percent for us. That's a big part of the game."
Deering was led by Halpin, who had three goals, and Johnson, who scored twice. Richards and Santerre each added one goal. Halpin, Hornblower, Richards and Santerre all had assists. Freshman Brent Rickett had a team-high seven ground balls.
Sarem impressed by making 14 saves.
"It's his first varsity game ever," Dubois said. "He's never played lacrosse. Our other goalie didn't come to practice for two or three days and someone had to play. I brought him a chest protector. He's getting there."
Deering looks for its first victory Monday when it plays its home opener against its other city rival, Portland (1-0).
"We're young," Dubois said. "We have three freshmen starting. We'll get back at it. We've got a big game Monday against our biggest rival. The guys will be fired up. It's a big game for us. There are a lot of teaching moments that we can change. Stuff we can work on. Hopefully we progress as the season progresses. Hopefully there's success down the road for us."
The Rams then go to Thornton Academy Thursday.
Cheverus gets a look at a team receiving a ton of preseason buzz, South Portland (1-0), Monday on the road.
"We're looking forward to SoPo," Lawson said. "They beat us last year (13-10). We tied them in the preseason Casco Bay Cup. We have something to prove. They're a really good team. I'm pleased with what we're doing. It's going to be a good season."
"We're still trying to come together as a program and trust ourselves as a team," Bodwell said. "That's what we're working on. We have a big test Monday. Our guys would love to play well."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Cheverus-Deering results
Deering 4 @ Cheverus 2
Eastern A Final
Cheverus 4 @ Deering 2
Cheverus 11 @ Deering 7
Deering 9 @ Cheverus 8
Cheverus 12 @ Deering 5
@ Deering 7 Cheverus 5
Deering 8 @ Cheverus 6
@ Deering 8 Cheverus 3
@ Cheverus 13 Deering 8