Cape wins at Scarborough in battle of defending champions
SCARBOROUGH—Something had to give when the most storied boys' lacrosse program in the state, Cape Elizabeth, paid a rare visit to the reigning four-time Class A state champion, Scarborough, in a delicious crossover showdown Saturday afternoon at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex.
On a day which not only brought two of Maine's finest boys' lacrosse teams together, but also doubled as an event for autism awareness, the Capers taught the Red Storm that while their championship run may be longer, the Capers are still the gold standard.
After a slow start which produced just one first period goal, Cape Elizabeth opened up a 4-2 halftime lead and only strong play from Scarborough senior goalie Jordan Flannery prevented it from being more.
The Capers controlled play for most of the second half as well, but didn't get truly comfortable until the waning moments.
Cape Elizabeth took a 7-4 lead to the fourth quarter and after the Red Storm drew within two on a goal from senior Christian Neelon, Capers freshman Owen Thoreck, who had his best game to date, junior scoring machine Ben Shea and sophomore R.J. Sarka all scored down the stretch as Cape Elizabeth went on to a 10-5 victory.
Shea led all scorers with three goals, while Sarka, Thoreck and junior Noah Haversat each had a pair as the Capers improved to 5-0, dropped the Red Storm to 5-1 and ended Scarborough's 15-game win streak.
"It was great," said longtime Cape Elizabeth coach Ben Raymond. "It's always good to play quality opponents who can give us a game. They challenged us in every aspect. They matched us athletically. We're moving in the right direction. We get better each and every game. We have to continue to improve."
Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough have combined to win 10 state titles since the 2002 season, but have only played four times over the past dozen years (see sidebar, below).
In fact, the Capers and Red Storm hadn't squared off since May 30, 2009, when Cape Elizabeth won at home, 8-2.
The teams do regularly scrimmage each other and Scarborough has never beaten the Capers, whether the game counts or not.
Both teams have been up their usual triumphant tricks this spring.
The Red Storm had no trouble in their first two games, rolling at Marshwood (13-2) and Westbrook (16-7), but visiting Thornton Academy gave Scarborough a scare before it prevailed, 8-7, on senior Brendon's Smith goal in the second overtime. The Red Storm then rolled at Portland, 14-2, and crushed visiting Deering Tuesday, 21-2.
Cape Elizabeth began its title defense with an easy 15-1 home victory over Waynflete, then made a statement with a 10-6 win at Yarmouth in a state final rematch. An 8-4 home victory over Kennebunk and an 18-1 romp at Wells followed.
Saturday, the Capers were too deep and strong and ultimately salted the win away down the stretch.
Leading up to the game, autism awareness was in the forefront and both teams wore special uniforms.
"Just the amount of press it's gotten shows that kids have an opportunity to be a part of more things," said Scarborough coach Joe Hezlep. "We have two kids diagnosed with autism who play for us, Austin Pietras and Teddy Prosack. Teddy's a senior and Austin's a junior, so it made sense to do it this year. We weren't trying to raise money. We just wanted to show that kids like them can do things if given the opportunity. It's not hard to include them. They can do so well if given a chance. They've been with us several years. It's been such an eye-opening experience for the kids, to be respectful of others. For Teddy and Austin, it's been awesome to be a part of something. Social development is a huge issue. Teddy and Austin have come so far."
On the field once the game started, it was clear that offense would be at a premium.
The Capers broke the ice two minutes in, when, from behind the goal, junior Andrew Kelly fed freshman Connor Thoreck, who beat Flannery for a 1-0 lead.
That would be the only goal of the first period.
The Red Storm finally got on the board with 7:40 to play in the first half, capitalizing on a Cape Elizabeth turnover. The ball came to Neelon, who broke in alone on Capers sophomore Alex Narvaez and finished.
The tie lasted all of 16 seconds, as Haversat scored unassisted to put the visitors ahead to stay.
Narvaez preserved the lead, robbing Neelon on the doorstep, stopping a shot from Smith and forcing senior Cam Loiselle and junior Nate Howard to shoot wide.
With 5:02 to go in the half, Sarka collected a ground ball in front, then shot past Flannery to make it 3-1.
A little over a minute later, playing man-up, Cape Elizabeth went up, 4-1, as Shea scored his first goal, unassisted.
"I'm not really sure about the slow start," Raymond said. "We've had some difficulties getting started. They created problems for us with their defense. They did a good job not letting us move the ball around the perimeter. Their slide was great. We had to work harder to find the open man. We figured it out."
Scarborough drew back within two goals when senior Chris Cyr scored unassisted with 1:51 remaining.
Senior Andrew Farrington almost cut into the deficit further 38 seconds later, but Narvaez made the save and the Capers took a 4-2 lead to halftime.
Cape Elizabeth won six of eight first half faceoffs and enjoyed a nearly two-to-one (23-12) advantage in shots.
The Red Storm almost made it a one-goal game 64 seconds into the second half, but a shot from senior Austin Doody clanked off the post.
The Capers made the score 5-2 with 6:27 to go in the third period, as Haversat set up Shea for a goal.
Back came Scarborough, as Farrington, from Neelon, man-up, beat Narvaez with 5:18 remaining.
Cape Elizabeth then scored twice in 72 seconds, as Owen Thoreck scored his first goal (taking a pass from his junior brother, Griffin, and finishing) and Haversat scored unassisted to make it 7-3.
With just under a minute to play in the third, after another Capers turnover, Doody broke in alone and finished to make the score 7-4 heading for the fourth.
The Red Storm then made things interesting when Neelon took a pass from Loiselle in transition and finished with 10:56 remaining to make the score 7-5.
Scarborough then had several chances to draw even closer, but failed to do so.
Then, with 6:54 to go, Owen Thoreck's second goal (set up by Kelly) gave the visitors some breathing room.
"We made things click and did what we do best, score goals," Thoreck said. "It took some time. We were nervous, but we stepped it up. It feels really good to score. Being a freshman, it's nice. It's been really hard transitioning, practice especially, but I'm getting a lot more comfortable. We have two main shooters, Griffin and Ben. We look for them. Once we start to click, we move it around to everyone and execute."
"(Owen) plays great when he comes out in big games," said Cape Elizabeth senior defender Trevor Gale. "He's used to big guys coming after him."
"Freshmen start to figure it out as the season goes on with more playing time." Raymond added. "Owen probably didn't know why I yelled at him in the beginning, but now he probably knows why. He had a really good game. He moved well without the ball. He's catching the ball in dangerous spots."
Fifty seconds later, Shea took a pass, went one-on-one with a defender, then beat Flannery to make it 9-5.
With 4:53 left, after winning a ground ball, Sarka scored unassisted and that slammed the door as Cape Elizabeth put the finishing touches on its 10-5 victory.
Shea led the Capers offense with three goals. Haversat, Shea and Owen Thoreck all had two, while Connor Thoreck added one.
"We have a pretty balanced team," Raymond said. "It creates issues for teams defensively. You can put a pole on all six guys who are out there. That's what teams have to adjust to. At times, Owen had a short stick on him. At times, Ben had a short stick on him. If you're going to put a short stick on Ben, he's going to get shots. He may have to work hard to get them, but he'll have shots."
Kelly had two assists, while Haversat and Connor Thoreck both had one.
Cape Elizabeth won 10 of 18 faceoffs and had a 31-29 edge in ground balls (Haversat led the way with seven). The Capers enjoyed a 42-17 shots advantage (20-11 on frame). Narvaez made six saves and Cape Elizabeth's defense, featuring Gale and seniors Tom Feenstra and Caelan Houle and junior Noah Wolfinger, stymied Scarborough from start to finish.
"Our poles played great," Gale said. "Noah, Caelan and Tom played great. We were really physical. Not many teams in Class A play that physical and that's something we do well. We kept them off balance. It's big to have an actual game against Scarborough. Usually, we just scrimmage them. When we saw them on the schedule, we were excited. Both teams are competitive. We play with a lot of these guys during the winter. There was a lot of hype. We focused on the game, not the environment. It was a pretty big matchup."
"The defense played really well," said Raymond. "We could have held them to two goals. The one piece of our defense we have to improve is clearing the ball and making better decisions. We're capable of clearing successfully. Every kid can handle the ball and run the field. It's just decision making."
The Red Storm got two goals from Neelon and one apiece from Cyr, Doody and Farrington. Loiselle and Neelon each had an assist. Smith led the team with seven ground balls. Flannery made 10 saves.
"We have to thank Jordan Flannery a lot for keeping it close," Hezlep said. "Cape made us pay for mistakes and he saved us. They do a good job getting out and pressuring the ball. We didn't do a good job handling that. They made us handle the ball and go against pressure. We did a lot of good things. Our effort from beginning to end is the best we've had. They're still better, but we had missed chances today. They're still number one."
Scarborough fell short, but got the attention of the Capers.
"They've come a long way," Raymond said. "Joe does an incredible job getting kids out and playing. Their youth program has like 80 seventh and eighth graders and 100 something littler kids. Kids play lacrosse year-round. A school this size, when you get numbers, you'll be athletic. It's just getting the stick skills."
Back to business
Scarborough is in the middle of brutal stretch, which continues Wednesday at Cheverus in a rematch of the past two Class A state games. Saturday, the Red Storm goes to Falmouth.
Look for the perennial champions to quickly bounce back.
"Win, lose or draw, it's about what we need to do better from here on out," Hezlep said. "Cape made our deficiencies known. Now we know what we have to work on. Cheverus can flat out score."
As for Cape Elizabeth, it hosts Falmouth Tuesday in the first of a likely three showdowns between the rivals this spring. A crossover test against visiting Brunswick follows Friday.
"We're ready for Falmouth," Owen Thoreck said. "We just have to work the ball around, execute our plays and bear down and score some goals. It should be fun."
"Our defense played well today, but we had clearing mistakes that resulted in goals," Gale said. "We can cut down the penalties a little bit."
"The nice thing about the schedule this year is that we don't have a lot of down time," Raymond added. "We have two more games next week that will be huge. Falmouth's tough and Brunswick will be worth a ton of Heal Points. Those two games will go a long way toward determining if we'll be home for the playoffs."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Cape Elizabeth-Scarborough results
@ Cape Elizabeth 8 Scarborough 2
West Region quarterfinals
@ Cape Elizabeth 13 Scarborough 1
@ Cape Elizabeth 14 Scarborough 0
@ Cape Elizabeth 15 Scarborough 1