Cape boys cap perfect regular season with win at Falmouth
FALMOUTH—For all the triumph the Cape Elizabeth boys' lacrosse team has tasted over the years, there was one thing the Capers hadn't managed to do since 2002.
Post an undefeated regular season record.
You can take that off the list and now, Cape Elizabeth will turn its attention to doing something it hasn't done in 11 seasons.
Win a repeat state title.
Wednesday evening, the Capers went to Falmouth for the teams' mutual regular season finale and as these rivals always do, they put on a show, replete with explosive offense.
The contest actually started slowly, as the Yachtsmen scored the only goal of the first quarter, but in the second period, Cape Elizabeth's balanced and potent attack came to life and when junior Ben Shea scored just before the horn, the Capers took a 5-4 lead to the half.
In the second half, after Falmouth drew even on a goal senior Joe Dancoes, Shea put Cape Elizabeth ahead to stay and goals from freshman Owen Thoreck, junior Noah Haversat and Haversat again pushed the Capers' advantage to four, 10-6.
The Yachtsmen never go quietly, however, and three times down the stretch they pulled within two, but some timely saves from unheralded Cape Elizabeth sophomore goalie Alex Narvaez helped slam the door and the Capers made it five straight wins over Falmouth and 16 in a row overall, 12-10.
Four different players: Haversat, Shea, Thoreck and junior Griffin Thoreck each had three goals, Narvaez made 10 saves and Cape Elizabeth, which will be the top seed for the Western B tournament, finished 12-0, dropping the Yachtsmen to 9-3 in the process.
"(Going 12-0 is) a great accomplishment," said longtime Capers coach Ben Raymond. "At the beginning of the year, we would have said that would be great, but I don't know if we thought it would have been realistic. We play quality teams, we lost a lot from last year, but we've played really, really well."
The Cape Elizabeth-Falmouth boys' lacrosse rivalry has been as compelling as any in any sport over the past five seasons and it's likely the teams aren't done with each other, even though Wednesday's showdown was the final regularly scheduled meeting.
The Capers won the first encounter back on May 13, 12-8, at home, extending their win streak to four over the Yachtsmen after sweeping them in 2013.
That was part of a perfect 11-0 start for Cape Elizabeth. The Capers began 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 was followed by a 10-5 crossover win at Scarborough and the victory over Falmouth. After a 16-2 home romp over Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth doubled up host Greely, 8-4, then rolled at York (15-1), beat visiting North Yarmouth Academy (9-3) and rallied past visiting Yarmouth with a late surge, 9-4.
Falmouth crushed visiting Kennebunk (15-2), host NYA (12-4), visiting Fryeburg (16-2) and host Freeport (17-4) to start, then was finally tested at Cheverus, where it managed to prevail, 12-10. The Yachtsmen fell from the undefeated ranks with the loss at Cape Elizabeth, but bounced back to handle visiting, four-time defending Class A champion Scarborough, 15-11, then outslugged host Yarmouth, 17-12, and rolled past visiting Wells (17-8) and Greely (15-8) before being surprised at Kennebunk Saturday, 11-8.
Wednesday, Falmouth sought its first win over Cape Elizabeth since the 2012 regional final, but the Capers spoiled the Yachtsmen's Senior Night and emphatically stated that the road to the title goes through them and good luck with that.
Falmouth struck first two minutes in, when Dancoes finished a feed from junior C.J. Leighton. Late in the period, senior standout I.V. Stucker hit the crossbar and senior Brad Gilbert fired a shot which Narvaez saved to keep the score 1-0 after 12 minutes.
The Yachtsmen held a 7-4 shots advantage in the first period, but couldn't take a healthier lead.
Just 13 seconds into the second quarter, Cape Elizabeth's offense came to life, as Owen Thoreck set up Shea for a shot which Falmouth senior goalie Nick Beaulieu couldn't stop.
The Capers took their first lead, 2-1, with 10:39 to go in the half, when Owen Thoreck scored unassisted.
With 9:54 to go, senior Tyler Jordan finished a Gilbert feed to tie it for the hosts, but with 8:48 left, Griffin Thoreck scored unassisted to put Cape Elizabeth back on top, 3-2.
After Owen Thoreck was denied by Beaulieu, Stucker had a man-up shot saved by Narvaez, but with 4:42 to go in the half, Leighton tied the score with an unassisted tally.
The Capers went back ahead, 4-3, when Haversat scored on a rebound, but with 58.5 seconds showing, Leighton set up Dancoes for the equalizer.
It looked as if 4-4 would be the score entering the break, but Cape Elizabeth saved its best for last.
After Griffin Thoreck was cut off on a drive, he passed up top to Shea, but problem was, the clock was at 4 seconds and rapidly heading toward 0. Shea took a step to his left to get some separation from his defender, then bounced a shot from 30-yards out that eluded Beaulieu and as the horn sounded, the officials signaled it was a goal and the Capers were up, 5-4.
"I knew there were only a few seconds left when we set up a play," Shea said. "It didn't happen and Griff got me the ball. Thank God the sidelines yelled, 'four seconds!' and I got a shot off. I didn't know if it would go in before the buzzer. That was huge for momentum. That kept us going and we had a phenomenal third quarter."
"That was a great goal," Raymond said. "Ben took a great shot. We had a look we wanted. We got the ball where we wanted to, but they did a nice job sliding to Griffin. He was really smart and he found the open man and Ben was able to put it in. I think the goalie was screened a little bit."
Making matters worse for Falmouth, the Yachtsmen were given a penalty after the goal, which gave the ball to the visitors to start the second half.
"I wasn't looking at the clock, so I don't know if it should have counted," said Falmouth coach Mike LeBel. "It was a tough break. One of my goals is not to allow a goal within the last minute of any quarter. That definitely didn't help us and the penalty coming out of halftime giving them possession right away didn't help."
Cape Elizabeth's lead was due in large part to the faceoff wizardry of senior James Monroe-Chausse, who won nine of 10.
The game remained taut in the third quarter.
After Dancoes shot just high on a bid to tie, he got another chance, taking a feed from Jordan, and tickled the twine to make it 5-5.
The Capers roared right back and went ahead for good with 10:12 showing, as Shea took a pass from Haversat and finished.
Twelve seconds later, Monroe-Chausse won the faceoff to Haversat, who set up Owen Thoreck, who finished to make it 7-5.
Both goalies then stood tall, as Shea was robbed twice by Beaulieu and Narvaez stopped looks from Falmouth senior David Criscione, Jordan and junior Bryce Kuhn.
With 3:42 left in the third, playing man-up, the Yachtsmen pulled within one, as Kuhn set up Stucker for his first tally.
Falmouth never caught up, however, and by the end of the frame, Cape Elizabeth's lead was back to three, as Owen Thoreck and Haversat both scored unassisted. A late save from Narvaez on a shot by Gilbert kept the score 9-6 Capers with 12 minutes to play.
Haversat stretched the lead four 20 seconds into the fourth, spinning around a couple defenders before beating Beaulieu, but Kuhn scored twice in a 40-second span (once unassisted, once from Stucker, two men-up). Then, with 9:02 left, Griffin Thoreck managed to fire from a difficult angle and find the net to open the lead back to 11-8.
After Stucker was denied by Narvaez, Dancoes pounced on the rebound and finished to make it a two-goal game with 8 minutes left, but again Griffin Thoreck responded with a tough angle goal and his unassisted tally with 6:40 to play pushed Cape Elizabeth's lead to 12-9.
The Capers wouldn't score again, but managed to hold on.
After Narvaez made a save on a Stucker shot, the hosts went man-up again and again converted, as Stucker scored unassisted with 5:07 remaining.
The Yachtsmen had one last good look to draw closer, but in the final minute, Narvaez made his final save, denying Dancoes, and Cape Elizabeth went on to a 12-10 victory.
"Our record is well earned," Shea said. "Losing our core defense from last year was a big step back, but our defense has stepped up to the occasion this year. They've been unbelievable. We've worked hard every day. We knew after we beat (Falmouth) the first time they'd come for us, especially on their home turf. To beat them again is amazing."
"We didn't have as much incentive to win as we did the first time, but then we realized we had a chance to do something we hadn't done (since 2002)," Haversat said.
Haversat, Shea, Griffin Thoreck and Owen Thoreck all had three goals.
"We have some scorers on this team," Shea said. "We might have a slow half if we try to do individual stuff, but if we keep the ball moving, everyone can score and it's awesome."
"We're learning to move the ball," Haversat said. "We're not being selfish. We're also moving a lot off the ball. We did more individual, one-on-one dodges at the beginning. Now, we're moving off-ball and creating confusion for other teams."
"We've had a pretty balanced offense all year long," Raymond added. "That's been the key, especially in a game like tonight. They tried to shut off two of our offensive players and that gave other guys an opportunity to work in open space. We were able to find open guys. We didn't work well off-ball in the first quarter, but we did in the second and third quarters. A lot of penalties changed the game in the fourth. That's an area we have to clean up."
Haversat assisted on two goals, while Owen Thoreck had one.
Monroe-Chausse won 18 of 24 faceoffs.
"This year, we're working more on little stuff like ground balls," Haversat said. "When we control the ball on offense, we have a lot of more opportunities. Once we get momentum going, we keep it all game."
"J-Mo has done an outstanding job," Raymond said. "Faceoffs have been huge all year for us. Even when J-Mo doesn't win them, the other kid doesn't win them clean. With Tom and Noah on the wings, we've got a pretty good chance at a ground ball."
Narvaez, who has filled in admirably for injured senior Gabe McGinn, made 10 saves.
"I just do what I practice all week," Narvaez said. "I try to keep up my intensity. It's easier to take shots in games than in practice. I get a adrenaline rush and getting hit by shots doesn't hurt. it was pretty nervewracking, but I've settled in and have gotten to know my defense. I've gotten more comfortable. We've come really far. (Senior) Caelan (Houle) was a swinger last year. (Senior) Tom (Feenstra) was a shortie last year. He's converted really well to longpole. (Senior) Trevor (Gale) was second line last year and has improved a lot. Our communication has improved a lot."
"Alex made some really good saves tonight," Raymond said. "He makes saves he should make and tonight, he made some on-the-doorstep saves. He's really stepped up. We were hoping Gabe would be back at some point, but Alex has worked really hard all year. He's embraced the fact that he's the goalie. We have three goalies this year. (Sophomore) Drew Mitchell and (freshman) Sam Price and Alex push each other in practice. "
The Capers had a 32-23 edge in shots (shots on frame were even, 20-20). Cape Elizabeth turned the ball over 17 times.
LeBel praised Cape Elizabeth for its record.
"I'm extremely surprised they're 12-0," he said. "I think it's probably one of Ben's best coaching jobs. I didn't expect them to be this talented with all that they lost. The more I learn about Cape lacrosse and history and watching them play over the years, it's a system philosophy. It's bred early in the youth program and that's how they play all the way up. It's a plug-and-play type thing. Their midfield depth and talent really helps them. They have a couple freshmen who really contribute. Cape's really good because they bang the ball around the perimeter and find the open guy. They react to pressure really well. They're used to it."
Falmout's biggest gun, Stucker, was held to two goals.
"Our offense isn't really centered around any one player," LeBel said. "I.V., since he is the best player, at times pushes it a little beyond what's given to him. I think he thinks at times that it's up to him to produce results and he forces it a little too much. That's OK, because a lot of times it works out."
Dancoes led the way with four, Kuhn added two and Jordan and Leighton each scored once. Leighton had two assists, while Gilbert, Jordan, Kuhn and Stucker all had one. Beaulieu made eight saves and Falmouth turned the ball over 15 times.
"What I tried to focus on today was just improving on the last game we had at Kennebunk where we had a letdown," LeBel said. "I told the guys not to worry about the final score today, just on improving as a team and getting better. It wasn't about letting it all out there."
A 9-3 record is something to hail.
"When we play our best game, it's tough to beat us." LeBel said. "We had some really good outings. The first Kennebunk game, the way we started against Scarborough, going up 10-0, the second half against Yarmouth, there were some really good spurts of lacrosse being played. I expected that because we had a lot of talent returning. It's been a fun group. One of my favorites. Good kids. They work hard. I told them I'm proud of them."
Falmouth has work to do before it can even think of a third meeting at Cape Elizabeth in the Western B Final. The Yachtsmen (who will be seeded second in Western Class B for the playoffs) will have to beat either Greely or Kennebunk in the semifinals June 14 and they can't take either team lightly, even though their ultimate goal is to get another crack at the defending champs.
"We're trying to get better at handling pressure," LeBel said. "Offensively, we have to find a way to score a couple more goals. I can't really ask the defense to play much better than they did tonight. Had we won tonight, it wouldn't have meant anything (in the Heals). We'll still have to go to Cape regardless, which is fine. We've played there often enough. We don't mind going there."
Top-ranked Cape Elizabeth last went undefeated and won a championship way back in 2002. For this team to add its name to the pantheon of finest in program history, three more victories will be necessary. The Capers don't play another countable game until the semifinals June 14, when they welcome either Greely, Kennebunk or Waynflete.
"We have to keep working on little things," said Haversat. "We need to reduce our turnovers."
"I feel like we're definitely ready to contend with everyone," Narvaez said.
"We've still got a few games left and we know we can do it," Shea said. "We want to get that perfect record."
"We need to continue to improve our mental capacity during games, like at the ends of games," Raymond added. "We have to be smarter. We have to be more focused. Penalties are a concern. I'd be willing to be they scored five goals man-up tonight. If we eliminated those, the game wouldn't have been as close. We're really happy with homefield. We obviously like to play at home. We'll be happy playing on turf."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Cape Elizabeth-Falmouth meetings
@ Cape Elizabeth 6 Falmouth 3
Western B Final
@ Cape Elizabeth 11 Falmouth 7
Cape Elizabeth 12 @ Falmouth 5
Cape Elizabeth 8 @ Falmouth 4
Cape Elizabeth 10 @ Falmouth 3
@ Cape Elizabeth 8 Falmouth 3
Cape Elizabeth 12 @ Falmouth 2
@ Cape Elizabeth 13 Falmouth 4
Cape Elizabeth 13 @ Falmouth 2