Scarborough ends Portland's Cinderella run
SCARBOROUGH—All good things must end and the Scarborough boys' soccer team made sure that Portland's recent fairy tale run concluded with little fanfare Wednesday evening in the Western Class A quarterfinals.
The second-ranked Red Storm wasted little time putting the upstart Bulldogs behind the eight ball, as senior Austin Downing struck just 2 minutes, 34 seconds in.
Downing added a second goal in the 26th minute to put Scarborough in full control and the Red Storm didn't give Portland an opportunity to get back in the game.
Then, with 20:42 to play, Scarborough senior Sam Cekada delivered the dagger and the Red Storm went on to a 3-0 victory.
Scarborough improved to 13-0-2, ended the Bulldogs' campaign at 7-8-1 and punched its ticket to the semifinals, where it will host longtime playoff rival Greely Saturday at a time yet to be announced.
"It's good to score first," said Red Storm coach Mark Diaz. "The energy was good. I thought we could've been a little more patient, but that's typical of a first playoff game. Portland's young, but they worked hard. They put up a fight. It wasn't easy."
Here we go again
Scarborough was the top seed in Western Class A every year from 2004 through 2011, but that string finally ended this fall, on a technicality.
The Red Storm and Gorham both wound up 12-0-2 and had the same number of Heal Points, necessitating a coin toss for the top seed, which the Rams won.
As a result, Scarborough finished second in the region, but remains the team to beat after handling every foe in the regular season, save Gorham and South Portland (the Red Storm played those teams to ties).
Portland looked like anything but a playoff contender when it was 2-7-1, but the Bulldogs won their final four games to finish 10th in Western A, then outlasted host No. 7 Windham, the defending state champion, 2-1, in double overtime, on junior Liban Hassan's winner, Monday in the preliminary round.
Scarborough easily won the regular season meeting, 6-1, at Portland on Sept. 11 and had won two of the past three playoff encounters, including 7-2 in the most recent, the 2009 semifinals..
Wednesday, the Red Storm left no doubt that it was the better team and that it won't be content until it's back on the top of the heap.
After an initial Bulldogs chance didn't pan out, Scarborough took over and with 37:26 to go in the first half, Downing finished and it was 1-0.
"We know we do our best if we come out and get an early goal," said Downing. "That's what we aimed for. (Senior Trevor) Sparda played a great cross. I was able to shield the defender off. The ball fell to me, I turned and scored far post."
The scored remained 1-0 until Downing struck again with just over 10 minutes left before halftime.
"We wanted to come out and put another right in," Downing said. "You don't want to give a good team like Portland any relief. That one, the ball just fell to my foot. (Junior) Wyatt (Omsberg) tapped it. I was able to step up and hit it with my left."
"Scarborough, technically and tactically, they know how to play the game so well," said Portland coach Rocky Frenzilli. "They take advantage of space. They got that second goal and that was it, but my guys never quit."
The Red Storm never let the Bulldogs entertain comeback thoughts in the second half, carrying play, and with 20:42 to go, Cekada got in on the fun, firing a shot that Portland senior goalkeeper Chip Weber (19 saves) slowed, but couldn't stop, and the ball trickled into the net with junior Wyatt Omsberg there waiting to pound it home in case it didn't, making the score 3-0.
Down the stretch, Bulldogs senior standout Tim Rovnak, in his final game, eluded two Scarborough defenders before shooting just wide and Weber made a diving save on a left footed bid from Red Storm sophomore Jerry Kenney.
Scarborough then put the finishing touches on its 3-0 win.
"Any win in the playoffs is a big win," Downing said. "It's big to get over the first hump. It gives us confidence going into the next round. We wanted to not think about the last game because obviously (Portland's) much better than the last time."
"The goals we scored were good goals against a good keeper," said Diaz. "Some nights it's Sam, some nights it's Wyatt, some nights it's (senior) Dan Ornstein. Tonight it was Austin. At this point, we don't care. We just want to score. It was a good start. I'm happy with a shutout. We'll see if we can build on this."
What a ride
Portland wasn't overly distraught after the final horn and that was fitting considering it started the season with just a few players on the roster who had any varsity experience, that it had to forfeit an early win over Deering and found itself 2-7-1 with just four games to play, only to catch fire and reach the regional quarterfinals.
"I'm so proud and so happy of what the guys were able to accomplish," said Frenzilli. "When they look back, they'll reflect on it. Tonight just wasn't our night. Scarborough was ready to play. We knew we'd be up against it. Chip kept us in it. To have Chip Weber and Tim Rovnak as bookends and watch the kids grow was a pleasure to behold. They led these kids through. They never quit. They were tenacious and hard working. They were the program this year. I couldn't be prouder of two kids and what they were able to accomplish. It was a fun ride. They deserved it."
Portland will be a force to be reckoned with in 2013.
"We'll come back bigger and better next year, I hope," Frenzilli said. "I think we'll be in a better place to start next year. These kids got some experience. If we could start next week, I'd be ready for it because that's what kind of group this is."
Scarborough and Greely (who don't play in the regular season) have met eight prior times in the playoffs, including six times since 2003 (the Red Storm holds a 5-3 all-time postseason edge over the Rangers). Last year, in the quarterfinals, Scarborough eked out a 1-0 home win.
Greely might be the most sizzling team in the area coming into the game. The Rangers were just 7-4, but closed the regular season with victories at defending Class C champion Waynflete, top Western B seed Yarmouth and reigning Class B champion Falmouth to earn the No. 3 seed in Western A. Greely shrugged off an early goal in its quarterfinal Wednesday and went on to dominate No. 11 Noble, 5-1, to advance.
Saturday's game could be memorable.
"We need to take them seriously," Downing said. "They're a great team. We have to consider all their strengths. As long as we step up, we should be able to take care of business."
"(Greely) may be the hottest team around right now," Diaz said. "They're scoring. They're defending well. It will be a big test for us."