Scarborough edges Greely in boys' soccer semi
SCARBOROUGH—When the Scarborough and Greely boys' soccer teams meet in the playoffs, which happens almost every year, the difference between the teams is minuscule.
That was the case again in the Western Class A semifinals Saturday afternoon at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex, where not surprisingly, a mere goal separated the squads and that tally was anything but conventional.
It was a thing of beauty for the home team, however.
A taut first half ended in a 1-1 tie after an early tally from Red Storm senior Dan Ornstein was countered by a strike from Rangers freshman Jacob Nason.
The second half featured consistent pressure from Scarborough and the hosts were finally rewarded with 10:45 left in regulation.
After a controversial foul call, the Red Storm got a free kick and junior Wyatt Omsberg passed to senior Trevor Sparda, who raced down the left side before firing a shot on Greely senior goalkeeper Elijah Leverett. Leverett wasn't able to handle the shot cleanly and with a defender and Scarborough junior Charlie Mader all converging on the play, the ball found its way into the net and the Red Storm had the lead for the good.
Second-ranked Scarborough managed to stifle the third-seeded Rangers the rest of the way and went on to a 1-0 victory, improving to 14-0-2, ending Greely's fine season at 11-5 and advancing to a Western A Final showdown at top-ranked Gorham Wednesday.
"It was another classic," said Red Storm coach Mark Diaz. "We always play each other tough. It's always close to the end. With my guys, it was all about patience. We got the ball in dangerous spots and we finally got one."
Entering Saturday's contest, Scarborough and Greely had met eight previous times in the playoffs, dating to 1978, with six of those meetings coming in the past nine years.
The first encounter was a 2-1 Greely win in the 1978 quarterfinals. Scarborough returned the favor with a 2-1 double overtime triumph in the 1985 semifinals. After an 18-year lapse, the Red Storm eliminated Greely, 1-0, in the 2003 Western A Final. The Rangers returned the favor in the regional final the following season, 3-1. In the 2005 Western A Final, neither team scored in 80 minutes of regulation or 40 of overtime, so penalty kicks were necessitated and Scarborough prevailed, 5-4, to win the game, 1-0. After a year break, the teams went to PKs again in the 2007 semifinals, this time with Greely winning, 2-1 (4-1 on kicks). The Red Storm eliminated the Rangers in the 2008 regional final, 1-0, then beat them again last year in the quarterfinals by the same score.
Scarborough entered the 2012 season having fallen short of the state game two years running and was on a mission.
It had been mission accomplished through 15 games as after sandwiching ties at South Portland (2-2) and at home with Gorham (0-0) around a 7-0 home win over Marshwood, the Red Storm closed with 11 successive victories: 6-1 at Portland, 3-1 over visiting Cheverus, 3-1 at Kennebunk, 5-0 over visiting Bonny Eagle, 3-1 at Deering, 4-0 over visiting defending state champion Windham, 4-2 at Noble, 5-0 over visiting Sanford, 8-1 at Westbrook, 4-0 over visiting Biddeford and 3-0 over visiting Massabesic.
Scarborough's eight-year reign as the top seed for the playoffs came to an end this fall, but as the No. 2 seed (behind Gorham), Scarborough had little trouble eliminating No. 10 Portland in the quarterfinals Wednesday night, 3-0.
As for Greely, after missing the playoffs altogether in 2010 and falling in the quarterfinals last season, the Rangers returned to prominence this autumn, although it took awhile. Greely handled visiting Lake Region (9-0) and host Freeport (2-0) to start the season, but then surrendered the tying goal with 3.4 seconds left and lost in double overtime to visiting defending Class B champion Falmouth (3-2). After a 4-0 home win over Poland, the Rangers fell at York, 1-0. Victories at Fryeburg (5-1), Cape Elizabeth (1-0) and at home over Gray-New Gloucester (1-0) followed, but Greely couldn't handle visiting nemesis Yarmouth in a 1-0 loss and after a 2-0 home victory over York, fell to 7-4 with a 1-0 home loss to Cape Elizabeth. That game was the Rangers' last on their home field, so their prospects for a high playoff seed didn't appear promising, but Greely suddenly put it all together and closed with wins at defending Class C champion Waynflete (4-1), Yarmouth (2-0) and Falmouth (1-0) to earn the No. 3 seed in Western A.
Wednesday, the Rangers shook off an early goal to oust visiting No. 11 seed Noble, 5-1, in the quarterfinals.
Saturday, after a relatively even first half, Scarborough took advantage of a break and found a way to advance.
Greely got the first scoring chance as Nason got the ball in the box, but Red Storm senior defender Kevin Dryzga blocked his shot.
After Scarborough's first chance was broken up by Leverett, the Red Storm broke the ice.
The goal came with 31:01 to go in the first half and was set up by Sparda on a free kick from the side of the box. The ball was deflected and came to Ornstein, who pounded it home and Scarborough was on top, 1-0.
Less than a minute later, the Rangers looked to answer and junior Ted Hart managed a shot with Scarborough junior goalkeeper Pat Stanton down, but senior back Chris Cleary cleared the ball out of harm's way.
Ornstein almost made it 2-0 with 16:10 left in the half, but shot just wide.
Then, with 10:25 remaining in the half, Nason, who's had a spectacular rookie season, tied things up as he slipped a defender, took a pass from sophomore Ben Ingraham and one-timed a shot past Stanton to make it 1-1.
Late in the first half, Leverett kept the game deadlocked by making a diving save. Off a Red Storm corner kick from Omsberg, senior Aaron Ravin managed to head a shot seemingly toward the far corner, but Leverett tipped it aside and the game stayed 1-1 entering the break.
The field tilted dramatically in the second half as the hosts possessed, didn't rush and got some good looks, even though it took awhile to break through.
A little over a minute in to the second half, Omsberg fired a low shot that Leverett saved.
With 32:43 to play in regulation, Sparda's throw-in from the side was deflected on net, but Leverett made the stop.
Greely's best second half scoring chances came on a failed clear from a Red Storm defender, who kicked the ball up into the air and over Stanton's head, but luckily for the hosts, the ball landed on top of the net, and on a shot from sophomore Mitchel Donovan, which deflected off a defender and barely cleared the crossbar.
The chances kept on coming for Scarborough as Omsberg shot wide, junior Sam Cekada had a bid denied by Leverett, Sparda shot high, Ornstein's turnaround shot deflected just wide of the far post, a low shot from senior Austin Downing was saved in sprawling fashion by Leverett and Ornstein shot high.
Then, with 10:45 to go, the Red Storm finished.
After a foul was called on the Rangers, a call which left the Greely cheering section and coaching staff apoplectic, matters got worse for the visitors as Omsberg played the ball quickly to Sparda on the left wing. Sparda ran down the sidelines and launched a blast from some 20 yards out. Leverett appeared primed to make the save, but he couldn't handle it and the ball deflected directly toward the goal and a Rangers defender wasn't able to steer it away.
Scarborough 2 Greely 1.
"Wyatt played it quickly to Trevor and Trevor crossed it in," said Mader. "I ran front post and I don't know if I distracted the goalie. I diddn't touch it. It was confusing. I didn't care who scored."
"I got a ball from Wyatt and I just put it in the mix," Sparda said. "It might have hit off the keeper and went in."
Needless to say, the Rangers weren't happy with the sequence.
"Everything was wrong with that play," said Greely coach Mike Andreasen. "It was too bad. We were holding on in the second half. We looked tired. We have kids who are injured. They're warriors. It's hard to lose and lose that way. If they came down and scored a nice goal it would have been different. I'm struggling with that right now. When we play Scarborough, it usually comes down to something out of the ordinary, interesting or maybe even controversial. it'll give people something to chew on for the next 10 months."
Down the stretch, the Rangers couldn't generate a serious tying bid.
Crowley shot high with 9:45 to go and in the final minute, a Nason free kick was cleared away and that was that as the Red Storm was able to celebrate the win.
"(Greely's) a great team," Mader said. "We pressured them hard. It was a good challenge. We're a bigger team than them. We expected balls in the air would help us start our offense. When we got the ball, we tried to relax. The game moved pretty fast in the first half. In the second half, we tried to calm things down, get it to the flanks and cross it. That's how the goal came."
"It was an even match, back and forth," said Sparda. "That's what we expected. They're a very good team. It was a great game. I felt like we kept calm and tried to keep possession and keep it moving and we finally got the opportunity. It was really defensive. Each team didn't get many chances."
"We knew (Greely would) play their style," Diaz said. "They're good at it. Their keeper made some great saves to keep them in it. We did a good not job not getting caught in a counter attack in the second half. We got to possess more in the second half. It was about patience. I've got five, six guys who can score any night. Whoever's open. We don't care who scores, as long as we score. That's what we've been preaching all year."
Greely did many great things this fall, especially in October, but had its season ended in painful fashion.
"It's a team that's as close as I've had," said Andreasen. "We didn't have any divisions. They gave their very best. We always we play from behind better than anyone, but late in the game, I think emotionally we were spent. Mark has a great program. They're high powered. They gave us everything we thought they'd give us and we responded well."
The Rangers lose 11 seniors, but return some multi-talented underclassmen, suggesting they'll build on this year's accomplishments in 2013.
"There are bigger things ahead for us," said Andreasen. "Our goal this year was to go further than last year. It will be hard to replace the heart of the seniors. They were great leaders. The others have to step up to a leadership role. That will be our charge to get them going. With the talent coming back, we should be right in the thick of things."
One hill left to climb
Scarborough will go to Gorham (14-0-2, after beating No. 4 Kennebunk in its semifinal Saturday) for the Western A Final Wednesday at a time to be announced. The Red Storm settled for a scoreless tie at the Rams in the regular season. The teams have quite an ample playoff history, having met six previous times.
The first came way back in the 1974 regional final (a 2-0 Scarborough win). The then-Redskins also beat the Rams in the 1976 regional final (3-2, in three overtimes). Gorham ended Scarborough's four-year title run in the 1977 semifinals (2-0). After not playing in the postseason for 28 years, the Red Storm eliminated the Rams in the 2005 semifinals, 2-0. Scarborough was also triumphant in the 2008 quarterfinals (4-0) and in last year's semis, 2-0.
The Red Storm is still stinging over last year's regional final ouster to Windham and has no intention of stopping now, even though it has to play a playoff game on the road for the first time in a decade.
"We just need to keep up the pressure," said Mader. "We have momentum. We haven't lost a game this year. We have to play possession. We had more chances last time (we played Gorham). We have to finish our chances. Since that game, we've scored a lot."
"I don't really care who we're playing or where we're playing," said Sparda. "We just want two more."
"We're happy to be back," Diaz added. "This is what we wanted. This is one of our goals. We know how good Gorham is. If you want to win it all, you have to beat four good teams."