Perfect Capers end Falmouth's season, need one more win to repeat
CAPE ELIZABETH—So this is what happens when the most storied boys' lacrosse program in the state gets overlooked.
Heading into the 2014 season, consensus held that Cape Elizabeth, the defending Class B champion, would come back to pack after losing virtually its entire defense.
But instead of falling back, the Capers embraced the challenge, put a mega-sized chip on their shoulders and set out to prove that they could be (gasp) even better.
And now they're 50 minutes from accomplishing something they last managed in 2002.
A perfect season.
Wednesday evening at Hannaford Field, top-ranked Cape Elizabeth did battle with rival Falmouth, the second seed, in the Western Class B Final for the sixth year in a row, in a game considered by many to be the de facto state championship.
The Capers wasted little time making a powerful statement, erupting for seven first quarter goals, as junior Griffin Thoreck scored four goals and his freshman brother, Owen Thoreck, added two, to take a 7-1 lead and seemingly put the victory on ice, but the proud Yachtsmen refused to buckle and while they're not known for their defense, they managed to blank Cape Elizabeth for over 24 minutes and cut the deficit in half.
Falmouth had many opportunities to draw even closer than 7-4, but couldn't do so and when junior Noah Haversat scored off the opening faceoff of the fourth period, the Capers had broken the spell.
Haversat scored twice more in the fourth and while the Yachtsmen got as close as 10-7, a late goal from junior Ben Shea slammed the door and Cape Elizabeth's defense, led by junior Noah Wolfinger, who smothered Falmouth senior standout I.V. Stucker all evening, did the rest and the Capers repeated as Western B champions with an 11-8 triumph.
Griffin Thoreck finished with those four first period goals and added two assists, Haversat had three goals, Wolfinger prevented Stucker from scoring and underappreciated sophomore goalie Alex Narvaez made 16 saves as Cape Elizabeth improved to 14-0, ended Falmouth's season at 10-4 and advanced to the Class B Final for the second year in a row, where it will face old friend Yarmouth (10-5) Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
"Coming in, we were looked at as not as good as last year and individually, we may not be as good, but as a team, we may be better," Haversat said.
The middle Wednesday in June
For six seasons now, the two best teams in Western Class B (and in many of those years, the best two teams in the state, period) played with a trip to the state final at stake (see sidebar, below).
Cape Elizabeth won the first two regional final encounters, Falmouth the next two and last spring, the Capers survived in an overtime thriller, 9-8, en route to the championship.
With the addition of Kennebunk to Western B this spring, there was some question about a sixth straight showdown, but the Capers and Yachtsmen managed to get to the regional final once more.
Cape Elizabeth 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 a 12-8 home 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, before closing with a 12-10 win at Falmouth in the regular season finale.
As the top seed in Western B, the Capers toyed with No. 4 Greely in Saturday's semifinals, romping, 19-1.
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 a 12-8 loss at Cape Elizabeth, but bounced back to handle visiting 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, 11-8, and falling at home to Cape Elizabeth in the finale, 12-10.
As the No. 2 seed, Falmouth earned a bye into Saturday's semifinals, where it dug out of an early 3-0 hole to beat No. 3 Kennebunk, 12-9.
Wednesday, the Capers never trailed and built a big enough cushion to sustain a mid-game drought.
Just 79 seconds in, Griffin Thoreck hinted at a big quarter to come, by scoring an unassisted goal.
The Yachtsmen drew even with 10:09 to play in the first period, when senior Joe Dancoes scored unassisted, but that would prove to be their highwater mark.
With 6:20 left, Owen Thoreck finished a feed from Griffin Thoreck and Cape Elizabeth had the lead for good.
And the fun was just starting.
Griffin Thoreck scored unassisted a minute later, Shea scored his first goal (unassisted) with 4:04 to go, Griffin Thoreck struck unassisted again 45 seconds later, Owen Thoreck had an unassisted goal with 1:03 to go and 16 seconds later, Griffin Thoreck scored his fourth goal of the quarter to give the Capers a seemingly commanding 7-1 advantage.
"Offensively, we moved well," said Griffin Thoreck. "We converted our shots. We played good team offense. We were unselfish, looking for the next pass."
"We played really, really well in the first quarter," said longtime Cape Elizabeth coach Ben Raymond. "We scored on a lot of offensive possessions. That first quarter was as good as we can play offense against a really good team. We did that against a quality opponent."
Falmouth coach Mike LeBel replaced senior starting goalie Nick Beaulieu with freshman Liam Tucker after the seventh goal and the defense came to life, giving the Yachtsmen a chance to rally.
With 7:04 to play in the second quarter, senior Tyler Jordan scored unassisted, ending Cape Elizabeth's 6-0 run and a 15 minute, 5 second drought.
Sophomore George Gilbert added an unassisted goal with 3:02 remaining before halftime and the Yachtsmen were very much alive at the break, down just 7-3.
"We had trouble clearing the ball," Griffin Thoreck said. "We didn't possess as well as we did in the first quarter. That led to a lot of defense and us standing around on offense."
"When we possess on offense, we control the game better," Haversat said. "When we try to push it, we get sloppy. That's what happened during the middle two quarters."
"In the second quarter, we couldn't get possession and we couldn't clear the ball," Raymond added. "They played really well defensively. That's what usually happens, one of us gets off to a good start, then the other comes back and it's a close game all the way. It would have been nice to pour it on."
Midway through quarter number three, Stucker set up junior Bryce Kuhn and Falmouth was only down, 7-4.
The Yachtsmen had several chances to pull within two, but couldn't do so.
First, Dancoes missed a shot, then had a shot saved by Narvaez.
Kuhn then shot high, senior Brad Gilbert missed wide, Stucker did the same, Brad Gilbert had a shot denied by Narvaez, Kuhn shot wide, then late in the third, Stucker had a shot blocked.
Had any of those shots found their mark, Falmouth's fate might have been different.
"The defense stepped up and shut the door for awhile," LeBel said. "Two quarters is a long period of time. At that point, you've got to start producing some offense. We got some decent shots, but I don't think we were as patient as we could have been. We took some ill-advised shots. We've thrown in some new man-up plays, but when they shut off I.V., it gets our timing off and you have to make adjustments on the run and we weren't able to get the ball inside for an easy shot."
Cape Elizabeth still had a comfortable lead going into the fourth period and soon good some breathing room.
Capers senior James Monroe-Chausse won the faceoff to begin the fourth and got the ball to Haversat, who finished with 11:51 to go, ending a 24 minute, 56 second drought and making the score 8-4.
Just 28 seconds later, on a delayed penalty call, Haversat scored unassisted and the lead was up to five.
After killing a penalty, Cape Elizabeth pushed its lead back to six goals, as Griffin Thoreck set up Haversat for his third goal in a 2:42 span.
"We emphasized pushing in transition," Haversat said. "When they can't set up on defense, we know we can score easily. Coming into the fourth quarter,, we looked for the openings. I saw an opening and it worked out for the best."
"It definitely gave us some breathing room," Raymond said. "We got up by a few goals and letting them have the ball didn't hurt us."
After Kuhn was twice robbed by Narvaez, Falmouth was able to make another run to again make things interesting.
With 5:18 left, George Gilbert set up Dancoes for a goal.
After Narvaez stopped a Stucker shot, Brad Gilbert scored an unassisted goal with 3:58 to play and the deficit was four.
Just eight seconds later, Stucker set up Kuhn and just like that Yachtsmen had pulled within three, 10-7.
Monroe-Chausse restored order by winning the ensuing faceoff and after running a minute off the clock, Cape Elizabeth went back up by four when Shea managed to pick up a pass from Haversat that was off target and shoot it past Tucker for an 11-7 advantage.
Dancoes finished a feed from Brad Gilbert with 1:56 remaining, but that was as close as Falmouth would get and the Capers put the finishing touches on their 11-8 victory.
"We've filled spots and we have more depth this year," Haversat said. "We have two or three middie lines who can do the job. We have multiple offensive guys who can help us."
"We got a little breathing room in the fourth quarter, but they got a couple quick ones," Raymond said. "We're trying to tell the guys to run the clock. You live and die with these guys going to goal. It's been effective for us all year long. We have continued to improve all season. Tonight, score-wise it may not look like our best defensive effort, but I think it was."
Griffin Thoreck had a game-high four goals and two assists, Haversat scored three times and Shea and Owen Thoreck both had two goals.
Griffin Thoreck paid tribute to Owen and Owen's twin, freshman Connor Thoreck, for playing such big roles this spring.
"They're big kids and they fit in perfectly with their physicality," Griffin Thoreck said. "It's awesome to play with them."
Haversat and Monroe-Chausse each had one assist.
The Capers were outshot, 38-30 (24-16 on frame), but survived in large part due to 16 saves from Narvaez.
"Alex has really helped us out in goal," Haversat said.
"Alex probably played the game of his career," Wolfinger said. "When the defense made a mistake, he was there to cover for us."
"Alex, first of all, stepped up big time tonight," Griffin Thoreck said. "I was so impressed with him. He's awesome. (Senior defensemen) Caelan (Houle), Tom (Feenstra) and Trevor (Gale) are big guys and they know defense well. They got their chance to start this year and they've made the most of it."
"I think it was Alex's best game in goal," Raymond added.
Even Falmouth paid tribute.
"Their goalie always had a really good look and was able to make saves," LeBel said. "He played well today."
Not their year
Falmouth got three goals from Dancoes, two from Kuhn and one apiece from Brad Gilbert, George Gilbert and Jordan. Stucker had two assists, but that was it, as Wolfinger, shall we say, got to know him well.
"Without a doubt, (I.V. is) one of, if not the best scoring threat in the state, besides (Griffin)," Wolfinger said. "We locked him off. Coach told me to figure out what mouthwash he had and to use the same one and stay on him the entire game. I was on him the entire game. I think I did a decent job. He still got some shots off, but as a team, we did a great job."
"We made a point tonight of taking it one step further and shutting (I.V.) off and not letting him get the ball," Raymond said. "Noah was the best person to do it. It worked out really, really well for us. He got the ball a bunch, but when he did, Noah was right there with him step for step."
Brad Gilbert and George Gilbert both had one assist. Beaulieu had one save before being replaced and Tucker stopped four shots.
The Yachstmen held a 12-11 edge in faecoffs, but for the second year in a row, their season ended at the hands of the Capers.
"From front to back, there are no weaknesses with (Cape)," LeBel said. "They play a really high-pressure defense that no one else really does, so when you play them, it's hard to adjust. You can practice all you want, but to go up against it in a game, it's different and it was too much for us.
"I'm really proud of the guys. I'm not disappointed with our performance. We didn't progress as Cape did. Cape lost a lot of guys from last year, but they were able to have kids step up and perform. We did the best we could. We just lost to a better team. That's all it boils down to.
"Now that we've won a couple state championships, that's the ultimate goal. Nothing less is sufficient. We want and expect to challenge every year for a championship."
Falmouth fell short of a championship for the second year in a row, but was among the best teams in the state throughout and LeBel said that he really enjoyed this collection.
"We had a really good group of seniors," LeBel said. "We only had one captain, that was I.V, but they were all leaders. They were a great group. They all got along. They enjoyed each other. It was one of, it not my most favorite group to coach. They were awesome. We had a lot of fun this year."
While Stucker, an All-American, departs, along with many other seniors, the Yachtsmen should be very strong again in 2015.
There figures to be a familiar foe standing in the way once more, however.
"I've got a lot of young talent, but so does Cape," LeBel said. "They'll probably score a minimum of 18 goals a game next year."
Cape Elizabeth will be a heavy favorite in Saturday's state game, especially after twice beating Yarmouth with relative ease in the regular season.
The Capers are 4-3 all-time against the Clippers in state finals, taking the lead in the series last spring with a 7-4 victory.
Cape Elizabeth knows a repeat title won't come easily, but this group wants to cement its legacy by becoming the first Capers team since 2002 to go undefeated and win it all.
Even better, the Capers girls are in the state final for the first time (and are also playing Yarmouth), so Cape Elizabeth could wind up being the center of the lacrosse universe by mid-afternoon Saturday.
"We know how to go into the game since we've played them twice," Griffin Thoreck said. "We'll be ready. I'm confident we'll be able to figure out what we're doing."
"We're ready," said Haversat. "The only issue might be the weather. Last year, it was blistering. We need to possess more so our defense doesn't get tired."
"It will be great for the entire town," Raymond added. "That should get a lot of people in the stands. The girls have worked really hard. Everybody's stepped up and played well.
"We need to continue to win ground balls and get extra possessions. (Yarmouth has done) a good job against us in faceoffs. We have to work on that aspect. We have to clear better than we did tonight. We have to stay within our offense. We have to stay within the system."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Cape Elizabeth-Falmouth playoff results
Western B Final
@ Falmouth 10 Cape Elizabeth 9
Western B Final
@ Falmouth 11 Cape Elizabeth 9
Western B Final
Cape Elizabeth 7 @ Falmouth 6 (OT)
Western B Final
@ Cape Elizabeth 11 Falmouth 7