Scarborough senior Samuel Jacob races into the arms of senior goalkeeper Cam Nigro to celebrate the Red Storm’s 2-0 win over Cheverus in Wednesday’s Class A South boys’ soccer final. Scarborough avenged last year’s playoff ouster and advanced to meet Lewiston in a battle of unbeatens in Saturday’s state final.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
SCARBOROUGH—It was more unfinished business than revenge, but however you slice it, Scarborough’s boys’ soccer team has another regional championship to its credit and after last year’s heartbreak, does it ever feel good.
Wednesday evening at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex, the top-ranked Red Storm made sure midnight struck for Cinderella Cheverus, thanks to a pair of early goals and a strong 80-minute defensive effort.
Scarborough, which was stunned by the eventual champion Stags in double overtime of last year’s regional final, got the only goal it would need in the eighth minute, when after Cheverus was unable to clear a Red Storm corner kick, senior Josh Morrissey sent the ball into the net with a bicycle kick.
Scarborough doubled its lead with 24:30 to play in the first half, as senior Matt Caron delivered one of his pinpoint throws right on target and the ball found its way into the goal to make it 2-0.
After putting just one shot on frame in the first half, Cheverus ratcheted up the pressure in the second half, but the Red Storm defense and senior goalkeeper Cam Nigro refused to allow the Stags any momentum and a diving save from Nigro with 13:40 to play snuffed out the visitors’ best chance as Scarborough went on to a 2-0 victory.
The Red Storm improved to 15-0-2, ended Cheverus’ season at 10-4-4 and advanced to set up an absolutely delicious showdown against 17-0 Lewiston in the Class A state final Saturday at 12:30 p.m., at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
“It doesn’t get old,” said Scarborough coach Mark Diaz, who has now won nine regional titles. “It’s special. We still get excited. It’s the best part about coaching, getting up for these games. The big thing we talked about was just getting back here. Honestly, it didn’t matter who we played. We just wanted to get back here and win it. We were upset we lost last year. It didn’t matter who it was to. We were happy to get back and wanted to win it this time.”
Ever since letting a late lead slip away and falling in agonizing fashion in double overtime in last year’s regional final, Scarborough has been itching for a shot at revenge.
The Red Storm got a measure of revenge with a 4-2 home win over the Stags back on Sept. 29. That was part of a 12-0-2 regular season, Scarborough’s ninth undefeated mark in the regular season in the past 12 years. The Red Storm settled for ties versus Gorham and Portland, but beat everyone else.
As Class A’s top seed, the 11th time in 12 years that Scarborough has earned that designation, the Red Storm blanked No. 9 Westbrook (2-0) in the quarterfinals and No. 4 Falmouth (3-0) in the semifinals to advance.
Cheverus’ playoff results were eerily similar to last year’s Cinderella run. After a 7-3-4 regular season, the Stags earned the No. 7 seed, just like they did in 2014. After handling 10th-ranked Marshwood, 4-0, in the preliminary round, Cheverus upset No. 3 Gorham, 2-1, in the quarterfinals. Saturday, as was the case a year ago, the Stags went to sixth-ranked South Portland and while this meeting didn’t require penalty kicks to decide a winner, Cheverus was able to prevail, 1-0, to return to the regional final and set up just the second-ever postseason encounter versus Scarborough.
Wednesday night, the Red Storm, as they’ve done so often over their past dozen years of dominance, did what they had to do to advance.
Scarborough carried play early and Morrissey sent a free kick into the box a minute in, but it landed untouched and was cleared.
After junior Spencer Pettingill headed a corner just wide and senior Jake Kacer’s header off a corner was saved by Stags senior goalkeeper Jake Tomkinson, the hosts broke through.
The goal came 7 minutes, 49 seconds in and started on a corner kick. The ball came into the box and Cheverus had an opportunity to clear it, but the Stags failed to do so and Morrissey made them pay as he contorted his body for a bicycle kick which got past Tomkinson for a 1-0 lead.
“All season, my coach has been telling me to work on crashing the goal and go in even if I don’t think I’ll get there,” Morrissey said. “I got there, I saw the ball and turned and kicked it in. It turned out to be a bicycle kick, but I just needed to make contact with the ball.”
“That was a nice goal,” Diaz said. “(Josh) does get overlooked. I’m glad he’s getting some press. We know he’s really good. I’m glad he got a chance to shine a little bit tonight. He deserved it. We talked all week about a fast start. Thank goodness, we’ve been good at that. We had good energy (early).”
After Cheverus senior standout Mackenzie Hoglund had a shot tipped wide and a Stags corner kick was cleared, Scarborough doubled its lead.
With 24:30 to play in the half, Caron inbounded the ball from the right sideline, about 25 yards out, and his throw came right in on goal. Tomkinson, who was bumped by a Scarborough attacker, couldn’t stop it and the ball wound up in the goal for a 2-0 advantage.
“We were fortunate it went off the keeper’s hands,” Diaz said. “We were just happy it went in. Obviously, it was nice to be up 2-0. That gave me latitude to do different things. Change my substitution patters and move guys around.”
Each team had a corner kick before halftime, but a Kacer header was saved by Tomkinson and Cheverus couldn’t manage a shot, sending the game to the break with the Red Storm up two goals.
In the first half, Scarborough had a 9-3 shots advantage (5-1 on frame) and took three corner kicks to two for the Stags.
No goals were scored in the second half, but there were chances.
With 34:06 to play, off a Cheverus free kick which bounced off a Scarborough defender’s head, senior Brady Levesque got his head on the ball, but Nigro made the save.
After Tomkinson denied bids by Caron and senior Samuel Jacob, King shot wide and Tomkinson had to leap to stop a blast from Morrissey.
The Stags then earned successive corner kicks, but had nothing to show for them.
With 13:40 remaining, Cheverus almost made things very interesting when a shot from senior Alex Nason was deflected by Jacob on target. Nigro was moving to his left on the shot, but had to reverse course, move to his right, then dive to get a piece of the ball, knocking it out for a corner kick.
“Our defense played really great the entire game, especially the second half,” Nigro said. “Even though (the Stags) were coming hard, I didn’t see many tough shots except that one. It got deflected and I thought it would go in. I knew I had to give an effort to back up my defense which has played great for me all year. I dove for it, got there and got a finger on it.”
“Cam got tested and he responded,” Diaz said. “We know how athletic he is. I was happy for him.”
The Stags continued to pressure late, but a long shot from senior Matt Lapoint was saved by Nigro, a pair of Hoglund bids were stopped by Nigro and after Kacer hit the crossbar, Nigro snared a last minute Hoglund free kick and Scarborough closed the door on its 2-0 victory.
“We tried to get last year as far out of our minds as possible,” Nigro said. “We tried to treat it like it was any other game. We tried to get rid of the rivalry, redemption stuff and just play our game. It feels great.”
“Our goal was to win games, not revenge,” Morrissey said. “We played our hearts out tonight. That’s what we wanted. This game was important to me. As a team, we showed we could win and we did what we needed to do and found the back of the net. We won as a team tonight. Cheverus is a good team. Defensively, we knew Mackenzie would be a very big threat. We tried our best to be there and win every 50-50 ball. We got up in the air and won.”
“The guys did a good job following the game plan,” Diaz added. “We did a good job defensively tonight on their set pieces. Cheverus is as good as there is in the air. Their set pieces are clever and well executed and I thought we defended them well. Cheverus never quit. You have to give them credit.”
Scarborough enjoyed a 21-9 shots advantage (11-7 on frame) and wound up with six corner kicks. Nigro made seven key saves.
Cheverus got nine saves from Tomkinson and had six corner kicks, but couldn’t quite live to play another day.
“I thought they came out pretty strong in the first half and they were the better team for sure,” said Stags coach Colin Minte. “We made two mistakes and against Scarborough, you can’t do that. To have success in this conference, you have to have some bounces go our way. Unfortunately, we didn’t get those bounces to go our way and they did. I wouldn’t say our luck ran out. It was more the bounces didn’t go our way.
“I’m proud of how my guys played in the second half. I thought we played phenomenal. We made some tactical changes. We had a lot of chances. Their keeper made a good save and they stayed strong in the back. I think Scarborough has been strong all year and I think it’s fitting that they’ll represent southern Maine. They were the best team all year on the whole.”
Cheverus has rewritten the script on flipping the switch come playoff time and while this year’s team couldn’t quite finish, it has a lot to be proud of.
“Once playoffs roll around, our guys realize it’s win-or-go-home and we had that mentality all playoffs,” Minte said. “We had some special wins against some great teams. I think it’s tough to come back as defending champions. You can’t sneak up on anyone. Everyone wants to play you and everyone wants to beat you. I thought we held our own. We had some games we tied that we should have won. We lost some games I thought we could have gotten a better result, but all in all, to be one of the last two teams in Southern A, I told the guys, I’m so proud of them. I’m proud we made it so far, because it’s not easy.”
The Stags graduate an abundance of standouts, 15 seniors total, but don’t write this squad off when looking at 2016.
“It’s a special group,” Minte said. “Great guys. Great leaders. We’ll miss some phenomenal players next year, but we have some good young players coming into the system. Some you saw tonight. Some you’ll see next year. There’s a lot to look forward to. We’ve set a new standard for Cheverus soccer. We want to be in this position every year. There’s a lot of good teams out there, so it’s easier said than done.”
Lewiston (which defeated Hampden Academy, 4-0, in its regional final and has tallied 113 goals in 17 games) has been viewed as the state’s best team and now Scarborough will get a chance to knock the Blue Devils from that perch.
The teams don’t play in the regular season, but did meet three times back in the 1970s and 1980s, with Scarborough winning in the 1974 Western A semifinals en route to a championship (1-0) and Lewiston prevailing in the 1979 Western A quarterfinals (2-1) and the 1987 Western A preliminary round (1-0).
The Red Storm will be seeking their sixth Class A title in 11 years and their 11th championship total. It won’t come easily, but Scarborough is ready for the challenge.
“We played them in preseason and they’re easily one of the greatest offensive teams we’ve seen around here in a long time,” Nigro said. “The way they pass, their chemistry is great. They ping it around and it’s hard to keep track of. Our defense has played great and has gotten better over the season. I think we’ll stand up to them pretty well.”
“It’s a beautiful opportunity and I’m very thankful for it,” Morrissey said. “We deserve it. We’ve worked hard for it. This feels really good, but now we’re looking forward to Saturday. We need to do exactly what we did out there tonight, play our game. We’ll go out there, pass the ball, play hard, get back, mark up. Coach emphasizes in practice that marking up is a key and if we do, we’ll win games.”
“Lewiston is who they say they are,” Diaz added. “They deserve to be in the game. They’re extremely talented. I’m sure they’re better since we saw them in preseason and I’d like to think we are too. They’re one of the most skilled teams I’ve seen at almost every position. Their first touch is very good. They can go side-to-side and build. They’ve been great at finishing too. I hope our depth gives us an edge. We’ll use our bench, no question. They force you to use a lot of energy because you don’t have the ball as much as normal. We’ll have to do what we do and hopefully things work out.”
Scarborough senior Josh Morrissey converts a highlight reel bicycle kick, despite the best effort of Cheverus senior John Nappi, to score the game’s first goal.
Morrissey celebrates his goal.
With Red Storm junior Matt Blaisdell crashing the goal, Cheverus senior goalkeeper Jake Tomkinson reaches in vain for Scarborough senior Matt Caron’s throw which got past him into the goal to make it 2-0.
Caron is mobbed by Blaisdell and senior Nick Lorello (5) after his pinpoint throw produced the second goal.
Cheverus senior Jonathan Bernier boots the ball away from Scarborough senior Nick Lorello.
Two of the game’s best players (and hairdos) square off, as Scarborough senior Jacob Kacer and Cheverus senior Mackenzie Hoglund fight for the ball.
Scarborough junior Noah Stracqualursi and Cheverus senior Ethan Grove race for the ball.
Cheverus receives the runner-up plaque. For the second year in a row, the Stags made a run to the regional final from the No. 7 seed.
Scarborough senior goalkeeper Cam Nigro and his teammates show off their championship hardware.
2014 Western A Final
Cheverus 3 @ Scarborough 2 (2 OT)