It was every soccer player’s dream come to life.
Scarborough senior Dan Ornstein and his teammates left no doubt that they were finest team in Class A Saturday morning, as Ornstein struck for three goals, all in the first half, helping the Red Storm capture the Class A state championship for the fourth time since 2005 and giving the school its ninth overall title.
Scarborough was on a mission all season after falling to eventual champion Windham in last year’s Western A Final.
After a 12-0-2 regular season (the ties came against South Portland and Gorham), the Red Storm finished a narrow second to Gorham in the final Heal Points standings.
Last Wednesday, the Red Storm went to No. 1 Gorham for the programs’ seventh all-time playoff meeting. Scarborough beat the Rams for the sixth time in the postseason, but it sure didn’t come easily.
The Red Storm survived consistent Gorham pressure in the first half and kept the game scoreless thanks to a breathtaking play by senior Kevin Dryzga, who alertly got to a ball that appeared goal-bound and kicked it off the post and out.
“(The play) was on the other end and (the coaches) were like, ‘Did that just happen?'” said Scarborough coach Mark Diaz.
The Red Storm got the game’s lone goal when junior Sam Cekada scored with 21:41 remaining. Scarborough’s defense and junior goalkeeper Pat Stanton slammed the door from there and the Red Storm survived, 1-0.
“It was tight the whole way,” Diaz said. “One team was going to get a break. Cekada got it and he finished.”
That sent Scarborough to Hampden for a 10 a.m. start Saturday against Mt. Ararat in the state game. Twice before, the teams met in the state final and both times the games went to penalty kicks before a winner was decided. In 2003, the Eagles won the PK round, 4-2, and the game, 1-0. Two years later, the Red Storm turned the tide, prevailing, 1-0, 4-2 on PKs.
This time, the first goal came 88 seconds in, courtesy Ornstein, who used some neat footwork, dribbling from left to right at the top of the penalty area before shooting a well-placed, low shot back against the grain into the net to the right of Mt. Ararat goalie Gabe Pelletier.
“We went in hoping to crush them,” said Ornstein. “That’s what our attitude was. The first goal pumped me up a little bit and gave us confidence we were better. Since it was 90 seconds in, I was thinking maybe I could put more in. Our intensity was better than theirs. We passed the ball like we did all year.”
“You hope to start a game like that,” Diaz said. “You try to get to a point where the kids know what you want so they don’t need a lot of coaching. The seniors just took over. It looked like we picked up energy-wise where we left off (against Gorham). The confidence boost of beating a team as good as Gorham at their place made us feel like getting up in the morning, driving to Hampden and beating a team as good as Mt. Ararat.”
Ornstein extended the lead to 2-0 in the 10th minute by alertly following his initial shot. Pelletier raced off his line to make a great save on Ornstein’s break-in off a pass from senior Austin Downing, but Ornstein tracked the rebound to the left side of the penalty area, wheeled and curled a shot over Pelletier and into the net off the shoulder of an Eagle defender who had hustled back to try to help out his stranded goalkeeper.
“To score six minutes later, that defines this group,” said Diaz. “It was never enough. They were just relentless. That’s one of my favorite things about this group.”
The backbreaking third goal was set up by Cekada, who maneuvered around a defender on the right flank and sent a low cross into the penalty area where Ornstein extended his leg and directed it into the near post corner with just 12.5 seconds to go in the half, making it 3-0 and essentially delivering the dagger.
“I wasn’t expecting a hat trick,” said Ornstein. “I was just hoping to score.”
“It didn’t surprise us (Dan) had a game like that,” said Diaz. “It was just his day. Dan blew out his knee last winter. He was cleared to play when we started preseason in August. He didn’t play in any preseason games. He played sparingly early. He was great in the playoffs last year. At the end of the season, you could see him starting to dominate. Everything in practice the last couple weeks was on net.”
Scarborough entered the second half wary, knowing Mt. Ararat was dangerous and that the game was far from over, but the Red Storm’s defense proved impenetrable.
“We talked about the first 10 minutes (of the second half) being critical,” Diaz said. “That they’d throw everything at us. We felt if we could get through the first 10, the pace would slow down a little bit. Mt. Ararat’s tough. We just got out on them so quick.”
Downing added a goal in the final minute of regulation off a long, looping through ball by junior Charlie Mader, beating the onrushing Pelletier to the ball and tapping it past him.
From there, Scarborough ran out the clock and celebrated its surprisingly easy 4-0 triumph.
“It was a good day to say the least,” Ornstein said. “It was pretty cool. Considering the circumstances of it being a state level game between the two best teams, it’s the best game I’ve had. You could say it was a storybook ending. I’m glad to end on a good note.
“It was important to finish it off as seniors. It’s all we talked about since school started. We were like, ‘We’re going to win states,” since day one. You have to have that attitude if you’re going to win. We were at our peak. I’m sad it’s over.”
“It feels good,” said Diaz. “Last year, I felt we had a pretty good team. We played well when we lost to Windham. We wanted to get back and close it out. I was happy for the guys. Especially my seniors. They came in style and they went out in style. They’re not just extremely talented, they put a lot of time into soccer. They’re a special group. I’m glad they got a chance to show that Saturday. We felt we had a really good team. The question was could we be tough enough to win close games.”
Scarborough will be hard high by graduation, but this program keeps reloading and should be a force again in 2013, when the Red Storm will be on the short list of title favorites once more.
I’ve got good juniors and some good players who are freshmen and sophomores,” Diaz said. “It will be tough to replace the seniors. We’ll try to do that. I don’t care what anyone says, you’ve got to win four tough games to win Class A. It’s not a cakewalk. It gets tougher every year.”
Bangor Daily News staff writer Larry Mahoney contributed to this story.