LEWISTON—Each of the past two seasons, the Portland boys’ lacrosse team made it to the season’s final day.
This spring, the Bulldogs were sent packing a week earlier than they hoped.
Saturday evening, at Don Roux Field, Portland ran into a buzzsaw in the form of the Lewiston Blue Devils. The Bulldogs grabbed an early lead, but after that, the hosts dominated, racing to an 9-3 lead at halftime and cruising in the second half to a 15-6 triumph.
Top-ranked Lewiston got five goals from senior Curtis Robinson, four from senior Sam Cloutier and completely smothered Portland in the second and third quarters, outscoring the Bulldogs, 8-1, in that span, as the Blue Devils improved to 12-1, earning a home regional final date with No. 2 Deering (12-1) Wednesday evening.
No. 4 Portland’s year comes to an end at 10-4.
“It’s kind of the story of our year,” lamented Bulldogs coach Eric Begonia. “I don’t know if it’s anything we did wrong. It’s a lot of what they did right, to be honest. They’re just a talented team, top to bottom.”
Since 2005, Portland has been among the premier teams in the state, reaching the state final for the first time in 2007 (losing to Brunswick), then winning it all in 2009 before falling just short to Scarborough in last year’s finale.
The Bulldogs have been hit hard by graduation in recent years and that finally caught up to them this spring.
After pounding Bonny Eagle (14-2) and Noble (17-1) to start, Portland eked out an 8-7 home win over Kennebunk, then had to go to overtime to edge visiting Lewiston. After a 15-3 home victory over Marshwood, Portland escaped at Massabesic, 9-8. A 14-0 home win over Biddeford was the Bulldogs’ seventh in a row to start the year, but the run ended when they fell at Messalonskee, 8-5. A 18-5 home triumph over Gorham gave Begonia his 100th career win. Portland then fell, 8-4, at Deering, won, 17-5, at Westbrook, then closed with a 9-4 loss at Scarborough to wind up 9-3, good for the No. 4 seed.
Lewiston, meanwhile, a semifinalist in 2010, lost its third game of the year, at Portland, then won its final nine, including a stunning 8-7 home triumph over Cape Elizabeth, to finish 11-1, good for the top seed in Eastern A. The Blue Devils earned a bye into the semifinals.
The teams met in last year’s semifinals, a 9-5 Portland victory. Back on May 3, in the regular season meeting, the Blue Devils rallied late on a Cloutier goal in the waning seconds to force overtime, but there, less than a minute in, senior All-American Caleb Kenney fed junior Seamus Kilbride for the winner as the Bulldogs prevailed, 9-8.
This time, Lewiston made a powerful statement.
Portland actually got off to a strong start, but couldn’t sustain the momentum over 48 minutes.
Just 1 minute, 27 seconds into the game, Kenney scored unassisted. With 9:45 to go in the 12-minute opening quarter, senior Bronson Guimond took a pass from Kenney and beat Blue Devils’ senior goalie Jesse Leeman for a quick 2-0 advantage.
The hosts got on the board 50 seconds later when Robinson scored the first of his goals, unassisted.
Neither team was able to do much for several minutes and Leeman robbed Bulldogs senior Chralie Marr at one juncture. With 1:39 remaining in the quarter, the hosts tied the score when Robinson set up senior Evan Carrier, whose shot beat Portland junior goalie Ryan Jurgelevich.
The Bulldogs went back on top for the final time, 3-2, when Kilbride (from junior Jason Webster) scored with his team playing a man down.
That penalty would eventually cost the visitors as Robinson set up junior Brandon Tiner for a goal with the Blue Devils playing two-men up with 45 seconds left.
With 14 seconds showing, Lewiston went on top to stay, when Clouter fed Robinson and it 4-3 Blue Devils after one.
The second period would be dominated by the hosts, who won four of six faceoffs, grabbed 19 ground balls to six for Portland, and outshot the Bulldogs, 9-3.
Again playing man-up, with 10:29 left in the half, senior Elliot Chicoine assisted on a goal by senior Ryan Lemelin. Forty-seven seconds later, Cloutier scored unassisted and it was 6-3.
With 7:43 to go, Cloutier assisted on a goal by junior Chris Rancourt. With 6:19 left, Cloutier scored an unassisted goal and the lead was 8-3, forcing Begonia to call timeout.
It didn’t help.
With 1:07 remaining, Robinson scored unassisted and the Blue Devils took a 9-3 lead to the half.
“(Lewiston) took advantage of opportunities when we were in the penalty box,” Begonia said. “That hurt us early on. You can’t win games hanging around in the penalty box, bottom line. It’s hard to play from behind, on the road, on grass, a surface we’re not used to, but I don’t want to take anything away from what they did. They did so many things well tonight. They put us in a situation where we were behind most of the game.”
Things didn’t improve for Portland in the third quarter.
Just 38 seconds in, Robinson’s shot hit the post, but Cloutier was there to put in the rebound. With 8:45 showing, Robinson scored unassisted. Eight seconds later off a draw win, Kenney fed Kilbride for a goal, but that only cut the deficit to 11-4. With 4:26 remaining, Junior Brandon Tiner scored unassisted and Lewiston had an eight-goal advantage heading for the fourth.
There, an unassisted Robinson goal and a two-man-up tally by Cloutier (set up by Tiner) made it 14-4. Junior Anthony Bowden ended the run with an unassisted tally, but senior Caleb Leino scored Lewiston’s final goal, unassisted, with 3:28 to play. Senior Theo Darvin assisted classmate Evan Michalski’s goal with 1:02 left to account for the 15-6 final score.
“It definitely feels good to beat (Portland),” said Robinson. “We wanted our revenge. It feels great to have this win under our belt. It feels great to knock them out. We definitely had our offense going today. Our defense has been amazing and our goalie’s great, so it’s nice to have our offense finally step up. We got on their shorties, dodged and beat them one-on-one. Once they gave us our space, we possessed the ball, slowed it down, waited for them to play us and went by them.”
Lewiston got five goals from Robinson, four from Cloutier, two from Tiner and one each from Carrier, Leino, Lemelin and Rancourt. Cloutier and Robinson also had two assists each. Chicoine and Tiner added helpers. Rancourt grabbed a team-high nine ground balls, Leino had seven and Cloutier five. Leeman made eight saves.
The Blue Devils had a 12-6 faceoff advantage deep in the third period, but Portland won the last seven to end with a 13-12 edge. Rancourt was 12 of 24 for Lewiston. The Blue Devils had a 48-40 advantage in ground balls, forced 20 turnovers while only committing 17 and had a 32-23 shots on goal advantage (21-14 in shots on cage).
All in all, it was a sensational showing.
“It’s the biggest win of my time here,” said Lewiston coach Bill Bodwell. “The boys were really hungry tonight. It was nice to play on our homefield. We worked hard and won the groundball battle. That often tells the story. It’s a nice advantage to have, to win possession. It was a key for us. Something we talked about. Coach Begonia’s a great coach. Caleb Kenney’s one of the best lacrosse players I’ve ever coached against. The plan was to try and contain him. We felt good about our game.”
“I have a lot of respect for coach Bodwell,” Begonia said. “We’ve gone against those players for a couple years. They won a lot of the hustle plays, 50-50 balls, that kind of stuff that doesn’t come up in stat books, but makes a difference in games.”
Lewiston will host Deering in Wednesday’s regional final. The teams didn’t meet this year. Last spring, in the quarterfinals, the Blue Devils won, 3-0, at the Rams in the quarterfinals.
“We’ll buckle down and work on our plays on offense and work on our defensive rotation and make sure we’re all ready to go on Wednesday,” Robinson said.
“We like being here,” said Bodwell. “I like (Deering) coach (Bob) Rothbart. He’s a good guy. They had a big win against Messalonskee. It should be a great game.”
Portland got two goals from Kilbride and one apiece from Bowden, Guimond, Kenney and Michalski. Kenney had two assists, Darvin and Webster one each. Kenney led the team with nine ground balls. Bowden snared seven. Senior Pat Cormier won 12 of 24 faceoffs. Senior Lenny Schwartz went 1 for 1. Jurgelevich made six saves.
“We were in the penalty box too much and had senior leaders lose their composure and that had a trickle-down effect,” Begonia said. “(Lewiston) dominated possession, moved the ball well and played tough D. Their goalie made great saves. They have good leaders and are playing great lacrosse right now.
The Bulldogs once again lose several key players to graduation and will have their hands full remaining a top contender in 2012.
“Since 2005, I’ve always said, ‘What am I going to do without those seniors?'” Begonia said. “We’ve always found guys to fill the void. These seniors accomplished a lot in their four years. We knew we’d struggle a little more this year. Obviously, we hoped to go further than we did. We just happened to run into a team playing good lacrosse right now.
“Next year, we’ll build from the goalie out and we have a lot of great defenders. We wouldn’t have gotten even this far without Ryan. He’s top-notch. Seamus, Jason and (sophomore) Max (Pierter) will give us some productivity offensively. We have a JV team that was undefeated this year. We’re optimistic. We have a lot of growing to do between now and then.”
P- 3 0 1 2- 6
L- 4 5 3 3- 15
10:33 P Kenney (unassisted)
9:45 P Guimond (Kenney)
8:55 L Robinson (un)
1:39 L Carrier (Robinson)
1:03 P Kilbride (Webster) MAN-DOWN
:45 L Tiner (Robinson) MAN-UP
:14 L Robinson (Cloutier)
10:29 L Lemelin (Chicoine) MAN-UP
9:42 L Cloutier (un)
7:43 L Rancourt (Cloutier)
6:19 L Cloutier (un)
1:07 L Robinson (un)
11:22 L Cloutier (un)
8:45 L Robinson (un)
8:37 P Kilbride (Kenney)
4:26 L Tiner (un)
10:42 L Robinson (un)
7:18 L Cloutier (Tiner) TWO MEN-UP
4:59 P Bowden (un)
3:28 L Leino (un)
1:02 P Michalski (Darvin)
P- Kilbride 2, Bowden, Guimond, Kenney, Michalski
L- Robinson 5, Cloutier 4, Tiner 2, Carrier, Leino, Lemelin, Rancourt
P- Kenney 2, Darvin, Webster
L- Cloutier, Robinson 2, Chicoine, Tiner
P- (Jurgelevich) 6
L- (Leeman) 8
Ground balls (Lewiston, 48-40)
P- Kenney 9, Bowden 7
L- Rancourt 9, Leino 7, Cloutier 5
Faceoffs (Portland, 13-12)
P- Cormier 12 of 24, L. Schwartz 1 of 1
L- Rancourt 12 of 24, Ahmed 0 of 1
Shots on goal:
Shots on cage: