(Ed. Note: This story originally appeared June 26, 2008)
PORTLAND—Since Day 1 this spring, the Scarborough boys’ lacrosse team has been written off.
All along, the Red Storm proved them wrong.
Saturday evening, in the Class A state final at Fitzpatrick Stadium, Scarborough got off to a slow start and trailed defending champion Brunswick, 4-1, after one quarter, but the Red Storm turned up the intensity on offense and defense and rode a mid-fourth quarter three-goal surge to an 8-6 triumph and its second championship in three seasons.
Unassisted goals from senior Chris Kipp, junior Jake Barrett and senior Ryan Hunt in a 59-second span erased a 6-5 deficit and gave Scarborough the crown.
“It feels great,” said Kipp, who scored three times. “A great way to end it. I’m so happy we could come back like that. We weren’t playing up to our potential. They made a few mistakes and let us back in the game. I was nervous at the beginning, but I knew we’d come back.”
Long climb to the pinnacle
After routing Lewiston to win the inaugural 2006 Class A state game, the Red Storm were upset by Portland in last spring’s regional final. Coach Tobey Farrington, who elevated the program to elite status, then stepped down and Joe Hezlep took his place.
The new era got off to a painful start Opening Night, April 29, with a 19-6 home bludgeoning by eventual Class B champion Yarmouth, but as the season progressed, Scarborough got better and better.
The Red Storm bounced back from their loss with five straight wins, highlighted by a 9-6 triumph at defending Class B champ North Yarmouth Academy, the first time Scarborough had beaten the Panthers.
After a one-goal home loss to Cheverus, the Red Storm closed strong, beating Portland in an inspiring performance and closing a second five-game win streak with a palpitating 15-14 overtime victory at Cheverus.
Scarborough wound up 10-2 and earned the No. 3 seed in a wide-open Western A. The Red Storm cruised to an 18-1 home romp over No. 6 Noble in the quarterfinals, then put it all together in the second half en route to a 14-6 win at No. 2 Gorham in the semis. Scarborough then hosted the regional final against a No. 8 Kennebunk team, which had upset top-ranked Thornton Academy and No. 5 Cheverus. The Rams were no match for the Red Storm and Scarborough marched to the championship game with a 10-3 victory.
Scarborough and Brunswick had no prior playoff history.
Saturday, it was the Dragons getting the jump.
Just 43 seconds in, Brunswick took a 1-0 lead when Mac Caputi fed Tom Gibson for a goal. Hunt hit the post a moment later and Scarborough finally drew even with 6:12 to play in the opening stanza when Kipp beat Dragons’ goalie Howard Theberge unassisted.
The deadlock only lasted until the 4:53 mark when Brunswick took a 2-1 lead behind an impressive individual effort by Caparatto, who managed to fire a shot past Red Storm senior goalie Joe Kennedy while being horse-collared. The Dragons extended their lead with 2:43 remaining in the quarter on an unassisted goal by Peter Morrell. Then, with 44.2 seconds left, Brunswick took a 4-1 advantage on an unassisted tally by Caparatto, who picked up a loose ball in front and beat Kennedy.
The Dragons, who forced 10 Scarborough turnovers while making just five (fortunately for the Red Storm, that would change), appeared to have a comfortable lead thanks to an edge on ground balls and four saves from Theberge.
But Brunswick wouldn’t score in the second quarter,as it suddenly wasn’t able to hold on to the ball. The Dragons would turn it over on 15 occasions in the 12-minute stanza and clung to a 4-3 lead at halftime after the Red Storm got a pair of unassisted goals from Hunt. Five more saves by Theberge helped Brunswick stay ahead.
It took just 26 seconds for Scarborough to tie the game in the second half when Kipp scored an unassisted goal.
“We knew we had to keep putting pressure on them,” said Hezlep. “We wanted to keep shooting and eventually they’d fall.”
Thanks to nine more Brunswick turnovers, the Red Storm had opportunities to go ahead, but couldn’t do so. Then, with 14.9 seconds to play in the quarter, the Dragons went back on top when Kyle Sullivan scored unassisted, ending a 24 minute, 30 second drought.
The lead wouldn’t last.
With 9:45 to play in regulation, Hunt struck again (this time from senior Kevin Daley) and the game was tied anew, 5-5. With 8:17 remaining, Brunswick took its final lead on an unassisted goal from Blaine Cardelli.
At the midway point of the fourth, it appeared as if the Dragons might just hold on and repeat as champions, but Scarborough’s offense had one final surge up its sleeve and Brunswick simply couldn’t counter.
With 5:58 to play, Kipp scored unassisted to draw his team even for a fourth time.
This time, the Red Storm took the next step and got the lead when junior Jake Barrett followed 16 seconds later with an unassisted goal. If that wasn’t enough, Hunt scored again with 4:59 to play and suddenly Scarborough was up by two.
Brunswick turned the ball over seven times down the stretch and only managed one more good shot on goal, but Kennedy turned it aside.
Kipp collected one final ground ball and ran out the clock as Scarborough celebrated its victory.
“It was the best game I’ve played all season,” Hunt said. “It was amazing. People say we’re a second half team. We showed our intensity. The defense stepped up so hard. That’s the hardest they played all year. (Brunswick) played an excellent game. Their goalie made some excellent saves. I couldn’t believe it. We stayed at it and never gave up.
Every game we got better. Joe Kennedy got better every practice and game. Our defense and offense got better every game. We knew we had to play hard and keep at it.”
“It took a lot of work,” added Hezlep. “We came a long way. We got put in our place early, but we found our place late.
“We couldn’t allow them to push. Their goalie played a great game. He had a ton of saves and stifled our shooters all day. We’ve got some pretty good shooters, but we couldn’t find the back of the net. We got them late when we needed it.”
The Red Storm was paced by four goals from Hunt and three from Kipp. Barrett tallied the other. Daley had the team’s lone assist. Kennedy made only four saves, but they were timely.
“I think the Yarmouth game really opened our eyes to what we needed to do throughout the season,” Kennedy said. “I was definitely happy to be part of such a good team that helped me out and let me learn the ropes throughout the season. It was definitely a team effort. We came together.”
“Class clown to team hero,” Hezlep said, of his goalie. “It’s a good story.”
Scarborough also won 10 of 18 faceoffs, forced 41 turnovers (while making 32) and collected 42 ground balls to the Dragons? 35. Senior Darren Smith and junior Jimmy Soules had seven apiece.
“Our longstick middies did a great job and went out and shut them off,” Kipp said. “That was a big part of the game. It’s commitment and good coaching. We have good athletes who come out and want to play.”
Brunswick’s lone repeat scorer was Caparatto. Cardelli, Gibson, Morrell and Sullivan had the other goals. Caputi had the only assist.
“We took some chances on our offense,” Dragons coach Don Glover said. “Possession was big. In the second, third and fourth quarter, we forced the ball a lot. We weren’t capitalizing. We had to take some chances after falling behind.
“Scarborough’s a good team. I think the West has much better individual players. They’re blessed with better athletes. They have five very good offensive players. We played our six as best we could. At the end, they were able to move the ball around and find some seams. We took it last year for the East. They took it this year in a close game. It was good for the fans.”
Theberge made 14 saves.
The Red Storm is now among the elite programs in the state and will look to win it all again in 2009. While graduation will hurt the team, the program is in such good shape that it figures to simply reload in time for next spring.
“We lose 16 seniors, six guys who saw quality time, but we return a lot in the junior class,” Hezlep said. “I hope everyone will be gunning for us next year. It’ll be fun.”
Red Storm senior Chris Kipp had a great day, other than taking Tyler Cohen’s stick to throat on this play. Kipp scored three times, including the tying goal, as Scarborough won its second Class A title in three seasons.