The Western Class A boys’ soccer playoffs got underway Monday night with a stirring and stunning come-from-behind victory by South Portland in the preliminary round.
The ninth-ranked Red Riots rallied from a two-goal second half deficit to beat host No. 8 Kennebunk 3-2, in overtime, to advance to meet undefeated, top-ranked and defending state champion Scarborough in the quarterfinals Wednesday night. There, South Portland’s run ended with a 4-0 setback to the Red Storm, who advanced to host No. 4 Portland in the regional semifinals Saturday.
Also on Wednesday, No. 6 Cape Elizabeth went to No. 3 Windham, in one of the more compelling quarterfinal matchups. As expected, the game came down to the the wire and the Eagles held on for a 2-1 victory, ending the Capers’ season at 9-5-1.
South Portland’s up-and-down regular season included a 6-1-1 start and a stretch of four losses in five games, but a 3-2 victory at Cheverus in the regular season finale got the Red Riots in as the No. 9 seed. On Oct. 6, South Portland lost 1-0 at Kennebunk. The Rams also beat the Red Riots, 1-0, in the 2007 preliminary round, in the teams’ lone prior playoff meeting.
This time would prove to be a different story, but it didn’t appear that way until late. Kennebunk had a 2-0 lead until the 65th minute when senior Brian Arsenault was credited for a goal and the ball went in off a Rams’ defender. Ten minutes later, senior Nick Brown’s header tied the score and forced overtime. There, Brown won it, giving his team an improbable 3-2 victory.
“The Kennebunk game was one that I will talk about with teams for years,” said South Portland coach Bryan Hoy. “When we were down two goals, I think I was the only one who thought it was insurmountable. The boys never showed any signs of giving up. They set a goal to win and did everything they could to achieve their goal. I’ve always told them 2-0 is the worst place to be in soccer with a lead. Once we broke through and scored the first goal, the momentum was entirely on our side. Nick stepped up and had a huge game. All season, he had been a target for crosses, but had yet to convert. It had actually become a joke on the team. I’ve told him all year to just keep being in the right place and it would eventually fall. It did. Kennebunk is a very good team and it took everything we had to get past them.”
The Red Riots improved to 9-5-1 and set up a date with Scarborough, which has been the premier boys’ team in the state since 2003. The Red Storm had massive roster turnover this fall, but sparkled again. In the regular season matchup, the Red Storm beat South Portland 4-1 Sept. 11 in Scarborough. The teams had no prior playoff history.
Just over three minutes in, the Red Storm got the jump when Kevin Philbrick scored. Senior standout Trevor Hoxsie added a goal later in the first half and Scarborough was up 2-0 at the break. Goals from Philbrick and Chase Beech in the second half gave the Red Storm the 4-0 victory (their 33rd in a row) and ended the Red Riots’ best season in years at 9-6-1.
Scarborough will host Portland (10-3-2, on an eight-game winning streak) at 1 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals. On Sept. 8, the Red Storm were 4-0 home winners over the Bulldogs. The teams split two prior playoff meetings. Portland was a 2-0 winner in the 2002 preliminary round. The following year, in an epic semifinal, Scarborough eked out a 3-2, triple overtime triumph.
One and done
Like South Portland, Cape Elizabeth wasn’t certain it was playoff-bound until the end of the season. The Capers went 3-0-1 down the stretch to wind up 9-4-1, good for the No. 6 seed and drew No. 3 Windham (11-2-1) in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round. The teams didn’t play in the regular season. Cape Elizabeth beat the Eagles in the three prior playoff meetings.
The Capers carried play most of the way and had ample scoring chances, but only tickled the twine once, on Brock Barritt’s goal in the 55th minute. That tied the score, but with just over eight minutes to play, Windham scored to take the lead and held on for the 2-1 victory.
Looking ahead, if Scarborough makes it to the Western A Final, it would host that round Wednesday against either Windham (now 12-2-1) or No. 7 Greely (10-5). The Class A state final is Saturday, Nov. 7, at either Scarborough High School or Hampden Academy.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com