SCARBOROUGH—As questionable weather threatened Cumberland County on Wednesday afternoon, many boys’ lacrosse fans worried that the clash between the defending Class A state champion Scarborough Red Storm and the runner-up Bulldogs of Portland would be postponed.
Thankfully, the impending forecast yielded to allow for something else volatile in its own right.
Though the two teams were neck-in-neck for the entire duration of the first half, Scarborough exploded with four unanswered goals at the start of the second en route to an emphatic 9-4 victory over a Portland team that the Red Storm could be seeing in the state final.
“We’re starting to play fast, which is good for us,” said Scarborough coach Joe Hezlep. “We started slow and tight. It was Senior Night, we were playing Portland. Second half, we started to play loose and fast. That’s when we picked it up.”
Scarborough and Portland have been two of the dominant programs in Class A boys’ lacrosse since the sport went to two classes in 2006, having won four of the past five titles between them.
Last year, the Red Storm upset the Bulldogs 8-6 in the showpiece occasion, which was played less than 48 hours after Portland’s Garrett Cormier died in an automobile accident. Needless to say, these two teams have a history.
While Scarborough had stolen the headlines thus far this spring, compiling an impressive 10-1 record, darkhorse Portland hadn’t done much worse in going 9-2, with defeats to Messalonskee and crosstown rival Deering the only blemishes on an otherwise clean slate.
Before the game, Scarborough honored their 11 (yes, 11) seniors, potentially foreshadowing a big night on the field for those in red playing their final regular season game.
They couldn’t have picked a better time.
Following two early bids by senior Tim Smith, Scarborough opened the scoring 6:50 into the game, as junior Kellen Smith ripped a shot into the top corner past Portland goalie Ryan Jurgelevich.
Portland would tie it on a man-up goal with 2:47 showing in the first quarter, as senior standout Caleb Kenney beat Red Storm sophomore goalie David Pearson to make it 1-1.
Scarborough had a few good looks towards the end of the interval, but the score remained deadlocked after one. Though goals weren’t prevalent in the first quarter, the temerity between the two teams was evident, as both sides proved to be up for the encounter.
Just 22 seconds into the second quarter, Scarborough regained the lead as sophomore John Wheeler received a pass from junior John Blaisdell and sent a shot past Jurgelevich from in close.
The rest of the quarter, while featuring no goals, contained a hatful of chances.
First, Wheeler almost grabbed another goal, launching a bid mid-fall that hit the post. Next, senior Peter Moore sent a turnaround blast from an acute angle that whistled just wide. Tim Smith was the next player to get in on the action, releasing two shots that Jurgelevich did well to save.
With 15 seconds left in the half, Blaisdell sent a shot on net, which caromed off the left post. Three ticks later, senior Brett Leighton sent the rebound wide. Finally, with less than 10 seconds on the clock, Portland threatened an equalizer, but Scarborough ran out the clock on a half, which featured a paltry three goals.
While the score-line of the opening half resembled something closer to a soccer match than a lacrosse game, the second part would prove a much different story.
Just 16 seconds in, Wheeler (again from Blaisdell) did the honors in putting Scarborough up 3-1. Portland pulled within one 59 seconds later, as senior Bronson Guimond quick-sticked in a Max Pieter feed. The instantaneous response from Portland was enough for most to believe that the second half would be a tumultuous, even-keel affair.
Little did they know that the storm they thought they’d avoided in the weather forecast was about to take shape in the form of Scarborough’s Red Storm.
With 8:19 left in the quarter, Moore bounced a shot past Jurgelevich to make it 4-2. Nineteen seconds later, Wheeler scored unassisted. After Tim Smith had a bid saved, Scarborough went up 6-2 after Blaisdell converted a feed from Wheeler. Wheeler then scored the goal of the night, firing a blast from an impossible angle past Jurgelevich to make it 7-2 with 3:47 left in the third quarter.
Though Portland was down 7-2, the Bulldogs were by no means out. Kenney, who had been quieted by the Scarborough defense for quite some time, came to life, sending a blast past Pearson with 2:05 left in the period. There would be no further scoring action in the quarter, as Scarborough took a 7-3 lead into the final frame.
Just 1:46 into the final quarter, Moore grabbed another goal, taking a feed from Blaisdell before firing a laser past Jurgelevich. Portland pulled one back soon after, as the diminutive Mike Fuller ripped a shot that beat Pearson.
Tim Smith, who had been held scoreless all game, fittingly grabbed his elusive goal with 5:29 left, providing the final tally of the night. Though Scarborough held possession for the final five minutes, it already had all the goals it needed, running out the clock on a veritable 9-4 win.
Hezlep, who is wrapping up his fifth year coaching Scarborough, was predictably happy.
“There were a bunch of guys out there who did great,” Hezlep said. “Peter Moore had a huge night. (Seniors) Drew Harvey and Nate Hopkins had great games. (Senior) Mark Pearson did a great job on (Caleb) Kenney. Absolutely phenomenal.”
Portland, on the contrary, was visibly distraught.
“We were outplayed in every facet of the game for four quarters,” Bulldogs coach Eric Begonia lamented. “Defense was O.K., but offensively we took bad shots. They wanted the ball more than we did.”
For the Red Storm, Wheeler led the scoring, notching four goals. Moore was next with two. Blaisdell (who was tops in terms of assists with four), Kellen Smith and Tim Smith each had one. Pearson saved 11 shots in earning the win.
Scarborough also led in shots, with 39 bids compared to Portland’s 24.
The Bulldogs were led by Kenney, who scored twice (and assisted on the other two goals). Guimond and Mike Fuller each tallied one, while Jurgelevich stopped 15 (many of the point-blank variety) in defeat.
Undoubtedly buoyed by the performance of his team in a game which very much tested its mettle, Hezlep is optimistic as the Red Storm (who are sitting pretty in first place in Western Class A) enter the playoffs.
“We’re starting to play fast, which is good for us,” Hezlep said. “We’re passing well. We’ll look to build on this as we enter the playoffs.”
Scarborough will return to action Saturday, June 11 when it hosts either No. 4 South Portland (7-5) or No. 5 Marshwood (7-5) in the semifinals.
Begonia, while visibly disappointed with the performance of his team (which finished fourth in Eastern Class A), is also be looking ahead to the postseason.
“We haven’t played well in a long time,” Begonia said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to get back to our level, but it can be done.”
Portland is back in action Wednesday when it hosts No. 5 Brunswick (6-6) in a quarterfinal round game.
Regardless of who these teams face come playoff time, it is a certainty that nobody will want to play either. And though there’s no way of telling who will be playing in the Class A state final, one can bet that should these two meet up again, it will be an end-to-end, cataclysmic encounter.
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