South Portland boys’ soccer coach Bryan Hoy is surrounded by his players following Tuesday’s 3-0 win at Cheverus, which gave Hoy 100 victories for his career. The Red Riots stayed undefeated on the season.
Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—South Portland has become a boys’ soccer power, but it wasn’t always so.
Before Bryan Hoy took over as head coach in the 2007, the Red Riots were an afterthought in the Southwestern Maine Activities Association.
This fall, South Portland might be the team to beat in Class A South.
Tuesday afternoon at Boulos Stadium, the Red Riots produced another impressive victory and as a result, Hoy reached a milestone in his coaching career.
Facing a resurgent Cheverus squad, South Portland took an early 1-0 lead on a goal from senior Kyle Patterson, then turned to senior goalkeeper Riley Hasson to preserve it.
Then, with just over 15 minutes to play, senior standout Charlie Cronin converted a penalty kick and eight minutes later, Cronin scored again and the Red Riots went on to a 3-0 victory, their eighth in a row.
South Portland improved to 9-0-1, dropped Cheverus to 6-4 and best of all, gave Hoy his 100th victory with the program.
“If we want that one seed, which we obviously do, we have to win every game,” Hoy said. “We talk one game at a time, but we also talk bigger picture.”
Hoy took over the South Portland program in 2007 and has led the Red Riots to the playoffs in each of his 10 seasons and to winning records each of the past nine years (see sidebar, below). Hoy was 4-4-4 against Cheverus entering play Tuesday.
This fall, Class A South has more legitimate contenders than at anytime in recent memory and Cheverus and South Portland are very much a part of that list.
The Stags missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 1993 after going 4-10, but this year, they have returned to form.
Cheverus opened by edging visiting Kennebunk (3-2). After a 1-0 loss at Falmouth, the Stags beat host Massabesic (5-1) and visiting Bonny Eagle (2-0). After a 4-1 loss at rival Portland, Cheverus downed visiting Sanford (2-1) and host Westbrook (4-0). Last week, the Stags dropped a double-overtime heartbreaker to visiting Marshwood (2-1), but bounced back for a 1-0 victory at rival Deering.
South Portland won a dozen games a year ago, its most since 1989, but lost by a goal to Scarborough in the quarterfinals. This fall, the Red Riots have been even better and are off to their best start this century.
South Portland opened with a 3-0 victory at Thornton Academy and after playing visiting Gorham, the defending regional champion, to a scoreless tie, the Red Riots downed visiting Marshwood (2-0), host Biddeford (4-0), visiting Massabesic (7-1), host Noble (6-0), visiting Kennebunk (5-0), host Windham (7-2) and visiting Falmouth (2-0).
Entering play Tuesday, since the start of the 2001 season (see sidebar, below), Cheverus held a 10-4 advantage (with five ties), including semifinal round playoff victories in 2014 and 2015.
A year ago, the Red Riots eked out a 1-0 win at home.
This time around, on another pleasant fall afternoon (62-degrees at kickoff), South Portland made a powerful, historic statement.
In the ninth minute, the Red Riots produced the first chance, as a free kick from the side by junior Aleks Kaurin was headed away by a Stags’ defender.
With 25:25 to go in the first half, South Portland broke the ice, as Patterson, who came to the program this year from Gorham, bulled his way through the defense, then beat Cheverus sophomore goalkeeper Harrison Bell for a 1-0 lead.
“Kyle is very important,” said Cronin. “We didn’t know who would fill the gap at striker. He filled it and I could go back to midfield. It made us that much stronger.”
“Kyle is obviously a great player,” Hoy said. “We desperately needed a striker. We played Charlie there last year and he was out of position. Moving him back to center-mid is a huge help and adding a guy who can score and play physical has been a very welcome addition.”
The rest of the half saw the Stags pepper Hasson as they looked for the equalizer, but they couldn’t solve the acrobatic keeper.
After junior Michael Nason eluded a defender and shot, Hasson to sprawl to make the save in the 19th minute.
With 20:10 left in the first half, senior Luc Dionne ripped a 30-yard free kick that appeared ticketed for the upper 90, but at the last second, Hasson leaped and tipped the ball over the crossbar, setting up a corner kick which resulted in Dionne shooting high.
With 17:57 to play, Dionne shot low, but Hasson made the save and 31 seconds later, junior Jack Mullen set up Nason for a one-timer which Hasson turned aside.
Nason just missed again with 10:19 on the clock, as his high blast was tipped over the bar by Hasson, setting up a corner kick which South Portland headed out of harm’s way.
The Red Riots nearly doubled their lead with 6:45 to go in the half, as on a corner, sophomore Anthony Perron passed to Patterson in front, but he was denied point blank by Bell.
Then, as time expired before the half, Mullen set up Dionne, who unleashed a rocket just before the horn which Hasson cradled to keep the score 1-0.
“I always enjoy being out there making saves,” Hasson said. “The defense has made it boring for me because they’ve been great. It was fun to make some saves in the first half.”
“Today was the first time (Riley) was really tested this year,” Hoy said. “Our back four has done a great job. Cheverus shot a little deeper than we’re used to. I can’t believe Riley got to that free kick. He’s a difference-maker. You call them saves for a reason and he makes saves left and right.”
Cheverus had a 7-4 advantage in shots on frame in the first half, but Hasson had seven saves.
For much of the second half, it appeared that the Red Riots were going to have to hold on and win by one, but their offense reawakened late to put it away.
With 33:21 left in regulation, Hasson had to punch away a free kick from Stags sophomore Ethan Hammond.
With 29:32 to go, South Portland almost doubled its lead, but Bell made an impressive diving save on a long free kick from Kaurin.
A minute later, at the other end, Hasson had to tip a shot from junior James Shimansky over the bar at the last second.
Bell kept it a one-goal game by denying Cronin, Perron and Cronin again and with 17:52 to play, Dionne had a chance in the box, but had the ball knocked away at the last minute.
Then, with 15:34 to go, in transition, Mehlhorn got into the box, but was brought down from behind and a penalty kick was awarded.
Cronin did the honors and beat Bell to his left, just inside the right post, and the Red Riots had a 2-0 lead.
“My last PK I took was sophomore year at TA and I missed, so I wanted to make this one,” Cronin said. “I was confident. I was planning to go to my right side.”
“Cooper made a great play and that kid got him and Charlie buried (the PK),” Hoy said. “I haven’t let Charlie take a PK in a close game, but I was glad he stepped up and made that play. Big players make big plays. We’re comfortable playing with a one-goal lead with Riley back there, but the second one was important.”
South Portland didn’t let up, as Patterson was robbed on a rush, Cronin headed the ball just over the bar on a corner kick and after Dionne was denied by Hasson, then shot high, Patterson was robbed and on the ensuing corner, Kaurin missed just wide.
Then, with 7:25 remaining, Mehlhorn was fouled again and this time, instead of a penalty kick, play was just restarted and Mehlhorn fed Cronin, who beat a defender, then beat Bell with a low shot just inside the near post for a three-goal advantage.
“Cooper got the ball to me, I saw where the defender was, I took the opportunity and I took a low shot,” Cronin said.
Down the stretch, Hasson broken up a pass to Nason in the box, then Red Riots junior back Jacob Milton took the ball from Mullen in the box and that brought the curtain down on South Portland’s 3-0 triumph.
“It’s such a great feeling,” Cronin said. “In past years, we had frustrating games where we played our hearts out, but took a loss. To come out this year and take it to them is a great feeling.”
“Our style of play is a lot different this year,” Hasson said. “We come out and possess better. We’re strong throughout. We have no weak spots.”
“Cheverus played as well as anybody so far,” Hoy added. “They’re going to be a tough out in the playoffs.
“We started this year miles ahead of where we were the year before and it’s been a great run so far, This is the best record we’ve had through 10 games. I’m not sure it’s the most talented team we’ve had, but the way we play together is phenomenal to watch. The guys trust each other, they want to work together, they don’t want to do it on their own and it’s been eye-opening to watch how well they work as a unit.”
Following the game, South Portland’s players signed a souvenir ball and celebrated the 100-win milestone with Hoy.
“It’s a landmark,” Cronin said. “(Coach) took us over when we weren’t the strongest team, so for him to do this is a huge accomplishment.”
“If you look at the history of South Portland boys’ soccer, it hasn’t always been the strongest, so for him to come in and win 100 games so quickly is really impressive,” Hasson said. “He should celebrate this, but he knows that we have an idea in mind of going farther and putting a banner up in our gym.”
“It means a lot,” Hoy added. “When I took over the program, one of my goals was to be a top program and we got there. I just went over and thanked two of my studs from the past, Nem Kaurin and Damjan Draskovic, for getting me a lot of (victories). I’m really proud of the program to become of the top teams around.”
Each team put 11 shots on frame, but Hasson made 11 saves to Bell’s eight.
The Stags had a 5-4 edge in corner kicks, but couldn’t finish.
“I thought we played pretty well, all things considered,” Cheverus coach Matt Andreasen said. “We had some chances. Our program has come a long way, but we’re still making mistakes that experienced teams don’t make. South Portland is a little more seasoned than us. I’d rather make mistakes now than in two weeks. We need to play clean in the playoffs. We’ll learn from this. South Portland is a really good team with a lot of firepower. You can see why they score a lot of goals. They can counter.”
Both teams will be chasing Heal Points the rest of the way to finish as high in the standings as possible.
Cheverus (fifth in the Class A South Heal Points standings at press time) still has some daunting tests on its slate. The Stags hope to bounce back at Scarborough Thursday. After hosting Thornton Academy next Tuesday, they play at Gorham and close with a home game versus Biddeford.
“Scarborough is very good, like they always are, then we have Thornton Academy and Gorham, so it doesn’t get any easier, but we wouldn’t want it any other way,” Andreasen said. “Regardless of where we finish, our goal is to be playing well. As long as we grow from our mistakes, I think we can compete with anyone.”
South Portland (second to Falmouth in Class A South) is back in action Thursday when Bonny Eagle pays a visit. After a trip to Portland next Tuesday, the Stags host Sanford and close at Westbrook.
“We’re hopefully not done yet,” Cronin said. “We’ll keep working.”
“Homefield advantage would be really nice,” Hasson said. “To get more than one home playoff game would be great, but everything in the SMAA this year is so close. We won’t take any game lightly. We have to come to play wherever we play.”
“We’re at a disadvantage not playing Deering or Scarborough, so we’ve got an uphill battle,” Hoy added. “We have some tough games down the stretch. Bonny Eagle will be a tough game, Portland is tough, Westbrook is coming together nicely. There are (Heal Points) out there to be had, but we have to capitalize.”
South Portland senior goalkeeper Riley Hasson leaps to make a highlight reel save in the first half. Hasson saved 11 shots.
South Portland junior Aleks Kaurin serves up a free kick.
South Portland senior Kyle Patterson goes one-on-one with Cheverus sophomore goalkeeper Harrison Bell. Patterson scored the game’s first goal.
South Portland senior Charlie Cronin battles Cheverus junior Owen Burke.
South Portland senior goalkeeper Riley Hasson knocks the ball away as Red Riots senior Riley Ellis (16) and junior Cooper Mehlhorn and Cheverus junior Michael Nason (9) and senior Luc Dionne look on.
Cheverus sophomore goalkeeper Harrison Bell dives to make a save.
@ South Portland 1 Cheverus 0
@ Cheverus 0 South Portland 0 (tie)
Western A semifinals
Cheverus 1 @ South Portland 0
@ Cheverus 2 South Portland 2 (tie)
Western A semifinals
Cheverus 2 @ South Portland 1 (5-4 PKs)
Cheverus 1 @ South Portland 0
@ South Portland 1 Cheverus 1 (tie)
@ South Portland 3 Cheverus 0
South Portland 3 @ Cheverus 2
@ South Portland 2 Cheverus 0
@ Cheverus 1 South Portland 0
Cheverus 3 @ South Portland 0
@ Cheverus 2 South Portland 1
Cheverus 5 @South Portland 1
@ Cheverus 4 South Portland 3
Cheverus 3 @ South Portland 0
@ Cheverus 5 South Portland 0