South Portland continues to impress with win at Cheverus

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South Portland sophomore Cooper Mehlhorn (22) is congratulated by sophomore Jacob Milton after scoring one of his five goals during the Red Riots’ 10-4 win at Cheverus Tuesday.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

South Portland 10 Cheverus 4

SP- 2 2 3 3- 10
C- 1 1 1 1- 4

First quarter
9:08 SP Mehlhorn (unassisted)
2:43 SP Mehlhorn (Adams)
9.9 C St. John (unassisted) 

Second quarter
11:09 C Coffin (unassisted)
1:59 SP Mehlhorn (unassisted)
32.6 SP Mehlhorn (unassisted) 

Third quarter 
9:43 SP Ellis (Zechman) (MAN-UP)
7:37 C Cawley (Coffin)
3:14 SP Fiorini (Mehlhorn) (MAN-UP)
1:56 SP Mehlhorn (unassisted) 

Fourth quarter
9:37 SP Adams (Myers)
7:20 SP Myers (Adams)
6:54 C Hatch (Anton)
15.1 SP Fiorini (Mehlhorn) 

Goals:
SP- Mehlhorn 5, Fiorini 2, Adams, Ellis, Myers 1
C- Cawley, Coffin, Hatch, St. John 1

Assists:
SP- Adams, Mehlhorn 2, Myers, Zechman 1
C- Anton, Coffin 1

Faceoffs (South Portland, 12-5)
SP- Tierney 11 of 16, Doan 1 of 1
C- Haines 4 of 11, K. Ly 1 of 4, B. Ly 0 of 2

Ground balls (South Portland, 45-31)
SP- Adams 9, Campbell 7, Zechman 6, Ellis, Tierney, Watson 4, Mehlhorn 3, Fiorini 2, Gagne, Milton, Myers, Rowland, Scott, Vose-Gimble 1
C- Conley 8, Walsh 5, Conzelman 4, St. John 3, Coffin, Haines 2, Cawley, Griffin, Halvorsen, Hatch, McLain, Pierce, Smith 1

Turnovers:
SP- 21
C- 28

Shots:
SP- 33
C- 14

Shots on cage
SP- 31
C- 9

Saves:
SP (Watson) 5
C (Walsh) 21

PORTLAND—Every day, South Portland’s boys’ lacrosse team gets older, better and more confident.

And that is a scary proposition indeed for the opposition.

Tuesday evening at Fitzpatrick Stadium, the Red Riots continued their strong early season play by holding one of the most formidable offenses around in check, while producing enough goals of their own to win comfortably.

Facing a Cheverus squad which handed it a decisive loss a year ago, South Portland rode the individual brilliance of sophomore Cooper Mehlhorn to a 4-2 halftime lead, as Mehlhorn provided all of the Red Riots’ offense.

South Portland spread the offense around in the second half and goals from senior James Ellis, sophomore David Fiorini and Mehlhorn spelled a 7-3 advantage after three periods.

In the fourth quarter, while the Red Riots continued to hold the Stags in check, sophomore Mitchell Adams, senior Ross Myers and Fiorini tickled the twine to help bring the curtain down on a 10-4 victory.

South Portland was paced by Mehlhorn’s five goals as it improved to 3-1 on the year and dropped Cheverus to 2-2 in the process.

“We’re definitely more of team this year,” said Mehlhorn. “We’re really bonding. We give all our effort all the time.”

Always a good one

Cheverus and South Portland tend to produce memorable games. Since the start of the 2002 season, each team had beaten the other seven teams (see sidebar below).

Last spring, the visiting Stags pulled away in the second half for an 11-4 victory, snapping the Red Riots’ three-game win streak in the series.

Both teams believe they have what it takes to make a run at a championship this spring.

The Red Riots opened with a stirring 14-13, come-from-behind overtime win over nemesis Scarborough. After a 17-4 home win over Biddeford, South Portland hung tough with reigning Class B champion Falmouth Saturday before losing at home, 12-10.

“That gave us a lot of confidence,” said Mehlhorn. “We knew we had to play our best in that game. If it wasn’t for a couple of mistakes, we could have won.”

The Stags lost their opener, 16-7, to Thornton Academy in a game played at Fitzpatrick Stadium, then got on track with an 11-3 victory at Deering and a 6-4 win at Kennebunk.

Tuesday, South Portland was seemingly in control throughout, but it took until the second half before the Red Riots could pull away.

The first goal came with 9:08 to play in the first half, when Mehlhorn got the ball in front, fell down, then got back to his feet before beating Cheverus senior goalie Sean Walsh.

Walsh kept South Portland off the board again until 2:43 remained, when Adams set up Mehlhorn for a low bouncing shot to make it 2-0.

The Stags got a little momentum when junior Chris St. John scored with just 9.9 seconds showing in the quarter, as his shot somehow squeezed past Red Riots sophomore goalie Quinn Watson and the post.

Cheverus pulled even 51 seconds into the second quarter, as junior Max Coffin scored unassisted, but that would prove to be the Stags’ highwater mark.

The Red Riots then had three different chances to score man-up, but couldn’t do so.

Finally, with 1:59 to go before halftime, Mehlhorn fired a rocket past Walsh to end a 12 minute, 44 second drought and put South Portland ahead to stay.

With 32.6 seconds remaining, a bad pass from a defender to Walsh was intercepted by Mehlhorn and Mehlhorn scored his fourth goal to give South Portland a 4-2 advantage at halftime.

In the first half, the Red Riots held an edge in most categories, but seven Walsh saves kept the game close.

South Portland finally took advantage of a man-up situation early in the third quarter, as senior Finn Zechman set up Ellis for a goal with 9:43 left, making it 5-2.

Cheverus got a goal back with 7:37 left, when Coffin set up Finn Cawley, but the Red Riots opened the game up before the end of the frame.

With 3:50 remaining, a strange sequence ensued, as Walsh raced out of the goal, but turned the ball over and after Zechman collected the loose ball, he set up Adams, whose shot at the empty net hit the crossbar.

Play was stopped, however, as a Cheverus defender was ruled to have stepped into the crease to play goalie which is now against the rules, giving South Portland a man-up chance.

With 3:10 left, Mehlhorn found Fiorini for a man-up goal and a 6-3 lead.

With 1:51 remaining, Mehlhorn scored his final goal after a turnover and the Red Riots were up by four heading for the final stanza.

There, South Portland put it away.

With 9:37 to play, Myers set up Adams for the Red Riots’ eighth goal.

With 7:20 remaining, Adams decided it was better to give than receive, and he set up Myers to make it 9-3.

The Stags answered 26 seconds later, as sophomore Colby Anton fed junior Michael Hatch, but that’s as close as the hosts would get and with 15.1 seconds showing, Fiorini iced it, finishing a pass from Mehlhorn and South Portland went on to a 10-4 victory.

“Today, we knew we had to have to have quick ball movement against their zone,” said Mehlhorn. “They started locking off me and Finn and other people really stepped up in the second half. Obviously, I’m trying to get to the net, but if I see a slide coming, I try to get the ball to a teammate. We adapted to whatever they threw at us.”

“We found a way to win and that’s all that matters,” said Red Riots coach Tom Fiorini. “It was just sloppy play today. We didn’t finish. Their goalie is very good. He made a lot of very nice saves. Our defense is solid. They created a lot of turnovers and didn’t give up a lot of fast breaks.”

Mehlhorn led the way with five goals and two assists.

“(Cooper’s) a very good player,” Fiorini said. “He should have been All-State last year. He’s twice as good as last year.”

David Fiorini had two goals and Adams, Ellis and Myers each scored once.

Adams had two assists and Myers and Zechman both added one.

Watson made five saves.

Junior Jack Tierney helped the Red Riots win 12 of 17 faceoffs. South Portland had a 45-31 edge in ground balls (Adams led the way with nine and junior Tyler Campbell collected seven), overcame 21 turnovers and had a 33-14 shots advantage (31-9 on cage).

Cheverus got goals from Cawley, Coffin, Hatch and St. John. Anton and Coffin had assists. Senior Kieran Conley had a team-high eight ground balls. The Stags committed 28 turnovers and were called for 11 penalties to just one by the Red Riots.

Walsh’s 21 saves were a highlight.

“For as much defense as we played, we played well,” Cheverus coach Bill Bodwell said. “Sean made a lot of saves. We just didn’t possess the ball.”

Onward

Cheverus looks to bounce back at home against Gorham Friday and plays at Bonny Eagle Tuesday.

“This has been an awful spring,” Bodwell said. “We haven’t had a regular practice on our practice field. We never feel settled until we get home. We’ll be fine. We have work to do. We have talented kids. We’ll get better.”

South Portland is back in action Friday at Marshwood. Next week, the Red Riots host Westbrook, then play at perennial powerhouse Cape Elizabeth in another crossover.

South Portland hopes to keep on keeping on.

“We have to pick up our stick skills a little more, passing and catching,” said Mehlhorn. “It’s been a fun season so far.”

“What I like about this team is several things,” said Tom Fiorini. “One, it’s a team. They genuinely like each other. They get better every quarter. They have heart and they won’t give up. We were down four (goals) against Scarborough and came back and down by seven against Falmouth and came back. Last year, we were 1-3 at this point. It’s a nice reversal. It’s amazing what a year can do. We still have a lot of room for growth.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

South Portland sophomore David Fiorini fires a shot.

Cheverus sophomore Ian Haines defends South Portland senior Finn Zechman.

South Portland sophomore Cooper Mehlhorn beats Cheverus senior goalie Sean Walsh.

South Portland sophomore Mitchell Adams gets a step on Cheverus senior Kieran Conley and shoots on goal.

South Portland sophomore Jacob Milton launches a shot.

Recent Cheverus-South Portland results

2016
Cheverus 11 @ South Portland 4 

2015
South Portland 15 @ Cheverus 6 

2014
@ South Portland 15 Cheverus 10

2013
South Portland 13 @ Cheverus 10

2012
Cheverus 5 @ South Portland 4

2011
@ South Portland 7 Cheverus 6 (2 OT)

2010
South Portland 8 @ Cheverus 3

2007
@ South Portland 14 Cheverus 11

2006
@ Cheverus 9 South Portland 6

2005
@ South Portland 12 Cheverus 11
Western A prelim
Cheverus 17 @ South Portland 5

2004
@ Cheverus 14 South Portland 2

2003
Cheverus 16 @ South Portland 4

2002
@ Cheverus 15 South Portland 3

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.