South Portland rallies to stun Scarborough in overtime thriller

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South Portland senior Jake Angell, left, hugs sophomore Cooper Mehlhorn after Mehlhorn scores an early goal during the Red Riots’ home showdown versus defending Class A champion Scarborough Friday night. Angell would play the ultimate hero, scoring a minute into overtime, as South Portland sprung a 14-13 upset.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

South Portland 14 Scarborough 13

S- 3 5 2 3 0- 13
SP- 2 3 4 4 1- 14

First quarter
9:06 S Neugebauer (unassisted)
8:15 S Guerette (unassisted)
7:21 SP Mehlhorn (unassisted)
3:50 S Granzier (unassisted)
1:49 SP Zechman (unassisted) 

Second quarter
11:49 S Parks (unassisted) (MAN-UP)
8:10 SP Angell (Zechman) (MAN-UP)
7:33 S Guerette (Parks)
7:06 S DaRosa (unassisted)
3:38 S Thibault (unassisted)
2:25 SP Zechman (unassisted)
1:17 S Neugebauer (unassisted)
10.6 SP Zechman (unassisted) 

Third quarter 
8:33 SP Angell (Mehlhorn) (MAN-UP)
7:11 SP Adams (Fiorini)
3:13 S Neugebauer (unassisted)
2:56 SP Angell (Fiorini)
1:51 SP Zechman (Mehlhorn)
1:13 S Neugebauer (unassisted) 

Fourth quarter
9:52 S Murray (unassisted)
9:31 SP Zechman (unassisted)
8:36 S Guerette (Granzier) (TWO MEN-UP)
8:08 SP Mehlhorn (unassisted)
7:48 SP Mehlhorn (unassisted)
6:24 SP Angell (unassisted)
26.6 S Guerette (DaRosa) (MAN-UP)

Overtime
3:00 SP Angell (Fiorini) 

Goals:
S- Guerette, Neugebauer 4, DaRosa, Granzier, Murray, Parks, Thibault 1
SP- Angell, Zechman 5, Mehlhorn 3, Adams 1

Assists:
S- DaRosa, Granzier, Parks 1
SP- Fiorini 3, Mehlhorn 2, Zechman 1

Faceoffs:
S- 12
SP- 15

Turnovers:
S- 15
SP- 15 

Shots:
S- 46
SP- 30 

Shots on cage
S- 33
SP- 27

Saves:
S (Joy) 13
SP (Watson) 20 

SOUTH PORTLAND—It was a dish of revenge served cold.

And wet.

And muddy.

And oh so unforgettable.

Friday evening, in the slop at Martin Memorial Field, the Scarborough and South Portland boys’ lacrosse teams, squads who have combined to win the past seven regional and six of the last seven Class A state championships, met in an early season showdown that was anything but pretty.

But to the Red Riots, who have been stewing over a 12-goal playoff ouster at the hands of the Red Storm nearly 10 months ago, it was a true thing of beauty.

And something to build upon.

High-flying Scarborough, which already had an impressive road win over Gorham to its credit this spring, raced to a quick 2-0 lead behind goals from seniors Sam Neugebauer and Marc Guerette, but in a sign of things to come, South Portland didn’t panic and hung close, as goals from sophomore Cooper Mehlhorn and senior Finn Zechman made it a 3-2 Red Storm after one period.

Scarborough twice went ahead by four goals in the second quarter, but on each occasion, Zechman answered, ensuring the Red Storm wouldn’t run away and hide. The second of Zechman’s such tallies cut the deficit to 8-5 at halftime and it was clear that this one was going to go a full 48 minutes.

Or as it played out, even more.

The Red Riots remained tenacious in the third quarter and when Zechman scored with 1:51 to go, the game was tied, 9-9, but just 38 seconds later, an unassisted Neugebauer goal gave Scarborough a one-goal advantage heading for the final stanza.

Where nothing was decided.

In the fourth quarter, the Red Storm twice took a two-goal lead, but again, South Portland stormed back, tying the score, 12-12, on a Mehlhorn unassisted tally with 7:48 to play.

Then, with 6:24 remaining, Red Riots senior Jake Angell scored unassisted for the home team’s first lead of the game.

South Portland, thanks to a strong defensive effort and the steady play of sophomore goalie Quinn Watson, protected that lead for nearly six minutes, but with just 26.6 seconds left, Guerette tied the score and the game would go to”sudden victory” overtime.

There, the Red Riots won the faceoff, held possession and worked for a good shot, which came a minute in, as sophomore David Fiorini set up Angell, and Angell beat Scarborough senior goalie Dom Joy to win it in breathtaking fashion, 14-13.

Angell joined Garrett Reuscher (2010) as South Portland players to beat the Red Storm with overtime goals, he scored five times in all, as did Zechman, and the Red Riots beat Scarborough for just the third time ever as they hinted that Class A South might not be the Scarborough Invitational after all.

“That was a lot of fun,” said South Portland coach Tom Fiorini. “Not too shabby for a first game. I’m not going to lie, I was glad to play here tonight on our grass field. This is a heck of a group of kids. We were young last year, but we’ve matured. They’re happy to be here. They’re in great moods all the time and they want to win together. They want to make it a team effort. Being a team is the difference for us this year.”  

Early season instant classic

Since boys’ lacrosse went to two classes in 2006, Scarborough has almost always been the team to beat and this spring is no exception.

Last season, the Red Storm ended South Portland’s two-year regional title reign and went on to win their seventh state title, 18-10, over Brunswick. With an abundance of talent back this spring, Scarborough is rightfully the favorite again and a season-opening 15-9 victory at Gorham did nothing to change that opinion.

South Portland was ousted, 16-4, by Scarborough in last year’s semifinals, but that team’s young core is now a year older and believes it can be much more competitive.

The Red Storm have historically dominated the Red Riots, entering play Friday having taken 15 of 17 all-time meetings (see sidebar below).

Friday, amid a steady rainfall, the rivals squared off again and it wasn’t long before Scarborough asserted control, but this time, South Portland roared back and a 49-minute thriller would ensue.

The Red Storm carried play early and after Guerette hit the post, Scarborough kept possession, Neugebauer got the ball and after eluding a defender, he beat Watson for a 1-0 lead with 9:06 to play in the opening stanza.

Just 51 seconds later, Guerette finished unassisted and it appeared the Red Storm were on their way to a decisive win.

Guess again.

With 7:21 to play in the first, Mehlhorn gave his team some confidence with an unassisted tally, but with 3:50 to go, sophomore Andrew Granzier scored unassisted to make it 3-1 Scarborough.

Zechman tickled the twine for the first time with 1:49 remaining, unassisted and that pulled South Portland within a goal, 3-2, after 12 minutes.

The Red Storm started the second period man-up and needed just 11 seconds to score, as sophomore Mason Parks finished unassisted. 

Joy then protected the lead with point blank saves on David Fiorini and senior James Ellis, but with 8:23 to go in the half, Scarborough junior defensive standout Reece Lagerquist was called for a push with possession and 13 seconds later, man-up, the Red Riots took advantage, as Zechman set up Angell to make it 4-3.

South Portland wasn’t able to pull even, however, and the ever-potent Red Storm rattled off three quick goals to seemingly gain some breathing room.

With 7:33 left before halftime, after a Red Riots turnover, Parks set up Guerette for a goal. 

Twenty-seven seconds later, junior Josh DaRosa scored unassisted.

Then, with 3:38 left, junior Cam Thibault’s goal made it 7-3 Scarborough and suddenly, South Portland was on the ropes.

Enter Zechman.

Another Red Storm goal might have opened the floodgates, but with 2:25 left, Zechman beat Joy with a long shot to cut the deficit back to three.

The same situation presented itself when Neugebauer scored unassisted for an 8-4 lead with 1:17 to go, but with just 10.6 seconds showing, Zechman scored a momentum-turning unassisted goal to pull the Red Riots within 8-5 at the break.

“Once you give a team like Scarborough a chance to blow you away, they’ll pounce on you,” Zechman said. “It’s really important to stay close, then we used the work we’ve done in the offseason to push down the pedal in the second half.”

In the first half, Scarborough won nine of 13 faceoffs and had a 16-15 edge in shots on frame while getting 10 saves from Joy.

South Portland continued to fight in the second half and eventually drew even, albeit just for a short time.

After a Red Storm offsides penalty, Angell scored (from Mehlhorn) with 8:33 to go in the third to cut the deficit to two and with 7:11 remaining, Fiorini fed Adams for a goal which made the score 8-7.

With 3:13 left in the third, after a long possession, Scarborough ended a 10 minute, 4 second drought, as Neugebauer fought his way through the defense before beating Watson, but the hosts answered behind goals from Angell (from Fiorini with 2:56 remaining) and Zechman (from Mehlhorn 65 seconds later) to make it 9-9.

The Red Storm went back on top, 10-9, when Neugebauer scored unassisted with 1:13 left and after Joy robbed Angell just before the horn, Scarborough clung to that lead heading for what everyone thought would be the final 12 minutes of the game.

Early in the fourth quarter, Scarborough got possession and pushed the lead back to two, as senior Eric Murray scored unassisted in traffic with 9:52 to go, but again, the Red Riots answered, as 21 seconds later, Zechman scored unassisted to keep hope alive.

South Portland then shot itself in the foot, taking a pair of penalties, and the Red Storm capitalized, as with 8:36 remaining, Granzier fed Guerette for a 12-10 lead.

The Red Riots just wouldn’t quit, however, and after Mehlhorn raced around the crease and beat Joy with 8:08 to play, Mehlhorn scored unassisted again 20 seconds later to even the game again, 12-12.

This time, the next goal would go to the hosts, as with 6:24 remaining, Angell’s unassisted strike gave South Portland its first lead, 13-12. 

Then, the Red Riots tried to hold on for dear life.

After Watson denied Guerette, Zechman was sent off for a minute and Watson had to rob DaRosa.

Scarborough finally broke through just before the penalty expired, as with 26.6 seconds showing, DaRosa set up Guerette, who wouldn’t be denied, and his goal tied the game anew, 13-13.

There was enough time remaining for someone to win in regulation and South Portland junior Jack Tierney won the ensuing faceoff, but the Red Riots turned the ball over with 13 seconds to go and the Red Storm looked to sneak away with a victory.

Instead, out of a timeout, Scarborough committed a turnover and the game would go to overtime.

In Maine high school boys’ lacrosse, teams play four-minute, sudden victory OT sessions until someone scores.

In this case, it took only a minute.

Tierney won the faceoff, South Portland got possession and called timeout to set up a winning play.

Out of the break, Mehlhorn got the ball and it was clear that he wanted to end it individually, but Lagerquist held him in check and Mehlhorn passed up top to Zechman, who didn’t have a good look either.

The Red Riots didn’t force anything, however, and continued to work the ball around until David Fiorini got it, found some space and took off, drawing the defense.

Exactly a minute into overtime, Fiorini passed to Angell, who was in optimal position to shoot and his rocket eluded Joy, kissed the net and at 7:57 p.m., South Portland had a 14-13 victory.

“We were confident going into overtime,” Angell said. “We knew if we got the ball first, we had to score first and couldn’t let them come back down the field. I got a pass (from David) and I saw the open shot and put it through the goalie’s legs. It’s felt really good.”

“With all the work we’ve been doing, I felt like we had the athleticism to go into overtime and win,” Zechman said. “I was so glad we won. Jake had a fantastic night. He’s a big gun on the team.”

“Going into overtime, I had to calm the guys down and we talked about winning the faceoff and getting the ball on offense, then being calm with it,” Tom Fiorini added. “We wanted to get the ball moving quickly and have somebody draw a double (team) and find the backside and that’s exactly what we did. Jake came up huge. He had some injuries, but he played like a king tonight.”

The Red Riots earned a dose of revenge, but more importantly, gained a big jolt of confidence moving forward.

“It just feels great,” Zechman said. “It’s great to come out and win as a team. We knew we were playing a great team. I thought we’ve looked good in the preseason and we returned a lot of guys. I feel like we have a well-rounded team. There are no weak links. Last year’s loss was bitter. We’ll savor this win. We’ll take it a long way.”

“It’s nice to know we beat the defending state champs,” Angell said. “It gives us a huge boost that we can beat the best teams. We made sure this year we’re all together. We knew if we were all together, we could win no matter what.

“If they got ahead by too many goals, it would have been too hard to come back. A couple goals was easier to come back from, especially on the grass. After the first quarter, we knew we could do it. In the second half, we were rolling and they were slowing down.”

Scarborough was bloodied, but unbowed by its frustrating defeat.

“We weren’t able to capitalize on anything and they were,” said Red Storm coach Joe Hezlep, a Red Riots alumnus who has served as an assistant football coach at South Portland. “A lot of that started with (Watson) shutting us down. We got the matchup we wanted in overtime. We got our best player on their best player. Cooper did a good job of pushing one side and driving to the backside and finding a guy coming down and (Jake) hit a good shot. That was absolutely fun. I know a lot of those kids pretty well.”

South Portland’s offense featured five goals apiece from Angell and Zechman.

“I don’t know where Finn Zechman’s come from, but he’s playing like a man among boys right now,’ Tom Fiorini said. “I’m very proud of that kid. He’s really working hard.”

“Finn is a grown man,” Hezlep said. “He played phenomenal. The strides he’s made this year are amazing. He was on a different level tonight.”

Mehlhorn scored three times and Adams had one goal.

David Fiorini had three assists, Mehlhorn two and Zechman one.

Tierney won 15 of 27 faceoffs, Watson made 20 saves and the Red Riots’ defense only got better as the game went along.

“We played a great defensive game in the second half,” Tom Fiorini said. “(Senior) Benedetto (Nappi) did a great job on Neugebauer in the second half.”

“We hit a couple pipes, but Quinn made some huge stops on great shots,” Hezlep said. “He turned momentum for them.”

For Scarborough, Guerette and Neugebauer both scored four goals, while DaRosa, Granzier, Murray, Parks and Thibault had one goal apiece.

DaRosa, Granzier and Parks each had one assist.

Joy made 13 saves.

The Red Storm had a 46-30 shots advantage (33-27 on cage), but it wasn’t enough.

Long season ahead

Scarborough, which had its two-season win streak snapped at seven Friday, looks to bounce back Tuesday when it plays at home for the first time, versus Westbrook. The Red Storm then host perennial powerhouse Cape Elizabeth in what should be a terrific crossover game April 29.

“At this point of the season, we’re just trying to get better,” Hezlep said. “We have a lot of guys who haven’t played a lot who got a lot of minutes tonight. That was really good for them. I hope we can play (South Portland) again. Hopefully on turf.” 

South Portland, meanwhile, looks to keep the good times rolling Tuesday when Biddeford pays a visit. The Red Riots then welcome defending Class B champion Falmouth in a daunting crossover test a week from Saturday.

“This solidifies our expectations that we have,” said Zechman. “It’s nice to have this in our back pocket. We can run with anyone now.”

“This gives us a huge boost that we can beat any team in the league,” said Angell. “This will carry us a long way.”

“Down the road, this will mean a lot,” added Tom Fiorini. “Scarborough will win their share of games. As long as we keep winning our games, we’ll be confident. We still have a lot of work ahead of us. We have 11 more games, but this is a good start.”

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

South Portland senior Finn Zechman, who scored five times, unleashes a shot.

Scarborough senior Marc Guerette scores a first half goal.

South Portland sophomore Cooper Mehlhorn fires a shot.

Scarborough senior Sam Neugebauer sends a shot into the goal.

South Portland senior James Ellis shoots past Scarborough junior Brandon Wasser.

Scarborough senior goalie Dom Joy races up the field as South Portland junior Tyler Campbell gives chase.

South Portland senior Benedetto Nappi delivers a hit on Scarborough senior Eric Murray.

South Portland junior Jack Tierney and Scarborough sophomore Andrew Granzier battle for a faceoff.

Scarborough senior Sam Neugebauer (9) is congratulated by classmate Marc Guerette after one of his four goals. Guerette also scored four times in defeat.

Previous Scarborough-SP meetings

2016
@ Scarborough 13 South Portland 10
Class A South semifinal
@ Scarborough 16 South Portland 4 

2015
@ South Portland 14 Scarborough 4 

2014
@ Scarborough 14 South Portland 8 

2013
@ Scarborough 9 South Portland 8

2012
Scarborough 10 @ South Portland 1

2011
@ Scarborough 11 South Portland 0

2010
@ South Portland 8 Scarborough 7 (OT)
Western A semifinals
Scarborough 10 @ South Portland 4

2009
@ Scarborough 14 South Portland 5

2007
@ Scarborough 12 South Portland 3
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 17 South Portland 6

2006
Scarborough 13 @ South Portland 9
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 13 South Portland 7

2005
@ Scarborough 10 South Portland 3

2004
Scarborough 9 @ South Portland 4

2001
South Division Second Round
@ Scarborough 5 South Portland 4 (3 OT)

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