SOUTH PORTLAND — While much of the attention of the local boys’ soccer world is deservedly focused on the two-time defending Class A champion Scarborough Red Storm and the (as of press time) undefeated Cape Elizabeth Capers, the third team in our coverage area has proved to be pretty formidable as well.
South Portland lacks the pedigree of its accomplished neighbors, but so far in 2010 has been very competitive and is in the hunt for not only a playoff spot, but also hopes to do some serious damage in late October and perhaps, even November.
The Red Riots enjoyed a 5-2 victory at Sanford last Thursday, then, Tuesday night, in a quagmire, held off visiting Deering, 3-2, to improve to 6-2 on the season.
“We’re doing a pretty good job,” said South Portland’s fourth-year coach Bryan Hoy. “I have a good group. We lost a lot of good guys from last year, but we have a lot of skill. We’re finding a way to do it.”
The Red Riots went 9-6-1 in 2009, rallying past Kennebunk in dramatic fashion to win a playoff game for the first time since 2000 before losing, 4-0, to the eventual champion Red Storm of Scarborough in the quarterfinals.
This year’s squad features some talented strikers and midfielders, a gigantic back line and steady goalkeeping and has been consistent from the get-go, opening with a heartening 1-0 victory at Westbrook (senior Nem Kaurin had the lone goal) and a 2-1 overtime win at Noble (junior Akiba Davis had the golden goal).
After falling, 3-0, at home to Scarborough, South Portland won, 6-0, over visiting Massabesic (Kaurin, sophomore Dillon Burns, junior Will Bushey, senior Brooks Cannon, junior Dan Grazewski and senior Dillon Leary all scored) and 5-2 at Biddeford (behind two goals from junior Damjan Draskovic and one each from Kaurin, Grazewski and junior Nick Genesio), before letting a halftime lead slip away and suffering a disappointing 3-2 home loss to Marshwood (Grazewski and Kaurin scored in that one).
The Red Riots showed their resilience by beating Sanford (Leary had three goals, Davis two), then proved they could hold off a hungry opponent and Mother Nature against Deering.
Tuesday, South Portland took a 2-0 halftime lead behind goals from Genesio and Kaurin. The Rams got a quick goal from senior standout Charlie Dupee early in the second half, but Kaurin converted a penalty kick moments later to restore the two-goal bulge. That proved to be huge as Dupee set up senior Connor Montello for a goal off a corner kick to make it 3-2 with 29 minutes still to play. Despite the torrential rain, the Red Riots held on and improved to 6-2.
“It was difficult to play,” said Davis. “You have to keep your footing and play your game. We have to keep our intensity the whole game.”
“We played really well,” said Hoy. “Especially in the first half. We possessed really well. Once the grass got wetter, it was hard to pass. Deering came out ready to play in the second half. Charlie’s a fantastic player. I had to send a player in just to stay with him. Overall, it was a pretty positive game for us.”
Hoy added that he’s pretty happy with how his team has played, but acknowledged that there’s still a long way to go.
“I really regret the Marshwood game,” Hoy said. “I thought we had that one. Other than that, I think we’ve played pretty well. We’ve had some tight games. We’re just trying to get in the playoffs. If we can get in, we feel we can beat anyone we play. We just have to get the wins to get in. It’s been crazy (this year). Gorham beat Scarborough, Portland beat Gorham, Scarborough beat Portland. It hasn’t just been that way at the top of the league, but the rest of the league too. Typically, there’s one team beating everybody.”
The Red Riots were eighth in the Western A Heal Points standings as of Wednesday morning, but have ample opportunities to move up and possibly even secure a first round quarterfinal game if all goes well.
South Portland plays at Windham Saturday and hosts Kennebunk in a playoff rematch Tuesday. The Red Riots also have home tests remaining against Thornton Academy and Cheverus and have to travel to Gorham and Portland.
“I think this year we have a lot more skill,” said Davis. “All we have to do is play hard and play with heart and I think we’ll go far.”
“We can help ourselves,” Hoy said. “We need some wins in our remaining games. We have the ability to do it. We seem to play better against the better teams.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com