TA dominates Cape to win first regional championship

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Thornton Academy’s boys’ lacrosse team receives the Class A South championship trophy following Wednesday’s decisive 15-6 win over Cape Elizabeth. The Golden Trojans will meet Falmouth in the state game Saturday.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Thornton Academy 15 Cape Elizabeth 6

CE- 1 2 1 2- 6
TA- 6 1 5 3- 15

First quarter
11:25 TA N. Edborg (Labreck)
9:05 TA Levasseur (Labreck) (MAN-UP)
8:29 TA LeBlanc (Levasseur)
6:29 CE S. Dresser (Perkins)
5:42 TA Levasseur (Labreck)
5:05 TA Levasseur (Varle)
102 TA Labreck (unassisted)

Second quarter
9:46 CE Perkins (S. Dresser)
7:06 CE Raymond (McEvoy)
6:06 TA Varle (Webb) (MAN-UP)

Third quarter
7:20 TA Levasseur (Bilodeau)
5:15 TA N. Edborg (Bilodeau)
4:38 CE McEvoy (Carroll)
3:51 TA Labreck (unassisted)
3:46 TA Weeks (unassisted)
2:28 TA N. Edborg (Labreck) (MAN-UP)

Fourth quarter
10:56 TA N. Edborg (unassisted)
9:09 CE Perkins (Tarling)
8:31 TA Labreck (unassisted)
3:06 TA Labreck (LeBlanc)
1:06 CE Brydson (Lathrop)

Goals:
CE- Perkins 2, Brydson, S. Dresser, McEvoy, Raymond 1
TA- N. Edborg, Labreck, Levasseur 4, LeBlanc, Varle, Weeks 1

Assists:
CE- Carroll, S. Dresser, Lathrop, McEvoy, Perkins 1 
TA- Labreck 4, Bilodeau 2, LeBlanc, Levasseur, Varle 1

Faceoffs (Cape Elizabeth, 13-11)
CE- Glanville 13 of 23, Raymond 0 of 1
TA- S. Edborg 11 of 23, Pelletier 0 of 1

Ground balls:
CE- 32
TA-  34

Turnovers:
CE- 18
TA- 15

Shots:
CE- 35
TA-  40

Shots on cage
CE- 22
TA- 26

Saves:
CE (J. Dresser) 11
TA (Patry) 16

SACO—It appears that nothing can stop the Thornton Academy Express.

Not even the state’s most storied program.

Wednesday evening at Hill Stadium, the top-ranked Golden Trojans played host to No. 2 Cape Elizabeth in a highly anticipated boys’ lacrosse Class A South Final and by the time the first period was over, Thornton Academy was well on its way to a therapeutic victory and a long awaited regional crown.

It took all of 35 seconds for the Golden Trojans to take the lead for good, as senior Noah Edborg scored. Goals from junior Thomas Levasseur and senior Wyatt LeBlanc extended the lead and after the Capers got on the board, courtesy a goal from junior Sam Dresser, Levasseur scored twice and junior C.J. Labreck tickled the twine as well for a commanding 6-1 advantage after just 12 minutes.

With Golden Trojans junior goalie Ean Patry making several nice saves to thwart a comeback, the hosts weathered the expected Cape Elizabeth surge in the second quarter.

While seniors Tate Perkins and Finn Raymond managed to score to pull the Capers within three, that’s as close as they would get and a senior Nathan Varle answered to put Thornton Academy on top, 7-3, at halftime.

The Golden Trojans then ended any lingering doubt in the third quarter, as Levasseur and Edborg scored to stretch the lead to six and after Cape Elizabeth freshman Archie McEvoy answered, Labreck, senior Tucker Weeks and Edborg all added goals for a 12-4 advantage.

The fourth period was an extended coronation, as Edborg and Labreck sandwiched goals around Perkins’ second score and Labreck scored one final time for the hosts before a late goal from Capers senior Jacob Brydson accounted for the 15-6 final score.

Thornton Academy got four goals apiece from Edborg, Labreck and Levasseur and 16 big saves from Patry as it improved to 14-0, ended Cape Elizabeth’s season at 10-4 and advanced to its first-ever Class A state final, where it will meet Falmouth (13-1) Saturday, at a time to be announced, at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.

“This is a big burden off our back,” said Golden Trojans coach Ryan Hersey. “After going 0-5 (in regional finals), this one is huge.”

“They have great players,” said longtime Capers coach Ben Raymond. “They shot very well at the beginning of the game. It was just too deep of a hole.” 

First time

Regardless of who won Wednesday, one team was going to accomplish a first.

Cape Elizabeth has been the state’s gold standard for three decades, whether it was in the pre-Maine Principals’ Association-sanctioned era, the one-class era or in Class B, winning 20 championships overall and four in the past five seasons. The Capers have yet to win one in Class A, however.

Thornton Academy, meanwhile, has had very competitive teams over the past decade and had gotten to the regional final five other times, but hadn’t been able to clear that hurdle, losing low scoring games, shootouts (last year’s berth ended in a 20-16 loss to Scarborough) and one where South Portland broke the Golden Trojans’ heart with two goals in the final six-plus seconds.

This spring, Thornton Academy had no peer, winning all 12 regular season contests, including statement-making home victories over Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories) to earn the top seed in Class A South.

The Golden Trojans earned a bye into Saturday’s semifinals, where they had no trouble with fifth-ranked South Portland, 13-4.

Cape Elizabeth had a very different regular season experience, as it got off to a shockingly slow start, winning just two of its first five games, a stretch which included the Capers’ first loss to Yarmouth in eight years, a double-overtime setback at Thornton Academy and a six-goal loss at Falmouth. Cape Elizabeth, as it always does, settled down and turned things around, however, winning its final seven contests (including a revenge victory at Yarmouth) by a composite score of 76-34.

As the No. 2 seed in the region, the Capers also earned a bye into Saturday’s semifinal round, where they overcame a sluggish start and pulled away in the second half to beat No. 6 Gorham, 12-4.

In the regular season meeting April 27, the host Golden Trojans rallied from a three-goal fourth quarter deficit, then won it, 11-10, on senior Jack Webb’s goal in the second OT. Labreck had five goals and assisted on the winner.

“That was a big win,” Hersey said. “We had never played them. That gave us some confidence early in the year. Some of our harder games that have gone into overtime the past few years hadn’t gone our way, so that was huge for us.”

Prior to Wednesday, the teams hadn’t met in the postseason since a 6-2 Capers’ victory in the 2001 South Division semifinals (Cape Elizabeth also prevailed, 16-5, in the 2000 state semifinal round).

The regional final was expected to come down to the wire, but on a 67 degree evening, Thornton Academy pulled away early and never looked back as it went on to make history.

Sophomore Sam Edborg won the opening faceoff and Noah Edborg had a great look 24 seconds into the contest, but his shot rang off the crossbar.

Labreck kept the ball alive and with 11:25 to play in the opening stanza, he fed Noah Edborg for a shot that Cape Elizabeth sophomore goalie Jack Dresser couldn’t stop, putting the Golden Trojans ahead for good.

After Sam Edborg nearly doubled the lead off the ensuing faceoff, Raymond called timeout just 68 seconds into the game, likely the earliest timeout of his lengthy career, and the Capers nearly drew even with 10 minutes to go in the quarter, but in a portent of things to come, Patry robbed Perkins.

Thornton Academy then went up a man after a slashing penalty on the visitors and with 9:05 to play in the quarter, Labreck set up Levasseur for a man-up goal and a 2-0 advantage.

It took just 36 seconds for the Golden Trojans to score again, as Levasseur this time set up LeBlanc, who finished.

With 6:29 remaining in the first period, Perkins passed to Sam Dresser, who managed to finally solve Patry, but 47 seconds later, Labreck set up Levasseur for a goal and with 5:05 left in the frame, Levasseur finished a feed from Varle to make it 5-1.

Patry then preserved that lead by robbing senior Jack Glanville off the faceoff and also denying senior Ben Carroll.

After Noah Edborg hit the post, Labreck scored unassisted with 1:02 remaining and Thornton Academy was firmly in control, up, 6-1, after one quarter.

“It was very important (to start fast),” said Labreck. “We knew we had to step on the pedal in the first quarter. It was just passing the ball and moving. They tried to lock me off, but we have great, talented players and you can’t stop all of us.”

“It seemed like our first option was open and guys found it and we hit the back of the net,” Hersey said.

“We didn’t get off to a great start,” Raymond said. “Defensively, we were a little more out than we wanted to be. We extended a little more. We weren’t clicking on offense and a lot of that was because of the (zone) defense they play. It’s only the second time we’ve seen it. It’s very different on film than in-person. They have athletic poles and do a good job of pressuring and making things difficult.”

Not surprisingly, the Capers settled down in the second period, but only erased one goal from their deficit.

After Patry robbed Brydson early in the quarter, Sam Dresser set up Perkins with 9:46 left in the half  and after Patry stopped shots from seniors Phil Tarling and Ben Carroll, McEvoy passed in front to Finn Raymond, who snapped a quick backhanded shot past the goalie to pull Cape Elizabeth within 6-3 with 7:06 still to play before halftime.

But that would be the Capers’ highwater mark.

After an interference penalty on Cape Elizabeth, senior Jack Webb passed to Varle for a man-up goal with 6:06 left in the half to extend the lead back to four.

Neither squad would score the remainder of the frame, as Jack Dresser denied bids from Noah Edborg, Labreck and LeBlanc and Thornton Academy took a 7-3 advantage to the break.

In the first half, the Capers had a 6-5 edge in faceoffs and the Golden Trojans only enjoyed a 13-11 advantage in shots on cage, but Patry’s eight saves were a big reason Thornton Academy enjoyed some breathing room.

“The second half of the season I’ve been seeing the ball a lot better, I’m playing a lot better and my step is a lot better,” said Patry, who was on the wrong end of Scarborough’s 20-goal outburst a year ago. “We knew (Cape Elizabeth) liked to hold the ball, so we weren’t going to tire ourselves out. We have two All-State defenders, a great defender in the middle, some great middies and (long-stick middies) helping me out.” 

“Ean is a great player,” said Labreck. “He works hard every single day. He loves the game and I think that’s what makes him better.” 

“Patry had way more saves than the first time,” Ben Raymond added. “In that second quarter, when we could have come back, he made some big saves. That was a big difference at that point.”

The Capers had a pair of lengthy possessions to start the second half, but only mustered one shot, by Brydson, which Patry saved.

Then, with 7:20 left in the third quarter, the Golden Trojans ended a 10-minute, 46-second scoring drought when Levasseur took a pass from senior Chandler Bilodeau and finished to make it 8-3.

After another key save by Patry, on Tarling right in front, Thornton Academy transitioned up the field and Bilodeau set up Noah Edborg for a goal with 5:15 on the clock to extend the lead to six.

“It’s such a huge momentum change for them to be wide open on the doorstep, (Ean) stop them, then we go down the other way and score a goal,” Hersey said.

Cape Elizabeth answered 37 seconds later, as Carroll fed McEvoy for a goal, but late in the frame, Labreck scored unassisted (with 3:56 left), Weeks scored unassisted 10 seconds later and Labreck set up Noah Edborg for a man-up strike with 2:28 on the clock, extending Thornton Academy’s lead to an insurmountable 12-4 heading for the final stanza.

There, the Golden Trojans never wavered and put the finishing touches on their triumph.

Just 64 seconds into the fourth quarter, after a turnover, Noah Edborg waltzed in and finished.

Tarling set up Perkins for a goal with 9:09 to play, making it 13-5, but 38 seconds later, Labreck scored unassisted and with 3:06 on the clock, Labreck scored the final time, off a feed from LeBlanc.

Brydson finally solved Patry with 1:06 remaining (sophomore Killian Lathrop got the assist), but Thornton Academy ran out the clock from there and at 8:43 p.m., when the final horn sounded, the party started and the Golden Trojans celebrated their 15-6 victory.

“It’s a great feeling,” Patry said. “We have a great team with great coaches. They prepared us well for this game. We executed and played well and won. We knew we were the better team this game and we played like it. We knew we could come out and get an early lead and keep it. That helped us keep them down. The emotions were endless. We’re all so happy. We knew if we sold out and played a great game, we’d have a great ending.”

“We’re making history and we love it,” said Labreck. “We wanted to come out and play as a team. We wanted it really bad. We wanted it more. We wanted to establish dominance. We had a close game last time, but we’ve gotten better and better each day. Our coaches have pushed us.”

“All of these guys have done their part to the best of their abilities,” Hersey added. “They’ve done a great job pushing each other more than any other team I’ve coached.”

The Golden Trojans’ potent offense was led by three goals apiece from Noah Edborg, Levasseur and Labreck, who also had four assists. LeBlanc, Varle and Weeks also tickled the twine.

Bilodeau added two assists, while LeBlanc, Levasseur and Varle had one apiece.

Then there was Patry, who made 16 timely saves.

“Ean has really grown over the year,” Hersey said. “He wasn’t as lights-out the first Cape game, but since South Portland, he’s been a lights-out goalie. He’s really matured a lot and put in the work. He put additional pressure on himself at the beginning of the year, but as the year’s gone on, he’s been able to put goals behind him and focus on the next one.”

Thornton Academy had a 34-32 edge in ground balls (sophomore Cameron Cote had a game-high eight, while junior Eli Arsenault picked up six), enjoyed a 40-35 shots advantage (26-22 on cage) and committed just 15 turnovers.

Ben Raymond tipped his cap to the Golden Trojans.

“We’re better when we can isolate, but it’s hard to do that against their zone,” Raymond said. “They’ve improved quite a bit. Their defense is better than it was. It’s more cohesive. Offensively, they present difficult matchups for everyone. C.J. is a very good dodger and he has two really good shooters to pass to and if you slide in the crease, they have a big finisher as well. There’s a lot of matchup issues. When (Patry) plays as well as he played tonight, they’re tough to beat.” 

Rematch, with higher stakes

Thornton Academy’s first trip to Fitzpatrick Stadium with a state title on the line will see the Golden Trojans square off against Falmouth again. On May 29, Thornton Academy rolled to a surprisingly easy 12-5 home win over the Yachtsmen (who downed Portland in their regional final Wednesday). The teams have no playoff history.

“Falmouth’s a very good team,” Patry said. “We have to play hard. If we play our game, we’ll be fine.”

“We’ll be fired up,” Labreck said. “We know they’ll want to come out and play and we have to do the same.”

“We have to come out like we did tonight,” Hersey added. “That would be nice. We have to continue to do what we’ve been doing all year long and execute to the best of our ability. We wanted Falmouth. We want to hold that title knowing we’re the best in the state. We want to be at the top of Maine lacrosse. That would solidify us as a team that people always have to look out for.”

Not their year

Cape Elizabeth got two goals and an assist from Perkins to lead the offense. Brydson, Sam Dresser, McEvoy and Finn Raymond also scored.

Carroll, Sam Dresser, Lathrop and McEvoy added assists.

Jack Dresser stopped 11 shots.

Glanville had a team-high five ground balls and won 13 of 23 faceoffs.

The Capers committed 18 turnovers.

“We tried to focus on the next play, the next faceoff, the next ground ball, the next goal, but it became more difficult, then we had to extend pressure,” Ben Raymond said. “In the third quarter, a couple penalties and a couple quick transition goals killed us.”

Considering Cape Elizabeth was once 2-3 and dismissed by some, the Capers came a long way in a short time, even if they fell short of their (perennial) ultimate goal.

“It’s not really about how you start, but how you finish and how you improve,” Ben Raymond said. “We had injuries and kids stepped up and played important roles that will help them in the long run, whether it’s here or in college. We improved as a team quite a bit. Our offense went in different phases and we executed in the majority of our games.”

Cape Elizabeth graduates nine players, but the loss of two, Carroll and Raymond, will be felt most acutely, as the sons of the Capers’ head and assistant coaches end their long association with the program.

“All the senior classes are special, but this senior class is very special,” Ben Raymond said. “(Assistant coach) Charlie (Carroll) and I have been with these guys for almost every lacrosse event in their lives. Finn and Ben haven’t had other coaches in their entire lives. We’ve spent a lot of time together. They’ll be deeply missed for a lot of reasons. They were great leaders this season and they did a great job tonight when things didn’t go well. We showed class and didn’t get chippy. That’s a testament to a team that has been on both sides of it. These guys lost a regional final at home two years ago and they know what it feels like. They showed a lot of class.”

As always, expect Cape Elizabeth to come back with a vengeance in 2019, as the hunger to return to the pinnacle will be palpable.

“We have a great junior class coming back, a big group of sophomores and freshmen who played a ton this year,” said Ben Raymond. “Jack will be better than he was in goal. (Rising senior) Devon (Lathrop) will be back. We missed him all season.

“The goal is to go another step next year. We’ll get after it.”

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

Thornton Academy junior goalie Ean Patry robs Cape Elizabeth senior Phil Tarling for one of his 16 saves.

Cape Elizabeth senior Ben Carroll handles the ball as Thornton Academy senior Chandler Bilodeau looks on.

Cape Elizabeth senior Jacob Brydson unleashes a shot despite being shoved by Thornton Academy senior Cam Houde.

Cape Elizabeth senior Jack Glanville gets tangled up with Thornton Academy senior Noah Edborg as Capers junior Brendan Goss joins the fray.

Cape Elizabeth junior Sam Dresser tries to pick up a loose ball in front of Thornton Academy junior goalie Ean Patry.

Thornton Academy junior C.J. Labreck beats Cape Elizabeth sophomore Jack Dresser for one of his four goals.

Cape Elizabeth senior Tate Perkins celebrates one of his two goals.

Thornton Academy senior Cooper Doran, left, freshman Seth Fournier and sophomore Bryce Lavigne rush the field at the final horn.

Cape Elizabeth senior Tate Perkins halfheartedly shows off the runner-up trophy as seniors Finn Raymond, left, and David Hare look on.

Previous Cape Elizabeth game stories

@ Falmouth 14 Cape Elizabeth 8

@ Cape Elizabeth 10 South Portland 8 

Previous Thornton Academy game stories

Thornton Academy 14 @ South Portland 4

@ Thornton Academy 12 Falmouth 5

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