Thirty-nine years in the making…Gorham boys eliminate Scarborough

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Scarborough senior Justin Perry tries to head the ball away from Gorham senior goalkeeper Alex York during the teams’ Class A South semifinal Monday night. The Rams eliminated the Red Storm, 3-1, to set up a regional final showdown versus Portland Wednesday.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

GORHAM—Scarborough had more opportunities, but Gorham found the net more often in Monday night’s highly anticipated Class A South boys’ soccer semifinal.

The top-ranked host Rams hadn’t had much success over the years against the Red Storm in the postseason, but this time, fortune was on their side.

After Scarborough dominated the game’s opening minutes, Gorham counter-attacked and took a 1-0 lead in the 10th minute, when senior Ethan Orach floated a shot into the goal.

Rams senior standout Jackson Fotter then eclipsed the 30-goal plateau for the season when he scored in the 21st minute for a surprising 2-0 advantage.

The Red Storm came close to cutting into the deficit before halftime, but failed to do so and with 33:52 left in regulation, Gorham took a commanding three-goal lead when senior Ryan Firmin finished.

Scarborough refused to go quietly, however, and earned some life when senior Marc Guerette scored with 25:08 to play, but the Red Storm couldn’t get another to make things truly interesting and the Rams held on for a 3-1 victory.

Gorham improved to 15-0-1, beat Scarborough in the playoffs for the first time since 1977, advanced to battle No. 6 Portland (12-3-2) in the Class A South Final Wednesday at 7 p.m., and in the process, snapped the Red Storm’s seven-game win streak and ended their season at 12-4.

“We couldn’t finish,” lamented Scarborough coach Mark Diaz. “We had opportunities. They played good defense too. They finished the ones they had and that was the difference.”

Monday night special

When Gorham left Scarborough with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory Sept. 13 (junior Kyle King and senior Tyler Richman scored for the Rams to offset a tally from Red Storm senior Garrett King), the prospect of the rivals meeting again was a possibility, but far from a certainty since the Red Storm appeared very mortal at that juncture.

Scarborough was just 2-2 (also having lost at home to Deering), but the Red Storm went 9-1 the rest of the way (only falling at Portland) to finish 11-3 and fourth in Class A South. Last Tuesday, Scarborough got a late goal from senior Noah Stracqualursi to survive fifth-ranked South Portland, 1-0.

Gorham went 13-0-1 in the regular season, as a 0-0 tie at Deering was its lone blemish. As the top seed, the Rams advanced with a 5-1 win over No. 9 Westbrook in last Tuesday’s quarterfinals. 

The teams had met eight previous times in the playoffs, dating to 1974, with the Red Storm holding a 7-1 edge. The most recent encounter was in the 2013 semifinals where Scarborough prevailed, 2-1.

Monday night, under 38 degree skies, Gorham finally vanquished its nemesis for the first time since the year Elvis died, disco reigned supreme, Marquette won the NCAA men’s basketball championship and Jimmy Carter was in his first year in the White House.

It was all Red Storm early, as they earned three quick corner kicks, which didn’t result in a good look, and saw senior Justin Perry shoot wide and Stracqualursi have a shot blocked in the box.

The Rams then went on offense and their initial foray resulted in the game’s first goal.

The ball was knocked around just outside the box before King directed it to Orach at the top of the box and Orach floated a gem just over the outstretched fingertips of Scarborough senior goalkeeper Chris Franklin for a 1-0 lead.

“When we get possession of the ball, we can really go,” Gorham coach Tim King said. “We can strike quickly. That first goal that Ethan hit and dipped, no goalie is going to save that.” 

Gorham wasn’t content to sit on its lead and after Orach was taken down in the box with no call being made, junior Kyle Patterson hit the crossbar.

The Rams then went ahead, 2-0, with 19:23 to play in the first half, as on a throw in, Kyle King headed the ball to Fotter in front and Fotter turned and bounced a shot that Franklin couldn’t handle past the keeper and into the net.

“That was just a quick turn and a shot and it bounced our way,” Tim King said. “We haven’t had many bounces go our way over the years, so we’ll take it.”

Late in the half, the Red Storm earned three more corner kicks, but nothing came of it, senior Spencer Pettingill headed a free kick just over the crossbar, Stracqualursi sent a shot wide of the goal and with 5:26 remaining before the break, Stracqualursi broke free and had a great look to cut into the deficit, but Gorham senior goalkeeper Alex York made his finest save of the night, diving to knock the ball away.

After York made another save, denying Perry’s header, Perry headed a cross from Garrett King and the ball floated over York’s hands, but landed atop the crossbar and bounced out of harm’s way.

York denied Perry one final time to preserve the 2-0 lead at halftime.

In the first half, the Rams had a 5-4 edge in shots on goal and got four saves from York.

Scarborough took six corner kicks to just one for Gorham, but had nothing to show for it.

The Red Storm hoped to get back in the game in the second half, but it would be the Rams scoring the next goal to gain some much needed breathing room.

After Franklin made a save on Gorham junior Sam Burghardt’s header, the hosts went up, 3-0, with 33:52 remaining, as Richman fed Firmin and with Franklin leaning to his right, Richman fired a low shot that Franklin had to dive back for and the keeper couldn’t get to the ball as it tickled the twine.

Scarborough wouldn’t go down without a fight and after York snared a Stracqualursi cross to Pettingill, Guerette buried a shot on the doorstep with 25:08 left and the margin was once again two goals, 3-1.

The Red Storm tried to creep even closer with a second goal, but a Perry free kick was cleared, Garrett King shot high, Pettingill had a shot saved and with 2:45 left, York stopped a low blast from senior Cam Thibault and that was all she wrote as Gorham advanced with a 3-1 decision.

“We had to work hard for it,” Tim King said. “They fought right until the end. We had some great plays and scored goals, but they’re just really tough. I’m proud of my guys. They fought hard and we earned the win. The clock ran slowly there at the end. WWe’ve been gritty all year. I like our toughness and we needed it tonight.

“We may not have beaten them in 39 years in the playoffs, but these guys have a good history against Scarborough. In our last four games, we’ve won twice and tied twice.”

Gorham had a 9-8 edge in shots and got seven saves from York. Franklin made six saves for the Red Storm, who had an 8-3 advantage in corner kicks.

“I thought we played well and had more chances,” Diaz said. “My guys didn’t deserve the score, but that’s soccer. Credit to Gorham. The chances they had, they made count. I’m so proud of this group. Down, 3-0, they played the same as when it was 0-0. It’s a great group of guys. I was lucky to coach them. We played our best soccer at the end.”

Battling the Bulldogs

Portland has made a surprising run to the regional final, edging No. 11 Bonny Eagle (1-0) in the preliminary round, upsetting No. 3 Deering (1-0) in the quarterfinals, then outlasting No. 2 Falmouth (3-2) on penalty kicks Saturday in its semifinal.

Gorham handled the visiting Bulldogs, 3-0, Oct. 6. The teams split two prior playoff meetings, with the Rams taking a 3-0 decision in the 2005 quarterfinals and Portland winning, 2-1, in the 2010 regional final.

Gorham is ready for its opportunity.

“It’ll be nice to host,” Tim King said. “We have the girls here too (facing Scarborough), so it will be a fun night for Gorham soccer. Portland’s tough. We got a good result last time, but it’s going to be a whole new game. They look very strong and confident. The first game was on turf. It’s a choppier game here. We’ll have to bring it with only one day off, but I have confidence in my guys that we will bring it.”

Tough farewell

Scarborough has to part with 18 seniors, including several who have led the Red Storm deep into the playoffs on multiple occasions.

“Give credit to my seniors,” Diaz said. “They rallied us. I asked for more and they gave it to me. We really improved. It was wide open this year. In the end, we played with class and I’m glad for that.”

The Red Storm’s cupboard won’t exactly be bare. Many other key players return and as always, this program will reload.

Expect Scarborough to advance deep in the playoffs again in 2017.

“I hope everyone comes back hungry next year,” Diaz said.

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

Scarborough junior Marco Manfra tries to get past Gorham junior Sam Burghardt.

Scarborough senior Justin Perry and Gorham junior Nolan Brown battle for a header.

Gorham senior Ryan Firmin breaks up the rush of Scarborough senior Marc Guerette. Guerette, who drew raves this postseason for his hair, scored the Red Storm’s lone goal.

Scarborough senior Spencer Pettingill gets past Gorham senior goalkeeper Alex York, but can’t finish late in the game.

Scarborough senior Noah Stracqualursi is blanketed by Gorham senior Ryan Hamblen, left, and junior Aaron Farr.

Scarborough senior Garrett King and Gorham junior Kyle King fight for a ball in the air.

Scarborough junior Jared Greenleaf’s scoring opportunity is broken up by Gorham senior Ryan Hamblen.

Scarborough’s cheering section came in costume Monday, but despite its large numbers and spirit, couldn’t inspire the Red Storm to victory.

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