CAPE ELIZABETH—Suffice it to say that the Cape Elizabeth boys’ lacrosse team feels good, good good.
Wednesday evening at Hannaford Field, 15 days after suffering a stunning home loss to rival Falmouth on Senior Night and having to watch and hear the Yachtsmen celebrate with abandon afterwards, the Capers got a chance to serve up some revenge and did they ever rise to the occasion.
Like the champions that they are and that they soon hope to be again.
Stung and motivated by Falmouth using Cape Elizabeth’s longtime cheer after the upset win June 3, the Capers licked their wounds, got better and delivered a tour de force performance in the teams’ seventh consecutive Western Class B Final encounter.
It took awhile for Cape Elizabeth’s prolific offense to get going, but its defense never allowed the Yachtsmen to get the looks they enjoyed in the last meeting and the Capers never trailed.
Goals from seniors Griffin Thoreck and Ben Shea produced an early lead, but Falmouth battled back as sophomore Jack Scribner and senior C.J. Leighton tickled the twine. After Shea scored twice more to give Cape Elizabeth a 4-2 lead, sophomore Devin Russell scored two goals for the Yachtsmen, the second with two minutes remaining in the first half, to tie the score anew, 4-4.
No one on hand thought that Falmouth was done scoring for the season, but that’s exactly how it played out.
Senior Noah Haversat, a one-time offensive threat converted to a top-notch long-pole defender this spring, put the Capers ahead to stay when he scored an unassisted goal with 1:15 remaining in the first half and Cape Elizabeth controlled play throughout the second half en route to a regional crown.
Haversat’s second goal, early in the third period, restored a two-goal bulge and this time, the Capers built on it, as junior Riley Pillsbury and sophomore Owen Thoreck scored to make it 8-4 after three quarter.
Cape Elizabeth kept the pedal down in the fourth and got goals from junior J Bottomley, Owen Thoreck, sophomore Connor Thoreck and one more from Owen Thoreck and went on to an emphatic 12-4 victory.
Shea and Owen Thoreck paced a balanced offensive attack with three goals apiece, seven different Capers tickled the twine, junior goalie Alex Narvaez made nine saves, Cape Elizabeth held the Yachtsmen scoreless the final 26 minutes and the Capers improved to 12-2, ended Falmouth’s season at 10-4 and advanced to once again meet Yarmouth (12-3) in the Class B state final Saturday at 3:30 p.m., at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
“(The last Falmouth game) really motivated us,” Haversat said. “After we heard (about them doing our cheer on our field), we were pretty (mad). We’ve worked really hard the past few weeks. We’re used to not losing and we had a chip on our shoulder tonight.”
If it’s mid-June, then Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth are squaring off for the right to go to the Class B Final.
The teams had met in each of the past six regional finals (see sidebar, below), with the Capers taking four of them, including last spring’s 11-8 home victory which set the stage for Cape Elizabeth to repeat as Class B champion with a 6-3 win over Yarmouth.
This season, the Capers were being touted as an all-time team, but they did stumble twice, 15-14 in overtime at Eastern A champion Brunswick and 11-9 at home to Falmouth. Cape Elizabeth did earn the top seed in Western B and dominated No. 5 Kennebunk in Saturday’s semifinals, 16-2.
Falmouth stumbled early at Kennebunk and lost at home to Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth, but closed on a surge to earn the No. 2 seed in Western B. The Yachtsmen had no trouble with third-ranked Waynflete in the semifinals, 18-3.
Wednesday, Falmouth was able to avoid the early big deficits which plagued it in both prior meetings this spring, but this time, the Capers were unstoppable in the second half.
The first goal came with 9:33 to play in the first quarter when senior Griffin Thoreck scored unassisted.
Seventy-five seconds later, Shea scored his first goal, unassisted, to make it 2-0.
The Yachtsmen got on the board with 6:58 to go, as Scribner scored unassisted and that was it for first quarter scoring.
Just a minute, 39 seconds into the second period, Leighton tied the score unassisted, but after Falmouth sophomore goalie Liam Tucker made a terrific save to rob Shea in front, Shea got another chance and finished unassisted with 6:16 showing for a 3-2 lead. Shea scored again on the doorstep, finishing a feed from Griffin Thoreck, to make it 4-2 with 4:39 left in the half.
“I think (the loss) may have motivated us a little bit, but more importantly, we figured out from that game that we had to do some things differently,” said Capers coach Ben Raymond. “We had some time to prepare. (Assistant coach) Charlie (Carroll) did a great job putting together some specific offensive sets that we used a couple times today. Ben Shea scored two nice goals wide open with no one near him. Ben snuck around, Griffin found him and it worked really, really well.”
Falmouth would answer, as Leighton set up Russell for a goal on the fastbreak with 2:55 to play in the half and 55 seconds later, Russell made a nice move to elude a defender, then beat Narvaez to tie the score, 4-4.
And that would be it for the Yachtsmen’s 2015 offensive production.
Haversat showed off his athleticism and dexterity with 1:15 to go before the break, when he bulled his way in before finishing unassisted to put Cape Elizabeth on top to stay.
“I played shortie last year and the last few weeks, I’ve picked it up again in practice,” Haversat said. “I think I can help out on offense and it throws off the other team. It just gives us another weapon.”
“Noah’s a super athlete,” Griffin Thoreck said. “He can thrive at any position. He can score and he can play solid sit-down defense, even with a short-stick and take the ball away. When we can throw something different like that at them, it catches them off guard.”
Twenty-three seconds later, Haversat took two one-minute penalties and it appeared Falmouth had a golden opportunity, but not only did the Yachtsmen not get off a shot, they turned the ball over, as sophomore Peyton Weatherbie intercepted a pass. The Capers ran out the first half clock while possessing the ball, which allowed them to get it to start the second half with possession and avoid a faceoff.
And that was a very good thing, considering Falmouth senior Jack Mainella had won 10 of 11 faceoffs in the first half.
Not that it helped the Yachtsmen, however.
That’s because it was part of Cape Elizabeth’s master plan.
The Capers let Mainella win the faceoff, then nearly every time Mainella got the ball, Cape Elizabeth senior Jack Drinan forced a turnover.
“We’ve worked on faceoffs a lot this week,” Drinan said. “We tried that earlier in the season, but we didn’t implement it as a strategy. I let him win it, then I played one-on-one defense and everyone else locked down their man. I focused on taking the ball away.”
“Last time, he won faceoffs and created problems for us,” Raymond said. “We knew we had to fix it. (Freshman) Finn (Raymond) and (sophomore) Cole (Spencer) are still young kids. They’re not as strong as (Mainella). We used to the same strategy with (former Falmouth faceoff specialist) Abyn (Reabe-Gerwig). We let him pick it up, then shut them down. If you have an athlete like Jack, why not try it? What’s the worst thing that can happen? No one is getting by him.”
After the Capers started with possession in the third quarter, then eventually turned the ball over and with 10:56 to play in the period, Yachtsmen senior standout Bryce Kuhn, who played such a huge role in Falmouth’s upset win in the last meeting, got a look, but Narvaez made a save to protect the lead.
Haversat then scored unassisted again and Cape Elizabeth was up, 6-4, with 9:51 left in the frame.
“We started playing Noah on offense in a scrimmage against South Portland,” Ben Raymond said. “We knew he could do it physically. We have so many offenses, so we run certain sets when he’s in there. He only needs to know to run by his guy and throw it in the goal. He’s an incredible athlete. He’s made a huge sacrifice for us this year playing defense when he could have been the best midfielder in the state. He’s not too worried about any reward but a state championship at the end.”
After the Capers took another penalty, the Yachtsmen had another man-up opportunity, but Kuhn shot high and Leighton had a shot saved.
Cape Elizabeth then went man-up and with 5:57 to go in the third, took a 7-4 lead when Griffin Thoreck set up Pillsbury.
With 4:08 showing, senior Cole Caswell set up Owen Thoreck and the Capers had an 8-4 advantage and some breathing room.
Both teams had looks before the end of the quarter, but sophomore Henry Norris and senior George Gilbert shot wide for Falmouth and Tucker denied both junior R.J. Sarka and Caswell to keep the score 8-4 heading for the final stanza.
Where Cape Elizabeth put it away.
After Connor Thoreck hit the post and Narvaez stood tall on a Kuhn shot, Bottomley scored unassisted with 6:46 to go. Owen Thoreck made it 10-4 with an unassisted tally 29 seconds later.
After Narvaez saved a Norris bid and turned aside a Gilbert shot, Connor Thoreck and Owen Thoreck each scored unassisted in the final minute and the Capers went on to slam the door on their 12-4 victory.
And as expected, following the postgame handshakes and before the awards ceremony, Cape Elizabeth cheered like it’s never cheered before.
“We really used that last game as motivation to prepare to win tonight,” Griffin Thoreck said. “(When Falmouth did our cheer) Coach yelled for me and wanted me to get back in the locker room and tell all the guys what happened. At that moment, it really clicked that anyone could play a good game against us. We knew we had to work hard and prepare for today and we did a great job getting better.”
“That was definitely on all of our minds,” Drinan said. “We knew we had to come back and show them that it was our field and that we weren’t going to lose here again. We came out focused and prepared to win and we were able to finish.”
The Capers’ balanced offense featured three goals apiece from Shea and Owen Thoreck, two from Haversat and one each from Bottomley, Pillsbury, Connor Thoreck and Griffin Thoreck. Griffin Thoreck had two assists, while Caswell finished with one.
“The success came with moving the ball,” Griffin Thoreck said. “The last time, we didn’t find the open guy. We had more balance overall because we shared the ball.”
Narvaez made nine saves and the Capers pitched a 26-minute shutout to close out the victory.
“We’ve worked on defense a lot this week,” Drinan said. “We worked extremely hard on our slides and not getting beat. Everyone focused and locked down. Last game, they found the open guy and finished. We did a really good job today pressuring and not letting them get an open guy. We pressured the entire game.”
“All the credit to the defense,” Griffin Thoreck said. “They’re super athletes. They’re great on-ball, they’re great off-ball. A 26-minute scoring drought is awesome. ‘Narv’ made great saves too. He stood on his head and did big things for us.”
“We’ve really been working hard on tightening up our defense,” Raymond added. “Falmouth exploited us last time. We’d gotten away from what we were so successful with last year and the year before. I wasn’t as focused as I should have been. We were getting by with something that worked pretty well, but didn’t work last time. If we didn’t lose that game, we might have lost this game. Ground balls were huge. In the second half, I think we picked up every ground ball. In the first half, we took the ball away, but we didn’t pick it up. If we got ground balls in the first half like we did the second, they may not have scored.”
Cape Elizabeth overcame 24 turnovers and had an 18-13 shots advantage.
In an interesting historical footnote, the Capers stayed undefeated all-time in home playoff contests.
“We’ve probably never lost a home playoff game because we’ve had good teams,” Raymond said.
For Falmouth, Russell had two goals and Leighton and Scribner each tickled the twine once, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Leighton added an assist. Tucker stopped six shots. Mainella won 14 of 19 turnovers, but the Yachtsmen turned the ball over 27 times.
“We want as far as we probably could against this team,” said Falmouth coach Mike LeBel. “They did what everybody thought they’d do since the start of the season. They’re too deep, too confident, too experienced. We’re just not there yet. You have a senior-laden team in Cape against a team that has mostly sophomores. That experience will eventually catch up with you. A lot of those guys have been in this situation for four years and know how to handle it. They have a philosophy they adhere to. They don’t change it. They play aggressively and we didn’t do a great job handling their pressure. They executed very well. They dictated play more than we did. Last time, we dictated how the game unfolded. We played with a lot more confidence then than we did tonight. They looked at what we did last game and they came up with some ways to counter our success. We tried to implement some things and had options, but we just didn’t execute. They had a good game plan we weren’t necessarily ready for and came out and exploited our weaknesses, so hats off to them. I think they’ll win the state championship easily. “
The Yachtsmen made great strides this spring, but ultimately ran into the state’s gold standard and just couldn’t replicate their previous victory.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” LeBel said. “They were awesome. They came to practice every day willing to work. It was a longshot to win this game. To even be here. At the beginning of the season, not many people in the lacrosse world had us in this game with all that we lost and our inexperience. We had kids really step up and develop.”
Graduation will claim the likes of Kuhn, Leighton, Mainella, defensemen Kohn Valle and Jack Zinn and reserve Iain Kurry, but Falmouth should be right back in the title hunt in 2016.
“Now we can turn up the intensity and aggressiveness and refine some things,” LeBel said. “We have a good base to work off. Our focus and philosophy will change with more guys coming back. We need to do a better job of trying to win every game and see if we can try to get this Western Maine championship game at Falmouth rather than here.”
Cape Elizabeth beat Yarmouth twice this year, 6-3 at home April 28 and 14-5 in Yarmouth May 29, in a game that was close for three quarters.
The Capers have beaten the Clippers in six of nine prior state games, including each of the past three (2010, 2013, 2014). Last spring, Cape Elizabeth prevailed, 6-3.
The Capers know that a three-peat won’t come easily, but they also know if they focus and take care of business, one final celebration will be in store.
“The pressure is tough and it got to us earlier, but that was just all the more reason to get better and we’re here now,” Griffin Thoreck said. “We just have to come to work the next two days, work hard, see what they’re up to on film. It’s always a battle. They have good defenders, good offensive players. We’re both balanced teams. It comes down to who will do the little things the best. That will win us the game.”
“We try not to let the pressure get to us,” Haversat said. “We’re working on that, becoming a team and not individuals. I think it’s pretty even. Both teams work really hard. Hopefully we’ll use our fitness to our advantage.”
“We’re all excited,” Drinan said. “This is what we’ve been striving for all year. We have a good chance to take it home if we work our hardest and don’t get too far ahead of ourselves. We can’t think that since we beat them before, we’ll beat them again. If we play our best, I think we’ll come out on top.”
“The kids are definitely focused, especially at the end of the season,” Raymond added. “It’s the hardest time of year to coach. Seniors are done. People are working. Kids are taking finals. It’s just a busy, busy time of year, but they dial it in and work hard. The seniors have a lot to do with bringing that focus and attention. The underclassmen care so much about the seniors that they want them to go out on a positive note. They know if your focus isn’t the best, your next game can be your last game.
“(Yarmouth) has played with us in every game we’ve played. The first game this year was 6-3. The second game was really tight until the fourth quarter. They have talented players. They’re athletic. They’ll be a quality opponent. Hopefully, our kids dial it in again and get ready.”
Falmouth senior Kohl Valle hounds Cape Elizabeth senior Griffin Thoreck.
Cape Elizabeth senior Noah Haversat scores the go-ahead goal. Haversat, normally a longstick defender, showed he can put the ball in the cage when necessary.
Cape Elizabeth junior goalie Alex Narvaez makes one of his nine saves.
Falmouth sophomore Henry Norris launches a shot.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Owen Thoreck passes the ball.
Cape Elizabeth junior R.J. Sarka races up the field.
Cape Elizabeth senior Ben Shea, who scored three times, is defended by Falmouth sophomore Seth Masciangelo.
Falmouth sophomore goalie Liam Tucker makes a save.
Cape Elizabeth’s fan section was colorful and boisterous Wednesday evening.
Falmouth senior captains Bryce Kuhn (left) and C.J. Leighton receive the runner-up trophy.
Cape Elizabeth senior captains (from left) Noah Wolfinger, Noah Haversat, Jack Drinan, Griffin Thoreck and Ben Shea and team manager Peter Tarling show off the regional championship trophy.
Western B Final
@ Falmouth 10 Cape Elizabeth 9
Western B Final
@ Falmouth 11 Cape Elizabeth 9
Western B Final
Cape Elizabeth 7 @ Falmouth 6 (OT)
Western B Final
@ Cape Elizabeth 11 Falmouth 7
Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ lacrosse team celebrates Wednesday’s 12-4 win over rival Falmouth in the Western B Final. The Capers will look to win their third straight state championship Saturday when they meet Yarmouth yet again on the big stage.
Ben McCanna photos.
More photos below.
F- 1 3 0 0- 4
CE- 2 3 3 4- 12
9:33 CE G. Thoreck (unassisted)
8:18 CE Shea (unassisted)
6:58 F Scribner (unassisted)
10:21 F Leighton (unassisted)
6:16 CE Shea (unassisted)
4:31 CE Shea (G. Thoreck)
2:55 F Russell (Leighton)
2:00 F Russell (unassisted)
1:15 CE Haversat (unassisted)
9:51 CE Haversat (unassisted)
5:57 CE Pillsbury (G. Thoreck) (MAN-UP)
4:08 CE O. Thoreck (Caswell)
6:46 CE Bottomley (unassisted)
6:17 CE O. Thoreck (unassisted)
52.6 CE C. Thoreck (unassisted)
29.0 CE O. Thoreck (unassisted)
F- Russell 2, Leighton, Scribner 1
CE- Shea, O. Thoreck 3, Haversat 2, Bottomley, Pillsbury, C. Thoreck, G. Thoreck 1
F- Leighton 1
CE- G. Thoreck 2, Caswell 1
Faceoffs (Falmouth, 14-5)
F- Mainella 14 of 19
CE- Drinan 5 of 18, Raymond 0 of 1
Shots on cage:
F (Tucker) 6
CE (Narvaez) 9