A year ago, the Portland boys’ lacrosse team got caught looking ahead and was upset by Cheverus in the Western A quarterfinals.
Suffice it to say, the Bulldogs aren’t about to make that same mistake again.
After a superb 11-1 regular season which gave them the top seed in the region, all Portland did was decimate Massabesic and South Portland by a combined 41-4 margin in the quarterfinals and semifinals, setting up a date with rival Scarborough in the Western Class A Final Wednesday night.
Cheverus and Waynflete saw their respective runs ended last week. The Stags were ousted by Scarborough in the Western A quarterfinals, while the Flyers fell at Cape Elizabeth in the Western B semifinal round.
During the regular year, the Bulldogs averaged almost 15 goals a game, while giving up just over three. Portland lost a thriller, 11-9, at Yarmouth, May 18, but beat everyone else and hasn’t let up in the least in the postseason.
Portland opened at home against No. 9 Massabesic in the quarterfinals Thursday. The teams didn’t play this year and had no prior playoff history.
The competitive phase of the contest effectively ended when senior standout K.R. Jurgelevich scored just nine seconds in. The Bulldogs scored early and often and necessitated a running clock for the whole second half as they cruised, 21-2.
Jurgelevich scored six times and added three assists. Seniors Sam Guimond, Andy Holt and Tyler Sandler all had three goals.
Portland then hosted No. 5 South Portland in Saturday’s semifinal round. The teams didn’t play this year and had no prior playoff history.
The semifinal proved to be a carbon copy of the quarterfinal contest.
South Portland senior goalie Tyler Bickford (18 saves) did his best to keep the Red Riots in the game in the early going, but the Bulldogs’ amazing offensive balance soon broke it open.
Portland took an 8-0 lead after one quarter as eight different players scored.
“It’s pretty much pick your poison,” said Guimond. “We have a lot of guys who can put the ball in the net. We’ve done it all year. Hopefully it keeps going through the playoffs. We wanted to come out strong early.”
“It’s a team game and we’ve embodied that spirit this year,” added Bulldogs coach Eric Begonia. “We spread the ball out pretty well. Our passing is just immaculate right now. We’re happy with the team aspect.”
By halftime, it was 14-0 and again the clock ran for the whole second half. South Portland finally got on the board in the final minute of the third period, but by then, the Bulldogs were up 18-0. A Jurgelevich behind-the-back goal in the waning seconds accounted for the 20-2 final score.
Jurgelevich wound up with four goals and an assist. Guimond scored three times and added three helpers. Holt also scored three goals. Ten players wound up tickling the twine, including junior Gordon Parker and freshman Seamus Kilbride.
“We knew their goalie would be great and he was,” Begonia said. “He was getting peppered, but made big saves. We knew had to shut some guys down. Transition was our strength. When we get the ball in transition, we’re tough to beat.
“The kids are focused. Every day is a one-game season for us. The guys aren’t talking about states, they were focused on South Portland. They’re locked in.”
The final statistics reflected the one-sidedness of the contest. Portland won 67 ground balls (Jurgelevich had 10, Holt had nine and Guimond and senior Jason Smith each won eight) to just 16 for the visitors. The Bulldogs had a 19-6 edge in faceoffs won, a commanding 47-12 advantage in shots on goal and forced 26 turnovers.
Portland (now 13-1) enjoyed a surprisingly easy 12-1 home win over Scarborough (11-3) back on May 8. The teams squared off in the 2006 and 2007 regional finals with the host Red Storm holding on for an 8-7 win the first year and the visiting Bulldogs pulling off a 12-10 upset victory two years ago.
Despite the result of the first contest, Portland won’t take anything for granted.
“We’re ready for them,” said Guimond. “We won’t take them lightly. The first game was a blowout, but they’ll come at us. We have two more steps.”
“Scarborough’s always dangerous,” Begonia added. “(Senior standout) Jake Barrett is back. He’s a big factor. We won’t take anyone for granted. We’re at home and we like where we’re at. We feel good about ourselves.”
If Portland can advance to the state game, it would meet either No. 1 Brunswick (13-0) or No. 2 Messalonskee (10-3) Saturday at 10 a.m., at Fitzy. The Bulldogs don’t play either team in the regular season and have never faced the Eagles in the playoffs. Two years ago, the Dragons ended the Bulldogs’ title dreams with a 12-9 win in the state game.
Win one, lose one
Elsewhere in Western A, Cheverus managed the No. 7 seed, despite a 4-8 regular season and hosted No. 10 Noble in the preliminary round last Tuesday (in a game moved to Deering High’s turf field due to rainy weather). The Stags were 13-4 winners at the Knights on May 15. The teams had no prior playoff history.
Cheverus would lead from start to finish in a 10-2 victory, thanks to three goals from senior Ryan McQuaid and a rare highlight-reel strike from senior goalie Justin Sheehan.
“That was great,” said Stags coach Deke Andrew, about his team’s effort. “I thought we really showed energy we haven’t had in awhile. We put a little pressure on defensively and got ground balls. Our goalie did a nice job. It was nice to get some younger guys in the game.”
The Stags had a 21-5 edge in shots and grabbed 27 ground balls in the first 24 minutes. They opened things up further in the second half. McQuaid scored with 6:21 left in the third quarter to make it 6-1. Then, 37 seconds later, Sheehan got everyone’s attention, racing all the way in from his goalie position to fire a shot. Initially it appeared as if his rare bid would be denied as Noble’s goalie made the save, but Sheehan snatched up the rebound and shot again, this time firing the ball into the net for a 7-1 advantage.
“Did he really score?” Andrew marveled. “That’s kind of how we play. We don’t let him do just anything, but our goalie and defensemen do go over midfield. He’s played since a freshman and made the right decision.”
Cheverus then cruised home to the 10-2 win.
The Stags visited No. 2 Scarborough in the quarterfinals. Cheverus lost 12-4 at home to the Red Storm May 20. The teams had never met in the postseason.
There, the Stags were quickly ousted and saw their season at 5-9 with a 12-1 loss.
In Western B, Waynflete went 7-5 this year and wound up ranked fourth, setting up a quarterfinal round game with No. 5 York, a team the Flyers edged 11-10 at home May 30. The teams had never before met in the postseason.
Last Wednesday, the rematch would be close again, but again, Waynflete found a way to advance.
As they did in the regular season game, the Flyers jumped out to a 3-0 lead. As was the case the first time, the Wildcats rallied, taking a 7-6 lead to the fourth, but Waynflete got the tying goal from junior Jay Witte just 1 minute, 3 seconds in. With 6:52 left, junior Josiah Baker-Connick (who was huge all over the field all game with a whopping 15 ground balls) put the Flyers ahead to stay. Two minutes later, Waynflete pushed its lead to two on Witte’s sixth goal. York got one back, but a late steal from sophomore Joe Veroneau helped slam the door and the Flyers advanced with the 9-8 win.
“This one was closer all along,” said Waynflete’s longtime coach Bob Johnson. “We had more of a lead in the first game. York played really well. Their coach thought they played their best game of the season. We had enough to pull it out. It was fun to have a home playoff game. It was nice to have won a game to get to the semis.”
“Ground balls and the will to win were the difference,” added Witte. “We wanted to win it for our fans. I think this does a lot for the program.”
Sophomore goalie Will Hallett stopped 14 shots for the Flyers.
“We had a little bit of a zone we threw in there,” Johnson said. “When Will’s facing long shots, that’s his forte.”
Waynflete’s run ended Saturday night at top-ranked Cape Elizabeth, as the Capers eliminated the Flyers for the fifth time in five playoff meetings, 14-2. Waynflete finished 8-6.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.