CAPE ELIZABETH — Each year the goal is the same for the Cape Elizabeth High boys’ lacrosse team: to be the best in the state.
The top-ranked Capers moved a big step closer Saturday.
Cape Elizabeth scored the final three goals and held South Portland scoreless in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 9-5 victory in the Class A South semifinals.
Phillip Tarling’s goal with four seconds remaining in the third quarter provided the Capers with a momentum-breaking and at the same time momentum-building score.
“I think we needed one little momentum goal and that was it there,” said attack Archie McEvoy, who had two goals for the Capers. “And then we just really got going in the fourth quarter.”
Cape Elizabeth (13-0) will play at home in the regional championship game Wednesday. Fourth-ranked South Portland (10-4) lost twice this season to the Capers.
“It was a great game,” said South Portland Coach Tom Fiorini. “Both teams played a great game. I thought in the fourth we started to play a little bit more of their game instead of staying with our game plan and that was the difference.”
Still, the Red Riots pushed the Capers every minute. Cape Elizabeth had a 4-1 lead after the first quarter but led only 5-3 at the half. South Portland goalie Quinn Watson was a huge reason the game was so close, making several spectacular saves. He finished with 18.
“We knew going into the game he was going to be an issue for us,” said Tarling. “He’s pretty good. Coach (Ben Raymond) told us to just keep shooting.”
Nic Boudreau gave the Capers a 6-3 lead with 4:59 left in the third period, cutting the defense from the left side and beating Watson in close. But the Riots kept coming back.
With 3:37 remaining in the third, Cooper Mehlhorn scored his third goal of the game, spinning away from a defender behind the goal and beating Jack Dresser of the Capers. Then David Fiorini scored with 1:55 remaining in the third, scooping up a ground ball in the middle of a scrum and roaming right, where he suddenly had a direct path to the goal, and it was 6-5.
That’s when Tarling stepped in.
“We were looking for a momentum booster and I think it helped us out,” said Tarling. “I got the ball in transition and was looking for our point man but they played good (defense). So I just had to run around and shoot it in.”
McEvoy got the next goal, with 9:44 remaining – his second of the game – from the left side and it was 9-8. Sam Dresser scored his second of the game with 7:51 left and the Capers had some breathing room at 9-5. And that was plenty because Jack Dresser made a couple of impressive saves in the final 2:20 to allow the Capers to hold on.
“I think we didn’t necessarily play great at times,” said Raymond, “but in the second half when we needed to play well, we played well.”