For nearly three years, the South Portland golf team didn’t win a single match.

That was then. This is now.

Saturday, the Red Riots culminated an inspirational resurgence with a shocking second place finish at the Class A state championship match at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro.

South Portland (which lost 38 straight matches between 2005 and 2008) made its first state match appearance since 2001 and shot a 321 to finish five strokes behind Thornton Academy. The Red Riots tied with Deering, but got the edge on a tiebreaker as their fifth-place golfer shot a stroke better than his Rams counterpart.

South Portland went 6-4 during the regular season against a tough schedule, then shot a 322 at the Southern Maine Activities Association qualifier. Saturday, the Red Riots were paced by senior Aidan Boyce, who shot a 77 on Natanis’ Tomahawk course. Junior Andrew Richards (78), senior Jordan Drown (82) and junior Matt McCutcheon (84) also scored. Senior Anthony Canarie’s 89 was factored into the tiebreaker and beat Deering’s Ryan Bourgault’s 90.

“It was a lot of fun,” said longtime South Portland coach Ernie Lamson. “We went in figuring we would be the dark horse, thinking we’d have an outside chance. It was cold, windy and wet, but we played good, solid golf. The kids were very excited. We’ve never won it, but we’ve been very close. We were within one stroke two different times, but this is the team I’m most proud of. The junior and seniors worked very, very hard to improve and they finally got rewarded.”

Boyce and Canarie will return to Natanis this Saturday to compete in the individual Class A championships.

The Red Riots hope to remain a top contender in 2010, but will have to replace Boyce, Canarie and Drown, who will graduate. Based on what the team accomplished this year, South Portland has to like its chances to remain near the top.

“We’ll have some very experienced kids return next year,” said Lamson. “We had two or three JV players who played well at times. I think we’ll be a solid team again.”

Scarborough went 4-6 this year and didn’t qualify for states.

In Class B, Cape Elizabeth returned to the state match after a year away. The Capers, who went 3-6 during the regular season before shooting a two-day combined 624 to earn the fourth and final spot at the Western Maine Conference qualifier, shot a 330 at Natanis’ Tomahawk course to finish fourth behind York (311), Falmouth (328) and Yarmouth (329).

The Capers were led by Conor Moloney, who shot a 77. Senior Will Pierce (82), senior Wilson LaPrade (84) and Ben Morse (87) also scored. Rob McDonald shot an 88, but his score wasn’t factored in.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]

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