PORTLAND – As a freshman, attackman Tom Lawson can’t speak to the frustration his teammates felt last spring, when Cheverus failed to qualify for the state boys’ lacrosse tournament for the first time.

One thing Lawson can tell you: This playoff stuff is a pretty good time.

Lawson had five goals and an assist as the fourth-seeded Stags made an impressive return to the tournament, storming past No. 5 Messalonskee 9-2 in an Eastern Class A quarterfinal Wednesday at Deering High’s Memorial Field.

Cheverus (9-4) advances to a regional semifinal at top-seeded Brunswick (12-0) on Saturday. Messalonskee closes at 8-5.

“It’s great to see the seniors get a chance to play in the playoffs,” Lawson said. “From the very beginning, we came out strong. Our attack and midfield moved the ball really well. We just connected. And (goalie Colm Pusey) and the defense were huge.”

That they were. Defenders Tommy Sullivan, Coleman Walsh, Cody O’Brien and Mike Dedian were ferocious, breaking up the Eagle attack with crushing hits. And Pusey made 12 saves, often roaming up the field and hitting breaking midfielders with long, pinpoint passes.

That led to the Stags’ nearly constant pressure on Messalonskee goalie Jake Smith (25 saves).

“Colm was 100 percent solid,” said Stags midfielder Jack Sutton. “His clears set up the transition. That helped us to slow things down and maintain possession.”

And frustrated the Eagles, who were called for eight penalties to four for the Stags.

“We were never able to get any flow going,” said Messalonskee Coach Tom Sheridan. “We hung in there defensively for a while, but unfortunately the penalties we took led to some situations, and that’s tough to come back from. Our kids played hard the whole way through.”

They had to.

“The boys ramped it up today,” said Cheverus Coach Deke Andrews. “Offensively, we put a lot of pressure on, controlled the middle of the field, and that gave us momentum. It’s definitely a nice step (after missing the playoffs).”

Lawson got the Stags rolling with two goals in the opening four minutes of the game. Walsh and Spencer Amberson scored in the second quarter to put the Stags up 4-0 before Lawson dodged his way from behind the net for his third goal with 2:11 left. That gave the Stags a 5-0 lead at the half.

Midfielder Cam Olson showed good patience early in the third quarter, finishing off a nice passing sequence with a blistering shot from the top of the fan to make it 6-0. Lawson struck again off a nice feed from Amberson with 2:11 left in the third. Patrick O’Hanlon put in the rebound of his own shot to make it 8-0 just two minutes into the fourth quarter.

Luke Vigue finally scored for the Eagles with 8:50 left in the fourth to make it 8-1. Nate DelGiudice assisted, recording his 300th career point. Midfielder Jordan Holmes scored 17 seconds later to make it 8-2.

Lawson closed out the scoring with just under three minutes left for a 9-2 lead.

Next up: The Dragons.

“Brunswick is outstanding,” Andrews said. “They’re very deep with above-average players at every position.

“We’re going to have to play strong defensively again and possess the ball more and make smarter choices. It’s going to be a challenge.”