Through preseason and the first game of the regular season, the South Portland boys’ lacrosse team hadn’t even practiced against a zone defense.

So when Cheverus came out in a zone Tuesday night, the Red Riots had to adapt on the fly.

“We didn’t really see their zone coming,” midfielder Jack Fiorini said. “We had to adjust in game.”

Fiorini and his teammates did just that, breaking open a tie game with nine unanswered goals across the second and third quarters for a 15-6 victory in a Class A game at Deering High.

Fiorini and Andrew Whipple both scored four goals for South Portland (2-0), which at one point held Cheverus (1-1) without a goal for 31 minutes and 25 seconds after allowing three goals in the opening quarter.

“This is such a potent team with really good stickhandlers and lacrosse IQ, we just figured it out on the go,” Fiorini said. “We handled it well.”

Fiorini had two goals and assisted on an Eben Babbidge strike as the Red Riots started to solve the Cheverus defense with a quick, up-tempo passing game in the second quarter.

Fiorini’s goals, which came back-to-back early in the quarter, both came from nearly an identical spot 20 yards out, which opened up the Stags’ compacted zone, allowing Whipple and Babbidge (two goals) room to maneuver and pick apart their defenders down low.

“I think that extended the defense,” Fiorini said. “They were making sure the middle was locked down and after those two goals, they had to push out and we started pouring them in from right on top of the crease.”

Up 7-3 at halftime, the Red Riots continued to extend the lead through the third and fourth quarters largely thanks to a defense led by Trent Lloyd-Rees and Nick Mezzanotte that forced 27 Cheverus turnovers.

And when the Stags did get sight of the cage, South Portland goalie T-Moe Hellier was there, stopping 10 straight shots at one point as the South Portland lead grew as large as 10 early in the fourth quarter.

“We came out of the first quarter 3-3 and I’ve got to admit, I was like, ‘We’re in for a dogfight,’ ” South Portland Coach Tom Fiorini said. “And then all of a sudden our defense started playing and shutting their offense down, which led to our offense.”

With a revamped defense featuring three new starters in front of sophomore goalie Sean Walsh, Cheverus able to keep the Red Riots at bay in the first quarter while Tom Lawson scored two goals to power the offense.

But those would be the only two goals Lawson would get as the Stags, who have 10 freshman and five sophomores on their 23-man roster, hit Hellier’s posts three times and saw the Red Riot lead continue to grow.

“We gave them a good run there at the beginning,” Cheverus Coach Bill Bodwell said. “I could have predicted we would struggle at times and we did.

“When you don’t get breaks with a young team, you kind of get frustrated, and we got out of what we want to do and what we need to do.”