With Scarborough senior Marco Manfra breathing down his neck, Portland senior goalkeeper Rowan Daligan tries to corral the ball as senior Zekariya Shaib looks on during Thursday night’s showdown. Manfra did manage to beat Daligan later and the Red Storm prevailed, 1-0.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

SCARBOROUGH—What a difference a week makes in Class A South boys’ soccer.

Last week, Portland was rolling and was entertaining thoughts of garnering one of the top spots in the region for the playoffs, while Scarborough was scuffling, having lost consecutive games.

Thursday night, the teams squared off at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex and it would be the Red Storm leaving feeling good while the Bulldogs were shaking their heads in frustration.

After a scoreless first half which didn’t feature many good scoring chances, play picked up in the second half and with 28:19 to go, Scarborough senior Brandon Wasser set up classmate Marco Manfra for the lead.

The rest of regulation then saw Portland pushing hard for the equalizer, but despite some good chances, the Bulldogs couldn’t solve the Red Storm’s defense or senior goalkeeper Morgan Pratt and Scarborough held on for the 1-0 victory.

The Red Storm improved to 9-4 and dropped Portland to 9-3-1 in the process.

“The guys earned it tonight,” said longtime Scarborough coach Mark Diaz. “It’s a very nice win. We’ve played better as of late. We’ve come together and that’s one of the reasons we got the win.”

Late-season tussle

Consensus holds that this year’s Class A South field is the deepest ever and that there is no clear favorite. Portland and Scarborough, like many other teams, have had moments of greatness this fall, but have also struggled at times.

The Bulldogs started by blanking visiting Massabesic (3-0), host Kennebunk (2-0) and visiting Windham (5-0). After a 2-1 win at Gorham in a rematch of last year’s frustrating regional final, Portland fell in overtime at Falmouth (1-0), but bounced back to down visiting Cheverus (4-1), host Bonny Eagle (2-1, in OT), visiting Sanford (3-0), visiting Westbrook (3-1) and host Marshwood (3-0). After settling for a 1-1 tie at rival Deering, the Bulldogs dropped a frustrating 1-0 home decision to South Portland Tuesday.

 The Red Storm started with a 1-0 loss at Deering, then blanked visiting Thornton Academy, 4-0 and rallied for a 3-2 home win over Westbrook. After a 3-0 loss at defending regional champion Gorham in a playoff rematch, Scarborough blanked visiting Biddeford (6-0), host Massabesic (4-0) and visiting Noble (11-0). The Red Storm then downed host Kennebunk (3-1), giving Diaz his 250th career win, and, shut out visiting Windham, 5-0. After a 2-1 overtime loss at Falmouth, Scarborough fell at home to Cheverus (4-1), but bounced back Tuesday with a 5-0 victory at Bonny Eagle.

Prior to Thursday, Scarborough had gone 13-4-2 all-time (including a 4-1 postseason mark) against Portland, even though the Bulldogs won the first two meetings (see sidebar, below). Last year, Portland prevailed at home, 2-1.

This time around, on a chilly (51-degree) evening, after a total of 30 seniors from both teams were honored, the Bulldogs sought their first back-to-back wins over the Red Storm since 2002-03, but Scarborough earned its first victory over the Bulldogs since 2014 and its first at home over Portland since the 2013 Western A Final.

In the ninth minute, Wasser almost scored the first goal on a free kick just outside the box, but his blast that knuckled was denied by Bulldogs senior goalkeeper Rowan Daligan. 

After Daligan stopped a long, low shot from Red Storm junior Liam Bridgham, Portland had a pair of corner kicks, but failed to put a shot on frame.

Late in the half, a Bridgham free kick deflected to Wasser for a shot which Daligan saved and Bulldogs senior Zekariya Shaib was just off target, sending the game to halftime scoreless.

In the first half, Scarborough had a 4-1 shots advantage, but Daligan made four saves.

Portland had a 3-1 edge in corner kicks, but couldn’t take advantage.

Early in the second half, Manfra got into the box, but Bulldogs senior Sam Mermin broke up the opportunity.

At the other end, a shot from junior Tyler Lemay was saved by Pratt.

Then, with 28:19 to go in regulation, the Red Storm struck quickly for the game’s lone goal.

In transition, Wasser played the ball ahead, then quickly threaded a pass ahead to Manfra, who got past a defender. As Daligan came out, Manfra had to dribble to his right to elude the goalie, then shot back to his left, but Manfra managed to guide the ball right into the net for a 1-0 advantage.

“As the play was developing, I saw Brandon get the ball, I knew he’d do something smart with it and we just made it happen,” Manfra said. “It was a tough angle. Their keeper is a great player. He’s aggressive. I knew he was coming, so I tried to get it off quickly and I was lucky to get it by him.”

“That was a great finish,” Diaz said.

Portland immediately pressed for the equalizer, as after senior Manny Yugu’s cross deflected to sophomore Than Tiparos in the box, Tiparos’ shot was denied by Pratt.

Bulldogs freshman Gracien Mukwa then shot wide, sophomore Alex Millones had a shot saved, Yugu set up senior Quinn Clarke for a shot which Pratt saved, a header by senior Daniel Hanley off a throw from junior Pedro Fonseca was saved and a Tiparos free kick from just outside the box sailed high.

Portland got one final chance with 1:02 on the clock, but a solidly struck ball off the foot of junior Samuel Nkurunziza was cradled by Pratt and Scarborough was able to slam the door on its 1-0 victory.

“Coach gave us a great game plan,” Pratt said. “We focused on marking, playing great D and if we did, we knew the offense would come. The defense played a great game. They didn’t give them any clean shots, so I was prepared for everything. We knew this was a big game. We used that and it being Senior Night to focus.” 

“We were on defense a lot,” Manfra said. “It was really stressful, but those boys did a great job keeping (the ball) out. We played scared in our losses, but we pieced it together really well in this one.”

“We defended really well,” Diaz added. “We needed to do better at that.”

Portland got five saves from Daligan and finished with a 7-6 edge in shots on frame and a 4-3 advantage in corner kicks, but has now scored a total of just one goal in its last three outings.

“I feel bad for the kids,” Bulldogs coach Rocco Frenzilli said. “We just can’t put one in. We’re working hard, but we don’t have anything to show for it. It’s frustrating, but credit to Scarborough. They got their chance and they put it away. We had ours and the ball went over, under and around, but never in. It was a great, well-played game at both ends. I thought they found feet more than we did. They caught us on a counter.”

Pratt made seven saves to help the Red Storm secure the win.

“Morgan played very well,” Diaz said. “He had his moment.”

One more

Portland (now fourth in the Class A South Heal Points standings) closes at home against Thornton Academy Monday.

“We’ve got TA, then we’ll look forward to the playoffs and see how it shakes out,” Frenzilli said. “Any of the teams are good enough to beat anyone. There has to be some luck involved. I hope the ball will bounce our way.”

Scarborough (which moved up to sixth in Class A South) travels to Sanford for its finale Tuesday.

“We’re amped,” Manfra said. “We have to move the ball well. We have to play soccer the way we know we can play soccer.”

“Especially after tonight, we know we can beat anyone,” Pratt said. “If we play D, our offense is as good as anyone and we’ll be fine.”

“Hopefully, we’ll grow from this,” Diaz added. “We still have a ways to go. There are so many great teams this year. The guys don’t care where we finish. We just have to beat good teams. It will be one crazy ride in the playoffs.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Portland freshman Gracien Mukwa and Scarborough junior Connor LaBonte fight for possession.

Portland sophomore Alex Millones and Scarborough senior Brandon Wasser meet in the air.

Portland senior Quinn Clarke tries to keep the ball away from Scarborough senior Marco Manfra.

Scarborough senior Brandon Wasser races past Portland senior Daniel Hanley.

Scarborough junior Connor LaBonte heads the ball away from Portland junior Samuel Nkurunziza.

Portland junior Berrick Bobe and Scarborough senior Alex Dobecki fight for a header.

Portland junior Tyler Lemay takes one on the chin as Scarborough junior Noah Drapeau defends.

Previous Scarborough-Portland meetings

@ Portland 2 Scarborough 1

@ Scarborough 1 Portland 1 (tie)

Scarborough 1 @ Portland 0 

Portland 1 @ Scarborough 0
Western A Final
@ Scarborough 4 Portland 0 

Scarborough 6 @ Portland 1
Western A quarterfinals
@ Scarborough 3 Portland 0 

@ Scarborough 0 Portland 0 (tie) 

Scarborough 3 @ Portland 1 

@ Scarborough 3 Portland 0
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 7 Portland 2 

Scarborough 5 @ Portland 2 

@ Scarborough 5 Portland 0 

Scarborough 4 @ Portland 0 

@ Scarborough 3 Portland 0 

Scarborough 5 @ Portland 2 

Portland 3 @ Scarborough 1
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 3 Portland 2 (3 OT) 

Western A prelim
@ Portland 2 Scarborough 0 

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