CAPE ELIZABETH — Nothing has come easily this spring for Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ lacrosse team, so the Capers weren’t exactly fazed when they fell behind by a goal in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s showdown against South Portland at Hannaford Field.

Instead, they hung tough, rallied and continued their midseason surge with a critical 10-8 victory that suddenly has the defending Class B state champions very much in the Class A South hunt.

After Red Riots standout Cooper Mehlhorn scored his fourth goal 25 seconds into the fourth for an 8-7 lead, Cape Elizabeth’s defense rose up and held South Portland scoreless the rest of the way. Goals from Archie McEvoy, Sam Dresser and Ben Carroll helped the Capers (6-3) win their fourth game in a row.

“The kids played a great second half,” said Cape Elizabeth Coach Ben Raymond. “They really turned it up. They did a great job on ground balls and defensively, we played well enough.”

The Capers took a 1-0 lead on a goal from Killian Lathrop, but six saves from South Portland goalie Quinn Watson held them in check the rest of the first quarter. With 37 seconds left, Aidan Schifano tied it for the Red Riots.

Cape Elizabeth bolted ahead with four consecutive goals (Phil Tarling, Finn Raymond, Carroll and Dresser) midway through the second quarter. But late in the half, goals from Jack Tierney, Mehlhorn and Alex Stevens pulled South Portland within one, 5-4, at the break.

The Red Riots then had a rare six-on-three opportunity to start the third quarter and immediately tied the score as Tierney beat Capers goalie Jack Dresser, but Tarling and Lathrop answered for Cape Elizabeth.

Again, South Portland rallied as Mehlhorn scored twice to make it 7-7 heading into the fourth quarter.

Mehlhorn then gave the Red Riots a lead, but with 10:20 remaining, McEvoy came up with a contested ground ball before beating Watson to give the Capers momentum.

Sam Dresser scored the go-ahead goal, man-up, with 9:16 left, and Carroll provided some insurance with 6:43 to play.

“We lost a lot of key players from last year and we’ve moved up a bracket, so it’s tough being inexperienced trying to play like we did last year,” Caroll said. “Tough games ultimately have made our team better.”

Cape Elizabeth’s defense did the rest, forcing eight South Portland turnovers in the final quarter.

“The whole season, Coach has told us to settle down and value our possessions and that’s what we did in the fourth quarter,” said Carroll. “Our defense played really well. Cooper’s outstanding, but they did a great job marking him.”

Carroll, Sam Dresser, Lathrop and Tarling all scored twice and McEvoy and Finn Raymond each added a goal. Jacob Brydson had three assists and Jack Dresser made seven saves.

South Portland (5-3) was paced by Mehlhorn, who had four goals and three assists. Tierney added two goals and Schifano and Stevens each finished with one. Watson made 11 saves.

“Cape’s a great team, always has been, always will be, but at the end of the day, we have three losses and we’ve beaten ourselves in all three,” said Red Riots Coach Tom Fiorini. “We just aren’t taking care of the ball.”