South Portland junior goalie Quinn Watson faces a shot from Thornton Academy junior Thomas Levasseur during the Golden Trojans’ 14-4 victory Wednesday night.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.


Thornton Academy 14 South Portland 4

TA- 4 4 2 4- 14
SP- 1 3 0 0- 4

First quarter
7:36 TA Levasseur (Tu. Weeks)
6:54 TA Edborg (unassisted)
4:35 SP Fiorini (Mehlhorn)
2:42 TA LeBlanc (unassisted)
2:09 TA Levasseur (Labreck)

Second quarter
9:09 SP Schifano (Fiorini)
8:01 TA Ta. Weeks (Edborg)
7:01 TA Edborg (Levasseur)
5:54 SP Tierney (unassisted)
3:25 SP Mehlhorn (unassisted)
3:04 TA Labreck (unassisted)
1:19 TA Edborg (unassisted)

Third quarter 
11:06 TA Edborg (unassisted)
2:56 TA Varle (Labreck)

Fourth quarter
3:11 TA Webb (Edborg)
1:34 TA Labreck (unassisted)
45.6 TA Webb (Edborg)
15.3 TA Edborg (Labreck)

TA- Edborg 5, Labreck, Levasseur, Webb 2, LeBlanc, Varle, Ta. Weeks 1
SP- Fiorini, Mehlhorn, Schifano, Tierney 1

TA- Edborg, Labreck 3, Levasseur, Tu. Weeks 1
SP- Fiorini, Mehlhorn 1

Faceoffs (South Portland, 12-10)
TA- S. Edborg 8 of 19, Pelletier 2 of 3
SP- Doan 12 of 22

Ground balls:
TA- 36
SP- 48

TA- 23
SP- 32

TA- 42
SP- 27

Shots on cage
TA- 25
SP- 14

TA (Patry) 11
SP (Watson) 14

SOUTH PORTLAND—To beat a team with a perfect record, you have to play pretty close to perfect.

South Portland’s boys’ lacrosse team was anything but perfect Wednesday evening at Martin Memorial Field and as a result, visiting Thornton Academy remains undefeated and the Red Riots are left searching for answers.

That’s because, in a possible playoff preview, in a contest with huge Heal Points at stake, South Portland never led and went down to defeat for the fourth time in five outings.

Midway through the first period, the Golden Trojans took a 2-0 lead on goals from junior Thomas Levasseur and senior Noah Edborg.

The Red Riots got on the board with 4:35 left in the opening stanza, when junior David Fiorini scored, but senior Wyatt LeBlanc and Levasseur answered for the visitors to make it 4-1 after 12 minutes.

South Portland got the first goal of the second quarter, as senior Aidan Schifano scored, but sophomore Tanner Weeks and Edborg answered to push the lead to four.

The Red Riots then got unassisted tallies from senior Jack Tierney and junior Cooper Mehlhorn to pull within 6-4 with 3:25 to play before halftime, but that would be the last goal the hosts would muster.

By halftime, Thornton Academy had extended its advantage back to four, as C.J. Labreck and Edborg beat South Portland junior goalie Quinn Watson.

Edborg then scored early in the third quarter and late in the frame, senior Nathan Varle found the net for a 10-4 lead.

Down the stretch, the Golden Trojans got two goals from senior Jack Webb, another from Labreck and Edborg’s fifth as they went on to a decisive 14-4 victory.

Seven different players scored as Thornton Academy stayed unbeaten in nine games and dropped the Red Riots to 5-4 in the process.

“This one was particularly frustrating,” said South Portland coach Tom Fiorini. “We just didn’t play well at all.”

Collision course

The teams have seen a lot of each other the past few seasons, as they have been in contention for the top spot in Class A South.

Entering play Wednesday, Thornton Academy was first in the region, while South Portland was third behind Cape Elizabeth.

The Red Riots defeated host Deering (14-10) and Cheverus (14-12), then edged visiting Brunswick, the defending Class A champion, in an overtime thriller, 10-9, before dominating visiting Scarborough, 15-3. South Portland’s first loss came at Yarmouth, 8-7.  After falling at Falmouth (13-4), the Red Riots bounced back with a 14-4 home win over Kennebunk. Friday, South Portland fought hard, but lost, 10-8, at Cape Elizabeth.

Thornton Academy, a regional finalist three of the past four seasons, had passed every test to date this spring. The Golden Trojans started with home wins over Gorham (16-7) and Deering (12-5), then downed visiting Cape Elizabeth in double-overtime (11-10) for their first signature victory. After beating visiting Massabesic (17-5), Thornton Academy won at Scarborough, 17-7, in a regional final rematch, then downed host Lewiston (15-9), visiting Kennebunk (18-2) and host Cheverus (20-4). 

Entering play Wednesday, since the start of the 2002 season, South Portland held an 12-8 lead in the series, including a 5-1 all-time mark in the postseason, but last year, the Golden Trojans took both meetings, 15-9 in Saco in the regular season and 13-10 in Saco in the Class A South semifinals.

Wednesday, on a warm evening (70 degrees at opening faceoff), Thornton Academy produced another impressive statement.

The Red Riots couldn’t hold on to the ball in the first period, turning it over 10 times, and the Golden Trojans took advantage to go on top to stay.

With 7:36 left in the frame, Levasseur scored for the first time, finishing a feed from senior Tucker Weeks.

Forty-two seconds later, Edborg got on the board for the first time, scoring unassisted to make it 2-0.

South Portland answered with 4:35 left, as Mehlhorn passed to Fiorini for a shot which eluded Thornton Academy junior goalie Ean Patry.

Late in the first, in a 37-second span, LeBlanc scored an unassisted goal and Labreck set up Levasseur for a goal in transition, making it 4-1.

The Red Riots pulled within two with 9:09 remaining in the first half, as Tierney won a ground ball, got it to Fiorini and Fiorini set up Schifano, who finished after a spin move.

With 8:01 left in the half, Edborg set up Tanner Weeks for a goal and after a South Portland timeout went for naught, Levasseur set up Edborg for a 6-2 lead.

With 5:54 on the clock, Tierney bulled his way in and finished unassisted and with 3;25 to go, Mehlhorn scored an unassisted goal to cut the deficit to two.

That would be the Red Riots’ highwater mark.

Twenty-one seconds later, Labreck scored unassisted and with 1:19 to go before halftime, after a turnover, Edborg scored for an 8-4 advantage, which Thornton Academy would take to the break.

In the first half, South Portland won eight of 14 faceoffs and had an edge in ground balls and shots, but 18 turnovers spelled doom.

The Red Riots wouldn’t score a goal in the second half and the Golden Trojans slowly pulled away.

Just 54 seconds into the third period, Edborg scored unassisted.

Then, with 2:56 on the clock, Labreck passed to Varle for a one-timer that got past Watson to make it 10-4.

That score remained until 3:11 was left, as in transition, Edborg set up Webb, who finished.

With 1:34 on the clock, Labreck scored unassisted.

With 45.6 seconds to go, Edborg set up Webb again and with 15.3 seconds to play, Labreck fed Edborg for a man-up goal to account for the 14-4 final score.

“We played really well,” Edborg said. “The early lead was big. We usually don’t come out fired up. Against a good team like this, we wanted to get ahead early and keep the lead.”

“This was a huge game for both teams, Heal Points-wise,” said Thornton Academy coach Ryan Hersey. “It might have meant the difference in us coming here for playoffs or them coming to us. We needed to make sure we took care of business, so we wouldn’t have to come back and play on grass.”

Edborg paced Thornton Academy with five goals and three assists.

“We kept running plays and I kept shooting,” Edborg said. “I knew the ball would fall eventually.” 

Labreck (three assists), Levasseur and Webb all tickled the twine twice, while LeBlanc, Varle and Tanner Weeks had one goal apiece.

Levasseur and Tucker Weeks each added one assist.

“We keep preaching that there will be nights where teams focus on one guy and we have to be humble enough to get it to other guys,” Hersey said. “We’ve had four or five guys score four or five goals this year. We just get it to the open person.”

Patry made 11 saves and the defense pitched a second half shutout.

“Our defense was really good tonight,” Edborg said. “I don’t like playing against them in practice. We all make each other better.”

“We had a game plan as far as our defense was concerned and I think we executed it very well,” Hersey said. “We wanted to give Cooper a hard time and really extend out and make their middies do the work. We did a great job.”

Edborg had a team-high seven ground balls, while junior Eli Arsenault collected five.

The Golden Trojans enjoyed a 42-27 shots advantage (25-14 on cage) and overcame 23 turnovers.

Searching for answers

South Portland got one goal apiece from Fiorini, Mehlhorn, Schifano and Tierney and assists from Fiorini and Mehlhorn, but didn’t score in the game’s final 27-minutes, 25-seconds. 

Watson made 14 saves.

Junior Josh Doan won 12 of 22 faceoffs and the Red Riots had a 48-36 edge in ground balls (Doan had a game-high eight and Fiorini finished with six), but turned the ball over a whopping 32 times.

“We had a game plan going in to attack the zone more from behind than up front and we just didn’t execute,” Tom Fiorini lamented. “Because we didn’t, that’s why we didn’t put points on the board. And we didn’t shoot well. We keep talking about turnovers and how it kills our team and we had 32 tonight. That’ll do it every time.”

Final week

Thornton Academy (first in Class A South) goes to Biddeford Friday, then has a huge home showdown against Falmouth Tuesday of next week in what could be a state final preview. The Golden Trojans close at Deering June 1.

“We have a lot of seniors who have learned from the past,” Edborg said. “We’ll keep doing what we do. (Falmouth’s) going to be a great game. We’ll have to play really well that game. They have great players. It’ll be tough.”

“We’ve been right there many times and these guys have the experience and they’re hungry to take the next step,” Hersey said. “We’re taking it day by day, but we have a clear vision in mind for the end. We need to be more consistent with passes. We can score in bunches, then we take five or six minutes and throw the ball away. I think we can still do better.” 

South Portland (third in the region) is back in action Friday at home against Gorham. A trip to Scarborough May 30 and a home tilt versus Cheverus June 1 wrap up the regular season.

“I just told the kids, ‘I’m not happy, nor should you be, but this should put a fire underneath you to win the rest of your games and the rest of your playoff games, so we can get another shot at them,'” Tom Fiorini said.

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

South Portland junior Cooper Mehlhorn tries to get past Thornton Academy sophomore Cameron Cote.

South Portland senior Jack Tierney beats Thornton Academy junior goalie Ean Patry for a first half goal.

South Portland sophomore Harrison Mayone scoops up a loose ball.

South Portland sophomore Alex Stevens loses the ball on a hit from Thornton Academy sophomore Julien Bailey-Cottle.

South Portland junior Josh Doan battles Thornton Academy sophomore Samuel Edborg on a faceoff.

South Portland junior David Fiorini knocks the ball away from Thornton Academy junior C.J. Labreck.

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