SACO — Wyatt LeBlanc was bummed at first.

One of the five captains for the Thornton Academy boys’ lacrosse team, LeBlanc knew his club would be returning nearly two dozen veteran players and was primed to finally make it past a Class A South final.

Then the official word came down: Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth, two elite programs in Maine, would be moving into Class A. Cape Elizabeth, which won 11 state titles in 20 years of MPA-sanctioned tournaments, would be in A South. And if you can get by Cape, then expect Falmouth in the state final.

Thanks a lot, reclassification.

“Initially we were like, ‘Oh, geez, well our road just got harder,’ ” LeBlanc said. “But really the theme this season has been embracing it and that we can run with them, and I think that’s what’s really inspired us throughout the year.”

As expected in the preseason, Thornton will face Cape Elizabeth at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the South final. Should the Trojans win, they would advance to the state championship game for the first time.

What has changed since April?

Thornton deserves to be considered the favorite.

Top-seeded Thornton is 13-0. No. 2 Cape Elizabeth is 10-3. It will be the first time the Trojans have hosted a regional final, and they earned that right by beating Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth in the regular season.

Thornton beat Cape 11-10 in double overtime early in the season.

“I think that Cape win, it mentally gave us the confidence that we can hang with these guys, that we belong in this league with them,” said senior Jack Webb, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound attack who scored five goals against South Portland in the regional semifinals Saturday.

Since beating Cape Elizabeth, Thornton has outscored its 10 opponents 162-51, including a convincing 12-5 win against Falmouth.

Thornton has become a team with plenty of scoring balance and no glaring weakness. Senior defender Cam Houde and junior goalie Ean Patry head a strong, fundamentally solid defense.

The midfield has both talent and depth, led by LeBlanc and junior C.J. LaBreck.

Up top, senior captain Noah Edborg is the top scorer with over 100 career goals, junior Thomas Levasseur can shoot (7 goals in a game against Lewiston) and pass (4 assists Saturday), and Webb is a uniquely big matchup problem.

“We don’t have any big gaps,” said Coach Ryan Hersey. “We have five players that have gotten five or more goals in a game this year and the other ones are understanding, hey, if (a defense) is going to put the focus on me, then I’m going to give it to the next guy, which is huge.”

Hersey and his staff also deserve credit for Thornton’s success.

“Our coaches have prepared us each time. They’re great coaches, and they love us and we love them,” said LaBreck.

Hersey recognized early that while the addition of Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth to Class A presented increased challenges, it also had created an opportunity.

In the past, boys’ lacrosse was the rare sport where the best teams annually played in Class B. This year, Class B still has some quality, established programs (Brunswick, Yarmouth), but there’s little doubt the power is in Class A.

“What I told my guys is, I don’t think there’s going to be any argument about who the best team in the state is this year,” Hersey said in April.

Hersey also gave his team a preseason reading assignment. “The Hard Hat: 21 Ways to be a Better Teammate,” is a self-improvement book based on the life and legacy of Mario St. George Boiardi, a Cornell University player who died on the field in 2004.

Thornton also adopted Cornell’s postgame practice of awarding one player with a construction worker’s hard hat to recognize hard work and effort that helped the team.

“The book just talked about 21 ways to be a great teammate and about (Boiardi’s) life and how he carried himself and that’s what the hard hat represents,” LeBlanc said.

“You can see it in a lot of our players. A lot of us have changed our attitude toward the game, and we’ve really focused on being more of a team and I think everyone has really grown from reading that, and just learning from the lessons.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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