The kings want their crown back.

By Cape Elizabeth High boys’ lacrosse standards, going three years without a state title appearance – let alone a championship – is an eternity. Never mind that in 2020, there was a pandemic and the season wasn’t even played. It still constitutes a drought for the Capers, and 2021 is the last chance for the current seniors to claim a banner of their own.

“As much as you want to say the goal is to have a good season, it’s really to get that state championship. Our grade hasn’t gotten one yet,” said senior attack Archie McEvoy, a talented playmaker. “You walk in that gym and see all those banners. It’s the expectation in this town. That’s what we want.”

Cape Elizabeth has won 11 state championships since the sport was first sponsored by the Maine Principals’ Association in 1998. If you count the eight straight titles from 1990-97 in the old Maine Interscholastic Lacrosse League – and Cape laxers do count those – it’s a total of 19 state championships in 30 seasons of competition.

“It’s been a pretty dry streak recently for state championships, so there’s a lot of expectation, which kind of brings on the pressure, but it also makes you work hard and play hard. I like it personally,” said senior goalie Charlie Whitney, a first-year starter but four-year varsity player.

The consensus among opposing coaches is that Coach Ben Raymond’s squad is this season’s front-runner. Cape has key returners from the 2019 team, plenty of depth, and talent. In its season opener against York on Monday, the Capers were sluggish in transition and cleaning up ground balls against a physical Wildcats group that kept the score tied, 4-4, late in the second quarter. Then Cape started clicking on offense, Gus Huffard began dominating faceoffs to maintain possession, the defense sharpened, and Whitney played well throughout in an 18-7 win.

“When we move the ball, play our game, don’t listen to anything else, we have a great connection,” said McEvoy.

On Wednesday, Cape beat Greely, 17-2.

“Cape Elizabeth is sitting on top and then the rest of us are going to be playing catch up as the season progresses,” said Thornton Academy Coach Ryan Hersey.

Cape has a cohesiveness born from the program’s long history. “Pride” and “Tradition” as the banner hung at Hannaford Field reads.

“Cape, they have a system that they’ve all been raised up in, a brand of lacrosse that has existed there for decades,” said Berwick Academy Coach Sam Harding, a player at Marshwood from 1997-2000. “There’s a sort of elegance to their game, a composure and experience to their games.”

Junior midfielder Tiernan Lathrop said Pride and Tradition are more than a slogan. There is a connection to past teams, like the recent squads featuring standout players such as the Thoreck brothers, Ben Ekedahl and Raymond’s son, Finn, that won four titles in five seasons (2013-15, 2017).

“It’s definitely a motivation. When the Thorecks were here, they were winning championships year after year. We just want to uphold their standards,” Lathrop said.

Lathrop, the third of four lacrosse playing brothers, said the concept of Cape lacrosse is promoted in a time-honored and old-school method of program building. On weekends, the high school players coach the kids in the town’s youth lacrosse program.

“So you see all these big kids playing lax and you’re like, ‘I want to be them. I want to be where they are.’ You start there and work your way up,” Lathrop said.

If Cape Elizabeth does win it all this year, it will be its first championship since opting to petition to play in Class A when the MPA went to a three-class system after the 2017 season. Cape, with an enrollment just north of 500 students, is a Class C sized school. In the Capers’ first two seasons in Class A, they ran up against deep and talented Thornton Academy (over 1,450 students) in the South final. Thornton won 15-6 in 2018 and 8-5 at Cape Elizabeth in 2019. Thornton beat Falmouth in the state final both seasons.

As the coach, Raymond does not shy away from the championship goal, though he approaches it from a slightly different perspective.

“Every year, our goal is to win our last game of the year,” Raymond said. “I mean, if we win our last game of the year, it’s probably going to be the state final if we’ve done things fairly well during the season.”

Following Cape’s season-opening win, Raymond saw plenty of things to improve upon, with numerous examples that will be revealed in game video.

“It’s not like the old days where they’d say, ‘Oh, I didn’t do that,'” Raymond said with a chuckle. “Now I can pull up everybody’s turnovers and show it to them.”

Being able to address areas for improvement helps Raymond keep his team focused, he said, and makes it a bit easier to strike the sometimes difficult balance of pursuing excellence without becoming overly fixated on championships.

“The good thing is that all the kids really, really, really enjoy playing lacrosse and they want to get better,” Raymond said. “They may say out loud that their goal is to win a state championship, but most of their goals are to get better.”

UPDATE: This story was corrected on April 23 at 4:05 p.m. to show that Cape Elizabeth won eight state championships prior to boys’ lacrosse becoming an official Maine Principals’ Association sport.

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