SCARBOROUGH—With just under 15 minutes to play in Saturday morning’s contest, longtime Scarborough boys’ soccer coach Mark Diaz moved his junior standout Zander Haskell from the midfield up top.

That’s because the Red Storm’s game versus South Portland at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex was scoreless and Diaz wanted some offense.

Lo and behold, just moments later, Haskell made Diaz look like a genius, as he took advantage of an errant clear to score the game’s lone goal and once again Scarborough prevailed over its neighbor in a hard-fought, entertaining contest.

Haskell’s goal, combined with a stellar defensive effort, led the Red Storm to a 1-0 victory and improved their record to 5-0, dropping the valiant Red Riots to 3-2 in the process.

“It took awhile, but I was confident we’d score,” Haskell said. “I play the same no matter the position. We’re not just good because of our skill, but we work hard too.”

Dominance

Scarborough entered play having won 19 of the previous 20 meetings (see below for previous results) and the teams tied the other, 2-2, Sept. 1, 2012, in South Portland.

Last year, the Red Storm won, 4-0, at the Red Riots and 3-0 at home.

So far this season, both teams have impressed.

South Portland opened with a head-turning 2-0 victory at Cheverus. After a 3-0 home loss to Windham, the Red Riots defeated host Thornton Academy (4-0) and visiting Sanford (6-1).

Scarborough, a perennial championship contender, started by blanking visiting Deering (2-0). The Red Storm then won at Biddeford (11-1), at home over Thornton Academy (2-0) and at Westbrook (9-0).

Saturday, on a day which began overcast and 66 degrees and wound up scorchingly sunny and in the 70s, South Portland had its opportunities to final solve its nemesis, but in the end, fell just short.

Scarborough had the first scoring chance, earning a corner kick in the fifth minute, but the Red Riots’ defense cleared the ball out to senior Nicholas Connolly, who launched a 40-yard rising shot which South Portland junior goalkeeper Thomas Caouette saved.

In the sixth minute, the Red Riots hoped to get the jump, as standout senior midfielder Joey Perron eluded a defender before shooting a low, left-footed shot which Red Storm junior goalkeeper Nicholas Ouellette had to go to his knees to snare.

Two minutes later, South Portland’s dangerous junior striker Divin Mpinga hoped to get free, but Scarborough junior Ashton Blanchette broke up the play.

After Haskell had a shot saved by Caouette at one end, Mpinga sent a deflected shot on target at the other only to see Ouellette make the stop.

After Caouette denied Haskell, Mpinga got a little room and he fired a promising shot which rolled just wide.

With 12:51 to go before halftime, sophomore Kilson Joao (remember that name) forced Caouette to leap to make the save and on the play Caouette stepped out, giving the hosts a corner kick, which didn’t result in a shot.

Mpinga then twice tried to break free, but his first attempt was broken up by junior Noah Flagg and the second by junior Jack Moreau.

With 7:17 left, Haskell missed just high off a corner kick.

Then, a minute later, at the other end, Perron fired a 30-yard blast which forced Ouellette to dive to deny and the game went to the break scoreless.

Scarborough had a 6-3 advantage in shots in the first 40 minutes and took four corner kicks to none for the Red Riots, but couldn’t break through.

After Mpinga missed just wide 75 seconds into the second half, the Red Storm began to tilt the field.

After Caouette punched away a header by Joao, Caouette saved a long free kick from Connolly but was shaken up on the play and had to leave the game momentarily.

With 23:35 to go, Scarborough got a great opportunity after a foul just outside the box and Haskell took the free kick. His bid was blocked, but rolled out for a corner, which was cleared.

With 18:41 remaining, Caouette, who had returned moments earlier, made his most impressive save, robbing Moreau at the far post after a beautiful feed from Blanchette.

Four minutes later, Haskell moved up top.

After Caouette denied senior Evan Kelleher, Haskell and junior Dillon Wilkinson, South Portland went back on the attack, but a long free kick from senior Jack Houle was punched out and the Red Storm transitioned back to offense.

And this time, they found the mark.

With 8:43 to play, after making a run down the right side, Joao crossed the ball into the box where a Red Riots defender tried to clear it, but couldn’t do so and the ball fell at the feet of Haskell and no one is more dangerous when granted a gift like that.

Haskell then fired a shot past Caouette and Scarborough finally had the lead.

“The ball just bounced off someone and I was there to finish it,” Haskell said. “I was obviously trying to get the ball as far away from the goalie as possible.”

“We talked about moving him up, but we had some guys who were hurt in the middle, so we were a little thin there today and I kept Zander there as much as I could,” Diaz said. “I moved (senior) Dylan Labonte (to midfield). He mostly plays back and he really helped us out and gave us some stability and that’s when we decided to move Zander up. That was a big bounce for us. I’m happy for that.”

South Portland coach Bryan Hoy could only shake his head, as he’s seen this movie before.

“That’s what happens every time we play (Scarborough),” Hoy lamented. “It’s the same song, when you make a mistake, they score. They capitalize on every mistake because that’s how good they are. I think (the defender) just mis-hit it. It was a bouncing ball, up around his waist and that’s a tough ball to get out anyway. He was trying to get a one-time clear and couldn’t get all of it. There was nothing anyone could do about it at that point.”

The Red Riots could have buckled, but instead, fought hard to the end and even had some chances.

With 7:46 left, Perron got the ball in the box and turned and shot, but it was blocked.

With 3:18 on the clock, Mpinga tried a 35-yard prayer, but it went wide.

Finally, with 27 seconds showing, Perron took a 40-yard shot which went just wide and the Red Storm were able to run out the clock and celebrate their 1-0 victory.

“South Portland’s a good team,” Diaz said. “We thought we’d do a little better offensively, but a lot of that was (South Portland) playing well.”

Scarborough finished with a 13-4 shots advantage and got four saves from Ouellette. The Red Storm took eight corner kicks to the Red Riots’ one.

Most importantly, Scarborough’s defense was superb.

“We take a lot of pride in our defensive unit,” Flagg said. “We’re tight. We work together really hard. Our chemistry in the back is really good. If one steps, the other drops. We work around each other, so if there’s a through ball and I’m up, someone else will drop back and get it.”

“(Mpinga’s) good, but our mids can lock him down,” said Connolly. “Our mids are defensive forces. It’s all about heart and putting everything into it. Zander’s the best striker in the state and it was all about locking it down for him.”

“Our defense sets the tone for everything,” said Haskell. “We work hard off of them.”

“(Mpinga’s) very dangerous, but I thought Flagg and Connolly and (junior) Parker (Killiard) and (senior Reid) Deniso did really well on him. I’m really happy with my backs. They cleaned stuff up and made good plays.”

Caouette made 12 saves for South Portland.

“We got a couple good looks,” said Hoy. “We’re still working out some kinks up top and getting pressure up there. We’ll probably see (Scarborough) again this year at some point. We’re not at a point in a our program where this is a confidence boost anymore. We expect to beat these teams.”

Portland week

Each squad will meet Portland next week.

South Portland first hosts Noble Tuesday, then goes to the Bulldogs Friday.

“It never gets easier in this conference,” Hoy said. “There are about 10 teams who could win it. I think we’re one of them. The tournament will be very really fun to watch. I think we learn from every game.”

Scarborough, meanwhile, welcomes Portland Wednesday, then plays at Sanford Friday.

“We’re working hard, hoping to win more games,” Haskell said. “I think we just have to keep doing the little things. I’m confident it will all come together. We want to win it badly this year. We got cut off last year, but I think we have a good shot and we want to take advantage of it.”

“There’s a lot of parity this year,” said Diaz. “It’s a tough league. We want to put our flag in the ground. Portland’s another big one. We have to keep getting better. This was a big step for us.”

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

Previous Scarborough-South Portland results

2020
Scarborough 4 @ South Portland 0
@ Scarborough 3 South Portland 0

2019
Scarborough 2 @ South Portland 0

2016
Scarborough 1 @ South Portland 0
Class A South quarterfinals
@ Scarborough 1 South Portland 0

2015
@ Scarborough 2 South Portland 1

2014
Scarborough 4 @ South Portland 1

2013
@ Scarborough 5 South Portland 0
Western A quarterfinals
@ Scarborough 2 South Portland 0

2012
@ South Portland 2 Scarborough 2 (tie)

2011
@ Scarborough 2 South Portland 0

2010
Scarborough 3 @ South Portland 0

2009
@ Scarborough 4 South Portland 1
Western A quarterfinals
@ Scarborough 4 South Portland 0

2008
Scarborough 2 @ South Portland 0

2007
@ Scarborough 2 South Portland 1

2006
Scarborough 4 @ South Portland 0

2005
@ Scarborough 2 South Portland 0

2004
@ Scarborough 6 South Portland 0

2003
Scarborough 1 @ South Portland 0

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