BOX SCORE

South Portland 9 Falmouth 5

SP- 1 4 2 2- 9
F- 1 1 3 0- 5

First quarter
:58 F Barnard (unassisted)
:08 SP Dreifus (B. Mehlhorn)

Second quarter
11;25 SP L. Mehlhorn (Demers)
9:43 SP Demers (Adams)
9:03 SP Demers (L. Mehlhorn) (MAN-UP)
8:10 SP Dreifus (B. Mehlhorn)
7:26 F Boothby (Drum)

Third quarter
11:27 F Drum (unassisted)
8:16 SP Dreifus (B. Mehlhorn)
8:36 F J. Guerrette (unassisted)
4:55 F Drum (unassisted)
3:35 SP Adams (B. Mehlhorn) (MAN-UP)

Fourth quarter
3:30 SP B. Mehlhorn (unassisted)
53.7 SP Adams (unassisted)

Goals:
SP- Dreifus 3, Adams, Demers 2, B. Mehlhorn, L. Mehlhorn 1
F- Drum 2, Barnard, Boothby, J. Guerrette 1

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Assists:
SP- B. Mehlhorn 4, Adams, Demers, L. Mehlhorn 1
F- Drum 1

Faceoffs:
SP- 12
F- 5

Shots:
SP- 25
F- 32

Shots on cage:
SP- 17
F- 17

Saves:
SP (Kieu) 12
F (Noyes) 8

FALMOUTH—Maybe you can go home again.

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And be triumphant in the process.

Saturday afternoon, Dan Hanley brought his South Portland Red Riots to Falmouth High’s turf field and over the course of 48 minutes, his team continued to evolve into a powerhouse, doing what it took to win its biggest road game of the season.

Offense was at a premium in the first period, as the Navigators got a late goal from sophomore Caden Barnard and junior Jack Dreifus answered for the Red Riots to make it 1-1.

South Portland then seemingly took control in the second quarter, as junior Lucas Mehlhorn put his team ahead to stay, junior Brady Demers added a pair of goals and Dreifus struck again and while sophomore Cyrus Boothby answered for Falmouth, the Red Riots held a 5-2 advantage at the half.

The Navigators battled back in the third period, as senior Robby Drum struck early and after Dreifus answered, freshman Joey Guerrette and Drum scored to cut the deficit to one, but late in the frame, senior Cullen Adams scored man-up to allow South Portland to take a 7-5 lead to the fourth quarter.

There, freshman Beckett Mehlhorn and Adams scored to put it away and the Red Riots went on to a 9-5 victory.

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South Portland continued its resurgence, improved to 7-1 and in the process, dropped the Navigators to 4-3, as Hanley, a one-time Falmouth star player, beat his former team for the first time.

“It’s definitely emotional for me,” said Hanley, FHS Class of 2010. “The Falmouth program was an important part of my life. I have a lot of memories here. (Falmouth coach) Dave (Barton) is a friend and a great coach and he’s done a nice job and we knew they’d be prepared for us and they were. We knew this would be a battle.”

Coming home

South Portland got off to a fast start this spring with a 16-3 home win over Bonny Eagle and a huge 11-10 overtime victory over visiting Thornton Academy. After falling at Scarborough (9-6), the Red Riots rolled over host Deering (18-3), visiting Waynflete (13-1), visiting Massabesic (24-1) and host Windham (15-5).

Falmouth, meanwhile, started with a 16-2 victory at Kennebunk and after losing at home to Thornton Academy (4-1), the Navigators held off host Gorham, 9-6. After falling just short in a bid to upset visiting, reigning Class A champion Cape Elizabeth (11-10), Falmouth edged visiting Windham in overtime (7-6) and rolled at Portland (13-2).

Last year, Falmouth won both meetings, 14-2 at home and 9-6 in South Portland.

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Saturday, on a scorching 87-degree afternoon, the Navigators looked to do it again, but instead, the Red Riots beat Falmouth for the first time since 2019 (13-9).

With Falmouth junior Luke Crowder (28) and South Portland senior Cullen Adams (10) racing in, Navigators freshman Gio Guerrette and Red Riots senior Brady Frank fight for possession on a faceoff during South Portland’s 9-5 win Saturday. Hoffer photos.

The first quarter was frustrating for both sides, as the game remained scoreless for 11 minutes and 2 seconds before the Navigators finally got the jump, when Barnard scored unassisted.

With just 8 seconds on the clock, South Portland drew even, as Beckett Mehlhorn set up Dreifus for a shot which Falmouth senior goalie Drew Noyes couldn’t stop.

That goal energized the Red Riots, who scored four times in succession in the second period to open up a lead.

Just 35 seconds into the quarter, Beckett Mehlhorn found Lucas Mehlhorn in front for a goal and a 2-1 advantage.

With 9;43 left in the half, Demers scored for the first time, as Adams set him up in transition.

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South Portland then went man-up and with 9:03 on the clock, Demers took a pass from Lucas Mehlhorn and finished.

The next goal took just 53 seconds and it would be Dreifus doing the honors, taking a feed from Beckett Mehlhorn and finishing to make it 5-1.

The Navigators would settle down and with 7:26 to go, Drum set up Boothby for a shot Red Riots junior goalie Ben Kieu couldn’t stop to snap the run.

Falmouth possessed the ball for the majority of the remainder of the half, but Kieu saved a pair of shots from Boothby, sophomore Cole Allan hit the crossbar, then Kieu robbed senior Xavier Grenier to keep the score 5-2 at the break.

The Navigators had a 16-11 shots advantage in the first 24 minutes, but Kieu’s seven saves kept South Portland in the lead.

Falmouth senior Xavier Grenier races into the offensive zone as South Portland senior Brady Frank defends.

Falmouth then closed the gap in the third quarter, but never could quite catch up.

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Just 33 seconds in, Kieu denied Boothby, but Drum snared the rebound and finished to cut the deficit to two.

After Noyes robbed Lucas Mehlhorn at one end, Kieu turned aside from Drum at the other.

Then, with 8:16 to go, Beckett Mehlhorn threw a high pass in front to Dreifus, who somehow came down with the ball and fired it past Noyes to make it 6-3.

The Navigators then scored twice in a 41-second span to make things very interesting.

With 5:36 on the clock, Guerrette scored unassisted after faking two defenders out of their cleats with a dazzling spin move.

Then, with 4:55 left, Drum scored unassisted and just like that, the score was 6-5.

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But that would be it for Falmouth’s offense on the day.

After Noyes robbed Demers, South Portland went two men up after a pair of Navigators penalties and with 3:35 remaining in the quarter, Beckett Mehlhorn got the ball to Adams, who whipped a shot past Noyes for a little breathing room.

“We work on man-up a lot in practice,” said Adams. “We have a good defense pushing us in practice, so when we get in a game, it’s even a little easier for us.”

“Our man-up didn’t click a ton at the beginning of the year, but we’ve gotten better,” Hanley said. “We took advantage of opportunities and we buried them when we needed to.”

“The Navigators came out strong in the fourth period, but Guerrette hit the post and in a bang-bang sequence, Kieu denied Drum, then robbed Boothby on the rebound.

“I just trust my instincts and trust my stick,” Kieu said. “Whatever goes in I put past me and I try to move on. One goal won’t do anything. We have a really solid team. I trust my defense and I trust my offense and we can get back whatever we give up.”

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When the Red Riots got the ball, they were able to milk some time off the clock and after again going man-up, they got an insurance goal with 3:30 showing, as Beckett Mehlhorn dodged a defender and finished to make it 8-5.

Falmouth had one final chance to get back in it, but with 1:28 left, senior Rory Skillin-Lanou’s shot was saved by Kieu and after setting up back in the offensive zone, South Portland iced it with 53.7 seconds remaining, as Adams fired into an opening net.

The Red Riots ran out the clock from there and celebrated their 9-5 victory.

South Portland rushes junior goalie Ben Kieu at the conclusion of Saturday’s victory.

“I definitely expected this,” Kieu said. “We were a young team last year and we had a bunch of injuries.”

“It’s a huge win,” Adams said. “I think it shows a lot. I’d say this game and our TA win are two strong wins we can carry forward the rest of the year. I don’t know how many teams can say they beat both. We lost to (Falmouth) twice last year and kind of got embarrassed. We’re trying to prove something this year and I think we’re doing it so far. Coach said there’s no other team he’d rather beat. We all wanted to beat Falmouth. They’re one of the best teams.”

“They know us well and we knew they’d make adjustments,” Hanley added. “We didn’t always handle their pressure well. When we made mistakes, we had a short memory, adjusted and came back and made the next play.

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“I knew we had potential to be a top team this year. We had a lot of depth coming back and some great additions. We knew we had talent. We have a nice core group that was battle tested after a tough season last year.”

Dreifus had a game-high three goals, while Adams and Demers had two apiece and both Mehlhorn brothers, Beckett and Lucas, tickled the twine once.

Beckett Mehlhorn had four assists, while Adams, Demers and Lucas Mehlhorn added one apiece.

Kieu came up huge with a dozen saves.

“I think Ben is one of, if not the best goalie in the state,” Hanley said. “Every day in practice, he makes us better shooters and makes our offense better. He was fantastic today and he totally kept us in the game. I’m really proud of our defense too. The whole six-man unit really dug deep.”

The Red Riots won 12 of 17 faceoffs.

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For Falmouth, Drum had two goals and Barnard, Boothby and Guerrette added one apiece.

Drum had the lone assist.

Noyes made eight saves.

The Navigators had a 32-25 shots advantage, but couldn’t put the ball in the net enough to emerge victorious.

“Penalties killed us today,” said Barton. “Credit to (the Red Riots), they played well. We didn’t play very complimentary. We played great defense, then turned the ball over. We got it back, then turned it over again. We had looks, but credit to Ben. He stood on his head and made some big saves in tight. When you have a guy with a presence in cage, you grip your stick a little tighter.

“Dan’s awesome. They’ve come a long way. You could look at last year’s record and it didn’t tell the story. I’m happy for him, but I would have liked to win.”

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Not finished

Falmouth visits Marshwood Tuesday.

“It goes quick,” Barton said. “We’re not where we want to be, but it’s a process. No question, this is a group that works its tails off. We’re not far off.”

South Portland is back in action Wednesday at home versus Portland.

“We just need to keep going and get better and better every day,” said Kieu.

“We know we’re still a little young, but we’re ready to go,” Adams said. “We need to sharpen our mental game.”

“I feel like we’re right up there,” Hanley added. “We have to continue to make progress to compete with the top teams.”

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

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