OAKLAND For the Messalonskee boys lacrosse team, the state championship game is still a bridge too far.

Wednesday night marked the fifth time since 2010 that the Eagles were within one win of playing for a state title. Just as on the previous four occasions, Messalonskee fell to a heartbreaking defeat, this time in the form of a 14-11 loss to Brunswick.

“It’s one of those things where we’re trying to figure out as a program what we’re going to do,” said Messalonskee head coach Tom Sheridan. “We’ve lost in this round so many times, We’re on the cusp, we’ve been the No. 1 seed two years in a row now, but it just hasn’t happened yet.”

Messalonskee was competitive for much of the game in this midweek Class B semifinal, which it led midway through the second quarter and had tied late in the third. Yet Brunswick pulled away late to book its 10th straight final berth and deny the Eagles their elusive first.

Messalonskee (13-2) scored first on a shot from Walter Fegel just 1 minute, 19 seconds in and then responded to a Thomas Labbe goal with a score from Brady Brunelle midway through the opening period. Brunswick then scored the next three with Labbe making it a hat trick and Zach Stern-Hayes scoring his first of the game.

Messalonskee, though, would score three straight of their own with another goal from Brunelle and scores from Brady Doucette and Rhys Bridges. Yet Brunswick knotted it at 5 on Stern-Hayes’ second before Nick Marro scored with 57 seconds left in the half to give the fourth-ranked Dragons (11-4) a 6-5 lead at the break.


Messalonskee’s Brady Brunelle (1) scores on Brunswick goalie Jake Reeves in the Class B North boys lacrosse semifinals Wednesday in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“We have a lot of heart, so whenever they scored or would go up we just kept playing our game and kept our heads in it,” Stern-Hayes said. “We have a lot more grit than we did earlier in the season, and instead of getting down, we just all picked each other up.”

Bridges tied the game at 6 with a goal at 1:32 in the second half before Brunswick scored at 3:52 and 4:25 to take a two-score lead. Yet after Messalonskee scored at 9:02, the Eagles added another just seven seconds later to tie it back up at 8.

Brunswick, though, responded with a 5-1 run to take a 13-9 lead with just over two minutes to play. Messalonskee got a pair of goals from Fegel, but it was far from enough to stop the Dragons from booking yet another place in a state championship game.

“I think we maybe took a couple penalties there that made it a lot easier for them in that situation, and we also made some poor choices with the ball,” Sheridan said. “There were one or two ground balls that we didn’t get, and that’s what happens sometimes. They made the plays in certain situations, and we didn’t.”

Labbe and Stern-Hayes finished with four goals each for Brunswick, which also got two goals each from Marro, Albert Putnam and Max Rudgers. Messalonskee got three goals apiece from Bridges and Fegel, two each from Brunelle and Bryce Crowell and one from Doucette.

Brunswick had lost 12-9 to Messalonskee when the teams first met in Oakland back on May 20. Yet the Dragons, head coach Jason Miller said, were a changed team from that meeting after making a few tweaks that had led the team to five wins in its past six games.


Brunswick celebrates a first quarter goal against Messalonskee in the Class B North boys lacrosse semifinals Wednesday in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“We flipped the offense on its head and put in a whole new scheme, and mentally, we’re coming in from a much different place,” Miller said. “We have a lot of good players, and we decided to let our horses run. Our guys are great at what they do, and we’ve allowed them to do it.”

The loss saw Messalonskee drop to 0-5 in regional finals and state semifinals. The Eagles lost Class A regional championship games in 2010, 2014 and 2015 and lost their respective 2018 and 2021 Class B semifinal games against Greely and Marshwood.

The defeat also meant the end of the line for seven Messalonskee seniors, including Bridges, an elite goal-scorer, Doucette, one of the region’s top defenders, and goaltender Ian McCurdy. Those players, Sheridan said, took it upon themselves to bring the program back to the forefront of Class B lacrosse after going 3-9 as freshmen back in 2019.

“They were part of a team that had a very un-Messalonskee-like record that year, and then they lost the next year to COVID and had to come back as juniors last year,” Sheridan said. “They put a lot of hard work and passion into what they do, and they didn’t want it to be over.”

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