BIDDEFORD—The Scarborough and Biddeford field hockey programs have been closely linked for years and have become rivals virtually without separation.

That was on full display Wednesday evening at Waterhouse Field when the undefeated Red Storm and Tigers produced their latest memorable contest, one which, not surprisingly, was decided by a single goal.

Late.

It was clear early that goals would be at a premium and while Scarborough had four first half penalty corners, it couldn’t convert any of them and the game remained scoreless.

Both teams had chances in the third quarter too, but Red Storm junior goalie Jamila Mohamed and Tigers junior goalie Cadence Goulet stood tall to keep the contest even.

There wouldn’t be a goal in the normal run of play all night, but with 9:37 remaining in regulation, Biddeford was awarded a penalty stroke and senior Cece Keller converted to break the ice.

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Scarborough wasn’t able to answer and the Tigers went on to a 1-0 victory.

Biddeford improved to 7-0, earned a measure of revenge for last year’s playoff loss and in the process, dropped the Red Storm to 4-1.

“It wasn’t easy and we knew it wouldn’t be,” said Tigers coach Caitlin Tremberth, a one-time player and assistant coach under longtime Scarborough Kerry Mariello. “It’s good to beat Scarborough. They’re always so good and so disciplined in their position, so they’re tough. Without that stroke, we would have gone to overtime.”

“Anytime you suffer your first loss against a big team, to not pull it out, it stings for sure,” said Mariello, who was denied her 250th career victory.

Eyeing Cheverus

While it wasn’t on hand Wednesday, the specter of defending state champion Cheverus loomed large, as the Stags are clearly the favorite in Class A South and both the Red Storm and Tigers will face them in the next week.

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Scarborough was nearly the team capturing the Class A title a year ago, as the Red Storm gave Cheverus fits in the regional final before going down to a 2-1 defeat. This season, Scarborough is off to its usual fast start, opening with victories at Gorham (2-1, in double-overtime), at home over Massabesic (9-0) and Sanford (8-1) and at South Portland/Westbrook (6-0).

Biddeford won its first six contests, all by shutout, defeating Windham (1-0), Bonny Eagle (6-0), Falmouth (5-0), Kennebunk (5-0), Marshwood (3-0) and Portland/Deering (6-0).

Last year, Scarborough won at Biddeford in the regular season (2-0), then held off the visiting Tigers in the Class A South semifinals, 2-1.

Wednesday, on a comfortable late-September evening (64 degrees at the start), the Red Storm hoped to beat Biddeford for the fourth consecutive time, but instead, it would be the Tigers doing just enough to beat Scarborough for the first time since a 1-0 road victory Sept. 12, 2019.

Scarborough senior Stella Grondin gets past Biddeford senior Kiki Jackson during Wednesday’s showdown. A fourth quarter goal gave the Tigers a 1-0 victory in a battle of undefeated teams. Hoffer photos.

The first quarter featured few chances, just one shot apiece, and two Scarborough penalty corner chances that weren’t capitalized upon.

Early in the second period, freshman Kayla Magnant looked to put Biddeford ahead, but her shot was saved by Mohamed. Mohamed later made a key save while prone on the ground. With 8:03 left before halftime, a promising cross from Keller sat free in front of the Red Storm goal, but the ball was cleared from harm’s way and the teams went to the break with the scoreboard reading, 0-0.

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Chances picked up in the third quarter, but neither team could break through.

Scarborough senior Emily Foshay sends the ball downfield.

A minute into the second half, sophomore Ayla Lagasse’s shot ricocheted off a Scarborough defender and nearly went in, but missed just wide.

With 13:21 remaining, off their first penalty corner, the Tigers nearly struck, as senior Kiki Jackson had a shot saved, then Mohamed went sprawling to deny a great look on the rebound.

At the other end, senior captain Ayden Harris tried to put the Red Storm on top, but her shot from the side was denied by Goulet.

With 6:58 on the clock, Lagasse sent the ball to the back post for Magnant, but it just missed her stick.

Goulet then came up huge with 4:15 remaining, robbing Red Storm senior captain Daisy Stone, who one-timed a cross from junior Emma Lally. After Goulet stopped a shot from Lally, the contest went to the fateful fourth quarter still scoreless.

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Early in the final stanza, Biddeford took a penalty corner, but Lagasse missed just wide.

With 9:55 remaining, the Tigers took another corner and while an initial shot from Jackson was saved and Keller was stopped too, Mohamed went to the ground and in the ensuing scrum, play was stopped and a penalty stroke was awarded to the Tigers.

“I’m not exactly sure what happened,” said Keller. “We packed it in really well and didn’t let the ball get out of the circle.”

“It looked like a scrum,” said Tremberth. “Any time the ball hits a (defender’s) body part and would have been in the goal, it’s a stroke no matter what. I think that’s a fairly new call.”

Biddeford senior Cece Keller sends a penalty stroke past Scarborough junior goalie Jamila Mohamed for the game’s lone goal.

Keller did the honors and she calmly whistled a low shot just to the right of a diving Mohamed for a 1-0 lead with 9:37 remaining in regulation.

“It was nerve-wracking, but I was thinking, ‘Don’t miss the net,'” Keller said. “I’ve worked really hard on strokes. I’ve missed in practice and I knew I couldn’t miss, so I put it in the bottom corner. The goalie was leaning one way and I chose my spot.”

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“Cece takes most of the strokes,” Tremberth said. “Last year, we had a senior who graduated do it and I’d say Cece has won that spot. I have confidence in her. It’s good to have a senior do it who doesn’t let the nerves get to her. She’s a dynamite player. She’s in a different role this year. She’s more of a playmaker this year.”

Mariello called timeout a minute later hoping to spark a rally, but Scarborough couldn’t dent the Biddeford defense.

With 4:47 to play, Tremberth surprised her players by calling timeout.

“Every time you play Scarborough, if you look at their scores over the past 10 years or even longer, they keep teams under two (goals) because they play such a good defensive game,” Tremberth said. “You know if you want to beat Scarborough, you have to win with one or two goals. You have to play the same defensive game they do.

“I had to call that timeout and the girls were like, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘You need a break because you have to play defense the rest of the way.’ I thought, ‘What would Kerry do?’ I’ve learned well. I played under her, I coached with her, I’m going to coach her daughter in a few years. It’s going to be awesome.”

The Red Storm couldn’t generate another shot and Biddeford was able to hold on and celebrate a palpitating 1-0 victory.

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“We came in knowing it would be a very even, very close game and we’d have to work really hard,” Keller said. “It was a great team effort.”

“Both teams played good defense and it was a battle in the midfield,” Tremberth said. “Ayla and Kiki especially do a good job finding holes in the field with a quick scan, then they hit that hole. We play that kind of game. It’s important to play smarter, not harder in the midfield.”

Biddeford had a 7-5 shots advantage, got five saves from Goulet and produced the only goal of the game, courtesy Keller, who earlier Wednesday decided on attending and playing field hockey at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire.

“I am having quite a day,” Keller said. “We’ve talked for a couple months and I verbally committed today.”

Scarborough got six saves from Mohamed and had a 4-2 edge in corners, but went home frustrated.

“I knew it would go down to the wire,” Mariello said. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t execute on a goal when we could have. It was a lot of back-and-forth, few opportunities and they got a break and unfortunately, we didn’t. It’s just regular season, so it’s just an ego bruise, that’s all.

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“You find out in games like these who your true gamers are and what areas need work and you just move forward from there. I have girls who can come out and dig deep when it matters most and to see them thrive in those moments is really nice to see. It happened on quite a few occasions.”

On to Cheverus

While Biddeford will host Cheverus next Wednesday, it first goes to rival Thornton Academy Saturday.

“We are very excited to prove ourselves against Cheverus and we’re going to work really hard,” said Keller.

“Cheverus is the team to beat,” said Tremberth. “I know they have speed and I know they have a lot of depth. It’ll be a good test. We’ll give them our best shot. We’re somehow under the radar. It’s fine if everyone keeps talking about Cheverus. Hopefully we can be an underdog. We’ll give them a good test, but it really matters in the postseason.”

Scarborough will welcome Cheverus Friday night and will look to channel its disappointment from its first loss into that heavyweight bout.

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“Hopefully the frustration of certain things will go in our favor,” Mariello said. “We’ll bottle them and turn them around for next time. We have to make adjustments very quickly. There’s a lot of season left. We have work to do.”

Looking further afield, don’t be surprised if Biddeford and Scarborough match up in the postseason for the fifth time since 2014.

“We always find a way to play (Scarborough) in the postseason,” Tremberth said. “It’s good field hockey and it’s fun.”

“If they take the win now, I’d rather take the win later,” Mariello said. “I know I’m ready (to play them again).”

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

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