SOUTH PORTLAND—Losing senior captain and top scorer Divin Mpinga to a meniscus injury earlier this month was a tough pill for South Portland’s boys’ soccer team to contend with.

But it didn’t deal a fatal blow to the Red Riots’ title hopes.

That’s because South Portland has plenty of offensive talent in reserve and that balance was on display Saturday afternoon at Martin Memorial Field when the fifth-ranked Red Riots hosted No. 12 Cheverus in a Class A South preliminary round contest.

The Stags had great energy early, but couldn’t score and in the 12th minute, South Portland struck first on a goal from junior Curtis Metcalf.

Cheverus came right back to pull even, as senior Carter Hoglund’s throw was headed in by classmate Collin Plalum, but with 14:48 left in the first half, senior Joey Hanlon put the Red Riots back on top to stay and with just 1:18 to go, Hanlon set up senior Griffin Tatzlaff for a goal and a little breathing room.

The Stags didn’t go quietly and made things interesting when Hoglund scored on a rebound with just under 15 minutes remaining, but South Portland locked down on defense and closed out its 3-2 victory.


The Red Riots improved to 11-4, ended Cheverus’ season at 5-7-3 and in the process, advanced to Wednesday’s quarterfinal round to face No. 4 Gorham (11-2-1), on the Rams’ homefield at 6 p.m.

“Once we lost Divin, we didn’t know how to play offense without him because so much of our offense went through him, but we’ve adjusted,” said longtime South Portland coach Bryan Hoy. “It’s been slow in coming, but we turned the corner today. We got what we wanted to get today and we took advantage.”

Razor-thin margin

In perhaps the most wide-open Class A South season in memory, both Cheverus and South Portland have played themselves into the mix (see sidebar for links to previous stories).

The Red Riots won their first seven contests, but went just 3-4 the rest of the way.

The Stags. meanwhile, were up-and-down all regular season, but showed promise.


In the teams’ regular season meeting Sept. 3, the Red Riots got two goals from junior CJ Marenghi, while senior Josue Guerrero and Mpinga also scored in a 4-1 victory. Senior James Baur had the Stags’ goal.

Cheverus had won all four prior playoff meetings (see sidebar) with two victories coming courtesy penalty kicks, including the most recent encounter in the 2018 Class A South quarterfinals.

This time around, only 80 minutes were needed and this time, South Portland carried the day.

South Portland junior Jayden Kim keeps the ball away from Cheverus junior Anton Behuniak during the Red Riots’ 3-2 victory Saturday. Hoffer photos.

The Stags came out with great energy and had a couple good chances to go on top, but Red Riots’ senior goalkeeper Thomas Caouette broke up a Baur rush at the last second, then Hoglund set up Baur for a one-on-one opportunity, but again, Caouette made the save.

In the 12th minute, South Portland got its first look and would take advantage.

The goal was set up by a nice passing sequence, which culminated with junior Jayden Kim setting up Metcalf for a shot that Cheverus sophomore keeper Gustavo Cedillo couldn’t stop.


The Stags then rallied, as with 24:38 to play in the first half, Hoglund threw the ball into the box from the side, Plalum and a defender met the ball in the air and it ricocheted past Caouette and in to tie the game, 1-1.

After Baur just missed putting Cheverus ahead, when he headed a cross from junior Jackson Kingsley just wide, Cedillo saved a Metcalf shot through traffic at the other end.

The Red Riots then went ahead, 2-1, with 14:48 on the clock, as freshman Casey Corcoran crossed the ball to Hanlon and Hanlon wouldn’t be denied.

South Portland senior Joey Hanlon celebrates with his teammates after scoring the go-ahead goal.

“It’s just teamwork,” Hanlon said. “I just saw Casey play the ball over the top of the defenders. The goalie didn’t come out, so I just put it in. That gave our team momentum.”

Corcoran has made an immediate impact in his short time on the varsity team.

“He’s a young talent and younger kids play harder because they have something to prove,” said senior captain and back Drew Folley. “We relied on Divin a lot at the beginning of the season and we had to find our offense without him.”


“We had Casey playing first team because we had enough guys earlier this year,” Hoy said. “We knew he had a lot of talent and when Divin went down, we needed an extra striker and he’s stepped right in and played really, really well. He’s done a great job in the short amount of time we’ve had him up with us.”

The Red Riots then got some breathing room with just 78 seconds to go before halftime, as this time, Hanlon set up the goal and Tetzlaff finished, making the score 3-1.

“Before, we held on to the ball too long instead of passing to the middle and we haven’t done that as much lately,” said Hanlon.

“One of the things we preach to the guys is that we don’t need a ton of shots, just good shots,” Hoy said. “The guys did a nice job changing fields. All three goals were off crosses. We shared the ball. It doesn’t really matter who scores, as long as it’s us. The guys have been really unselfish and that leads to good things offensively.”

Cheverus again came out strong in the second half and Baur had a good early chance after getting a pass from junior Shane McGrath and eluding a defender, but his shot was saved by Caouette.

Cheverus sophomore Emil Strock tries to elude South Portland junior CJ Marenghi.

The Stags did eventually pull within a goal, as with 14:55 to play, McGrath sent a long free kick into the box and the ball deflected right in front to Hoglund, who buried the rebound, cutting the deficit to just one, 3-2.


But Cheverus couldn’t equalize, as McGrath missed just wide with 10:57 to go and with 2:01 on the clock, one final Hoglund throw was cleared away.

At 2:37 p.m., the horn sounded and the Red Riots were able to celebrate their 3-2 victory.

“We realized it’s our senior year and we don’t want to go home,” Hanlon said. “We went all out and worked as a team and came out aggressive. It was a good game. (Cheverus) didn’t give up and kept battling.”

“We just tried to mark guys,” Folley said. “We did a decent job for the most part. Nerves were going at the end, but we just had to go as hard as we could. It’s all mental because we knew it could have been the last game of our careers. It feels great to win a playoff game.”

“It does feel good,” Hoy added. “The last two (of three) times we’ve played them in the playoffs, they beat us in PKs. It’s good to not have to go to PKs and have a heart attack. (Cheverus) played really well. Credit them. They put a lot of pressure on us, especially early.”

South Portland finished with an 8-6 edge in shots on frame and got four saves from Caouette.


End of the line

Cheverus got five saves from Cedillo and had a 9-3 advantage in corner kicks.

“Our Achilles’ heel all year has been a lack of urgency early in games,” lamented Stags coach Bill LeBlanc. “We’ve gotten down in games and have been able to come back, but they got I think three shots in the first half and all three went in. We gave a great effort, but we don’t have a deep team and it caught up with us.

“I think all the teams 5 through 12 were pretty even this year. I think there’s 12 good teams in the league. Only one team won’t end up feeling like us at some point.”

The Stags say goodbye to 10 seniors and will have some holes to fill in 2023, but expect them to make another playoff run.

“We lose a fair amount,” LeBlanc said. “These are the guys who had to deal with a lot over four years with the pandemic. I’m proud of them. We have a good group of juniors coming back and once again, we’ll have to find a goalie.”


Red Riots-Rams once more

South Portland beat host Gorham, 1-0, Sept. 16, as Metcalf scored the goal.

The teams have split four prior playoff meetings, with the Rams eliminating the Red Riots, 1-0, in last year’s semifinals.

“We just have to finish and go 100 percent,” Folley said.

“They knocked us off last year and we’re looking for a little revenge this time,” said Hanlon.

“We have to play really hard,” Hoy added. “Gorham always plays really, really hard, especially over there. We have to play physically, play good defense and when we get chances, we’ve got to finish because we probably won’t generate many chances against them.”

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

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