PORTLAND—The book on the 2023 Cape Elizabeth boys’ lacrosse team was that it wasn’t as talented as its two recent championship predecessors.

The book was wrong.

The 2023 Capers capped a transcendent, perfect season Monday evening at Fitzpatrick Stadium with one more dominant performance, quickly dashing South Portland’s upset bid and earning yet another coronation.

It took over seven minutes for Cape Elizabeth to get its offense going and it led just 2-1 after one quarter, but the Capers got a couple goals from junior Sam Cochran in a five-goal second period to grab a 7-3 halftime advantage.

Cape Elizabeth then slammed the door in the third quarter, scoring seven times, with junior standout Keegan Lathrop scoring twice and invaluable seniors Nate Patterson and Nick Laughlin also getting in on the fun as the Capers opened up a commanding 14-5 lead.

The fourth period saw senior Connor Goss cap a big game with one final goal before Laughlin and Lathrop added one more and Cape Elizabeth prevailed, 17-6.


Lathrop scored four times, Cochran, Goss and junior Bobby Offit added three goals apiece as the Capers capped a 17-0 season, won their 23rd straight game, their third consecutive Class A crown and their 23rd crown all-time and in the process, ended South Portland’s fine season at 13-4.

“We’re all just super-tight, more so than previous years,” said the Bryant College-bound Patterson, a defensive specialist by trade and now a three-time champion. “We might have had more skill and athleticism in previous years, but these guys just love to come to practice every day, being together, winning. It’s awesome to win it again as a senior.”

“I would say we’re the equal of those teams, in a different way,” said longtime Cape Elizabeth coach Ben Raymond, who won his 329th career game and 14th state title as head coach. “Maybe we don’t have last year’s three elite players (Nic Boudreau, Colin Campbell and Tiernan Lathrop) and the year before, those three plus Archie (McEvoy). This year, I’d say Keegan is elite and everyone else played so well. We were so well-rounded and that made us more dangerous than maybe we were last year.”

Finishing as they started

Cape Elizabeth opened the season way back on April 14 with a 10-6 home win over South Portland, behind three goals from Cochran. The teams met again May 26 when the Capers won on the road, 8-4, as Goss led the way with three goals.

Cape Elizabeth was unbeaten in its other 12 regular season games (see sidebar for links to previous stories), beating the likes of Falmouth, Thornton Academy and Yarmouth twice each. The Capers scored 169 goals in their 14 regular season games and surrendered just 71.


Cape Elizabeth had no trouble advancing in the playoffs, ousting No. 9 Noble/Sanford (16-4) in the state quarterfinals, then downing No. 4 Thornton Academy for the third time this spring in the semifinals, 15-8.

South Portland, which won just twice in 2021 before reaching the regional semifinals a year ago, lived up to billing as a top contender, winning 11 of its 12 non-Cape Elizabeth games, falling only at home to Falmouth. The Red Riots out-scored the opposition, 164-84.

South Portland then defeated No. 6 Windham, 19-8, in the state quarterfinals before upsetting No. 2 Falmouth, 8-4, in last Wednesday’s semifinals.

The teams had met just once prior in the playoffs, a 9-5 Capers’ victory in the 2019 Class A South semifinals.

The Red Riots had played in the state final two previous times (see sidebar), winning once.

Cape Elizabeth’s state game pedigree was quite a bit more expansive, as it had 28 previous appearances to its credit.


Monday, 48-hours after the game was originally scheduled to be played but was delayed due to bad weather, South Portland hoped to shock the world and win a second state title, but instead, the Capers’ trophy case got even more crowded with a 23rd piece of hardware.

And there’s no end in sight.

The Red Riots came in confident and had a chance to go on top early, but junior Tobey Lappin was denied by Cape Elizabeth junior goalie Michael Foley.

After South Portland’s standout senior goalie Ben Kieu saved shots from Lathrop and Cochran, the Capers went on top to stay with 4:21 to go in the opening stanza, when junior Alex van Huystee got the ball from Offit and found the net.

A mere eight seconds later, after a faceoff win from senior Sebastian Moon, Lathrop set up Offit for a 2-0 lead.

“I was forcing it too much early,” Lathrop said. “They slid early to me, so I figured I’d be an assist guy.”


The Red Riots finally got their offense going with 3:44 remaining, when senior Lucas Mehlhorn scored unassisted and after Kieu denied Lathrop, Cape Elizabeth held a one-goal lead going to the second period.

There, the Capers got some separation.

Just 21 seconds in, after a South Portland turnover, Offit set up Lathrop for his first goal.

After Foley denied sophomore Beckett Mehlhorn, Cochran scored unassisted for a 4-1 advantage with 10:28 left in the half.

Lathrop then set up Offit with 8:47 on the clock, forcing Red Riots coach Dan Hanley to call timeout.

It helped, initially, as Beckett Mehlhorn finished unassisted a little over a minute later, but after Kieu made tough saves on shots by Offit and van Huystee, van Huystee set up Cochran for a 6-2 lead with 5:19 remaining.


Beckett Mehlhorn got the goal back, scoring unassisted after a nice move with 4:09 left, but with 1:04 to go, Laughlin found Goss for his first goal and a 7-3 halftime advantage.

Cape Elizabeth, as it always seems to do, earned the lead thanks in large part to statistical edges in ground balls (16-6), shots (20-6) and forced turnovers (13). Only eight Kieu saves kept South Portland within hailing distance.

But not for long.

As they did in the first half, the Capers took awhile to find their scoring touch in the second half, but the goals would come.

With 7:24 on the clock, after Kieu had thrice denied Laughlin, van Huystee set up Lathrop for a man-up goal.

With 5:38 left, Cochran scored unassisted and 18 seconds later, Offit fed Lathrop for a 10-3 advantage.


“They couldn’t hang with us in transition, so we kept doing that,” said Lathrop. “We knew we couldn’t force any shots from the outside because (Kieu would) eat those up. We tried to get up and finish in close. That worked in the past and it worked well again.”

“South Portland’s a very good team,” Raymond said. “They have good players in every important position. Having Ben in goal, that does a lot for you. He makes saves and more than that, he alters a lot of shots. He did a really good job, but we did a good job being patient. We knew we weren’t going to win the game in the first quarter. We had to feel things out and find out what would work. Our depth helped with that. We play a lot of guys at both ends and we didn’t tire out.”

Offit added a goal with 3:56 on the clock, scoring in highlight reel fashion, from junior defenseman Colin Blackburn man-down.

Beckett Mehlhorn got a goal back (from senior Jack Dreifus) 42 seconds later, but with 1:32 remaining, Goss bulled his way through the defense and scored unassisted to make it 12-4.

Lucas Mehlhorn scored a man-down goal with 31 seconds on the clock, but Cape Elizabeth closed the frame with a flourish, as first Patterson scored unassisted with 14.9 seconds to go.

“I love getting involved on the offense,” said Patterson. “Sometimes the coaches don’t love it, but I do. I have fun with the boys up top. I love to celebrate with the guys up there.”


“Nate is definitely a special player,” Raymond said. “He’ll be missed for all he does. We dominate the middle of the field. We have him on one side, Nick on the other.”

Then Laughlin, off the ensuing faceoff, raced in and finished to make it 14-5.

“On the clears, I try to act like it’s sort of a kick return,” said Laughlin, who will play football at the University of Maine next fall. “I make a juke move and keep running or dish it off to Keegan or Sam. We just had to get better shots off. We knew they had a good goalie, so quality shots were a difference.”

“Nick’s unbelievable,” said Raymond. “He’s an amazing athlete, as anyone who’s seen him play all the sports knows. He’s come into his own as a young man as well. Lacrosse might not be his number one sport, but you wouldn’t know it. He sees the field really well. The shot he had at the end of the game today, there’s maybe three other kids who can make that and that’s coming from a kid who has a stick in his hands three months, tops. The energy and confidence he brings. Everyone feels better knowing he’s with us. We’ll get more possessions than the other team because he’ll run other people over if he has to.”

The fourth period began with Goss scoring unassisted with 10:10 on the clock, then with 8:44 to go, Cochran set up Laughlin for a blast top shelf.

With 5:26 left, South Portland scored for the final time, as Beckett Mehlhorn again finished unassisted after a nice move, but 35 seconds later, Lathrop capped the scoring, finishing a feed from Laughlin.


The Capers were content running out the clock from there and at 7:51 p.m., the latest championship celebration commenced.

“Going into this game, we said we had to try 100 percent,” Lathrop said. “It was our last four quarters with this team. We put our hearts out there. We weren’t expecting (to go undefeated) going into the season, but we filled in what we lost last year. We tried 100 percent and teams couldn’t hang with us.”

“I’ve been picturing this,” said Patterson. “I’ve seen the guys above me win it and it’s fun to win it myself. Our defense has done great all year. It’s great to end on this note and prove to everyone watching how strong we are. Leaving the program better than we found it is always the goal and I think we did that successfully. I’m proud about that.”

“There’s no better way to go out than to win with all your boys,” Laughlin said. “We’re all friends and it’s great to finish senior year like this.  Coming out and doing it a third year in lacrosse was a lot of fun. It’s a great feeling to have the community behind us in the stands and to win every game this season.”

“This year’s group was special because they’re really, really close on and off the field,” Raymond added. “They made practice really enjoyable and competitive every single day. You can beat the snot out of each other in practice but leave happy because you pushed each other to get better.

“Sometimes, you start a season already pretty good, but you don’t improve quite as much. We started the season decent and we improved a ton. The guys worked really hard. This year was wonderful because such a competitive schedule. We played all the top teams except the top teams in Class C. It was outstanding for everyone.”


A balanced offense featured seven goal-scorers, as Lathrop led the way with four, Cochran, Goss and Offit all added three, Laughlin had two and Patterson and van Huystee each finished with one.

Offit also had three assists, while Lathrop, Laughlin, van Huystee had two apiece and Blackburn and Cochran each added one.

“Teams spent a lot of time taking Keegan away and someone else had a short stick on them and could score,” said Raymond.

Foley made five saves and the defense was smothering.

“We were probably better defensively this year,” Raymond said. “We rarely gave up more than five goals a game. We cleared really well. Our defense improved the most over the season. Not just on-ball defense, but off-ball defense, understanding time situations. Clearing was outstanding. They helped out on the ride and did an incredible job. We fight for any loose ball. People don’t think about the little things and how good we are in ground balls. We do the dirty work. Every guy is willing to get those and get us more possessions.”

Cape Elizabeth won 14 of 26 faceoffs, had a commanding edge in ground balls, 34-15 (Patterson led the way with 10), and shots, 46-16 (32-11 on cage), and only turned the ball over 10 times.


A run to remember

South Portland got four goals from Beckett Mehlhorn and two from Lucas Mehlhorn.

“Beckett had a fantastic day at attack, but we just didn’t get him the ball enough,” Hanley said.

Dreifus had the lone assist.

Kieu, who will play next year at Hampton University in Virginia, saved 15 shots in his swan song.

Seniors Brady Angell and Finn O’Donnell and junior Jamen Senter shared team ground ball honors with three apiece.


The Red Riots turned the ball over 20 times (double the Capers’ total) and just couldn’t get in a rhythm.

“It went totally in their direction in terms of ground balls, clearing and turnovers,” Hanley lamented. “The turnovers in transition compounded things. Not only was it a failed clear for us, but we gave up goals in transition in unsettled play. I think we were a little tense and they capitalized on that. Credit to them. They move the ball really well. They pressure really well on the ride. They knocked us off balance a little bit and as the game got more and more out of hand, we pressured out and they took advantage of the space in the middle. Ben’s an excellent coach. Credit to them for being ready to go. We believed we could hang with them, but we didn’t have our best game today.

“We’ve tried to put it in perspective. This group of seniors is really special. I give a huge amount of credit to those 11 guys who came in as sophomores when we had one returning varsity player and they took their lumps. They elevated the program last year and we took it a step further this year. (Today’s) not what we wanted, but I’m proud of the way they came to practice every single day and how they raised the standard of everyone around them.”

South Portland graduates 11 players, including Kieu, from this year’s team, but expect the Red Riots to remain in contention next spring.

“We lose a lot,” Hanley said. “We’ll have to put in work every single day. We’ve got a lot of guys coming back and they’ll have to continue to understand what it takes to get here. Hard work, dedication, playing in the offseason. Supporting each other. We need to continue the legacy of the seniors, even though they won’t be with us.”

The favorites…again


Cape Elizabeth will once again lose an abundance of talent to graduation and once again, it won’t matter, as a solid group of underclassmen awaits its opportunity to take over and make a run at a fourth consecutive title (something the Capers last accomplished when they won 11 in a row between 1990 and 2000), while bringing along the next generation of champion.

That’s how the state’s ultimate dynasty perpetuates its dominance.

“Next year will definitely be hard to adjust without the seniors, but we’ll get used to it and be successful,” said Lathrop, who has verbally committed to the University of Delaware. “I want to go four-for-four. That’s the goal for sure. I’d love to do that. Not many can say that. I think we’ll be fine.”

“We have a great group of eighth graders coming in, the seventh graders are strong and the sixth grade class is really good,” Raymond said. “When Keegan came and got his medal, I said, ‘It’s pretty rare to win four in a row.’ Hopefully we’re planning that seed already. Hopefully the guys will come back focused and that’s a great goal. Everybody wants to finish their senior year this way. It’s a wonderful experience to finish as winners.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net.

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