Cape Elizabeth 19 Falmouth 6
CE-8 7 2 2- 19
F- 1 0 2 3- 6
9:26 CE T. Lathrop (unassisted)
7:54 CE Campbell (K. Lathrop)
5:13 CE T. Lathrop (unassisted)
4:31 CE Lee (T. Lathrop)
4:27 F Kaplan (unassisted)
57.0 CE Lee (McEvoy)
53.1 CE Frankwicz (McEvoy)
25.0 CE T. Lathrop (unassisted)
10.3 CE Frankwicz (Campbell)
8:05 CE Campbell (unassisted)
6:20 CE K. Lathrop (McEvoy) (MAN-UP)
5:29 CE Campbell (unassisted)
4:10 CE T. Lathrop (unassisted)
3:28 CE Lee (unassisted)
2:18 CE K. Lathrop (Simopolous)
1:22 CE Cochran (unassisted)
10:48 F Kerr (Eng)
8:43 CE T. Lathrop (Campbell)
4:23 F Kaplan (unassisted)
2:12 CE McEvoy (K. Lathrop)
10:42 F Skillin-Lanou (Berry) (MAN-UP)
9:09 F Gearan (unassisted)
2:55 F Kerr (unassisted)
1:32 CE T. Lathrop (McEvoy) (MAN-UP)
27.1 CE Pillsbury (Mullen)
CE- T. Lathrop 6, Campbell, Lee 3, Frankwicz, K. Lathrop 2, Cochran, McEvoy, Pillsbury 1
F- Kaplan, Kerr 2, Gearan, Skillin-Lanou 1
CE- McEvoy 4, Campbell, K. Lathrop 2, T. Lathrop, Mullen, Simopolous 1
F- Berry, Eng 1
Faceoffs (Cape Elizabeth, 17-11)
CE- Huffard 17 of 26, Moon 0 of 2
F- Kaplan 6 of 15, Drummey 5 of 12, Ciraulo 0 of 1
Shots on cage:
CE (Whitney) 6
F (Noyes) 14
PORTLAND—Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ lacrosse team didn’t just live up to its lofty preseason expectations.
The Capers exceeded them in every possible way.
Friday evening at Fitzpatrick Stadium, Cape Elizabeth didn’t just capture its first Class A state title and its first championship at any level in four seasons, it did so in a fashion that has never been seen before.
With a decisiveness that didn’t just propel the Capers to the top of the heap this season, but also thrusts them into the discussion of the finest Maine high school teams ever to take the field.
Facing rival Falmouth, a proud and worthy foe, Cape Elizabeth all but wrapped up its crown by the end of the first quarter and by halftime, the competitive phase of the contest was over.
Junior Tiernan Lathrop, a matchup nightmare for the opposition if there ever was one, put the Capers ahead to stay a little over two minutes in and junior Colin Campbell, Lathrop and junior Caden Lee added goals for a quick 4-0 advantage.
Falmouth got a little life when senior Satchel Kaplan scored off a faceoff win, but in a 47-second span just before the end of the opening stanza, Cape Elizabeth broke it open.
Lee got the surge started, then senior Oskar Frankwicz sandwiched goals around another from Lathrop for a commanding 8-1 advantage after one period.
The Capers poured it on from there, as Campbell, freshman Keegan Lathrop, Campbell again, Tiernan Lathrop, Lee, Keegan Lathrop and freshman Sam Cochran added goals to make the score an unthinkable 15-1 at halftime.
With a 12-goal mercy rule running clock in effect nearly the entire second half, Cape Elizabeth’s scoring slowed and Falmouth demonstrated its heart by playing hard until the end.
After senior Wyatt Kerr opened the third quarter with a goal for Falmouth, Tiernan Lathrop answered. Kaplan then scored for a second time, but senior standout Archie McEvoy got in the scoring column to put the Capers ahead, 17-3, heading for the fourth quarter.
There, while junior Rory Skillin-Lanou, senior Sam Gearan and Kerr scored in succession for Falmouth, Tiernan Lathrop scored one final time before senior Noah Pillsbury scored in the final minute to complete Cape Elizabeth’s breathtaking 19-6 victory.
Tiernan Lathrop led all scorers with six goals, Campbell and Lee added three apiece and eight different Capers tickled the twine in all as Cape Elizabeth finished a perfect 16-0, ended Falmouth’s season at 11-5 and won a record 21st state championship, dating back to 1987.
“This means a lot,” said longtime Capers coach Ben Raymond, who won his 298th game with the program. “These guys play hard each and every day for themselves, for their teammates, for all the kids who played before them. They’re tight with the group who didn’t get a season last year. It means a lot to these guys to represent themselves the same way the other guys did before them and be a class that leaves as state champions. It’s super for our entire program.”
The “drought” ends
Cape Elizabeth won its first championship in 1987, captured every state title title contested between 1990-97, then, once the sport was sanctioned by the Maine Principals’ Association in 1998, it won three more in succession (see sidebar). The Capers also won in 2002, 2003 and 2005 and once the sport went to two classes in 2006, they won it all in 2010 and every year between 2013-15 before capturing one more in 2017.
But after moving up to Class A in 2018, Cape Elizabeth hadn’t been able to ascend to the pinnacle, losing to eventual champion Thornton Academy in the regional final in both 2018 and 2019 before losing the 2020 campaign to COVID.
This spring, the Capers entered the campaign as the clear favorite and didn’t disappoint, bludgeoning their 12 regular season foes by a composite 199-47 margin (see sidebar for links to previous game stories).
Despite that excellence, Cape Elizabeth only earned the No. 2 seed in Class A South. The Capers continued to steam-roll the opposition in the first two rounds of the playoffs, beating No. 7 Noble (22-1) in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Gorham (18-2) in the semifinals. Wednesday, in the regional final at top-ranked Berwick Academy, Cape Elizabeth finally got a stern test and passed it, barely, holding on for an 11-9 victory.
That close call proved to be a valuable lesson.
“The other night helped us,” McEvoy said. “I knew Berwick was good and it was good for us to have a tight game.”
“The important thing the other night was how we fought back and responded after we got pushed,” Raymond said. “That made us a little less nervous about today. I think the (regional final) is often a harder game to play. When they get to the state final, the guys are a little more relaxed.”
Falmouth, meanwhile, won its first eight games this spring, including overtime affairs against Scarborough and Thornton Academy, but it lost its final four.
Regardless, Falmouth earned the top seed in Class A North and advanced by virtue of wins over No. 9 Cheverus (20-3) in the quarterfinals, No. 4 Oxford Hills (20-1) in the semifinals and sixth-ranked Windham in Tuesday’s regional final (10-7).
In the teams’ regular season meeting, May 22, Falmouth scored first, but Cape Elizabeth gradually pulled away to prevail, 14-5, as McEvoy scored four times and Campbell had three goals.
The teams had met nine previous times in the playoffs (see sidebar), all in the Western B/Class B South Final between 2009-17, with the Capers holding a 6-3 edge. The most recent encounter resulted in Cape Elizabeth’s 6-5 win in 2017.
Friday, on a windy but pleasant 68-degree evening, Falmouth hoped to improve to 4-2 all-time in the state game, but instead, the Capers captured a title for the 21st time.
In the most emphatic way imaginable.
Falmouth actually had the first good scoring chance, but Kerr’s bid was blocked.
Senior Jonah Eng then had a shot saved by Cape Elizabeth senior goalie Charlie Whitney.
After Falmouth sophomore goalie Drew Noyes saved a bid from Tiernan Lathrop, Lathrop got the ball again and with 9:26 to go in the first period, he fired a rocket on the run that found the net to put the Capers ahead for good.
“It felt great to score that goal,” Lathrop said. “Personally, I like to start off scoring a goal to get me going. Then our offense got clicking. It wasn’t just me, it was everyone.”
Gearan tried to tie it, but missed wide and with 7:54 left, Keegan Lathrop set up Campbell for his first goal and a 2-0 advantage.
After Campbell hit the post, Tiernan Lathrop bulled through the defense as only he can and finished unassisted to extend the lead even further.
“Coach tells me I should pass it, but if I score, he doesn’t care,” Lathrop said. “If I want to get to the goal, I’m going to get to the goal.”
“I think Tiernan has done a great job of continuing to improve his game where they converged on him and he made good decisions and passed the ball, but there are times when he gets a head of steam in transition and no one is going to stop him,” Raymond said.
A mere 42 seconds later, Tiernan Lathrop set up Lee for a shot through a screen that Noyes couldn’t stop and the score was 4-0, forcing Falmouth coach Dave Barton to call timeout.
“That’s been an evolution in Tiernan’s game, feeding,” Barton said. “He’s always been a physical freak. When he dodges that hard with his head up, it’s a tough ask for us to say ‘slide to his body.’ He’s just a phenomenal player.”
The timeout paid immediate dividends, as Kaplan replaced senior Owen Drummey in the faceoff circle, beat Cape Elizabeth’s terrific senior faceoff man Gus Huffard, won possession, then raced in and shot past Whitney to cut the deficit to three with 4:27 left in the quarter.
Falmouth couldn’t draw closer, however, and that set the stage for the Capers to break it open with the finest final minute of a period ever seen in a state final.
With 57 seconds left, Cape Elizabeth demonstrated why it moves the ball faster and better than anyone, as McEvoy set up Lee for a goal.
Huffard won the ensuing faceoff and four seconds later, McEvoy set up Frankwicz for his first goal and a 6-1 lead.
“We’ve tried all year long to encourage the guys to share the ball,” Raymond said. “We had success on short-stick matchups and we dodged poles and spun the ball well.”
The Capers weren’t finished.
Huffard won possession again and with 25 seconds remaining, Tiernan Lathrop scored unassisted.
Then, with 10.3 seconds on the clock, Campbell spotted Frankwicz wide open in front and Frankwicz capped the four-goals-in-47-seconds surge to bust it open and give Cape Elizabeth a commanding 8-1 lead.
“We were just in a zone,” Tiernan Lathrop said. “Gus is an animal, (sophomore) Nate Patterson, our wing, is an animal at (ground balls). Our offense, anyone can score. They couldn’t guard anyone on our offense.”
“That was a big deal,” Raymond said. “We thought we could get at least one more. We didn’t think we were getting four more. Gus did a great job on faceoffs in that span. If you have a guy who can win faceoffs, you can go on runs like that. Once that happened, that was pretty much it.”
The Capers didn’t let up a bit in the second period as they put the game completely out of reach.
Huffard tried to score off the faceoff to start the quarter, but Noyes denied him, before robbing Campbell, Lee and McEvoy.
But you can only hold Cape Elizabeth off so long and with 8:05 left before halftime, Campbell ripped a shot on the run that found the net for a 9-1 lead.
With 6:20 to go, the Capers scored a man-up goal, as McEvoy bounced a pass to Keegan Lathrop, who bounced a shot past Noyes for a highlight reel tally.
“I saw how bouncy the turf was, so I thought I might as well have some fun,” McEvoy said. “When our offense is clicking, it feels like a clinic.”
Fifty-one seconds later, Campbell scored unassisted to stretch the lead to 10.
With 4:10 to go, Tiernan Lathrop bulled his way through the defense again and scored unassisted.
Lee followed with an unassisted goal 42 seconds later.
With 2:18 on the clock, in transition, senior defensive standout Gavin Simopolous set up Keegan Lathrop for a goal, forcing Barton to call timeout again.
This time, it didn’t help and with 1:22 left, Cochran had his initial shot saved by Noyes, but got the rebound and scored on an over-the-shoulder shot to make it 15-1 at halftime.
“We were on fire on offense,” McEvoy said. “We have so many weapons. You can’t stop Tiernan. Colin can run through anyone. Caden is a lethal shooter. Oskar can shoot the ball better than anyone and we have a freshman phenom (Keegan). When we move that ball, 15-1 can come pretty easily.”
“Our attack is unbelievable,” Simopolous said. “Archie and Tiernan are unbelievable players. We have the mentality that we’re going to dominate every possession and every ground ball and that’s how it got to 15-1.”
In the first half, Huffard won 11 of 18 faceoffs and the Capers enjoyed a 25-5 advantage in shots on frame. Noyes made 10 saves for Falmouth, or it might have been even more lopsided.
With the clock running in the second half, shots didn’t come with as much frequency and the teams played even in the third period.
With 10:48 left, Kerr finished a feed from Eng to snap Cape Elizabeth’s 11-0 run.
With 8:43 to go, Tiernan Lathrop answered, finishing a feed from Campbell.
Kaplan scored unassisted with 4:23 showing, but with 2:12 on the clock, Keegan Lathrop set up McEvoy for a 17-3 advantage.
Falmouth would play hard to the end and got a man-up goal from Skillin-Lanou (assisted by Berry) with 10:42 remaining, an unassisted goal from Gearan with 9:09 on the clock and an unassisted strike from Kerr with 2:55 to go to bring a momentary halt to the running clock.
With 1:32 to play, Tiernan Lathrop took a pass from McEvoy and scored for the final time and with 27 seconds left, senior Nate Mullen set up Pillsbury for the game’s final goal and at 9:05 p.m,, Cape Elizabeth rushed the field to celebrate its 19-6 victory.
“It means a lot to finally get one,” McEvoy said. “I’ve dreamed of it since I started high school. Our goal this year was have fun. This was a team effort, a ton of fun. To be able to put 21 (championships on our banner) is great.”
“It feels amazing,” Tiernan Lathrop said. “I knew we’d be here and honestly I knew we’d come out winning. I couldn’t see it any other way. In my household, this has been a topic for years. My brother and I watched documentaries on our past seasons winning and we were determined to get back here.”
“It’s unbelievable,” Simopolous said. “It’s the greatest feeling on the planet. Words can’t describe how happy I am right now. Falmouth played their hearts out tonight, but we came out on top. This is the first Class A title for Cape Elizabeth and we’re honored to have that title now.”
“The team’s unbelievable,” Raymond added. “They’re an unbelievable group of kids. I love coaching this team. They’re great kids to work with. The seniors do a great job setting the tone we want to set with the team. The junior class is very talented. We have some very good sophomores and then there’s four or five freshmen who contribute as well. Top to bottom, it’s a really solid team and they all have aspirations of improving. No one’s here to just be on the team. We’ve enjoyed every single day on the field probably more than any other season. The guys want to get better and it shows. I think we improved all season. This may have been our best game all year, especially in the first half.”
Tiernan Lathrop had a tour-de-force performance, scoring six goals and assisting on another.
Campbell and Lee each scored three goals, Frankwicz and Keegan Lathrop had two goals apiece and Cochran, McEvoy and Pillsbury added one each.
McEvoy, who will play next year at Union College in Schenectady, New York, also had four assists in his swan song.
Campbell and Keegan Lathrop assisted on two goals apiece, while Tiernan Lathrop, Mullen and Simopolous added one each.
Whitney made six saves.
Huffard helped the Capers enjoy a 17-11 edge in faceoffs.
“I knew Gus would play a huge role today,” McEvoy said. “He really helps our team. Props to him.”
Cape Elizabeth also had the advantage in ground balls, 43-29 (Huffard had a game-high 15 while Patterson scooped up six).
The Capers enjoyed a 38-23 shots advantage (33-12 on cage) and only turned the ball over 14 times.
Falmouth got two goals apiece from Kaplan and Kerr and one each from Gearan and Skillin-Lanou.
Berry and Eng each registered an assist.
Noyes made 14 saves.
Kaplan led the team with six ground balls.
Falmouth committed 21 turnovers.
“(Cape’s) just relentless,” Barton said. “That’s the best team I’ve seen up here. There’s just no dropoff. They’re solid up the middle. They don’t have any weaknesses. We can’t play the pace they wanted to. We knew coming in that we wanted to dictate tempo, but it’s really hard to do. They killed us in transition. When Gus wins faceoffs, they’re hard to beat.
“It’s never been an effort thing with these guys. They have heart for miles and miles, but we knew it would be a tall task. The game plan looks good on paper, but it’s about execution. Credit to Cape, it was going to be a game of us trying to slow it down and be good decision makers, but it’s hard to be in a track meet with them.”
Despite the disappointing conclusion, Falmouth came a long way this spring and as always, saved its best lacrosse for June.
“As I’m sure was the case with a lot of programs, our entire defensive unit was new to high school lacrosse,” Barton said. “(Senior) Jake Rand just picked up a lacrosse stick after stopping in eighth grade. Owen Drummey came back to it. The learning curve was steep. It doesn’t look like it on the scoreboard, but Jake played really well on Archie. (Junior) Ben Wentworth played really well on Keegan Lathrop. There were some good things, but they make you pay. When you have off-ball guys like Oskar or Caden Lee who benefit from too much attention on the stars, those guys would be top threats on any other team and they showed it tonight. Their ball movement was incredible. We played pretty well defensively, it’s just hard to sustain.”
Falmouth graduates 10 seniors who knew nothing but trips to state finals during their active high school seasons, but the program is in good shape looking ahead to 2022.
“We’ll celebrate our seniors,’ Barton said. “They’ve earned it. They’ve meant a lot over the past four years. Then, we’ll get back to work. We need guys playing out of season. We need guys to find a way to keep playing as much lacrosse as they can.”
Cape Elizabeth also produced undefeated championship teams in 1998, 2002 and 2014 during the MPA-sanctioned era, but none of those squads, and no teams from any other school for that matter, ever dominated almost every single foe the way this one did and nobody has performed in a state game with quite as much flair or excellence as the 2021 Capers.
Let the argument begin.
“I’d put us at one of the top teams ever,” said Tiernan Lathrop. “One of my goals coming into the playoffs was I knew we could become one of the top Cape teams and I hope we’ll go down as one of the top Cape teams.”
“I don’t want to offend any of the other classes, but our team is really good,” McEvoy said.
“We’ve had some unbelievable teams and a bunch of great players over the years, but I think we’re right at the top,” said Simopolous.
Raymond, who has been a part of just about every Cape Elizabeth championship as a player or coach, offered his perspective.
“Statistically, this is probably the number one group we’ve ever had,” Raymond said. “As lacrosse players, they’re pretty darn close. We had some other great teams that would probably argue. This group, I think, one of the best things is how they handled this season. It was different. Our upperclassmen reached out to all the freshmen. Everybody was treated as an important part of the team. They recognized it didn’t matter how many minutes you play in games, but you’re really important to the team in practices. Practice players had to challenge upperclassmen all the time and our kids did that really well.”
Bad news for the opposition
Cape Elizabeth will lose some terrific players to graduation, as it always does, but the Capers will return an abundance of talent and will be bolstered next spring by the return from injury of junior Nic Boudreau, who will play college lacrosse at Yale.
It all adds up to a potential powerhouse again in 2022.
“I think our chances of doing this again are high,” Tiernan Lathrop said. “We don’t lose a lot on offense. We still have my little brother an we have stud middies and we’ll get Nic Boudreau back.”
“They’ll be very good next year,” McEvoy said. “I have all the faith in the world in those kids coming back.”
“It’s a super group of seniors,” Raymond added. “I coach a lot of them multiple seasons and see them in school, so it’s hard to say goodbye. This senior class was really, really special. Next year, our juniors will be more experienced. Nate Patterson will be the best defender around. The freshmen have another year to grow. Our JV team competed very well.
“I think next year we’ll be at least as good as we were this year.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.