LEWISTON — With the final seconds in the classic close-but-no-cigar moment of Lewiston High School’s boys’ lacrosse season melting away Saturday morning, Kurtis Stocker raced purposefully toward the midfield stripe on the Bates College turf.
Nobody in a white Lewiston or blue Portland uniform lurked within 20 yards. Or so Stocker thought until he was knocked into next week with all the force of a broadside car wreck by Caleb Kenney, six inches taller and 50-plus pounds heavier.
In what was the ultimate symbol of a sensational game, Stocker didn’t wait for a trainer or smelling salts or even a helping hand. He rolled off the deck almost in one fluid motion, shaking his head not as much to clear the cobwebs as to curse himself for letting it happen.
It was two hours condensed in a 10-second highlight film. Lewiston not only took the reigning Class A champions’ best shot but unleashed a few haymakers of its own, dishing out a big-league scare before bowing to a 12-10 defeat.
“They’ve been in a lot of those battles in the past, and we haven’t,” said Lewiston coach Bill Bodwell. “We come out of today knowing we can play with a team like that. This is huge for us.”
Oh, but it could have been enormous.
Lewiston (2-3) dominated play for lengthy stretches of the first three quarters. The Blue Devils built a 7-5 lead and doubled that advantage with back-to-back goals by Curtis Robinson and Sam Cloutier to open the third period.
That’s when Portland (6-0) stopped hitting the snooze button. With the 6-2, 200-pound junior Kenney creating havoc in the midfield and forcing a turnover whenever the Bulldogs needed one, Lewiston went scoreless for the final 15:33.
Kenney’s set-up of Kevin Nielson in a short-handed situation pulled Portland within 10-8 late in the third.
Jason Knight and Kenney each scored two goals in the fourth to complete the comeback. Knight’s first was a jaw-dropping one-timer off a feed from Nielson to tie it. Each of Kenney’s strikes was unassisted, including the game-winner with 3:50 left.
“We take it personally when we hear people say that we’re not going to be as good as we were last year,” said Kenney, who fueled Portland with four goals and five assists.
Portland, which was reassigned from Western to Eastern Class A this season, graduated 10 senior starters from the team that routed Brunswick in the final last June.
Not that the untrained eye could tell. Lewiston gave Portland by far its most prolonged fits of the spring. The Bulldogs scored 89 goals in their first five wins, allowing only 26.
“That was a great test for us. They’re a tough, physical team,” said Portland coach Eric Begonia. “Saturday morning game, a different surface, a different team that we haven’t played since 2005. I’m sure that all played into it.”
Ryan Lemelin and Cloutier each scored three goals for Lewiston, which exploded to a stunning 7-3 advantage late in the first half.
Cody Dussault, Elliot Chicoine and Robinson also struck in that stretch for the Devils.
But Portland’s big-game experience surfaced in the second half. Kenney, Nielson and Gordon Parker were especially disruptive in the midfield, preventing the open-field runs and breaking up the passes that allowed Lewiston’s offense to prosper early.
“We needed some longer possessions in the third and fourth quarters,” Bodwell said. “With me being a new coach this year, we’re still working on things like having guys where they need to be. But I think we’re getting there.”
Max Pierter and Branson Guimond each scored twice for Portland. Guimond found the net back-to-back after Lewiston nosed ahead 9-5 to take apparent command.
Goalies Jesse Leeman of Lewiston and Ryan Jurgelevich of Portland made 15 saves apiece.