PORTLAND — The Brunswick Dragons seemed on the cusp of a big-time comeback.

Down 6-2 after South Portland goaltender Edward Hellier stole the show in the first half with 11 point-blank saves, the Dragons opened up on the Red Riots in the third quarter.

Behind the face-off prowess of Ian Schlosser and two goals each from TJ Sullivan and Cam Glover, Brunswick clawed back to within a goal on two occasions.

But, South Portland held on for a 10-8 victory as night fell on Fitzpatrick Stadium on Saturday to claim the State Class A title.

“There are a lot of firsts this past week. This program has been climbing, and we are now here,” said South Portland coach Thomas Fiorini, whose Red Riots finished 14-1. “I think this will help us keep going. We tried to do one thing … have fun. It was not the end of the world win or lose, and we wanted to go out and make some good memories. We did that today.”

Brunswick, which finished 13-3, returned to the state title game for the first time since 2009.

“This was an excellent game, and we met all of our goals this season,” said Brunswick coach Don Glover said. “We watched a five-overtime battle in the girls game before ours (Massabesic over Cheverus, 9-8), and they took it all in, all this enthusiasm. We were there, but they would go up by two. We shot ourselves in the foot a couple times, and it is tough late to try to come back from two goals down.”

Red Riots lead

Despite a statistically even first half, the Dragons trailed by four thanks to Hellier and three goals by Duncan Preston. Cam Glover and Josh Dorr had one goal each for Brunswick at the break, while Jack Fiorini chipped in two goals and Kameron Andrews one.

Coach Glover told his Dragons to reset.

“We knew a 6-2 margin in the game of lacrosse at halftime isn’t a huge margin, but even though the stats were close the possession piece wasn’t there,” the 17-year Brunswick coach said . “At halftime we talked about getting back to the basics, getting the ground balls and chipping away. We got it within one, but we just couldn’t get to that tie. If we could have gotten to that tie, who knows.”

Lucas McCue got Brunswick headed in the right direction just 27 seconds into the second half, and after South Portland’s Ben Bilderback scored, the Dragons went on a three-goal spurt. Cam Glover tallied an unassisted goal, followed by a pair from Sullivan, with Christian Glover and Owen Ginty each earning an assist to get Brunswick to 7-6 with 6:58 remaining in the third quarter.

“We started moving the ball and working some inside picks, trying to get open against their defense,” Sullivan said. “We tried to place our shots more and take a little bit of velocity off, taking smarter shots.”

“We had a good talk at halftime, and we have always been a good second half team. We had to believe,” McCue said.

“Don Glover is in my opinion the best coach in the state, and they were going to give us a challenge in the second half,” Fiorini said. “That team is a team. They went out and played together.”

South Portland regained a two-goal margin as Andrew Whipple slipped a shot past Brunswick goaltender Chris MrVichin.

But, Brunswick struck right back, with Cam Glover making in an 8-7 contest.

This time, South Portland All-American Preston made it a two-goal game, beating the Brunswick defense and scoring with 1:01 remaining in the wild third quarter, with eight goals scored between the two teams.

“Duncan is an All-American for a reason, and it is quite an honor to coach him,” coach Fiorini said.

The Red Riots made it a 10-7 contest as Whipple, assisted by Preston, scored with 10:13 remaining. The South Portland defense and Hellier was up to the task of holding onto its lead, frustrating the Dragons with solid possession and timely saves. Hellier turned aside four more Brunswick shots in the final frame to finish with 17.

Brunswick finished the scoring with 2:30 remaining, with Sullivan adding his third goal to match teammate Cam Glover’s total.

“It was a great game, a hard-fought battle, but we just came up a little bit short,” said MrVichin, who had a stellar game himself with 14 saves. “We were trying to get good clears and ride hard. I am proud that we stayed as a team the whole time.”

“When you’re behind you might as well come out, step on the gas and win the second half,” Don Glover said. “I am proud of the guys. They played exceptional. South Portland also played well.”

“They came after us in the second half, but every time they scored we found an answer,” Thomas Fiorini said. “The kids stepped up. Today was our day. If we played tomorrow, I’m not sure if it is the same result.”

McCue was solid for the Dragons, picking up 13 ground balls and dishing out several punishing hits. Christian Glover and Schlosser each chipped in four ground balls.

Preston was the ground ball leader for the Red Riots with six, followed by four each from Chris Mitchell, Bilderback, Hellier and Nicholas Mezzanotte.

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