Boys Lacrosse: Windham triumphs, last-second, over Gorham

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GORHAM—Typically, in a game where one player scores seven goals – which is precisely what the Rams’ Jake Dupuis did vs. visiting Windham on Tuesday, May 29 – that player’s team emerges victorious.

But while the Eagles couldn’t shut Dupuis up to save their lives, they did stifle his teammates just enough to pull out a W in the waning seconds, when Tommy Lekousi completed his hat trick and secured the 13-12 result.

“We did a lot of things well today,” Gorham head coach Clayton Jones said. “But we didn’t do enough things well on defense…We had one stretch where we took the ball off them three times, but we blew the clear each time.”

Gorham eked out a small lead in the early going, thanks to a bang-bang-bang Dupuis hat trick. Windham, though, hadn’t traveled 20 minutes by bus just to sit on the sidelines dumbly gazing at their navels, and Grant Jacobson, Travis Brown and Lekousi added one apiece to keep the contest tight.

“They got a couple goals up, and we were able to claw back in,” Windham head coach Pete Small said. “It really was back-and-forth, tight: They’d jump up by a couple, and we’d try to climb back in. I think our first lead was 11-10. That goes back to our mantra – for years we’ve been telling the kids, ‘You’ve gotta play like you’re down three goals the entire game. You’ve got time, but you’ve gotta press.’ I think maybe that’s helped psychologically a little bit.”

Gorham scooted ahead again to begin the second, moving to 5-3 on Chris Tucker’s lone goal and Dupuis’s fourth. Windham answered, however: Liam McCusker spoke up, as did Brown (again), both goals coming from just off the left side of Gorham goalie Joe Hepler.

The Rams grabbed yet another scant advantage – Dupuis kicked in his fifth – with less than two minutes to play before the break, but the Eagles responded once more, Jacobson picking up his second.

6-6 after two.

Gorham charged onto the field at the start of the third looking determined: The Rams opened the stretch with an end-to-end drive that culminated in Dupuis assisting Adam McKenney on the 7-6 strike. A few minutes later, Dupuis completed his second hat trick for 8-6, and shortly after that, he assisted Connor Dougherty in making it 9-6.

“He’s a good player,” Small said, asked about Windham’s attempts to hold Dupuis in check. “We would try to turn him back on the top side, and he’d roll back in tight, and he’d get a good goal. For us, it was a matter of managing that second slide, but also of honoring the fact that he can go top side and shoot real well, and honoring the fact that he can roll back.”

“We had to find a defensive match to neutralize as best you can,” Small said. “But like any good player, hard to neutralize. So we made some defensive adjustments as far as who was playing on who in the second half. I think it helped us a little bit. It changed the tempo on that end of the field a little bit, and for our defensive players, ‘All right, we made this adjustment’ – I think that lifted them a little bit, psychologically.”

Naturally, Windham retorted with three of their own: Jacobson, Tyler Woolston and Brown all slipped balls past Rams netminder Guiseppe Brown (Hepler and Brown are both excellent keepers, and have regularly split games this season).

Dupuis and Jacobson then traded goals to keep things even at 10-10. That, however, is when the Eagles finally earned a lead, their first of the bout: Fittingly, Lekousi grabbed it for them. McCusker next inched his boys forward to 12-10, but Gorham parried with another Dupuis-to-Dougherty notch.

12-11 with 3:34 to go.

Dougherty, on a Jared Fontain feed, balanced things out 12-12 at 2:45.

The stadium held its collective breath.

The ensuing two minutes and 26 seconds ticked away tensely; the game appeared headed for OT – but no, with just 19.3 seconds remaining, Lekousi snuck inside the Gorham defensive perimeter, spun and fired successfully from the top-left for 13-12.

It doesn’t take all that long to score in lacrosse: Plenty of time remained for the Rams to tie things up yet again, especially with Dupuis having the game he was having. And it was Dupuis who nearly got the last word: With 11 seconds to go, he thwacked at a Windham opponent near midfield, forcing a turnover; he curled toward the Eagles cage from there, shouldering the opposition defense aside as he went.

Windham netminder Ben Elliott – himself having a standout game – stood at the ready. Dupuis had already scored on this maneuver at least once.

This time, though, Dupuis’s shot flew just inches wide of Elliott’s far post. Moments later, the final buzzer tolled.

Small praised (enthusiastically!) a number of his players, beginning with Jacobson, who finished with four goals and an assist. “Out on the wing, he played very unselfishly. He’s been dishing the ball, he’s been assisting, a lot this year. Sometimes he’s had looks, and he’s gotten rid of it. At times, some of our other shooters draw a quick slide, and he just made this really good cut on his player, he’d get a step or two, and take the high shot. It worked real well for him.”

“Tommy Lekousi,” Small went on. “He had three, but what Tommy did, he played man-down defense with a short stick, he took a faceoff when we were man-down, he transitions the ball for us. He played attack today, he played midfield today: He is, by far, the guy who can play every aspect of this game, and plays it very well. Versatile – he shoots right, he shoots left. Sometimes people think he’ll cut to the right, because he is more right-handed than left-handed, but when he rolls back to the left, if you don’t honor that left shot, he can shoot high, he can shoot low. He’s a complete, all-around player.

“I could go on and on about Tommy. The heart of what we do, at both ends of the field and in transition, is what Tommy’s able to do. He’s got legs all day long. That kid’s effort. People don’t see the effort that he, and a number of other kids – Logan Douglas, Connor McInnis on defense, Ty Woolston – put in. Tommy will have hockey practice in the morning, go to school, and then I’m driving down 302 in the afternoon, and there he is, going for a run, because he just hasn’t had enough workout, and wants to get faster. And he’s the most unselfish player.”

“But then, Ben Elliott in goal,” Small continued. “He’s making some great saves. He’s seeing the ball better as the year has gone on. His hand speed has picked up, and he’s becoming more vocal with the defensive end – and he’s only a sophomore. He jumped into the fray last year as a freshman, and I think by the third game of the season was our starting goalie. The sky’s the limit for him. He just keeps getting better and better and better.”

“Liam McCusker, midfielder, has just been playing really well,” Small said. “And Ty Woolston is a phenomenal attackman. He could score all day long, but he draws that slide, and he dumped it – that’s what he was doing with Grant. He made many of those goals happen with Grant: He’d come up around the crease, draw a slide real quick, dump it to Grant. As the guy’s sliding in, Grant would take that one step on him, and now he’s got an open look. Those are the things that don’t necessarily show up in the book.”

Windham is having a strong season. The Eagles, now 10-1, are a shoe-in for a quality tournament seed. The team travels to Bonny Eagle on Friday, June 1.

Gorham, meanwhile, has spent the season rebuilding after losing significant talent to graduation last year. Moreover, the Rams are adjusting to Jones, who’s new to the fold this spring. As any team will tell you, it takes time for players to learn a coach, and for a coach to learn their players.

Gorham’s final bout of the regular season is home vs. Kennebunk.

“It’s like I told them: We probably won’t play our best lacrosse until the last game of the year,” Jones said.

“We played them first game of the year,” Jones said of Kennebunk. “We beat them 11-2. That was a long time ago. Hopefully we’re a better team – but they’re probably thinking the same thing.”

Adam Birt can be reached at abirt@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.

Windhamite Tyler Woolston fires off a shot in close on Gorham netminder Guiseppe Brown, pursued by Ram defenders Hunter Poitras.

Brady Jackson stands guard for Windham.

Logan Heckman tracks the action for Windham.

Windham keeper Ben Elliott stares down Gorham’s Jake Dupuis.

Ram Sam Burghardt drives forward.

Logan Douglas faces off with a Rams attacker.

Cooper Lyons fires off a shot for the Rams.

Jake Dupuis logged seven goals and multiple assists for the Rams.

Holden Edwards stands ready to defend for Gorham.

Windham’s Seth Wall pushes forward; Gorham’s Nate Hotham harasses him.

Windhamite Connor McInnis defends against Gorham standout Jake Dupuis.

Josh Hayward drives upfield for the Rams.

Tommy Lekousi is perhaps Windham’s most versatile player.

Liam McCusker contributed two goals and three assists for the Eagles.

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