OAKLAND — On paper, Friday night will only show the Messalonskee boys lacrosse team suffered its first defeat of the regular season.

For the Eagles, however, the 13-7 loss to defending Class A champion Cape Elizabeth at Veterans Field was littered with moments that can help propel Messalonskee to its ultimate goal: Returning to — and winning — the Class B final.

Keegan Lathrop and Bobby Offit each led Cape Elizabeth (5-0) — the No. 1 team in Class A — with four goals, while Alex van Huystee added three. Tyler Hansen led the Eagles (4-1) — the No. 1 team in Class B — with three goals, while Brady Brunelle added two.

The challenge to play a program like Cape Elizabeth was exactly what Messalonskee, which fell 12-10 to York in the Class B title game last year, was hoping for. The Capers are just one opponent in a brutal schedule intended for Messalonskee to play against some of the state’s best programs, regardless of class. The Eagles played, and beat, fellow Class B powerhouse Brunswick 11-8 in the season opener April 12, and will meet the Dragons again on May 23. The Eagles’ next two opponents will be Class C Oak Hill (3-0) on Tuesday, before taking on Yarmouth (5-0), currently No. 2 in the Class B standings, on Thursday.

“If we want to be serious contenders in (Class) B, we have to play hard with the kids like Yarmouth and York,” Messalonskee head coach Tom Sheridan said. “Playing games like this will make us better.”

Cape Elizabeth’s Bobby Offit, left, shoots and scores against Messalonkee goalie Andrew Witham during a boys lacrosse game Friday in Oakland. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“Tom’s got the right attitude. You want to play the most competitive schedule you can possibly play to get ready for the playoffs,” said Cape Elizabeth head coach Ben Raymond. “You can choose to stay in your conference, win as many games as you can and go in as a high seed. But is that really worth it? We told our guys the other night, you get 14 games in a season. If you’re lucky, you’ll get six or seven competitive games. You better enjoy the competitive games that you have. Make sure you’re enjoying it, make sure you’re competing.


“The more teams that want to push, challenge and raise the level (of play) is great for lacrosse in Maine,” Raymond continued. “It’s great for our guys, to raise their level. They need to consistently play quality teams.”

And despite suffering their first loss of the season, Messalonskee players were more upbeat about hanging in with the Class A champions.

“Next week, we have a big (Class B) matchup against Yarmouth,” said Brunelle, a senior. “To have a game like this to boost our spirits, knowing that we have that (ability) in the tank, it’s super awesome.”

On Friday, it appeared early on that the challenge of taking on Cape Elizabeth was more than the Eagles could handle. The Capers jumped out to a 6-0 lead midway through the second quarter, with Lathrop tallying three quick goals. But Messalonskee responded with goals from Hansen and Jack Kenney to cut the lead to 6-2. Cape Elizabeth eventually headed into halftime with a 10-3 lead.

“In that first quarter, I don’t think we were ready for that speed of play, that skill level,” Sheridan said. “Once you can adapt to it, get used to it, it’s like (any other game) and we can compete like that.”

Messalonskee played its best game in the second half. The Eagles started the third quarter with three unanswered goals — two from Hansen, one from Brunelle — to cut the Capers’ lead to 10-6. Messalonskee managed to add one more goal from Cooper LeClair in the fourth quarter, but two late goals from Offit helped seal the game for Cape Elizabeth.

The raised level of play in the second half was not lost on the Eagles.

“It felt really good to (have strong moments) against a team like Cape,” Brunelle said. “Not many teams can do that. To have that chemistry on the team and to not hang our heads low in the second half like that is awesome to have.”

“This is my 29th year. I know what it’s like to be 11-1, get to a playoff game and get crushed,” Sheridan said. “I’d rather have a few knocks and losses and learn from it. If you’re winning, it’s great. If you’re not winning, you’re learning. I think we learned a lot today.”

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