CAPE ELIZABETH—If there was any doubt that the proudest boys’ lacrosse program in the state was still capable of reaching into the past and plucking out a heroic, transcendent effort, such skepticism went by the wayside in 24 astonishing minutes Friday evening at Hannaford Field.
Cape Elizabeth found itself down 6-1 at halftime to Yarmouth, the state’s new premier program, which beat the Capers in each of the past two Class B state finals, but they were about to rise from the ashes and deliver a vintage performance.
Sophomore Tim Lavallee’s goal just 10 seconds into the second half sparked the comeback and 10 minutes later, the hosts drew even when senior Harper Nelson set up junior Wilson Laprade for a goal.
Cape Elizabeth went ahead to stay on senior Tommy Foden’s rebound goal 27 seconds into the final quarter and pulled away late to win, 10-7, improving to 8-3 on the year, while handing the Clippers their first loss in 11 games this season and their first in 31 tries dating back to 2008.
Over the third and fourth periods, the Capers won 11 of 12 faceoffs, got legendary performances from senior defensive stalwart and ground ball machine Ben Brewster and junior Timmy Takach, who starred in the faceoff circle and scored three times as Cape Elizabeth returned to the top of the list of state championship threats.
“The first half, we turned the ball over,” said Takach, who by all accounts, including his own, had his finest game to date. “In the second half, we calmed down and possessed the ball. We worked as a team, got good looks and got the win.”
“This was an important game for us emotionally,” added longtime Capers coach Ben Raymond. “It showed we do have the ability to play with the best teams and beat them.”
Cape Elizabeth opened the 2010 season with a surprisingly lopsided 11-4 home loss to Falmouth, the first time the Capers had ever lost to the upstart Yachtsmen, a result that many felt heralded a changing of the guard in the region. Cape Elizabeth quickly showed improvement, however, winning seven of its next nine, only losing close games at Yarmouth (8-4) and Falmouth (9-7).
The Clippers won a pair of nailbiters against Falmouth this spring, 7-4, on the road, and 8-6 at home and also held off the Capers’ upset bid, but dominated everyone else, extending their win streak to 30 games Wednesday with a 17-4 triumph at Freeport.
Yarmouth (which hasn’t lost to anyone since falling, 6-5, in overtime, at NYA on May 31, 2008) had downed Cape Elizabeth in seven straight meetings, last losing, 9-5, at the Capers on April 28, 2007.
Friday, number eight looked like a certainty for half of the night, but oh my did things ever change.
There was little offense in the first quarter. Clippers junior Matt Murphy hit the post 4 minutes, 29 seconds in, but Yarmouth didn’t get its first goal until senior Colby Shields set up Murphy with 5:47 to play in the period. With time winding down in the first, Clippers senior standout Steven Petrovek fought his way through the defense and beat Cape Elizabeth junior Jack Roos with a shot (his lone goal) to make it 2-0.
Forty-eight seconds into the second quarter, senior Evan Henry scored unassisted and it was 3-0. With 10:01 to go in the half and Yarmouth playing a man-up, Henry scored again, taking a pass from sophomore Sam Torres and tickling the twine for a 4-0 advantage.
With 5:46 to play before halftime, the hosts got on the board when Foden scored unassisted, but the Clippers answered and took a 6-1 lead into the break behind tallies from junior Kyle Groves (on a long shot, assisted by classmate Mike McCormack) and senior Mike Johnson (unassisted).
While Yarmouth had a commanding advantage in shots (20-5), the other statistical categories were close to even, but few thought the Clippers would be seriously tested in the second half.
Instead, they would be steamrolled.
Off a third quarter-opening faceoff win, Lavallee raced in and beat Yarmouth senior goalie Cam Woodworth with a shot to make it 6-2.
That got the motor running.
“Lavallee had a huge goal,” Takach said. “That brought all the momentum to us.”
“We were clear at halftime that the first five minutes of the second half would be a big deal and they came out and set the tone,” said Yarmouth coach Craig Curry.
With 7:02 left in third, Foden fed junior Wes Richards for a goal. Ten seconds later, off yet another faceoff win, Foden passed to Takach for a shot that eluded Woodworth and suddenly it was a 6-4 contest.
With 5:20 to go in the quarter, Takach scored unassisted and it was 6-5.
After Nelson sent wide a great look in close, man-up, that could have pulled his team even, Nelson passed to Laprade who scored with 1:48 left in the third to make it 6-6.
Just like that, the deficit was history.
“We didn’t talk a lot at halftime about what we needed to differently,” Raymond said. “Obviously, we just needed to possess the ball. We couldn’t try to score six goals at once. We had to come down, be patient, move without the ball and work it around. Our defense played well in the first half, they just gave up too many opportunities because they were tired. It was a loose first half. We talked about coming out and having a second half to be proud of.”
The potent Clippers offense couldn’t get possession of the ball, not to mention respond.
“If we have possession, (Yarmouth’s) not scoring,” Raymond said. “No way they can score.”
The quarter ended with all the emotion on the side of the home team, which set out to finish in style in the fourth.
It took 27 seconds for Cape Elizabeth to go ahead to stay.
Foden did the honors, rebounding a save of his initial shot and firing it past Woodworth to make it 7-6.
After Nelson was robbed by Woodworth, the Capers went up 8-6 on an unassisted Takach goal with 8:21 remaining.
Yarmouth finally got a possession and answered with 7:07 left when senior David Dietz scored an unassisted goal, ending a 19 minute, 45 second drought and the 7-0 run, but the Clippers would draw no closer.
With 4:29 left, Foden got credit for a goal when his pass toward the goal somehow got through the defense and Woodworth, making it 9-7. Nelson set up junior Teddy Smith for a goal with 2:39 to play and Cape Elizabeth went on to put the finishing touches on its inspirational 10-7 victory.
“We had to keep calm,” Takach said. “Everyone just needed to stay relaxed. It’s the best we’ve played as a team all year. Roos had great saves. The defense cleared well. The offense worked it around and got open. We didn’t go for the first shot. In the beginning of the season, we had a tough loss, but we play with more intensity now. It’s nice to see.”
“We had a talk at halftime and coach Raymond said we needed to show everybody how we can play,” Brewster said. “We’ve been working hard. (Yarmouth has) been our rival for so many years. It’s great to come out and play that well in the second half. We played great defense and possessed the ball. We picked it up in the second half. That’s how we can really play.”
“We wanted to have an excellent second half, something we could build upon,” Raymond added. “No matter what happened, it wouldn’t change where we went in the playoffs. The good thing is that we didn’t really think about the (deficit).
“We focused on what we had to do. That’s one of our biggest things. It’s not necessarily how other teams play against us, it’s how we play. We’ve had some really good halves, but we have yet to a play a complete game. Yarmouth came out and pressured us more than we expected. I think we hit the pipe a couple times. The kids got down on themselves. There were some bad things.
“I think this game was a lot like the (second) Falmouth game. We played a really good second half in that game too, but we had mental issues. It was good to see us keep focus tonight. I don’t think we had a penalty in the second half. That was really good. Penalties toward the end were the difference in the Falmouth game. The kids have grown up quite a bit.”
Takach had three goals, helped the Capers win 15 of 21 faceoffs and grabbed eight ground balls.
“This was my best game by far,” Takach said. “(Tommy Foden) takes away their best defender. Brewster gets all the GBs off the faceoffs. It makes everyone’s job much easier.”
“Timmy on the faceoff was huge,” Raymond said. “He was pretty tired. He won faceoffs, came down and he was hot so we kept going to him. He played really, really well.”
Foden also scored three times and added two assists. Laprade, Lavallee, Richards and Smith all had one goal. Nelson finished with two assists. Roos was his usual steady self, making seven key saves.
Cape Elizabeth had a 28-9 edge in shots in the second half and 33-29 for the contest. The Capers forced 34 turnovers (giving it up 37 times) and had a huge advantage in ground balls (64-47). Lavallee and Brewster both had nine.
“Ben runs the defense,” Raymond said. “He’s in charge of what happens. He picked up a ton of ground balls. It was amazing.”
Yarmouth was led by two goals from Henry. Dietz, Groves, Johnson, Murphy and Petrovek had one goal apiece. McCormack, Shields and Torres all had one assist. Woodworth made 10 saves. Henry had a team-high nine ground balls.
“We got flustered and threw the ball away,” Curry said. “We didn’t do the settled things we needed to do and they were flying at us. They created a lot of opportunities they got. Congratulations to them. They played a great game.. “
The Clippers (who have first place in the Eastern B Heal Points standings locked up) close the regular season Tuesday night at home versus Greely, then will embark on a quest for a third straight championship.
When all is said and done, this loss could be a blessing in disguise.
“We needed a great game, we got a great game and we wound up on the wrong side of the score,” Curry said. “We’ll learn from it and get better. We need to look at all the mistakes we made tonight and make sure the boys understand that everything that happened here is fixable.”
Cape Elizabeth, meanwhile, is locked into the No. 2 spot in the Western B Heals. The Capers close at Waynflete Tuesday.
They now believe that they’re on the brink of doing something special and perhaps returning this program to the pinnacle for the first time since 2005.
“This gives us a ton of confidence,” Takach said. “We can play with any team in the state if we play our best.”
“We’ll probably have to go to Falmouth for playoffs, but hopefully we can beat them,” Brewster said. “This gives us a lot of confidence. We’re a young team. We’re coming together on offense and defense. We’ve talked about pride a lot. We talked about the pride in the program and pride of the alumni.”
Raymond likes the signs he’s seeing.
“This is one of the first teams I’ve had in a long time that’s really, really improved from Day 1 until the end,” he said. “I’ve had teams before that were as good as they were going to get on Day 1 and sometimes that was good enough, but this team has really gotten better. It’s a young group here. We’ll deal with mistakes and learn.
“I think it’s a big win for the kids. I think we’re ready to go into the playoffs. As long as we all show up together on the same day, we’ll be in every game we play. When we have moments of ineptness and we don’t all show up or get focused on what’s happening individually instead of collectively, we struggle. When we play as a team, we’re really, really good.”
Perhaps good enough to become yet another Cape Elizabeth team for the ages.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
Yarmouth junior Mike McCormack is hounded by Cape Elizabeth freshman Alex Cooley in first half action Friday. The Clippers enjoyed a 6-1 lead at the break, but had no answer for the Capers in the final 24 minutes.
Yarmouth senior Ebrahim Fazeli tries in vain to slow Cape Elizabeth junior Timmy Takach Friday. Takach had three second half goals to help rally the Capers to victory.
Cape Elizabeth junior Wilson Laprade keeps close tabs on Yarmouth senior Mike Johnson. Johnson’s fourth quarter goal made it a one-goal game, but the Capers scored the final two to win, 10-7.
In a play symbolic of the contest, Cape Elizabeth sophomore Tim Lavallee possesses and leaves Yarmouth’s dangerous senior attackman Steven Petrovek looking on during Friday night’s showdown. The Capers outscored the Clippers 9-1 in the second half and ended Yarmouth’s 30-game win streak, 10-7.
More photos below.