Cape holds off Falmouth's furious rally in round one

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Cape Elizabeth senior Riley Pillsbury, left, is congratulated by sophomore Tate Perkins after scoring a goal late in the first half during the Capers’ 11-9 win over Falmouth Wednesday evening. 

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Cape Elizabeth 11 Falmouth 9

F- 1 3 1 4- 9
CE- 4 2 4 1- 11

First quarter
10:15 CE Perkins (Bottomley) (MAN-UP)
5:39 CE Sarka (unassisted)
3:06 CE Boechenstein (Carroll)
1:11 F Norris (Mainella)
1:03 CE Bottomley (unassisted) 

Second quarter
9:00 F Russell (unassisted) (MAN-DOWN)
7:48 F Mainella (Scribner)
1:48 F Norris (Scribner)
1:00 CE Pillsbury (unassisted)
51.0 CE Pillsbury (Perkins) 

Third quarter
9:50 CE Sarka (unassisted)
8:33 CE Pillsbury (unassisted)
6:55 F Norris (Gilbert)
4:12 CE Sarka (unassisted)
3:02 CE Pillsbury (Raymond) 

Fourth quarter
9:56 F Russell (unassisted)
5:57 F Mainella (Russell)
5:25 F N. Farnham (Scribner)
4:46 F N. Farnham (Mainella) 
2:58 CE C. Thoreck (O. Thoreck) (MAN-UP) 

Goals:
F- Norris 3, N. Farnham, Mainella, Russell 2
CE- Pillsbury 4, Sarka 3, Boechenstein, Bottomley, Perkins, C. Thoreck 1

Assists:
F- Mainella, Scribner 2, Gilbert, Russell 1
CE- Bottomley, Carroll, Perkins, Raymond, O. Thoreck 1

Faceoffs (Falmouth, 12-10)
F- Pierce 12 of 22
CE- Raymond 10 of 22

Ground balls (Cape Elizabeth,35-31 )
F- Ciraulo, Engleberger 5, Hickey, Pierce 4, Norris, Russell, Scribner, Zinn 2, Chapman, Gilbert, Masciangelo, Mainella, Reed 1
CE- Ekedahl, Perkins, Pillsbury, O. Thoreck 5, Sarka 4, Brett, Raymond 3, Avantagio, Narvaez 2, Dresser 1

Turnovers:
F- 17
CE- 20

Shots:
F- 33
CE- 32 

Shots on cage:
F- 21
CE- 16

Saves:
F (Chapman) 5 
CE (Narvaez) 12

CAPE ELIZABETH—The Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth boys’ lacrosse teams did nothing to alter the perception that they’re state’s gold standard when they squared off in their first showdown this spring Wednesday evening at Hannaford Field.

And even though the Capers held on to prevail, there is still much to be decided between the rivals.

Round one went to the hosts, but what looked to be a certain victory produced some anxious moments down the stretch.

Cape Elizabeth took leads of 3-0 and 4-1, but Falmouth, buoyed by a man-down goal, pulled even at 4-4 when junior Henry Norris scored with 1:48 left in the first half.

After not scoring for over 12 minutes, the Capers ended the half strong, as senior Riley Pillsbury scored twice in nine seconds and Cape Elizabeth was ahead to stay, 6-4, at halftime.

Two goals apiece from Pillsbury and classmate R.J. Sarka made it 10-5 after three periods and it appeared the Capers were home free, but the Yachtsmen are nothing if not prolific and four goals in five minutes, capped by sophomore Nick Farnham’s strike with 4:46 play, pulled Falmouth within one.

The Yachtsmen’s bid to complete an improbable comeback was dashed with 2:58 left, when, after a controversial offsides call gave the ball back to Cape Elizabeth, junior Owen Thoreck set up twin Connor Thoreck for a man-up goal which provided a little breathing room and the Capers, thanks to the final two of senior goalie Alex Narvaez’s dozen saves, held on to prevail, 11-9.

Pillsbury led the way with four goals, Sarka added three and Cape Elizabeth improved to 6-0 dropping Falmouth to 5-1 in the process.

“These games always get interesting,” said Capers coach Ben Raymond, who won his 238th career game. “I don’t know if any lead is ever really safe. Our teams are similar, our strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t take much to come back.” 

Set apart

The first half of the 2016 boys’ lacrosse season served notice that Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth are at different level than everyone else.

The Yachtsmen scored 78 goals in their first five games and won by at least five every time out. Falmouth opened with wins over visiting Freeport (19-6), Kennebunk (10-5) and two-time defending Western A champion South Portland (21-10), then pitched a 16-0 shutout at North Yarmouth Academy. Last Thursday, the Yachtsmen made another statement with a 12-7 victory at three-time defending Eastern B champion Yarmouth. 

The Capers’ title defense began with an 18-8 home win over Waynflete. After pulling away late to down host Yarmouth in a state game rematch, 15-5, Cape Elizabeth blanked visiting Scarborough 10-0, held on for dear life to win at Kennebunk, 10-9, then rode a strong second half to victory at Greely Saturday, 12-6.

“Last week brought us down to earth a little bit,” Pillsbury said. “We needed those two games as a test. We learned we can’t beat teams by 10 or 20. We learned we have to come out hard.” 

While Cape Elizabeth has been the gold standard for most of the sport’s existence at the high school level, beginning in 2009, the Capers got company from Falmouth and the two have been spirited rivals ever since, meeting in the past seven regional finals, plus twice each regular season.

Last spring, Cape Elizabeth won at Falmouth, 19-11, but the Yachtsmen returned the favor on the Capers’ Senior Night, rallying to end a seven-game skid in the series, 11-9. The rubber match went to Cape Elizabeth, which scored seven unanswered second half goals en route to a 12-4 triumph in the Western B Final.

Prior to this meeting, since the start of the 2002 season (see sidebar, below), the Capers held a 20-7 overall edge and an 11-2 advantage on their home turf.

Wednesday, Falmouth hoped for a program first by winning in Cape Elizabeth for the second straight year, but the Capers did just enough to prevail.

Just over a minute in, Cape Elizabeth earned a man-up opportunity and capitalized, as Bottomley fed Perkins for a 1-0 lead with 10:15 to play in the first quarter.

After the Capers killed a slashing penalty to Owen Thoreck, Sarka scored unassisted with 5:39 remaining and with 3:06 to go, sophomore Ben Carroll set up junior Jeb Boechenstein, who made a nice catch before beating Falmouth sophomore goalie Ethan Chapman, to make it 3-0.

“The game started slow,” Pillsbury said. “We had to feel out their defense, know what kind of sets we were in offensively and go from there.”

The Yachtsmen finally got on the board with 1:11 left in the first period, as sophomore Lou Mainella fed Norris.

Falmouth, which was shut out the final 26 minutes of last year’s regional final, snapped a 36:49 scoring drought over 11 months at Hannaford Field, but couldn’t build on that momentum, as Capers sophomore Finn Raymond won the ensuing faceoff and the ball came to Bottomley, who finished unassisted with 1:03 to go in the first and Cape Elizabeth was ahead, 4-1, after 12 minutes.

Four Narvaez saves helped the Capers grab the early advantage.

With 9:38 to play in the first half, Cape Elizabeth had an opportunity to extend its lead, as Falmouth senior George Gilbert was sent off for a minute for a cross-check, but instead, the Yachtsmen scored a man-down goal and that sparked a comeback.

With 9 minutes left, after Chapman made a save at one end and sophomore Brendan Hickey ran the ball into the offensive zone before feeding junior Devin Russell, who spun past a defender and finished to cut the deficit to 4-2.

With 7:18 showing, junior Jack Scribner set up sophomore Lou Mainella to cut the deficit to one and with 1:48 to go, Norris took a feed from Scribner and beat Narvaez from long distance to make it 4-4.

The Capers never let the Yachtsmen go ahead and with exactly a minute remaining in the first half, Pillsbury ended his team’s 12:03 drought with an unassisted goal and Cape Elizabeth was ahead to stay.

Raymond won the ensuing faceoff and immediately transitioned into fastbreak mode, passing to Owen Thoreck, who quickly threw to Perkins, who set up Pillsbury on the doorstep for a dazzling goal with 51 seconds to go and the Capers were back in control and led, 6-4, at halftime.

“It’s always great to go into halftime with momentum,” Pillsbury said. “Every game this season, we’ve been a second half team. We focus on coming out strong in the third quarter and keeping it coming.”

“Those were two big goals,” Ben Raymond said. “We had the three quick passes and Riley finished on the backside. That was a great goal. We knew he had an advantage on his matchup. It was just a matter of him getting in the right spot. He did a great job finishing. He wants the ball on his stick. He’s an excellent shooter. It’s tough to read a shot off a lefty’s stick.”

In the first half, Finn Raymond won six of 11 faceoffs, Cape Elizabeth had a 19-14 edge in ground balls and a 17-15 shots advantage.

The Capers dominated the third period and seemingly opened up an insurmountable lead.

With 9:50 to go in the frame, Sarka’s bounce shot resulted in an unassisted goal and just over a minute later, Pillsbury beat a defender, went one-on-one with sophomore Liam Tucker, who replaced Chapman at halftime, faked a high shot and finished low to stretch the lead to 8-4.

With 6:55 left in the third, Gilbert set up Norris to cut the deficit to three, but Sarka responded with an unassisted goal with 4:12 showing and with 3:02 to go in the frame, Raymond set up Pillsbury for a 10-5 advantage.

A five-goal deficit appeared to be too much to overcome entering the fourth period, but Falmouth’s offense might be the most prolific in the state and the Yachtsmen certainly made things interesting.

The comeback began with 9:56 to go when Russell curled around the crease before shooting past Narvaez to make it 10-6.

With 5:57 remaining, Russell set up Mainella for a goal and 32 seconds later, Scribner fed sophomore Nick Farnham for a goal and suddenly, Falmouth was only down, 10-8.

The Yachtsmen got the ball back and out of a timeout, Farnham got a feed from Mainella and beat Narvaez again to make it a one-goal contest.

Raymond won the ensuing faceoff, but Cape Elizabeth turned the ball over and the Yachtsmen had an opportunity to tie.

Falmouth turned the ball over instead, committed a turnover of its own and with 3:19 remaining, Russell was ruled to be offsides and was sent off for 30 seconds.

Yachtsmen coach Mike LeBel and his staff were apoplectic about the call, feeling that the offsides ruling was incorrect.

“We had an unfortunate offsides call which wasn’t offsides, since we had a guy back,” LeBel said. “There were a lot of things tonight that were out of our control.” 

Despite the pleas from the visiting sideline, the call stood and 21 seconds later, the Capers got a little breathing room, as Owen Thoreck fed Connor Thoreck, who returned Wednesday after missing a couple games with a high ankle sprain and tickled the twine for an 11-9 lead.

The win wasn’t yet secure as Falmouth got two more great looks, but with 2:04 left, Narvaez robbed Scribner alone in front and with 50.7 seconds remaining, Farnham was denied by Narvaez.

Cape Elizabeth ran out the clock from there and celebrated its 11-9 victory.

“It was nervewracking,” Narvaez said. “Playing Falmouth brings out the best in both teams. I was so proud of our defense today. We played great defense on their key players. We didn’t think it was too big of a mountain to climb. We just had to show up on defense and we did.”

“We were up 10-5 and we knew they’d make a run, since they always do,” said Pillsbury. “They got it to 10-9 and we just had to resettle and regroup. From there, we knew it was our game.”

“The kids got wound up and felt the pressure, but we kept playing good, solid defense and offensively, we executed when we needed to,” Ben Raymond added. “The kids understand that lacrosse is a game where you can score goals quickly. Whether we’re up or we’re down, we try to stay focused and continue to do what we do.” 

The Capers got goals from six different players in a balanced attack. Pillsbury led the way with a game-high four goals, Sarka had three and Boechenstein, Bottomley, Perkins and Connor Thoreck each tickled the twine once. Bottomley, Carroll, Perkins, Raymond and Owen Thoreck all had assists.

Cape Elizabeth had a 35-31 edge in ground balls, as Perkins, Pillsbury, Owen Thoreck and junior defensive standout Ben Ekedahl all collected five.

Narvaez had 12 saves and they all proved to be huge.

“(Alex) made great saves, some big ones down the stretch,” Ben Raymond said. “He cleared the ball well. Our entire defense played well. (Junior) Tommy Brett did a great job clearing. Ben Ekedahl did a great job on Scribner. (Senior) Nikko Pappas contributed. They all played solid defense. That’s what we’re looking for. They handled themselves well.” 

“Narvaez was the difference,” LeBel said. “He made some phenomenal saves. He set the tone early and gave them confidence. He played outstanding, like he was the best goalie in the state tonight.”

The Capers committed 20 turnovers, but overcame.

Falmouth’s offense featured three goals from Norris and two apiece from Farnham, Mainella and Russell. Mainella and Scribner both had two assists and Gilbert and Russell had one each. Chapman had five saves and defensemen Jack Engleberger and Nico Ciraulo tied for team-high ground ball honors with five.

The Yachtsmen had a 33-32 edge in shots (21-16 on frame) and turned the ball over 17 times.

“Any lacrosse fan in the state of Maine should have been here today,” LeBel said. “I saw Cape play the other day and they weren’t the same team. They didn’t play well. They always play their best game against us, especially here. In the second half, I think we got rid of the jitters and realized we could play with them. There’s a lot of psychological effects when you play Cape that you have to overcome. When we settled down and understood what they were doing, we realized we could be effective and productive. They exploited us offensively. What they do offensively, they do very well.  They dodge, they feed the crease, they catch it on the crease, they shoot and finish. If you don’t play a perfect game against them, especially on this field, you’ll lose.”

Til we meet again

The teams will play again Tuesday, May 31 in Falmouth. Both squads face some tests in the interim.

The Yachtsmen (third in the Class B South Heal Points standings at press time) are back in action Monday, when Fryeburg Academy pays a visit. After hosting Wells, Falmouth has a crossover test at Messalonskee, welcomes Greely, then will likely be tested at Kennebunk.

“I think what we did (tonight) will serve us well going into the second game, so we’re not skittish and apprehensive,” LeBel said. 

The Capers (first in Class B South) have a crossover game at South Portland Saturday, then play at Wells and host Lake Region, NYA and Yarmouth.

“We still have to work on our second slides,” Narvaez said. “We need to nail that down in practice. We need to stay out of our own heads. We freak out sometimes under pressure, but we need to stay calm and just play our game.”

“We definitely need to focus on the fact we’ll probably play (Falmouth) two more times,” Pillsbury said. “This first game is great, but it would mean a lot more if we can win at their place.”

“If you ask the kids, they’re more excited to play this game than any other game, but the focus is to learn from what we’re doing,” Ben Raymond added. “We can play a lot better and they can play a lot better. We want homefield advantage. The issue will be who else we play. They have Kennebunk twice and we don’t. We’ll need to beat them again.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter:@foresports.

Cape Elizabeth junior Jeb Boechenstein beats Falmouth sophomore goalie Ethan Chapman for a first period goal.

Cape Elizabeth senior goalie Alex Narvaez denies Falmouth junior Jack Scribner for one of his 12 saves.

Cape Elizabeth junior Tommy Brett and Falmouth junior Devin Russell fight for the ball.

Cape Elizabeth senior R.J. Sarka winds up for a shot as Falmouth junior Seth Masciangelo tries to defend.

Falmouth senior George Gilbert looks to pass.

Cape Elizabeth senior J Bottomley gets past Falmouth senior Jack Engleberger and beats Falmouth sophomore goalie Ethan Chapman.

Falmouth junior Henry Norris, left, congratulates sophomore Lou Mainella after a second quarter goal.

Recent Cape Elizabeth-Falmouth meetings

2015
Cape Elizabeth 19 @ Falmouth 11 
Falmouth 11 @ Cape Elizabeth 9 
Western B Final
@ Cape Elizabeth 12 Falmouth 4 

2014
@ Cape Elizabeth 12 Falmouth 8
Cape Elizabeth 12 @ Falmouth 10
Western B Final
@ Cape Elizabeth 11 Falmouth 8

2013
Cape Elizabeth 11 @ Falmouth 10 (OT)
@ Cape Elizabeth 9 Falmouth 6
Western B Final
@ Cape Elizabeth 9 Falmouth 8 (OT)

2012
@ Cape Elizabeth 8 Falmouth 6
@ Falmouth 14 Cape Elizabeth 12
Western B Final
@ Falmouth 10 Cape Elizabeth 9

2011
@ Falmouth 12 Cape Elizabeth 4
@ Cape Elizabeth 8 Falmouth 7 (OT)
Western B Final
@ Falmouth 11 Cape Elizabeth 9

2010
Falmouth 11 @ Cape Elizabeth 4
@ Falmouth 9 Cape Elizabeth 7 
Western B Final
Cape Elizabeth 7 @ Falmouth 6 (OT)

2009
@ Cape Elizabeth 6 Falmouth 3
Western B Final
@ Cape Elizabeth 11 Falmouth 7

2008
Cape Elizabeth 12 @ Falmouth 5

2007
Cape Elizabeth 8 @ Falmouth 4

2006
Cape Elizabeth 10 @ Falmouth 3

2005
@ Cape Elizabeth 8 Falmouth 3
Cape Elizabeth 12 @ Falmouth 2

2004
@ Cape Elizabeth 13 Falmouth 4

2002
Cape Elizabeth 13 @ Falmouth 2

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.