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Yarmouth, Falmouth boys' lax top seeds for tourney; Freeport, Greely, NYA also in hunt

Sports

Yarmouth, Falmouth boys' lax top seeds for tourney; Freeport, Greely, NYA also in hunt

If all goes according to seeding, the Falmouth and Yarmouth boys' lacrosse teams will square off for the third time this spring in the Class B state championship game June 19.

Of course, both teams have work to do between now and then, and both will have to contend with some familiar rivals.

In Eastern B, the Clippers, the two-time defending state champions, wound up 11-1 and first in the final Heal Points standings. Yarmouth has a bye into Saturday's semifinal round where it will host either No. 4 North Yarmouth Academy (5-7) or No. 5 Lincoln Academy (8-4).

Freeport (8-4) earned the No. 3 seed in the region and also has a bye into the semis. Saturday, the Falcons will go to No. 2 St. Dom's (12-0).

In Western B, the Yachtsmen, who went 10-2 in the regular season, good for first, will host No. 4 Greely (6-6) in Saturday's semifinals.

The favorite

Despite its recent loss at Cape Elizabeth, Yarmouth has to be viewed as the team to beat in Class B. With a strong senior core, prolific scoring, staunch defense, a superb goaltender in senior Cam Woodworth and excellent special teams play, the Clippers have all the ingredients to make it three in a row. Yarmouth's regular season-ending 17-4 home win over Greely gave it an 11-1 mark and a mind-boggling 71-game home winning streak.

"It's so hard to be in the boys' shoes," said Clippers coach Craig Curry, who has never lost a game at home in his seven-year tenure as head coach. "Everyone has such expectations. Internally, I think we met all our goals. We got better through the season."

The Clippers twice had their way with NYA in the regular year, opening with an 11-5 home victory, then romping, 19-1, for their first-ever triumph on the Panthers' turf field. Yarmouth did not face Lincoln Academy this year.

The Clippers, first in the latest coaches' poll, are 2-0 against Lincoln all-time in the postseason (most recently winning, 16-0, in the 2008 semifinals) and have a ton of playoff history with NYA. The rivals have squared off 11 times in the past 12 postseasons (Yarmouth holds a 7-4 edge). Last year, in the regional final, the Clippers rolled, 15-4.

"I think we're prepared for the playoffs," Curry said. "We know what we need to continue to work on. (The Cape loss) showed us a lot of areas where we need to improve on. I like what I see."

NYA was in serious danger of not even making the playoffs entering its regular season finale at York last Wednesday. There, the Panthers trailed by two in the fourth period before rallying for a 10-8 win (sophomore Forrest Milburn had four goals) to finish their up-and-down season at 5-7 and fourth in Eastern A.

"I think (the inconsistency) was due to age," said NYA coach Chris Carpentier. "My entire defense is sophomores. Thank goodness we have (senior goalie) Taylor (Norton). He's been outstanding this year."

The Panthers didn't face Lincoln this season and the teams have no prior playoff history.

"It'll be interesting," said Carpentier. "I don't know much about what they do. The focus is for us to do our thing. We've showed spurts in most games. We have to keep it going. The kids would like another shot at Yarmouth. They're solid."

Freeport has quietly put together one its best campaigns. The Falcons went 8-4, closing with a 15-2 loss at Falmouth that was much closer than the final score indicated.

"I think we played a strong game against Falmouth," said Freeport coach Geoff Arris. "They're an elite team. We're getting there. This is one of the best seasons we've had. We're very pleased with how everything's meshing. We hope to be successful in the tournament."

The Falcons earned the No. 3 seed in Eastern B and a bye into Saturday's semifinal at No. 2 St. Dom's. The teams didn't play this year and have no playoff history.

Their time is now

Falmouth is no longer a feel-good story.

The Yachtsmen, who stole headlines a year ago and reached a first-ever Western B Final before losing to Cape Elizabeth, faced plenty of pressure entering 2010 and have risen to the occasion.

Falmouth beat the Capers twice (11-4 on the road April 16 and 9-7 at home May 18), defeated NYA on two occasions and also downed playoff teams Waynflete, Greely, Scarborough and Brunswick before closing the regular season with a 15-2 home triumph over Freeport last Tuesday (senior Dan Hanley and sophomores Jack Cooleen and Mitch Tapley all scored three times) to wind up a program-best 10-2, good for the top spot in the region.

"We have to achieve things one step at a time," said Yachtsmen coach Mike LeBel. "Going 10-2 is another step in the process. We had a good season. I'm proud of the kids. It's been a lot of fun. We had one of the toughest schedules around. We had to play Cape and Yarmouth twice, NYA twice, Scarborough and Brunswick. To have that schedule and to dodge all those bullets, that's pretty good. We didn't have a letdown in all that time.

"I'd say there's probably a little more pressure this year," he added. "We have expectations with all the kids we had back. We've struggled with having some key players hurt. We're getting those kids back."

Falmouth plays host to Greely in the semifinals Saturday at 11:30 a.m. The Rangers wound up 6-6 on the year and came in fourth.

"We've had a couple bumps along the road, but we've been playing our younger guys who have pulled it together," said Rangers coach Casey Abbott.

On May 25, in Cumberland, the Yachtsmen rolled, 16-6. The teams have met in each of the past three postseasons. Greely was an 8-7 overtime winner in the 2007 quarterfinals and triumphed 7-6 (also in OT) in the 2008 semifinal round. Last year, Falmouth romped, 17-5, in the semifinals.

The winner will likely face No. 2 Cape Elizabeth (9-3) in the regional final Wednesday of next week. The Rangers fell, 14-2, at the Capers back on May 11 and have dropped all five previous playoff meetings.

Falmouth (currently ranked second in the coaches' poll) knows that beating the Capers a third time this spring is a herculean task.

"You always have to be worried about Cape," LeBel said. "I knew the first game (an 11-4 road win way back on April 16) was a far closer game than the score showed. I think they're the most dangerous, explosive team out there. They're probably the most athletic team. (Coach) Ben (Raymond) is the best at making adjustments. That's what makes me afraid the most. I have to have a plan for the entire game. It'll be very interesting if we both get that far. I think we have a championship-caliber team. We're very dedicated to our goal of making it to the state championship. The guys want it. We just have to put it all together."

States

The Class B state game is Saturday, June 19 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. Game time is 12:30 p.m.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net