Falmouth boys' lax does it again; Third period burst leads to 10-7 victory at Brunswick
BRUNSWICK—The journey of the Falmouth boys' lacrosse team took another encouraging step Saturday afternoon.
The Yachtsmen, a preseason favorite who have discovered of late that the road won't be as easy as originally anticipated, were pushed hard by host Brunswick, a perennial Class A contender, but rose to the challenge, riding a six-goal third period and a five-goal effort from senior Mike Kane to their fourth win in a row, 10-7.
Falmouth broke open a close game at the half, thanks to three Kane goals in under five minutes, then held on for dear life down the stretch, improving to 6-1 in the process, while dropping the Dragons to 6-2.
"We haven't played that consistently lately, but we finally picked it up," said Yachtsmen coach Mike LeBel. "In years past, we would have lost this game."
Finding their way
After last year's breakout season, which culminated in a first-ever trip to the regional final, Falmouth has handled its favorite's status with aplomb in 2010. The Yachtsmen opened the year with an inspirational and surprisingly easy 11-4 victory at Cape Elizabeth, then crushed host Waynflete, 18-9. After losing a potential state final preview to two-time defending Class B champion Yarmouth, 7-4, Falmouth held off host NYA, 12-9, and visiting Scarborough, 4-3, before pounding visiting York, 18-3.
Brunswick, which fell to Portland in last year's state game, defeated Mt. Ararat (5-3), Cony (14-1) and Edward Little (9-4) to start the season, then fell, 13-6, at Yarmouth last weekend. The Dragons answered with wins at Mt. Blue (11-1) and Lewiston (9-8), but met their match Saturday.
The Dragons scored first and led for the only time when junior George Mills beat Yachtsmen sophomore Cam Bell 2 minutes, 17 seconds into the game.
Just 42 seconds later, Falmouth drew even when senior Chris Janelle scored unassisted and with 7:36 to play in the opening quarter, the Yachtsmen went ahead for good when (playing a man-up) senior Dan Hanley took a pass from Janelle and fired a shot that Brunswick senior Jeremy Diaz slowed, but couldn't stop before it trickled into the cage. Later in the quarter, Hanley hit the post and the visitors clung to a 2-1 lead heading for the second quarter.
In the second, Falmouth managed little offense and turned the ball over eight times, but still extended its lead.
With 8:41 to go before halftime, playing a man-up, sophomore Mitch Tapley set up Kane for his first goal. With 1:21 remaining in the half, senior Nick Kressbach (from junior Sam Franco) scored after a turnover, ending a 20 minute, 22 second drought and pulling the Dragons within 3-2, but with just 10.8 seconds left, Kane scored unassisted and the Yachtsmen were able to take a 4-2 advantage to the break.
In the first 24 minutes, Falmouth turned the ball over 13 times, lost five of eight faceoffs, was outshot, 25-15, and saw Brunswick win 25 ground balls (while the Yachtsmen grabbed 15), but thanks in large part to 12 saves from Bell, remained on top.
"We walked away feeling OK at halftime, but we knew we could play better," said Brunswick coach Don Glover.
Falmouth got some breathing room in the third quarter when its offense came roaring to life.
With 9:29 to play in the period, Kane scored unassisted to make it 5-2. Senior Tucker Hyland (from Tapley) followed with a goal at the 7:54 mark and the lead was four. Hyland scored again on a rebound just over a minute later and with 6:05 left in the third, Kane unleashed a long blast that Diaz couldn't stop and just like that, the Yachtsmen were up, 8-2.
"I got a lot of open looks," Kane said. "My teammates put me in a good spot to shoot and I took advantage of that."
With 5:24 to go in the period, the Dragons ended a 5-0 Falmouth run when senior Peter Morrell scored, but Kane scored once more unassisted and with 4:16 remaining in the quarter, junior Nick Bachman added an unassisted goal to make it 10-3.
"I think that was the key, just coming out quick in the second half," LeBel said. "We were aggressive on ground balls and faceoffs. That set the tone. The kids really stepped up. I've never really seen (Mike) shoot like that. He was definitely feeling it. They were quality shots that were very well placed. He placed it off-stick hip. The goalie didn't even move until the ball was in the cage. Tucker Hyland also did a fantastic job today. I think it was a really good effort."
"If you focus on one or two of their athletes, another one will step up and Kane had it today," Glover said, of Falmouth's attack. "He shot the lights out."
With 3:36 to go in the third, Kressbach (from senior John Williams) scored for Brunswick, but the hosts were still down 10-4 entering the fourth.
Early in the final stanza, in an astonishing possession, Hyland twice hit the post and two other good Yachtsmen looks were denied by Diaz, keeping it a 10-4 game.
With 9:51 to play, Franco scored unassisted. He then set up Kressbach for a man-up goal 26 seconds later and suddenly the Dragons were within four. Brunswick won the ensuing faceoff and senior Zach McMillan raced in looking to draw his team even closer, but his shot was saved by Bell and for the moment, Falmouth could relax.
With 8:25 remaining, freshman Will Sipperly appeared to extend the Yachtsmen's advantage, but his goal was waved off as he was ruled to be in the crease. After Falmouth killed several minutes, the hosts had a chance to answer and with 3:07 to play, Franco scored unassisted to make it 10-7.
Falmouth won the ensuing faceoff, but turned the ball over. With 1:32 left, Franco's shot hit the post. Thirty-seven seconds later, an apparent Brunswick goal was called off for a crease violation and that's as close as the Dragons would get as the Yachtsmen ran out the clock on their 10-7 win.
"Definitely the clearing was the difference (in the second half)," Kane said. "We figured it out. Brunswick's a competitive team."
"We had some mental lapses and gave them a chance to get back into it," LeBel said. "We had to do some ball control. Our ball control was fantastic. Traditionally, this is one of the best programs out there. To be the road against a quality team like this and win is nice."
Kane led all scorers with five goals, but six different players had a part in the scoring. Hyland scored twice, while Bachman (one assist), Hanley and Janelle (one assist) all had one goal. Tapley added a pair of assists. Bell stopped 16 shots.
Falmouth won 11 of 21 faceoffs, but lost the ground ball battle, 42-37 (Hanley had a team-high six), turned the ball over 24 times (to 19 for the Dragons) and was outshot, 43-35.
Brunswick was not disappointed with its effort.
"It was a really good game," Glover said. "We knew Falmouth would be a very good transition and midfield team. We tried to balance between zone and man-to-man on defense and I think we did well, but on offense we weren't able to capitalize and shot a bunch wide.
"(Crossover games have) been awesome. This is what we've been hoping for schedule-wise for the last six years. Prior to that, we had crossovers. This has been in the making for a long time. The crossover games have been awesome for the all the KVAC schools. I'm pretty proud of the KVAC schools. We're playing nip-and-tuck games.
"It's a challenge psychologically for the kids. These tight games are what we want. We want to be progressing all season long, then play our best at the end. I think we keep getting better and better."
Kressbach led the Dragons with three goals. Franco had two goals and a pair of assists. Mills and Morrell both scored once, while Williams added an assist. Diaz made 11 saves. Morrell had a game-high seven ground balls, while Franco and McMillan both grabbed a half-dozen.
Brunswick (which was third in the Eastern A Heal Points standings entering play Saturday) still has several tests remaining, beginning Tuesday at home versus Oxford Hills. The Dragons host Lewiston Thursday, have an away-and-home series with Messalonskee, then close at Mt. Ararat.
Brunswick hopes its best work is still to come.
"Homefield is going to be huge," Glover said. "The teams that are winning tight games seem to have homefield as a factor. I'd love to have homefield advantage. There's a lot of jumbling going on."
Falmouth (first in Western B) still has several tests to pass if it's going to be the top seed and have homefield advantage for the postseason. The Yachtsmen host Cape Elizabeth Tuesday in what figures to be a much closer game than the first meeting. Friday, Falmouth goes to Yarmouth. The Yachtsmen also play at Greely and at home versus NYA and Freeport.
"We don't want to go to Cape (for the playoffs)," said LeBel.
"I'm glad to play on Yarmouth's turf since we play a fast-paced game. It should be a really good game. I think long grass slows us down."
"We're coming along," Kane said. "We definitely have some work to do. Hopefully we'll fix the mistakes in practice. Being home for the playoffs is definitely a goal."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org