Magical night for Yarmouth soccer; Both Clippers teams down Falmouth in notable fashion
YARMOUTH—The Yarmouth High soccer program has enjoyed plenty of glory over the years, but it's safe to say that Saturday night was one for the ages.
Hosting longtime rival/nemesis Falmouth on a evening with a hint of fall in the air and an enormous crowd on hand, both Clippers teams didn't just earn victories, but made history in the process.
First, the girls' teams tangled and Yarmouth shrugged off an early Yachtsmen goal and went on to a 3-2 victory, giving the only coach the program has ever known, Rich Smith, his 200th career victory.
The boys' squads then squared off and produced the type of intense, highly skilled battle we're accustomed to seeing, only with a stunning result as for the first time in the history of the turf field at the school, the home team came out on top, as the Clippers took advantage of a mistake in the second half for the game's lone goal in a 1-0 triumph.
Smith started coaching the Yarmouth program back in the Reagan Administration, 1987, a season which saw the Clippers go 0-13-1. The wins started to come the next year and by 1995, Yarmouth was the best team in Class B. The Clippers also won the 2003 championship and have been solid contenders every year since, including 2009, when they reached the semifinals and lost to eventual state champion York.
Yarmouth returned many of its top players this autumn and has served notice that it expects to give York and Falmouth a run for the top spot. After opening with a 2-1 win at Freeport, the Clippers blanked Gray-New Gloucester 3-0 Wednesday evening.
Saturday's contest was Yarmouth's home opener against a Yachtsmen squad that reached the regional final a year ago (losing to York) and easily won their first three outings, 7-0 at Fryeburg, 4-0 over visiting Poland and 5-1 at Lake Region.
Since winning the 2003 Class B title, the Clippers had gone just 2-9-3 against the Yachtsmen, including painful playoff losses in the 2005 and 2006 regional finals. Last year, Yarmouth and Falmouth played to a 1-1 tie and went into overtime in the other meeting, won 2-1 by the Yachtsmen.
Saturday, Falmouth got off to a great start, but it would be Yarmouth's night.
Just 2 minutes, 14 seconds in, senior Rachel Bauer hurried a throw in from out of bounds before the Clippers defense was set. The ball went to senior Jesse L'Heureux, who sent a cross toward the goal. There, senior Jess DiPhillippo outleaped Yarmouth freshman goalkeeper Olivia Smith and headed the ball into the net for a quick 1-0 advantage.
Undaunted, the senior-laded Clippers struck right back, winning a corner kick. With 36:08 to go in the 40-minute first half, senior Courtney Barker launched a left-footed rope that got past everyone, including Falmouth senior goalkeeper Elizabeth Estabrook and just like that, the contest was deadlocked, 1-1.
"I practice a lot on my corners," Barker said. "I was surprised it went in. I knew I hit the ball well."
"When (Falmouth) scored two minutes in, with a young defense and a young goalie, we could have panicked, but I'm glad how we responded," Smith added. "Courtney's corner kick was beautiful. No one could have gotten that."
The Clippers had the better of the scoring chances the rest of the first half.
In the 15th minute, two rushes from senior speedster Devin Simsarian were broken up at the last second. In the 18th minute, sophomore Tess Merrill took a pass from senior Becca Bell and raced in for a shot, but Estabrook made the save. Seconds later, Bell set up Merrill again, but this time, her shot was high.
With 8:23 left in the half, senior Danielle Torres had a good look on a rebound, but her bid was denied by Estabrook. With 3:58 to go, Bell fired a low shot that Estabrook snared. In the 38th minute, junior Ricki Pierce sent a cross just past the outstretched foot of junior Mo Mcnaboe and it was on to halftime with the game knotted 1-1.
Yarmouth kept the pressure on in the second half and was soon rewarded. With 34:47 left in regulation, Bell's long shot toward Simsarian at the mouth of the Falmouth goal hit a Yachtsmen defender and got past Estabrook. Bell was credited for the score and it was 2-1 Clippers.
Two minutes later, Simsarian crossed to Merrill, who just missed on a shot. With 22:40 to play, Simsarian got free for a shot that Estabrook slowed, but led to a corner. The ensuing corner kick (each team had four on the night) from Barker was cleared to senior Natalie Salmon, who sent a pass to Merrill, who chipped the shot home to make it 3-1 Yarmouth with 21:58 left.
After the third goal, Falmouth coach Jon Shardlow pulled Estabrook in favor of junior Jackie Doyle.
Just when it looked as if the Clippers were home free, however, the Yachtsmen made things interesting.
With 20:55 remaining, senior Allie Lycan passed to junior Sarah Hogan, who one-timed a pretty shot past Smith to her right and just like that, it was a 3-2 game with plenty of time remaining.
Where beating Falmouth is concerned, nothing ever comes easily for Yarmouth, but the hosts were able to hold on. Bauer (who shot high in the box), Hogan (a left-footed blast that Smith saved) and Hogan again (a shot with 1:46 to go that Smith denied) had late looks, but the Clippers hung tough and soon celebrated their 3-2 triumph.
"It's so exciting," Barker said. "Our team this year is really closely-knit. We were really focused in warmups and we came out hard. It was pretty nervewracking at the end, but we dealt with it. We were really strong in the back. We all trust each other and work well together."
"Anytime we beat Falmouth, it's a great win for us," coach Smith added. "They're the program to beat. Our girls have really been working hard, but we hadn't had a giant test. We didn't really know until tonight if we could play with Falmouth.
"I thought we really stepped up and played well. We had great communication and senior leadership out there throughout. We played a hard-nosed, tough game of soccer tonight. I'm really proud. It's a great building block. We work really well together. The five seniors have been with the program for a long time. They keep it positive and energetic. They have a great work ethic and push each other hard in practice. I feel really good about this team.
Afterwards, Smith took a moment to reflect on his 200th win.
"It is a landmark," he said. "That I am the only coach Yarmouth has ever had and we've won 200 games is great. It takes awhile to get to 200. I'm proud of all the kids who have played for me and all the great teams we've had. This is another one of them."
The Clippers are idle until Tuesday when they host Wells.
Falmouth just couldn't quite get the job done.
"(Yarmouth) is running a really nice 4-3-3 right now," Shardlow said. "Tactically, we had a plan in place. We weren't able to execute it. Frankly, we couldn't string three or four passes together. When you don't execute your plan, this is the end result. Frustration set in. We panicked and we made mistakes we generally don't make. Against a team like this, they'll make us pay. We have a long way to go. This was an opportunity to look at how well we train."
The Yachtsmen are at Wells Thursday.
Yarmouth goes to Falmouth in the rematch, Oct. 12.
The boys' teams took the field next and produced the type of soccer that while lacking in media attention, is arguably the highest quality competition in all of high school sports.
For the past 10 years, the Class B state champion was either Falmouth or Yarmouth. Last year, the Yachtsmen got the nod, beating the Clippers, 3-0, in the regional final after the squads played to a pair of ties in the regular season.
So far in 2010, the two powers had dominated. Falmouth had no trouble with visiting Fryeburg (5-1), Poland (12-0) or Lake Region (8-0). Yarmouth, meanwhile, was a 3-0 winner at Freeport and blanked visiting Gray-New Gloucester, 6-0.
Both teams feature multiple all-stars and promising newcomers, but the overwhelming specter over this meeting was the Yachtsmen's astonishing decade-plus-long success on the Clippers' homefield.
The last time Yarmouth had beaten Falmouth at home was way back on Oct. 12, 1999, at Winslow Park, nearly two years before the turf field was ready for action. In that game, the Clippers got goals from Tucker Hodgkins, Todd Magee and Eoin Lynch and downed the Yachtsmen, 3-1.
The turf field came in for the 2001 season and after playing the Yachtsmen to a 2-2 tie that year, the Clippers lost to their nemesis in 2002 (1-0), 2003 (1-0), 2005 (1-0), 2006 (3-1), 2007 (1-0) and 2008 (1-0). Along the way, Yarmouth lost in the fog and in a game which saw a goal go through its goalie's legs. For the most part, Falmouth was simply better and faster. Last year. Yarmouth couldn't hold a second half lead and settled for a 1-1 home tie.
Saturday night, the Clippers finally thrust the monkey off their backs.
Scoring chances were at a premium in the first half, but the hosts had a great one in the second minute when senior Kyle Groves sent a long kick into the box. Senior Luke Pierce (who scored the winning goal in Yarmouth's 2008 regional final victory at Falmouth) got his potent head on the ball and appeared to send it into the top right corner of the goal, but from nowhere, Yachtsmen senior goalkeeper Ben Goffin flew to his left to get a hand on the ball and knock it into his best friend, the post, keeping the game scoreless.
Falmouth appeared to go up in the 15th minute, but senior Nick Bachman was whistled for running over Yarmouth junior goalie Chris Knaub en route to poking the ball home.
Entering the second half, it was clear that one mistake one way or the other would be the difference and finally, after too many bad bounces to count, the Clippers got a break to go their way.
It came with 28:47 remaining when freshman Chandler Smith played a seemingly harmless ball toward the Falmouth goal. Two defenders weren't able to clear it, however, and from nowhere, senior Ryan Maguire raced in and buried his shot past Goffin to make it 1-0 Yarmouth.
"It was a miscommunication in the back and I pounced on it and got a lucky break," Maguire said. "It's just natural striker instincts."
"It was a nice, composed goal," said Clippers coach Mike Hagerty (who oh by the way won his 150th game with the program earlier in the week). "It was a good, solid finish. I'm happy for him. Ryan missed a lot of time last year."
No one on hand thought the lead was safe, however.
Two minutes after the goal, Falmouth junior Brandon Tuttle had a rush broken up at the last second by a sprawling Knaub. With 24:18 to play, Yachtsmen senior standout Sam White fired a corner kick (the visitors had four to the hosts' one on the night) that went in, but the goal was waved off after a Falmouth player was whistled for pushing Knaub.
With 8:23 remaining, White fired a kick into the box, but Yarmouth cleared it away. Three minutes later, White found senior Michael Bloom streaking toward the goal, but Bloom's shot went wide. With 3:22 left, White sent a rocket into the box toward sophomore J.P. White, but the younger White couldn't quite get a foot on the ball.
From there, the Clippers defense, which was the story of the night, held firm and as they did all evening, kicked or headed away every bid.
At 9:17 p.m., the horn sounded and Yarmouth could finally exult and enjoy a home win over the Yachtsmen for the first time this century.
"It's unbelievable," Maguire said. "It feels absolutely incredible. We knew we were the better team and knew we had to come out strong and make them make mistakes."
"It feels good," added Hagerty. "What feels especially good is that this particular group of seniors has been overlooked, with the exception of Luke, because they've had such a good group ahead of them. Kyle Groves played his best game I've seen in four years. (Senior) Cotter Jackson found out Thursday when one of our starting defenders dislocated his shoulder that he was playing defense for the first time against Falmouth. He did a terrific job tonight. We had three freshmen play big minutes tonight. I was very impressed with their composure. (Junior) Pao (Carnero Melero, a Spanish exchange student) put on a show. He controlled the midfield tonight. Between Pao and those freshmen, I think our starting 10 are as good as last year.
"I was very proud of the composure tonight. Falmouth is a very good team, so talented. The White brothers do such a nice job in the middle. We'll play them two more times and I think it'll be the same thing both times, a one-goal game. I respect how the two teams play so hard. (Despite 31 fouls) most of the game was very clean. I'm really proud of the effort and the kids' heart tonight. We haven't conceded a goal yet, knock on wood. We've found ways to score."
Yarmouth's defense sparkled and pitched a rare shutout against the Yachtsmen juggernaut. It was a true team effort as even senior Campbell Belisle-Haley had to drop back and play defense after junior Josh Britten hurt his ankle and received a second yellow card with eight minutes left, forcing the Clippers to finish the contest a man down.
"Falmouth is incredibly versatile," said Groves. "You never know who can score. You always have to be on your toes. I was just lucky to have the support of a great goalie I can trust and the other outside backs."
"It's tough since there's pressure all around from everyone," Jackson said. "We knew we to hold strong and keep the ball away from their top guys. We had to finish with pride and leave everything on the field."
Melero has seen plenty of high intensity soccer in his home country, but was thrilled to be part of this rivalry.
"This was a great game," he said. "Our team is a great team. We have games like this in Spain. I thought it would just be baseball and football here, but I feel at home here. We have three victories in three games. I think we have a great team."
The visitors lamented the loss, but enjoyed the experience and look forward to the next meeting (Oct. 12 on the new turf in Falmouth)
"It was just another Falmouth-Yarmouth game with both teams going at it," said longtime Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan. "Plenty of excitement. I'm sure the fans enjoyed it. We didn't like the result, but I was pleased with the effort. It was our mistake and they made us pay as good teams do. They're a tough, aggressive team. We'll get better and we'll see what happens next time. I'm real pleased where we're at. We have a lot of good games coming up. We have Cape (next Saturday, at home) and Greely next."
The Clippers return to action Tuesday at Wells and will look to build on this victory.
"We're just looking to start out on the right foot," Maguire said. "We hope to keep it going."
"We're only 3-0, but beating Falmouth boosts our confidence so much," Jackson added. "We're jacked up and ready to win more."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com