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Cape fends off Yarmouth's upset bid, 6-2

Sports

Cape fends off Yarmouth's upset bid, 6-2

YARMOUTH—With the playoffs just around the corner, the Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth boys' lacrosse teams both made impressive statements Friday evening.

The host Clippers once again tapped into their deep reservoir of pride and played valiantly for 48 minutes, riding the heroics of junior goalie Alex Kurtz (20 saves), while suggesting that their best lacrosse will be reserved for June.

The defending Class B state champion Capers, meanwhile, demonstrated that they can win games even when they're not at their best.

Cape Elizabeth, which dominated visiting Yarmouth, 13-2, on May 2, might have been caught taking the Clippers for granted, but stuck in a 2-2 battle late in the third period, the Capers did what they had to do.

Cape Elizabeth snapped an 18-minute-plus scoring drought when senior Casey O'Donovan scored with 2:31 to go in the quarter and senior Wilson Laprade added an insurance goal two minutes later.

The Capers scored twice more in the fourth period, held the hosts scoreless for the game's final 22 minutes, 6 seconds and went on to a 6-2 decision, improving to 10-1, dropping Yarmouth to 6-5 in the process.

Junior Timmy Lavallee did a little of everything to key the victory, scoring a goal, assisting on three others and grabbing a dozen ground balls and Cape Elizabeth's underappreciated defense did the rest as the Capers earned their first win on Yarmouth's turf since May 24, 2002.

"Yarmouth played a really good game," said Lavallee. "We just fought through it in the second half. (Winning here is) still a huge deal, especially for the seniors who are playing here for the last time."

State final preview?

Cape Elizabeth has been the state's premier program dating back to the sport's infancy.

But since 2003, Yarmouth has been hot on the Capers' heels and the two titans have produced their share of epics in that time.

Cape Elizabeth survived Yarmouth in overtime in the 2003 state final, but the Clippers got over the hump in 2004. The next year, Yarmouth was primed to repeat, but the Capers sprung a minor upset in the state game. The Clippers won the inaugural Class B championship in 2006 and beat Cape Elizabeth in the title tilt in both 2008 and 2009, but last year, after each team won on its home turf in the regular season (Clippers, 8-4, Cape Elizabeth, 10-7), the Capers stunned Yarmouth in the state game, 7-6.

Through it all, Cape Elizabeth could never win on the Clippers' turf.

This spring, the Capers came in as the favorite, but they lost decisively at Falmouth, 12-4, in the opener. Cape Elizabeth bounced back to defeat visiting Freeport (14-0), Kennebunk (15-2), Yarmouth and NYA (17-2) before winning at Greely, 14-8 and being upset, 8-7, at Lewiston. The Capers then re-emerged as a title contender with a scintillating 8-7 overtime win over visiting Falmouth, then rolled at NYA (15-0) and York (15-2).

Yarmouth is a vastly different team in 2011. After last year's state game, coach Craig Curry, who never lost a single game at home, stepped down and graduation took its toll on the powerhouse program. This spring, under new coach Steve Moore, the Clippers have played valiantly at times, but haven't been their usual dominant selves.

Yarmouth opened 2011 with a 6-2 home win over rival North Yarmouth Academy. The Clippers then took care of visiting York (9-4) and host Brunswick (10-2) before suffering their first loss, at Cape Elizabeth. Yarmouth got back in the win column with a 9-3 triumph at Waynflete before a historic 14-5 loss to Falmouth, which snapped a mind-bogging 73-game, nine-year home win streak. After bouncing back to down visiting Cheverus, 10-4, The Clippers lost at home to NYA for the first time in a decade, 9-2, and were humbled at Falmouth, 17-0. Wednesday, they got back in the win column, 17-7, over visiting Freeport.

Not many expected Yarmouth to hang with the Capers Friday night, especially now that two of the team's best players, senior Matt Murphy and junior Josh Britten, are sidelined with injury, but they put a mighty scare into the defending champs.

Defense dominated all evening, especially in the first period, where only one goal was scored.

The visitors did the honors with 7:41 remaining when senior Wilson Laprade set up sophomore Alex Bornick for a shot which eluded Kurtz and made it 1-0 Cape Elizabeth.

Kurtz hinted at his brilliance to come with six first period saves, which kept the Clippers within hailing distance.

The Capers made it 2-0 with 8:51 to go in the half when Lavallee set up senior Teddy Smith for a goal.

Yarmouth, which has struggled on offense all season, got its first goal with 7:33 remaining when junior Bart Gallagher set up freshman Max Watson for a shot which got past Cape Elizabeth's standout senior goalie Jack Roos, cutting the deficit to 2-1 at halftime.

Anyone who thought that the Clippers were going away had to be surprised when the hosts tied the score with 10:06 left in the third period. Gallagher passed to junior Sam Torres, who beat Roos in close to make it 2-2.

Torres almost put the hosts on top a mere 24 seconds later, but his shot was denied by Roos.

Then, after seven minutes of futility, the Capers went on top for good.

With 2:31 showing, O'Donovan did the honors, taking a pass from Lavallee before beating Kurtz. With 30.5 seconds to play in the third, in transition, Lavallee passed to Smith, who found Laprade for a goal and a little breathing room, 4-2.

"We came out really slow and complacent," Lavallee admitted. "We know vacation's coming up, it's a three-day weekend. We're tired. We heard Falmouth beat them, 17-0. We beat them, 13-2. We heard Josh Britten and Matt Murphy, their great players were out, so we started out slow. At halftime, coach had a great speech, along with Jack. Alex Kurtz played a great game and made some great saves, but we ran our offense just like we try to in practice. We got crease passes in. We finished a few chances."

Midway through the fourth, Yarmouth had a good chance to get back within a goal, but senior Kyle Groves' shot was denied by Roos.

Cape Elizabeth then salted its win away.

With 4:13 showing, Lavallee assisted on a goal by junior Brian Brett.

"Timmy had a good all-around game," said Capers coach Ben Raymond. "Having the three assists is really important. We work on him to make the extra pass. He can beat the first and even the second defender, but we want him to make that pass."

Then, with just 2.5 seconds to go, Lavallee finally scored a goal of his own, unassisted, to bring down the curtain on the 6-2 triumph.

"Yarmouth's having a hard year, but they're still fighting," Lavallee said. "They could make it to states. We only let up two goals, we just couldn't finish. It got scary."

"(The last time we won here) was awhile ago," added Raymond. "We were all younger then. (Yarmouth's) much more improved than when we played them last time. It seems like they're on the same page. Defense played well. Goalie played well. Offense had some chances. They're moving in the right direction.

"We did a little bit better in the second half. It's hard. Every team we play deals with it one way or another, how to get up for every single game. I don't know if we overlooked them. Our defense played really well. Jack played really well. We don't appreciate it as much, since he always plays well. The score could have been different if he didn't make really good saves."

Shockingly, there wasn't a single multiple goal scorer in this game.

Cape Elizabeth got scores from Bornick, Brett, Laprade, Lavallee, O'Donovan and Smith. Lavallee had three assists, Laprade and Smith one apiece.  If that wasn't enough, Lavallee easily had game-high honors in ground balls with 12. Junior Thomas Bottomley grabbed seven and senior Timmy Takach finished with five. Roos made nine saves, all of which were crucial.

For Yarmouth, Torres and Watson tickled the twine, while Gallagher assisted twice. Senior faceoff specialist Billy Clabby won six ground balls. Sophomore Nick Ronan had five. Kurtz stole the show with his 20 saves.

"I think we just came out and practiced all week with communication and worked hard on making short slides and having our calls down." Kurtz said. "It wasn't just me, our D was there. I've never done this before. I came out ready to go on Senior Night. I had to come out ready to go for my teammates and friends. I think this game was a confidence booster. We came out and once our D got going, our O clicked. It starts on the field and comes to the sidelines. It's been a long season, but I think we pulled it together tonight and made it count."

"I can't complain," Moore added. "Kurtz was unbelievable. The defense was phenomenal, very disciplined. Offense is where we need to work. We possess the ball well and that allows the defense to do what they do best. We're starting to jell. They're getting it in practice. We need space in between games to pull it together.  It's a great showing for the kids. They played the first, second, third and fourth quarters. It's what I've asked all year. We're young on offense and we have to find our shooters and get more ball movement. It's absolutely a positive step."

Clabby beat Takach on 6-of-11 faceoffs. The Capers wound up with 48 ground balls to the Clippers' 35. Yarmouth was done in by 23 turnovers (nine in the fourth period alone, when it was trying to rally), to just 16 for the visitors. Cape Elizabeth outshot the Clippers, 41-17 (26-11 in shots on cage).

It's championship time

Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth have combined to win eight of the past nine state titles and there's a decent chance the teams could square off June 18 at Fitzpatrick Stadium with another crown on the line.

First, the Clippers close at dangerous Greely Wednesday. It doesn't appear that Yarmouth will earn the top seed in Eastern Class B (it's second to St. Dom's currently) for the fourth straight year, but the Clippers like the way they're peaking heading into the playoffs.

"I haven't seen St. Dom's this year," Kurtz said. "They were a good team last year. Our team last year was just so good. NYA came out ready to play that night we played them. They're a talented team. I hope we see one of those teams and I think it will be a great game."

"We're in a good position," Moore added. "We certainly aren't looking past Greely whatsoever. They'll be a tough team. We'd like to see NYA again. I know the best is ahead of us. It's just a matter of getting the kids time together. They're coming along. You can see it. It's a big difference from where we've been. It's been a very emotional year. We've had highs and lows. They've handled this very well. I'm very happy for them."

The Capers will finish second to Falmouth in Western B. Cape Elizabeth is home versus Waynflete Tuesday and thinks it has what it takes yet again to win it all, but that there's still a long way to go.

"We're definitely peaking like we did last year," Lavallee said.

"I think we still have work to do without a doubt," Raymond added. "Falmouth and us are a very even matchup. On that day, it comes down to the little things, who turns the ball over the fewest times, who makes better decisions, who has fewer penalties. Both teams know that. Both teams will be ready for that game without a doubt."

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

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Cape Elizabeth senior Timmy Takach takes possession away from Yarmouth senior Billy Clabby. The two talented faceoff specialists nearly split their 11 encounters.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth sophomore Christian Henry blows past Cape Elizabeth senior Jack Queeney.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Cape Elizabeth junior Thomas Bottomley and Yarmouth senior Connor Ertz get up close and personal.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth junior Anders Overhaug can't slow Cape Elizabeth senior Timmy Takach.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth junior Dennis Erving tries to keep up with Cape Elizabeth senior Timmy Takach.