Falmouth stuns in Cape in dominating fashion in boys' lax opener
FALMOUTH—While it didn't completely avenge the sting of last year's agonizing playoff loss, the Falmouth boys' lacrosse team managed to make a powerful statement Friday evening.
Hosting rival and nemesis Cape Elizabeth, the defending Class B state champion, the Yachtsmen put forth a superb effort in all facets, riding the steady goaltending of junior Cam Bell and a balanced and potent offensive attack to start the new season off with a bang in a 12-4 victory over the Capers.
Four different Falmouth players had at least two goals (junior Jack Cooleen led the way with three, while classmate Mitch Tapley had a pair with three assists) as the Yachtsmen delivered the pointed message that they remain one of state's best teams (if not the cream of the crop).
"It's a good start," said Tapley. "I heard a lot of people say Cape's the team to beat, but we came out and made a statement."
In last year's opener, on a chilly night in Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth rolled to an 11-4 win, its first ever over the Capers. The Yachtsmen downed Cape Elizabeth again later in the season at home, 9-7, but in the regional final, also in Falmouth, the Capers rallied and broke the Yachtsmen's hearts in overtime, 7-6, en route to their first state title in five seasons.
While Cape Elizabeth was thought to be a year away in 2010, it's the consensus favorite this spring after retaining much of its firepower and standout senior goalie Jack Roos, although the loss of 2010 Spring Male Athlete of the Year Ben Brewster, one of the most disruptive defensive forces seen in many years, will hurt.
Falmouth, after saying goodbye to All-Americans Dan Hanley (the school's 2010 Spring Male Athlete of the Year) and Mike Kane, was expected to remain a top contender, but perhaps not be in the Capers' class.
Friday night caused us all to guess again as the host Yachtsmen got the jump late in the first period and never took their foot off the gas.
It took awhile for the offense to come as both Roos and Bell stood tall in goal, both making pretty saves in the early going.
Finally, with 2:18 to play in the 12-minute opening stanza, the Yachtsmen took the lead for good when senior Johnny Goodrich scored unassisted. With 46.5 seconds to go in the first, Tapley got on the board with an unassisted goal. Then, with just 10.7 seconds showing, senior Nick Bachman struck for the team's third goal in a 2 minute, 8 second span for a 3-0 advantage heading for the second.
There, both offenses were stagnant until 2:20 remained when the Capers finally got on the scoreboard playing a man-up. Senior Tim Lavallee (who scored the game winner in last year's playoff game) fed classmate Teddy Smith for a goal and Cape Elizabeth appeared to have momentum, but again, Falmouth closed the period strong.
With 32.3 seconds left before the half, Tapley set up Cooleen for his first goal and it was 4-1. Then, with 18 seconds showing, junior Mike Ryan beat Roos from long distance and the Yachtsmen were in control, up 5-1.
"We really started moving our feet off-ball, getting open, making the defense run into each other and be out of position and that opened the field up," Tapley said. "We got quick feeds into the crease and finished. We were confident coming in."
Unlike last year's playoff loss, Falmouth didn't allow the visiting Capers to rally.
Cape Elizabeth did score the first goal of the second half when senior Timmy Takach struck unassisted with 3:22 to go in the third quarter, but the Yachtsmen's late-quarter heroics continued with just three seconds remaining when sophomore Will Sipperly set up Cooleen for a goal, restoring the four-goal bulge (6-2) heading for the final period.
There, Falmouth appeared to lock up the win when Tapley fed sophomore Charlie Fay for a goal with 10:20 to play, but the Capers answered as sophomore Alex Bornick set up Smith for a goal with 9:43 remaining and 56 seconds later, Smith returned the favor, feeding Bornick for a tally which made it 7-4.
That's as close as Cape Elizabeth would get.
Falmouth closed the game on a tear and put its impressive win on ice.
After a turnover, Bachman scored unassisted with 7:19 to go, restoring order and making it 8-4. Just 25 seconds later, Cooleen scored unassisted. Unassisted goals from Tapley and Sipperly in a 32-second span made it academic and with 1:47 remaining, Tapley set up Fay for a goal that accounted for the 12-4 final score.
Round one goes to the Yachtsmen.
"It feels good after what happened last year," said Bell. "(Cape's) good. We wanted it of course. We just want to win it all this year. I feel we have a team to do it."
“It's nice to see what we've been doing in the preseason is working," said Falmouth coach Mike LeBel. "What happened tonight is exactly what we've practiced. It's early in the season. I think our defense is grossly underrated because a lot of these guys were injured last year. People thought we had nothing on defense. We've got (senior) Michael Bloom back. (Senior) Caleb Bowden isn't coming off of mono and can run the whole game. We have three solid defensemen. That's what did it for us. Michael Ryan, being able to back up the middies and slide at the right time was fantastic and helped us tremendously."
Cooleen led all scorers with three goals. Bachman, Fay and Tapley (three helpers) each scored twice.
"Mitch was the one guy when we went to Rhode Island and played a team in Portsmouth Abbey, that far surpasses any team in Maine in talent, he was the one guy who stood out," LeBel said. "He's really come a long way since freshman year. He can create. When he goes to the cage, he keeps his head up, sees the slide coming, locates the open man and gets the pass to him. He had a phenomenal game. Charlie Fay capitalized on his opportunities. I'm proud of him. We were aggressive. We dictated on how the game would unfold. We didn't sit back."
Goodrich, Ryan and Sipperly (one assist) had one goal apiece.
"When you're playing against the best goalie in the state in Jack Roos you have to take advantage of opportunities and I think we did that," LeBel said. "We've spend a lot of time on shooting and placement. The kids knew where to put the ball. It's not like it just happens."
The Yachtsmen dominated in most statistical categories. Junior faceoff specialist Abyn Reabe-Gerwig won 12 of 19 encounters. Falmouth grabbed 54 ground balls (Reabe-Gerwig led the way with a half dozen) to 30 for Cape Elizabeth (which got a game-high seven from Takach), outshot the visitors, 37-26, and forced 23 turnovers, while giving the ball away 22 times.
Bell made 13 saves, several of them big-time, especially early on when the game was in the balance.
"Cam made some big saves tonight," Tapley said.
"Cam kept us in it early," added LeBel. "That was critical. He came out sharp."
Bell credited his defensive mates for his success.
"We have one of the best defenses in the state," Bell said. "We're solid. We work well together and we talk. We work hard. We come early to practice. Last year, we were without Mike Bloom and Caleb. We have them this year. We have (sophomore) AJ (Robison) at long pole. We have guys on the bench we can bring out. We're solid. I just have to keep the ball out of the net."
For Cape Elizabeth, Smith had two goals, Bornick and Takach one each. Bornick, Lavallee and Smith all had an assist. Roos made 13 saves.
“Falmouth's a very good, athletic team," said Capers longtime coach Ben Raymond. "I think we played well in the third quarter. The first quarter was fine. It was a close game all the way through. We had to pressure at the end and they scored goals. They did things better than we did. We turned the ball over tonight more than we should have. It's not a lack of effort or knowledge. We just didn't play great and it's the first game of the season.
"Jack didn't have a great game and that hurts. We're designed to allow shots. We want to make them take shots from further out and let Jack make saves. He made saves, but he also let in some that he usually saves and that hurt. Cam played very well at the beginning of the game. We didn't shoot great. Once (Cam) gets confident, he's a very good goalie. Our offense didn't move a lot.
"We're not supposed to be perfect. If we had nothing to work on after tonight, we'd be in big trouble. I think they have a good understanding of what's involved.”
Cape Elizabeth is idle from countable games until April 27 when it hosts dangerous Freeport. As was the case last year, look for the Capers to improve dramatically between now and their next meeting with Falmouth (May 18, at home).
"(After the game) Jack said the score was (almost) the same as last year," Raymond said. "With a lot of hard work, we were able to win the state championship. If the hard work isn't the same this year, then the result won't be. If we work hard in practice, we should be right where we want to be."
Falmouth, meanwhile, returns to action April 27 at home versus Waynflete. The Yachtsmen then face defending Class A champion Scarborough, North Yarmouth Academy and Yarmouth (the one team Falmouth has never beaten) back-to-back-to-back.
While the glow of Friday night's win will linger, the Yachtsmen need to improve at a pace on par with Cape Elizabeth as the season progresses.
“We have a lot of stuff to work on," said Bell. "We'll put it all together.”
“I think when we play like this, we have the best team in the state," Tapley said. "If we can continue that, I don't think anyone can stop us. We need to work on our man-down offense some more and stay out of the box. We were in the box a lot.”
"What killed us tonight was being in the box," added LeBel. "We had stupid penalties. We need to get better. I know Cape's going to get better. Yarmouth's going to get decisively better. The other teams will get better.”