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Falmouth aces first test with 2-1 win at Cape Elizabeth

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Falmouth aces first test with 2-1 win at Cape Elizabeth

CAPE ELIZABETH—Longtime Falmouth High boys' soccer coach Dave Halligan admitted prior to Wednesday night's contest at rival Cape Elizabeth that he was uncertain how his team would respond to its first challenge.

The Yachtsmen had played just twice in the 2011 regular season and hadn't been tested and now had to play on the field of a very talented foe, which had already played two nailbiters of its own.

As it turned out, Halligan had nothing to worry about.

Falmouth erased a 1-0 deficit, tied the score late in the first half and took the lead for good when freshman Luke Velas scored in the 47th minute. The Yachtsmen's always smothering and often underappreciated defense did the rest and Falmouth improved to 3-0 with a 2-1 victory, dropping the Capers to 1-1-1.

"I was concerned because Cape's a terrific team," said Halligan, who coached at Cape Elizabeth in the early- and mid-1980s and had as players current Capers coach Ben Raymond and Cape Elizabeth athletic director Jeff Thoreck. "I think they're one of the best. We hadn't been challenged in five weeks. I was pleased. We were on our heels in the second half, but we were up a goal and trying to protect the lead."

Early showdown

Falmouth made it to the Western Class B Final in 2010, but lost in overtime to eventual champion Yarmouth. This fall, the Yachtsmen have a nice mix of upperclassmen as well as three sophomores and a freshman on the roster.

Falmouth rolled over visiting Poland, 5-0, in its opener, then took target practice at Lake Region last Tuesday, outscoring the Lakers, 14-1.

Cape Elizabeth, which was ousted in overtime in the Western A semifinals by Portland a year ago, suffered its share of graduation losses, but is also a top contender, as always.

The Capers made a big statement in their opener, holding off defending Class B champion Yarmouth, 2-1, on the Clippers' turf. Last Thursday, Cape Elizabeth and visiting York (which has moved into the top echelon of Western B) battled to a 1-1 draw.

Entering Wednesday's game, the teams had met 20 times since 2001, with Falmouth taking 10 contests, Cape Elizabeth eight and two games ending in ties.

Last year, the Capers swept the Yachtsmen for only the second time in the last decade, triumphing 2-0 at home and 2-1 in Falmouth.

This time around, the Yachtsmen took care of business.

The teams cautiously felt each other out for nearly 25 minutes before the action came fast and furious.

With 15:51 to play in the 40-minute first half, Falmouth appeared to take the lead when senior Brandon Tuttle launched a picturesque 40-yard free kick that hit off the right post and deflected into the net. The goal was quickly waved off, however, due to a Yachtsmen player being off sides and a push in the box.

Three minutes later, with 12:55 showing, the Capers got the jump, thanks to their star senior, Tim Lavallee, who used his head to direct a long pass past a defender before launching a bullet past diving Falmouth sophomore goalkeeper Will D'Agostino.

The Yachtsmen weren't shaken by their first deficit of the year.

"We were nervous at first, but once we settled into it, we got the ball moving and did our thing," said Tuttle. "We weren't as much concerned as we just needed to settle things down. We just had a lot of nerves, I guess."

The visitors managed to tie the score with 5:02 left in the half, off a free kick.

Senior Andrew Murry got the play started, sending the ball to junior J.P. White, who headed a shot on frame that appeared ticketed for the goal, but just to be sure, senior Abyn Reabe-Gerwig raced in and pounded it home to make the score 1-1.

Lavallee almost put Cape Elizabeth back on top in the 38th minute, but his low one-timer was turned aside by a diving D'Agostino.

"We had a good first goal, but we had a breakdown toward the end of the first half," said Raymond. "(Falmouth) scored on a great header. A weakness on our team right now is defense in our box. We're not marking well. That's where the game is won and lost. In our 18 and in their 18. We played well in the midfield, but we didn't execute in the box."

"In past years (a deficit) might have been a problem, but we responded and got the goal before the half and built our confidence up a little bit," Halligan said.

The Yachtsmen pushed hard for the go-ahead goal in the second half and were soon rewarded.

With 36:41 to play, White sent a pass to Tuttle, who headed a shot that Capers junior goalkeeper Brett Parker was able to snare.

Then, with 33:04 to go, Falmouth finished the job as Tuttle sent a perfect through ball to Velas, who chipped a shot over Parker. The ball slowly made its way to the goal and went in just before it could be cleared. Just like that, the Yachtsmen were ahead to stay.

"We had to fight back and we did," Velas said. "It was a great pass from Brandon. It was a nice ball and I just chipped it over the keeper. I hoped I had enough on it. It was nice when it went in."

"I did not think it was going in," Tuttle said.

"Luke's a good player," Halligan added. "He's a scorer instead of a shooter. He finessed it in. Luckily, we'll have him for four years."

There was still plenty of time for the hosts to answer, but they'd only get a couple opportunities.

The first came with 11:27 remaining when senior Blake Barritt had a free kick that was deflected just wide of the open goal. With 9:49 to go, freshman Griffin Thoreck's throw in from the right side ended up in the box, where Lavallee fought for it. Lavallee wound up being taken down, but no penalty (and ensuing penalty kick) was called.

"It's easy to say from (the sidelines) that it was a foul," Raymond said. "He got brought down in the box a couple times. (Referee Jeff Laniewski) said that Timmy was holding someone's jersey. What's going on in there? Who knows. I like my chances with him fighting through it anyway then falling down and hoping for a foul."

The Capers earned a corner kick as time wound down, but it was harmlessly cleared aside and Falmouth celebrated its 2-1 victory.

"It was pretty intense, especially being out here with older kids," said Velas. "We worked the ball around good. Cape's definitely a strong team."

"We did not play our best game, but for our first test of the year, I think we did well" Tuttle said. "It's the whole team working together, moving the ball. We're a unit. I think we're a good team. It's a big win for us, especially at Cape after we went 0-2 against them last year."

"We don't have a lot of seniors, but they showed some leadership and tried to keep us organized," Halligan added. "The younger kids were helter skelter, but they'll learn from it and get better."

Cape Elizabeth treated the loss as a learning experience.

"It was a good game," Raymond said. "Both teams played well at times. It's still early in the season. I think we'll both be very different later on when we see each other. They have some talented kids and we're still obviously trying to put things together too. I think (senior midfielder) Forrest Hewitt played great in the second half. We're asking him to do an awful lot for us. It showed in the amount of possession we had. We just couldn't finish.

"I think we're doing well. We're figuring out who's playing well. We need to possess more and be better in both boxes. It's a great place to start. Between Yarmouth, York and Falmouth, every game's been either a tie or a one-goal game."

Showdowns continue

Cape Elizabeth's next test is home versus Greely Friday night. The Capers then go to surprising and dangerous Fryeburg Tuesday. Vying for a Class A playoff spot (Cape Elizabeth plays up for the postseason) means that wins against top foes are critical and rematches with York, Yarmouth, Greely and Falmouth (at Falmouth, Oct. 18) still loom.

"We have Greely Friday, so it doesn't get much easier," Raymond said. "I think the schedule we play really prepares us for the playoffs. With two-thirds of the teams making the playoffs, games like this are easier to take. We have an uphill battle because every game (Class A teams) win are worth more than what we win, which makes no sense to me at all. As long as we get in, we'll be fine. We play a great regular season schedule."

Falmouth has York at home Friday then has seven days off until going to Yarmouth Sept. 24. Greely and Fryeburg come next and the Yachtsmen close versus York, Yarmouth and Cape Elizabeth.

The fun (and nailbiters) will continue.

"I think there's so much parity this year," said Halligan. "A lot of close games. Whoever comes prepared and ready to play on a given night will make the difference. We just want to get better."

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