Yarmouth boys hold off Falmouth again, 2-1
FALMOUTH—For the first time this century, the Yarmouth boys' soccer team has swept rival Falmouth in the regular season.
Tuesday night, a month and a day after finally beating the Yachtsmen in Yarmouth, the Clippers repeated the feat, getting a goal in each half before fending off a furious Falmouth rally down the stretch to improve to 11-0-1 with a 2-1 victory.
Junior Josh Britten put Yarmouth ahead to stay with a first half goal and senior Luke Pierce gave the visitors some breathing room in the second half, but the Yachtsmen scored on a penalty kick with just over five minutes to go and fought hard for the equalizer before falling just short and dropping to 7-4-1.
"These games are always fun," said Britten. "The intensity's always high. (Falmouth's) such a good team."
The Falmouth-Yarmouth boys' soccer rivalry is as good as it gets for drama in Maine high school sports. The teams have combined to win the past 10 Class B state championships and always play hard-fought, entertaining contests.
On Sept. 11, the Clippers downed the Yachtsmen, the defending Class B champs, for the first time ever on their turf field, 1-0, their first home win over Falmouth since 1999.
Tuesday's showdown was the first between the rivals on Falmouth's new turf field and it proved to be more wide open than last month's affair.
In the third minute, the visitors almost took the lead when senior Campbell Belisle-Haley set up dynamic junior Spanish exchange student Pau Carnero Melero, who shot just wide of the goal.
In the 11th minute, the Yachtsmen got their first good look, but senior standout Sam White shot just high. In the 15th minute, Falmouth junior Andrew Murry beat a defender, but shot wide. Four minutes later, a low shot from sophomore J.P. White was saved by sprawling Yarmouth junior goalkeeper Chris Knaub.
With 18:11 left in the 40-minute first half, it appeared as if the Clippers got the lead as Melero, from senior Luke Pierce, scored, but Melero was called for a pushing foul and the goal was waved off.
After junior Sam Torres shot high and Pierce was denied on a low shot, the hosts had a golden chance to take the lead, but senior Michael Bloom hit the crossbar after receiving a pass from Sam White on a corner kick.
Yarmouth broke the tie with 7:28 left before halftime. On a long kick from senior Kyle Groves, Pierce did what he does best, got his head on the ball, and sent it to Britten, who headed it home for a 1-0 advantage.
"It was really important to get a goal," said Britten. "It gave us momentum going into the second half. It was a nice play from Kyle to Luke who popped it over to me. I was wide open on the back post and just tucked it in."
Early in the second half, the Clippers got some breathing room.
With 34:49 remaining in regulation, Pierce pounced on a clear, turned and shot to the right of Falmouth freshman goalkeeper Will D'Agostino, who slipped and couldn't reach the shot as it slowly trickled into the net, making it 2-0 Yarmouth.
To no one's surprise, the Yachtsmen didn't go easily.
In the 49th minute, Knaub stepped up and made a pair of highlight-reel saves, first denying Sam White point-blank, then snaring Bloom's rebound, keeping it 2-0.
"It's really nice to have a lead, but you to always be ready against them," Knaub said. "I thought (White) was going right and luckily it went off my chest. It came back out. I just reacted to Bloom's shot to my right."
After Knaub kicked away a Bloom rush at the last second and J.P. White shot just high, the Yachtsmen finally got on the board.
With 5:21 left, after a Falmouth attacker was taken down on the fringe of the box, a penalty kick was awarded.
Sam White did the honors, but it wasn't easy. His shot hit the underside of the crossbar before finally settling into the net, making it 2-1 and suddenly very interesting.
"I dove to my left and I tipped it and it hit the crossbar and I felt it come down on my head," lamented Knaub.
"I thought the saves Chris made prior to the PK made the PK not have that big an effect on the game," Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty added. "He did a terrific job. He did what he's supposed to do with his positioning. He was in the right spot a lot. Coach (Dale) Wing does a great job working with him."
Smelling blood, the potent Yachtsmen pressed for the equalizer.
With 3:32 to play, Murry headed a ball just high. With 1:14 left, senior Nick Bachman's cross was cleared away. A Sam White free kick with a minute to go was headed out of harm's way and a last-ditch long shot from White 13 seconds later went high. As time wound down, Torres cleared the ball, leading to one final rush. With 12 seconds left, Belisle-Haley had a chance to add a cosmetic goal, but his bid went just wide of an open net.
As it turned out, that proved to be the final play as the clock hit zero and Yarmouth had another victory.
"It was nervewracking the last 10 minutes," Britten said. "We were able to get (the ball) out and get away with a win."
"It was scary just knowing any second we could be in trouble," Knaub said. "I'm glad we pulled it off. Early in the season, no one thought much of us. We've been working hard."
"We created more chances tonight than the first time we played them, as did they," Hagerty added. "Each team had more possessions and better chances. I'm proud of how we responded when they cut the lead in half. We were a little winded at the end.
"(Our success has) been a little unexpected since we had so many holes to fill. Pau filled a big one. He's really a key to us at midfield and calms the game down. Campbell had his normal effort. Kyle did his normal great job with balls out of the back. Luke did his normal great job of getting his head on the ball. Josh's normal aggression got him a goal. Chandler Smith, a freshman, didn't know he was starting until just before the game. He did a good job taking away their lanes. To have a freshman step up in the atmosphere and play so well, I'm very proud of him."
Yarmouth finished with a 7-4 advantage in shots on frame. Both teams had four corner kicks. D'Agostino made five saves, Knaub three.
Falmouth coach Dave Halligan was very happy with his team's effort, if not the result.
"People had their money's worth," he said. "They had a go at it, we had a go at it. They had a ton of shots, we had a ton of shots. I've been upset with games we've won, but I can't be upset with the way we lost. My players finished it off until the very end."
Falmouth (third in the Western Class B Heal Points) is home against York (the Yachtsmen tied the host Wildcats, 0-0, last Tuesday) Saturday and closes the regular season Tuesday of next week against Western C contender Waynflete.
"We'll probably be third," Halligan said. "If we beat York, we'll go three, if they beat us, they'll be three. We compete in every game. I see progress. We've played seven games in 14 days, we've only had five practices in the past two-and-half weeks."
Yarmouth leapfrogged Maranacook into the top spot with the victory. The Clippers are home versus York Thursday and close at home against Greely Monday. They have a great shot to have the top seed for the playoffs.
"I think we can lose a game and still finish first," said Hagerty. "This win will put us ahead of Maranacook. If we get a win or tie in our last two, we'll be one, which would be huge."
"Homefield advantage would be big," added Britten. "Playing Falmouth or any good team on our turf would be a big advantage."
Falmouth and Yarmouth have played in the past two regional finals, with the Clippers springing an upset in 2008 and the Yachtsmen earning a measure of revenge a year ago. If all goes as expected and the final Heals fall right, the ancient rivals will square off one more time with a state championship game berth at stake.
Now that's a game local soccer aficionados are dying to see.
"We look forward to seeing (Falmouth) a third time," Knaub said. "We'll be ready, but not cocky."
"Falmouth can beat anybody," Hagerty said. "The whole thing about beating a good team three times, I'd be really happy not playing them again."
"I wouldn't mind seeing (Yarmouth) again," Halligan said. "It would be special. If they beat us, they deserve it. If we beat them, we deserve it.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org