This time it's Falmouth; Yachtsmen hold off Yarmouth, 1-0
FALMOUTH—Just three days after its most lopsided loss in years, the Falmouth boys' soccer team earned an especially sweet victory.
Hosting their fierce rival Yarmouth, which had won each of the past four meetings, the Yachtsmen rose to the occasion as they got an opportunistic goal from junior Grant Burfeind in the 38th minute, then, thanks to a pair of spectacular saves from sophomore goalkeeper Will D'Agostino in the second half, held on for a 1-0 victory, making both teams 9-3-1 on the season with one game to go.
"We got this chapter," said longtime Falmouth coach Dave Halligan. "There are a lot of chapters to be played out. In this game here, you play until the final second. They don't give up and we don't give up. It usually comes down to the final minute."
Both Falmouth and Yarmouth have been up and down in 2011.
The Yachtsmen won their first four outings, 5-0 over visiting Poland, 14-1 at Lake Region, 2-1 at Cape Elizabeth and 2-1 at home over York. After a 2-1 loss at Yarmouth and a 1-1 home draw with Greely, Falmouth rattled off three more wins: 1-0 at Fryeburg, 4-0 at home over Freeport and 2-1 over visiting Gray-New Gloucester. Then, the Yachtsmen ran into a rocky stretch, losing, 1-0, at Greely, barely surviving host Freeport, 1-0, then falling, 4-0, at York Wednesday, Falmouth's most decisive loss this century.
The Clippers, who won the Class B title a year ago after edging Falmouth in an epic regional final, began this season 0-2 after falling by 2-1 scores to visiting Cape Elizabeth and host York. Yarmouth got in the win column with a 2-0 home triumph over rival Greely, then held off visiting Fryeburg, 1-0. After settling for a scoreless home tie against Freeport, the Clippers romped at Lake Region (8-0) and eked out a 2-1 win at Greely and a 2-1 home win over Falmouth. Victories over visiting Gray-New Gloucester (3-0), host Poland (4-2), host Cape Elizabeth (1-0) and visiting North Yarmouth Academy (2-0) followed.
When Falmouth and Yarmouth get together, the games are almost always tight to the end. Entering Saturday's game, since 2000, the Yachtsmen held a 15-7 edge, with five ties, but in the 25 meetings since 2001, only seven were decided by more than a goal. Each of the past 10 regular season encounters had been decided by a goal or ended up as a tie and this meeting continued that nailbiting trend.
The game was originally scheduled to be played Friday night, but the threat of heavy rain, along with thunder and lightning, moved it to Saturday afternoon. As a result, the crowd wasn't quite as large or boisterous as the usual Falmouth-Yarmouth gathering, but the play on the field lived up to the hype once more.
The Yachtsmen proved immediately that they planned to make up not just for the loss at York earlier in the week, but that four straight losses to the Clippers were far too many and they controlled play virtually throughout in the first half.
In the third minute, junior Connor Murphy floated a shot on goal that Yarmouth senior goalkeeper Chris Knaub had to leap to catch. Two minutes later, the Clippers had their lone good chance of the first 40 minutes as senior Ryan Maguire got into the box, but before he could fire with his nonpareil left foot, junior Andrew Murry broke up the play.
In the sixth minute, Falmouth junior Luke Andrews crossed the ball toward freshman Luke Velas in the box, but the ball was just a bit too high and Knaub made the save. In the 15th minute, Andrews sent another cross that dribbled through the box untouched. Two minutes later, Burfeind got free for a shot in the box, but Yarmouth sophomore Chandler Smith backtracked and managed to block it.
In the 19th minute, Burfeind dribbled free down the left sideline, but shot wide. Two minutes later, Murry's free kick forced Knaub to make another leaping save.
As time wound down, it appeared the score would remain 0-0 at the break, but on a play that began innocently, the hosts finally tickled the twine.
Senior Brandon Tuttle, who recently returned to the lineup after overcoming mono, played a deep ball from the Falmouth defensive zone, well into Clippers' territory. Burfeind, blanketed by two defenders, went after it, somehow possessed it and with 1:55 left on the clock and with the two defenders and Knaub all closing in, managed to steer the ball into the goal for a 1-0 advantage.
"Brandon Tuttle played a perfect ball over the top," Burfeind said. "It was a scrum in front. I saw the ball laying there and I got a toe on it. It barely made it in. I wasn't sure it would go in, but it made it. It sat there, but once it crossed the line it felt good."
While it wasn't a highlight reel goal, it was a thing of beauty for the Yachtsmen.
"A goal is a goal," Halligan said.
The 1-0 lead would hold until halftime.
"We came out looking like we hadn't played in seven days," said Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty. "We didn't play well in the first half, similar to the first game. You can't make mistakes against Falmouth. They make you pay. We made a couple mistakes when they got their goal. We had three chances, I thought, to clear it, but give them credit, they had to finish."
In the second half, the Clippers carried play, but could never even the score as D'Agostino took center stage.
Less than six minutes into the second stanza, Yarmouth sophomore David Murphy got some breathing room and fired a shot from 15-yards out, but it sailed high.
With 31:47 remaining, the visitors had perhaps their best chance of the afternoon as senior Sam Torres fed freshman Adam LaBrie in the box. LaBrie broke in one-on-one with D'Agostino, but the goalie stood tall, making the save and protecting the lead.
In the 55th minute, a cross from LaBrie landed on the crossbar and bounced out of play. Three minutes later, Maguire passed to LaBrie for a header that resulted in an easy save for D'Agostino. With 21:10 left in the game, Yarmouth earned the first corner kick for either team, but it went for naught when Falmouth sophomore Ben Freeman cleared the ball away.
A minute later, Torres' cross was broken up by senior Will Jones. With 18:46 showing, Maguire took a 30-yard free kick, but shot just wide.
Then, with 14:31 to go, D'Agostino again sparkled, making a diving save on a shot by Clippers freshman Brendan Dioli, who took a cross from Murphy and tried to bury a shot into the lower right corner of the goal, only to have D'Agostino make the breathtaking stop.
"It was scary because they were in our half the whole second half," D'Agostino said. "We pushed through and worked hard and tried to clear the ball out. It was our hard work, I guess."
D'Agostino, who gave up a tough goal to Maguire and a rebound tally to Murphy for the winner in the first meeting, more than rose to the occasion in this game.
"That was a (bad) goal last game," D'Agostino said. "This is good redemption. It was a good team effort."
"(Will) came up big," Halligan said. "It's good for him because he felt really bad about last game. We win as a team and lose as a team, but without him, we probably don't win this game."
Yarmouth's last chance came with 12:42 remaining when Maguire's shot on the wing was blocked by Falmouth senior Cam Bell.
Down the stretch, the Yachtsmen had a couple chances to double their lead, but Knaub denied junior J.P. White with a sprawling save, White again in close and Burfeind with just under a minute to go.
The Clippers then desperately pushed for the equalizer, but their last chance was booted away by Murry and Falmouth, for the first time since Nov. 4, 2009, was able to celebrate a win over Yarmouth.
"It felt really good," said Burfeind. "The last four games they've definitely had our number. We came with a lot of heart this game. We always know we'll get a good game from them. We knew we had to keep up with their intensity right from the start. The game against York was a real wakeup call for us. We realized we're not unstoppable. We have to play every game and do what we have to do. This was a big game for us. A good way to go into playoffs."
"I was hoping (the one goal) would hold up," Halligan said. "It's a young team. We have to avoid the high highs and low lows. We have guys who have worked hard all season in practice. They had their chance and played well."
While the Clippers saw their 10-game unbeaten streak come to an end, they know they'll have other chances.
"I really liked the way we played in the second half," Hagerty said. "We had a lot of chances. We sent a lot of people forward. Dioli had that beautiful header on the line. LaBrie was alone with the goalie. We had a couple other crosses we just didn't get to. (Falmouth's) a wounded animal right now and they were dangerous. They played a tactically very smart game. They kept good numbers back and protected the middle. We didn't do a good enough job doing what we wanted to do. They earned it in the first half and we didn't quite earn it enough in the second half.
"We've talked all year how we can't start slow. We started too slowly. It looked like both teams were just hanging out in the first half. Not typical Falmouth-Yarmouth intensity. It was boring, actually, in the first half, then, they made us pay. Their goalie played very well in the second half. One of the best things he did, which was what we didn't do in the first half, was talk. He communicated with his backs very well and kept them organized. That's what the best goalies do. We made a mistake in the first half that was uncharacteristic of our backs. Now it's how we respond to it. We'll be alright."
Each team has one final regular season game before looking ahead to the postseason.
Yarmouth (which was second in the Western B Heals behind York prior to the game) hosts the Wildcats in its finale Monday night. The Clippers are hoping to secure at least two home games for the playoffs.
"The York game Monday night is a big game now," Hagerty said. "It was big anyway. Now, I don't know if we can overtake them for No. 1, but it'll be interesting for seeding second and third. Dave and I joked and said let's hope we meet in the Western Maine Final again and keep the (three-year) streak going. York right now, I think everyone else is clearly looking up at them, but I think both Falmouth and Yarmouth are capable of going all the way."
Falmouth was in third before this victory was factored in. The Yachtsmen close at home versus Cape Elizabeth Tuesday and could wind up in the second spot if all goes well.
While Falmouth and Yarmouth have combined to win the past 11 Class B championships, it won't be a two-team show this fall. In addition to York, Freeport, Fryeburg, Gray-New Gloucester, Maranacook and Morse will all be heard from.
"There's a lot of good competition this year," said Burfeind. "We just hope to be playing the last game of the season."
"We want to be home," Halligan said. "We have good games to play going into the tournament. There are a lot of good teams this year. We haven't had much time to practice the last couple weeks. We can practice for a week and we'll be back in top form."