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Clippers edge Capers in the rain

Sports

Clippers edge Capers in the rain

CAPE ELIZABETH—On an absolutely miserable night, the Yarmouth boys' soccer team produced yet another beautiful result.

The Clippers took it to host Cape Elizabeth from the get-go and were rewarded when senior Sam Torres scored in the fourth minute. A team-wide stellar defensive effort ensured the Capers would never answer and Yarmouth extended its unbeaten streak to nine games with a 1-0 victory.

The Clippers are now 8-2-1 on the season and dropped Cape Elizabeth to 5-3-2.

"We talked before the game about overcoming injuries and kids not feeling sorry for themselves," said Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty. "We talked about toughness. We've talked since the second our last game ended about this game and how big it was for Heal Points. We went into the game knowing we had to be the mentally toughest team out here tonight."

Resurgence

The Clippers, undefeated state champions in 2010, lost two in a row to start this season, 2-1 at home to Cape Elizabeth and 2-1 at York. A 2-0 home win over Greely got things turned around. After a 1-0 victory over visiting Fryeburg, Yarmouth settled for a scoreless draw against visiting Freeport. Wins over host Lake Region (8-0) and Greely (2-1), visiting Falmouth (2-1), visiting Gray-New Gloucester (3-1) and host Poland (4-2) followed.

Cape Elizabeth, semifinalists in 2010, followed up its season opening win over Yarmouth with a 1-1 home tie with York and a 2-1 home loss to Falmouth. The Capers then won three straight: 3-1 at Greely, 2-0 over host Fryeburg and 3-1 at Gray-New Gloucester. After falling at home to Freeport, 2-1, Cape Elizabeth rolled at Lake Region (6-0) and tied host York, 1-1.

The teams don't meet in the postseason (as the Capers play up in Class A), but have a longstanding regular season rivalry.

Entering Tuesday night, since 2001, Yarmouth had taken seven of the 18 meetings, Cape Elizabeth four and five others ended in ties.

A year ago, the Capers gave the Clippers their only blemish, a 1-1 tie. Yarmouth  then beat Cape Elizabeth at home, 3-1.

Tuesday's contest, as expected, was tight for 80 minutes, but the Clippers got the win.

In the third minute, the visitors had a great chance when junior Thomas Sullivan beat Capers sophomore goaltender Austin Andrews to a through ball, but his shot at the open net went wide to the right.

The next chance would result in a goal.

Torres, who has played wherever his team has needed him this fall, raced up the left wing exchanging passes with sophomore Wyatt Jackson. Jackson passed Torres the ball one final time and Torres' hard low shot from the left side beat Andrews and Yarmouth was on top, 1-0.

"Even though I was playing left back today, we knew we'd stress playing it on the outside since Cape is strong in the middle," Torres said. "There's so much space on those wings. Wyatt played a perfect ball. Any chance I'm going to get, I'm just going to put it on frame. On a night like this, it's all about getting shots on frame since the ball's so slippery."

"I thought we came out the first 10, 15 minutes, kept the ball on the carpet and moved it well," Hagerty said. "We had combinations. It paid off hiding Sam in the back. He made the run and was completely free. He's such a good soccer player. Sam got the ball on frame. On a wet night, good things can happen. Leading up to that play, there were great balls from (sophomore) Ben Decker and Wyatt to keep the ball calm and not rush it. That combination in this weather was fantastic."

Cape Elizabeth had its chances to answer.

Just seconds after the goal, junior Chad Peterson crossed the ball into the box, just ahead of junior Charlie Laprade, who couldn't get to it. In the 13th minute, senior Blake Barritt's low free kick forced Yarmouth senior goalkeeper Chris Knaub to dive to snare it. Knaub momentarily bobbled the ball, then cradled it to keep the score 1-0.

In the 23rd minute, Clippers sophomore Chandler Smith, who's battled injury most of this season, broke up a potential Capers' two-on-one.

"It's freezing, but these are the (most fun games to play in)," Smith said. "We wanted to come out as hard as we can. We focused on containing and not lunging. Really pressuring them in the midfield and not giving them time to distribute the ball to their forwards. Everybody back there did a great job. Everyone worked hard and stepped up like they should be."

"Getting guys back helps us a ton," Torres said. "Getting Chandler healthy is huge for us defensively."

"Chandler Smith, this was his first game back healthy," added Hagerty. "He could have easily taken today off, but he did a terrific job. He was physical."

With 12:58 to go before halftime, the visitors almost doubled their lead. On a free kick, Torres, sophomore David Murphy and senior Ryan Maguire all stood near the ball and the Capers had no idea who would take the shot. First Murphy, then Torres ran past the ball before Maguire laid into it with his nonpareil powerful left foot. The shot roared over the Cape Elizabeth defensive wall and it's possible that Andrews never even saw it, but the Capers were spared when it rattled off the bottom of the crossbar and bounced harmlessly away.

Late in the first half, Smith broke up the rush of Cape Elizabeth senior standout Tim Lavallee and Knaub went high to snare a corner kick (the Capers had a 5-3 edge for the game) off the foot of senior James Barlow.

With 28.8 seconds remaining, Torres fed Decker for a low shot, but Andrews made the save.

The second half would see most of the action playing out in the Yarmouth defensive zone, but the Capers never could earn the equalizer.

In the 45th minute, a low shot from Barritt was grabbed by Knaub. Seven minutes later, Lavallee beat his defender and got off a shot that Knaub was able to knock away after closing the angle, setting up an ensuing corner kick which the Clippers cleared.

Yarmouth's only chance of the second half came with 24:27 to go in regulation when Decker sent a low shot on goal that Andrews handled.

Cape Elizabeth then returned to the attack and with 21:08 showing, Barritt delivered a gorgeous free kick from 35-yards out that Knaub had to come out and punch away at the last second.

"I don't think there's anyone better in the state and I think he was the best goalie in the state last year," Hagerty said, of Knaub. "He makes great decisions over and over again. When to stay home and when to come out. His communication with the backs is excellent. If worse comes to worse, we rely on him to make the big saves."

Yarmouth was spurred on in the late going by longtime assistant coach Dale Wing, who asked, "Yarmouth, are you tired?" to which the Clippers' players would shout, "No! Coach!"

With 8:50 to go, freshman Griffin Thoreck's free kick got into the box and found somebody's head in the crowd, but the ball bounced just wide of the goal.

The hosts' last chance came with 44.3 seconds remaining, but Barritt shot high.

The Clippers then ran out the clock and celebrated their latest triumph, which came largely on the back of their defense.

"Lavallee and Barritt up top are so dangerous," Torres said. "We didn't want to let them get any good looks since we know how dangerous they are."

"We really only have four kids starting who saw significant minutes last year," Hagerty said. "Adam LaBrie starts as a freshman. He played 60 minutes tonight. We have three or four other kids starting in their first year as varsity players. I'm really proud of how they've come together. (Senior) Eamon Costello dropped back so we could mark someone else on their best player, Lavallee. (Junior) Drew Grout played well and of course, Sammy. This is his fifth position this year and he did it without hesitation. The unselfishness of these guys is just fabulous. Cape's one of the best teams in the state. For us to play them like this, given where we were 10 games ago, I couldn't be prouder of these guys. Tonight was big. Cape could easily win out and that would help us."

Cape Elizabeth lamented not having many chances and failing to take advantage of the ones it had.

"It was a sloppy night," said Capers coach Ben Raymond. "We didn't have an awful lot of shots on goal in the first half. Neither team really played great. They probably had a little more possession, but there really wasn't much possession at all. It's just tough in these conditions. We've been pretty much even with all the good teams. I think everybody's really close. One mistake or one good play is the difference between winning and losing.

"(The goal) was a good, hard shot. On a day like today, every shot's a good shot. (Knaub) played well. He did what he had to do. He came and got some balls. I don't think we tested him an awful lot. It would have been nice to get some points tonight.

Closing stretch

Cape Elizabeth was fourth in the Western Class A Heal Points standings as of Tuesday night. The Capers host Poland Thursday, then close the regular season with games at Waynflete and Falmouth sandwiched around a home tilt with Greely.

"We still have a lot of points out there," Raymond said. "We'd like to stay in the top four."

Yarmouth entered the game second to York in the Western B Heals. The Clippers host North Yarmouth Academy Thursday then close with a trip to Falmouth (Oct. 14) and a home game against York (Oct. 17).

This group expects to keep the good times rolling.

"We're always getting better," Smith said. "It's nice to see us developing. By playoffs, we should be fantastic. A lot of people didn't think we'd be this good. There wasn't a lot of pressure to get back to states. Everybody understood that. We decided to work hard and see what we can prove."

"We won't let up at all," Torres said. "We have to keep pressing and keep moving. That's what we've been doing ever since our 0-2 start."

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

Photo: R. Steven Sharp / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth senior Eamon Costello plays the ball in the midfield. Costello and his teammates held the Cape Elizabeth offense at bay.

Photo: R. Steven Sharp / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth senior captain Sam Torres uses his head to play the ball upfield. Torres had the game's lone goal in the fourth minute.

Photo: R. Steven Sharp / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth's standout senior goalkeeper Chris Knaub soars to make a first half save on a free kick by Cape Elizabeth senior Blake Barritt, who hangs his head in frustration following the play.

Photo: R. Steven Sharp / For The Forecaster

In a play emblematic of the game, Cape Elizabeth's standout senior Tim Lavallee is blanketed by Yarmouth senior Alex Kurtz (left) and sophomore Wes Crawford. The Clippers defense proved to be the difference.