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Yarmouth boys' soccer caps unbeaten regular season with 4-0 victory over Greely

Sports

Yarmouth boys' soccer caps unbeaten regular season with 4-0 victory over Greely

YARMOUTH—The Yarmouth boys' soccer team partied like it was 1973 Tuesday evening.

While Richard Nixon is no longer in the White House, the Miami Dolphins aren't anywhere close to NFL champions and Aerosmith has come a long, long way since its debut album, what happened then has repeated itself as the Clippers finished with an unbeaten regular season, their first in 36 years.

While Yarmouth has yet to prove that it has what it takes to win an undefeated state championship, like Ken Roberts' squad did back in the day, there's little question that the defending Class B titlists are one of (if not the) finest teams in the state in 2009.

Tuesday, the Clippers got a pretty first half goal from junior Luke Pierce, then added to their lead in the second half on goals from Pierce, senior Travis Merrill and junior Ebrahim Fazeli to roll to a 4-0 triumph over visiting Greely.

"It's pretty cool," said Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty. "It's pretty exciting. I never, ever would have predicted that."

Another statement win

The Clippers have built on the momentum of last year's stirring state title and played hard and well from start to finish this fall. Yarmouth did settle for a pair of 1-1 draws with fierce rival Falmouth and rallied late to tie host Cape Elizabeth 2-2, but won 10 other games by a composite 39-1 margin. Included in that tally was a 3-0 victory at Greely Sept. 26.

The Rangers graduated virtually all of their talent and didn't know what to expect in 2009, but won nine of their first 11 games, before falling 2-1 at Falmouth (in a game played at Yarmouth High due to weather) and 1-0 at home to Cape Elizabeth.

Greely hoped to end the regular season on a high note Tuesday, but it didn't take long for the Clippers to assert themselves on Senior Night, where a combined 30 players from the two teams were honored.

Yarmouth earned three quick corner kicks, but couldn't convert. Then, after a pair of Rangers' threats (junior Sean Ross shot wide on a breakaway and junior Jon Coyne's low shot was saved by Yarmouth senior goalkeeper A.J. Oliver), the hosts pressured for the lead.

With 24:30 to play in the first half, Clippers sophomore Ryan Maguire broke into the box, but Greely senior goalkeeper Patrick Blum raced out to break up the threat. Senior Ebrahim Fazeli got the rebound, but shot high. On the play, Blum was injured and did not return. Sophomore Liam Maker stepped into the breach.

With 14:30 to go before halftime, Yarmouth got the only goal it would need when senior Jeff Kuklewicz's pass deflected to Pierce and his blast to the lower left corner beat Maker to make it 1-0 Clippers.

"Jeff had two men him and sent the ball back to me," Pierce said. "I kept it low."

Pierce would get two chances to add to the lead moments later, but his header off a free kick was saved and his header on a long throw from sophomore Chris Knaub sailed over the goal.

Yarmouth had a 5-1 edge in corner kicks and a 7-6 advantage in shots in the first half, but only took a 1-0 advantage to intermission.

The Clippers then set about putting the game away in the second half.

With 27:03 to go in regulation, Pierce struck again as he pounced on an attempted Maker clear and one-timed a shot past the goalie to make it 2-0. 

"The second one, the goalie played it to me," Pierce said. "If I missed it, I would have looked stupid."

"We talked about getting tighter in the midfield," Hagerty said. "That created
opportunities going forward. The second goal Luke scored was the direct
result of pressure. I think the pressure forced the mistake. It wasn't
an easy shot. He did a nice job keeping it on frame."

A mere 2 minutes, 42 seconds later, Merrill got in on the act as Kuklewicz's throw-in bounced and deflected off Merrill and a defender and into the goal. 

"Jeff threw a nice a ball in and I just happened to get a flick on it and it found its way into the net somehow," said Merrill.

"The third goal sealed it for us," Hagerty added. "That was also the result of pressure."

With 19:05 to play, Fazeli took a pass from Merrill, shot, then jumped on a rebound and fired it into the net to make it 4-0. 

The Rangers had a golden opportunity to score with 13:36 left when a foul in the box gave senior Teddy Russell a penalty kick, but Russell's boot went wide to the left. That allowed Oliver to pitch his 10th shutout of the season, setting a new program mark, as Yarmouth put the wraps on its 4-0 victory.

"It's a great way to go out as a senior," Merrill said. "I couldn't have asked for anything better.
A.J. got the Yarmouth record for shutouts in a season. I knew we had
the potential to be undefeated. I knew we had tough matchups with
Falmouth, Greely and Cape, but it turned out great. We always practice
really hard. Having so many seniors helps too. A good core group of
leaders."

"It was nice to see A.J. rewarded," Hagerty added. "As far as I know, it's the most
regular season shutouts we've had. He's worked hard. The kids in front
of him played clean and limited chances. We got the ball to feet and
played direct in the second half. They're great kids. To have 15 seniors contribute is nice."

Yarmouth finished with a 14-9 edge in shots and had eight corners to just two for Greely. The Rangers finished with a 7-3 edge in saves.

"Our mental health is what worries me most," said Greely coach Mike Andreasen. "Losing Patty, our goalie
all year, I think was a disruption. The kids weren't comfortable. Liam
did a great job, but we kind of threw him under the bus. A team like
Yarmouth is a bad matchup for us since they play hard and physical. We
can play with teams that are more finesse, but finesse and tough like
Yarmouth is tough to deal with. There's no shame in losing to this
team, they work so hard. Luke's a monster. He's a big game player."

Playoff time

The Rangers wound up 9-5 and will likely be seventh in the final Western Class A Heal Points standings (which will be released Wednesday). Greely has enjoyed plenty of success playing on the road in past postseasons and will have do so again, possibly with a trip to dangerous Gorham to start out.

"This is our Waterloo, so to speak," Andreasen said. "We need to come together or
fragment. It's tournament time now. Every game matters. We can go one
of two ways. My hope is the kids meet the challenge.

"I think the season's been a success. We felt we had to win the eight
non-Cape, Falmouth, Yarmouth games and we did. We had to get something
in the other games and we did. Both Yarmouth games and the Falmouth
game at home were one-sided. Luckily, we'll escape those teams. I think
they're kind of at a different level than the rest of us.

"Scarborough's
still the team to beat. If they're down, it's not by much. We'll
probably be seventh and go to Gorham. They're like Yarmouth. Fast."

The Clippers will be the No. 2 seed in Western Class B (Falmouth got the top ranking by virtue of having just two ties). Yarmouth will be idle until next Wednesday, then will likely host two playoff games before almost certainly squaring off with the Yachtsmen one final time in the regional final.

The Clippers feel they're ready.

"It's going to be another grudge match," Merrill said. "We'll hope for the best."

"Its been a great year," Pierce said. "I've been fortunate to play with the senior
class most of my life. It's a great group. A lot of leaders. We need to
stay clean."

"It's the same as last year," added Hagerty. "We'd rather play at Falmouth. We've played them as well as anyone."

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net