Falmouth and Yarmouth play to another 1-1 tie
FALMOUTH—Sooner or later, a Falmouth-Yarmouth boys' soccer game is going to turn memorable.
That didn't appear to be the case Thursday night, but with just under seven minutes to play, with the host Yachtsmen up 1-0 and apparently heading to a rather humdrum victory, everything changed.
The visiting defending Class B state champion Clippers earned a corner kick, which led to a penalty kick, which led to the tying goal, which was followed by a similar chance for the Yachtsmen, which didn't result in a PK, which led to a pair of red cards, which eventually led to overtime, which didn't resolve anything and for the second time in three weeks, the fierce rivals battled to a 1-1 draw.
And that's why soccer fans should never miss a showdown between these proud and storied programs. You never know what you're going to see.
"It's always something with Falmouth-Yarmouth," said longtime Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan. "That's what makes it interesting."
"It was a pretty cool game," said Clippers coach Mike Hagerty. "I was proud of how the kids responded. It'll make round three really fun."
Just when you think you've seen it all
Much has been made of Yarmouth's inability this decade to protect its home turf against Falmouth. The 1-1 tie Sept. 17, meant the Clippers haven't defeated the Yachtsmen in Yarmouth for 10 years.
In Falmouth, however, Yarmouth has enjoyed more success. The Clippers forced scoreless ties there in 2004 and 2006, won 2-0 in 2005 and 1-0 in 2007, then stunned the Yachtsmen last November with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory in the Western B Final.
So far, this year, the two powers have been, as expected, elite teams not only in Class B, but in the entire state.
Falmouth took an 8-0-1 record into Thursday night's game and was coming off an impressive 4-0 victory at Western A contender Cape Elizabeth. In the Yachtsmen's first nine games, they outscored the opposition by a composite 59-4 margin.
Yarmouth, meanwhile, was also 8-0-1, but had gone about it a little differently, winning four times by a goal, including a 1-0 victory at Lake Region Tuesday. The Clippers had scored 29 times in their first nine outings and had surrendered only two goals.
Neither offense had many chances Thursday.
Each team had one corner kick in the first half. The best scoring opportunity came in the third minute when Falmouth senior Alec Dunn got free in front, but his bid was kicked aside by Yarmouth senior goalkeeper A.J. Oliver. A rebound was booted high. In the 12th minute, Yachtsmen senior standout Gabe Hoffman-Johnson fired a shot that Oliver bobbled, then corralled.
Play picked up a bit in the second half as Falmouth pressed for the lead.
With 29:28 left in regulation, senior Ford Bohrmann (who scored the Yachtsmen's goal in the first meeting) fired a shot that was deflected, but snared by Oliver. A mere 46 seconds later, Bohrmann had another shot, but his low blast to the right resulted in a diving save by Oliver.
"We had our chances early and didn't capitalize on them," Halligan said. "Their keeper
made a half-dozen great saves. Not very good saves, but great saves."
Finally, with 24:46 left in regulation, the hosts broke through. Senior Kyle Lucas sent a free kick toward the goal. It bounced once in the box and Dunn raced in and headed it past a hapless Oliver to make it 1-0 Yachtsmen.
"It was a great set piece," said Hagerty. "Kyle served a beautiful ball. We
shouldn't have let it bounce in our box, however, part of that was the
service. It was a quality, low, driven ball that was difficult to
handle for anybody. Kyle hasn't been in the paper, but he keeps that
team solid with the offense he creates from the back. We respect what
he does in the middle which is why we try to keep the ball outside."
Oliver (seven saves) kept the Clippers' hopes alive with saves on a low shot off the foot of Falmouth junior Sam White in the 63rd minute and Lucas in the 64th. Yarmouth eventually stepped up its attack and with the hour growing late, set in motion a series of events that would rivet those on hand.
On Yarmouth's fifth corner kick of the night, senior Ebrahim Fazeli served a ball that was cleared by the Falmouth defense. However, Clippers junior Luke Pierce was knocked to the ground on the play and the referee deemed that contact was severe enough to award a penalty kick.
With 6:33 to go in regulation, Fazeli lined up his kick and blasted it past Falmouth junior goalkeeper Ben Goffin (who made a futile dive to his right) to make it a brand new game, 1-1.
"Luke went up and the ref said he got elbowed," said Fazeli. "I got a chance to finish. I was a little nervous. I knew what I needed
to do. I was looking to the opposite side, but the plan was to go to
the goalie's right."
"It looked like Luke got run over," added Hagerty. "There was certainly contact. A collision in the box is a hard call either way."
Not surprisingly, the Yachtsmen didn't see it the same way.
"Two of our players went for the header and the ref said our player's
forearm hit their player in the head," said Falmouth junior Michael Bloom. "He put his forearms up to protect
himself in the air."
Regardless, the game was tied and the fireworks were just beginning.
With 3:54 left, Hoffman-Johnson appeared to have a step on a defender and was brought down in the box, but this time, no PK was awarded. The Yachtsmen reacted with disbelief, anger and some choice words and two players were given red cards, meaning they were out for the rest of the contest (and will have to miss Falmouth's home game with Greely Saturday as well).
Playing two men up with a chance to sneak out of town with a win, Yarmouth had a great look in the 79th minute when Fazeli set up Pierce, but his header was high.
Then, with 1.7 seconds to go, the hosts almost improbably won it, but a flurry in front of the Yarmouth goal didn't result in a good shot.
After all that, it was on to overtime.
"It got chippy," Fazeli said. "Emotions were high. (The Yachtsmen)
weren't too happy about the PK."
"(Playing two men down) was really hard," said Bloom. "It was intense. It didn't seem like anything was going our way."
Each team had one good chance in the first of two five-minute, "sudden victory" overtimes. First, Dunn had a good look, but fired high. At the other end, Pierce appeared to have a rush, but Goffin (two saves) raced out, sprawled and broke it up.
In the second OT, Falmouth earned two corner kicks, but both times the Clippers defense cleared the ball and when time ran out, the rivals split the Heal Points once again.
"This game is unforgiving," Halligan said. "(Yarmouth) played hard and stuck with their game plan and we lost our composure a little bit. We'll work on that. If we solve that problem, we'll be all right. We pulled together. There was a lot of emotion in this game. The kids were pumped up. I was pleased we pulled together when we were down a man."
"It was pretty fun," Fazeli said. "It shows a lot that we can come back. We did it
last year and knew we could do it this year. It helps going into the
playoffs to know we can do that."
"I thought (Falmouth) had the better of the play in the first half," added Hagerty. "We knew
the intensity would pick up in the second half. It's a game of
matchups. Dave moves his players around. We try to move our players
around. We did a better job of getting the ball outside in the second
half and getting the ball in the final third. I thought we did a nice
job keeping our composure. Both teams tackled hard. I was proud of how we played clean and hard and how we responded when things got
verbal. It was like a playoff game."
Yarmouth is now 8-0-2 and holds a slight lead over Falmouth for second place in the latest Western Class B Heal Points standings (Maranacook, which has played 12 games, is first). The Clippers play at Cape Elizabeth Saturday, visit York Tuesday, then wrap up the regular season with home games versus Poland and Greely.
"I think we just have to take care of business," Fazeli said. "Cape's not too
happy about their loss to Falmouth. We want to keep our undefeated record. It's getting down to crunch time."
"I'm very impressed with how our kids are playing and how our
sophomores are playing," Hagerty added. "Sam Torres, Chris Knaub. Ryan Maguire, Josh (Britten). They all get it. I'm very pleased
overall with how the kids have come along. A.J.'s grown immensely. Our
defense continues to play well. Offensively, we're still a little
inconsistent, but we're better than we were a month ago."
Falmouth hosts Greely Saturday and plays at Freeport Tuesday. The Yachtsmen then close with home games against Lake Region and York.
If both teams win out, they'll finish tied in the Heals and will have to flip a coin for homefield advantage. It isn't often in sports where the coin flip winner might opt to play its fiercest rival on the road, but with these two teams, anything is possible.
"We might have to go play at Yarmouth," said Halligan, with a chuckle. "That's a worse case scenario."
"There's nothing like a Western Maine Final," said Fazeli. "Hopefully we'll see (Falmouth)."
"We look forward to it," added Bloom. "It's going to be interesting. It should be a great game."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org