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Falmouth’s boys’ lacrosse team was all smiles after upsetting three-time defending state champion Cape Elizabeth, 7-5, in Wednesday’s Class B South Final. The Yachtsmen will meet Yarmouth in the state game Saturday.
F- 1 1 2 3- 7
CE- 2 1 2 0- 5
5:02 CE Sarka (Brett)
3:40 CE Sarka (unassisted)
:41 F Scribner (unassisted)
11:13 F Scribner (Mainella)
4:02 CE Perkins (unassisted)
5:36 F Scribner (Norris)
4:07 CE Perkins (MAN-UP)
3:22 CE Perkins (MAN-UP)
1:17 F Norris (Scribner)
10:01 F N. Farnham (unassisted)
5:08 F Russell (Engleberger)
4:17 F N. Farnham (Norris)
F- Scribner 3, N. Farnham 2, Norris, Russell 1
CE- Perkins 3, Sarka 2
F- Norris 2, Engleberger, Mainella, Scribner 1
CE- Brett 1
Shots on cage:
F (Tucker) 18
CE (Narvaez) 8
Two weeks after being humbled by eight goals on their home turf by their fierce rival and recent nemesis, Falmouth’s boys’ lacrosse team completed an amazing turnaround and produced perhaps the most inspirational victory in program history Wednesday evening.
The Yachtsmen, who righted the ship with a come-from-behind semifinal round victory over Kennebunk Saturday, were given little to no chance in the Class B South Final at Cape Elizabeth.
Not because they weren’t talented.
But because the Capers had never lost a playoff game on the Hannaford Field turf or anywhere in town that they had hosted a postseason contest for that matter.
All good things must end, however, and Falmouth was happy to be the first visiting team to dispatch Cape Elizabeth in June.
The Yachtsmen fell behind, 2-0, early, as Capers senior R.J. Sarka scored twice, but late in the first quarter and again early in the second, Falmouth junior Jack Scribner tickled the twine to tie the score and give Falmouth life.
A goal from sophomore Tate Perkins put Cape Elizabeth ahead at halftime and after Scribner tied the score with 5:36 remaining in the third period, the Yachtsmen took a two-minute locked-in cross-checking penalty and as they always seem to do, the Capers took advantage, as Perkins scored twice for a 5-3 lead, seemingly set the stage for Cape Elizabeth to run away and hide.
But it never happened.
For the game’s final 15 minutes, 22 seconds, Falmouth’s defense held the prolific Capers scoreless and the Yachtsmen’s offense capitalized.
A goal from junior Henry Norris late in the third turned momentum back in Falmouth’s favor and sophomore Nick Farnham, who scored the winner in the semifinals against Kennebunk, tied the score with 10:01 to go.
With 5:08 to play, in transition, junior Devin Russell put the visitors ahead to stay and 51 seconds later, Farnham produced an insurance goal.
From there, the Yachtsmen’s defense and junior goalie Liam Tucker slammed the door and Falmouth pulled off the 7-5 shocker.
Scribner led the way with three goals, Tucker made 18 saves and the Yachtsmen improved to 11-3, ended Cape Elizabeth’s season at 13-1 and advanced to meet Yarmouth (11-4) in the Class B state final Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
“It was an amazing team effort,” said Falmouth coach Mike LeBel. “One of the finest team efforts I can remember a Falmouth team having. In the past, when we won our championships, it was Mitch Tapley or Willy Sipperly scoring a bunch of goals. This was just a joy to see. I’m really happy for the kids. They deserve it. They beat a really, really solid team.”
Falmouth beat Cape Elizabeth in the 2011 and 2012 regional finals en route to the state title, but since then, the Capers had their way in the series, winning seven of the past eight regular season contests and beating Falmouth in the regional final in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
This spring, it looked like the Yachtsmen were ready to force a changing of the guard, but Cape Elizabeth won both regular season meetings: 11-9 at home and 13-5 at Falmouth in the aforementioned finale.
The victory gave the Capers a perfect regular season mark (see sidebar, below, for previous game stories) and the top seed in Class B South. In Saturday’s semifinals, Cape Elizabeth pulled away to knock off No. 4 Waynflete, 15-8.
As the No. 2 seed, the Yachtsmen appeared to be vulnerable entering the playoffs and at halftime of Saturday’s semifinal against No. 3 Kennebunk, Falmouth was reeling, as it was hemorrhaging on defense and trailed the Rams, 8-5.
Then, something shifted and the Yachtsmen returned to dominant form. The defense allowed just one second half goal and Farnham’s tally in the fourth quarter stood up as Falmouth survived and advanced, 10-9.
“I can’t really pinpoint how we turned it around, but it was really just the mindset the kids took,” LeBel said. “They bought into what we were telling them the last couple weeks. We tried to hit on something that would work. Both defensively and offensively, we found some things that we could change up. It was about keeping things simple. I tried to get too exotic and this team just plays better when we just keep things simple. We made some personnel adjustments that really helped out.”
This win over Kennebunk was Lebel’s 100th with the program. It’s safe to say that his 101st was even sweeter.
Entering the regional final, Cape Elizabeth had won five of seven prior postseason meetings, including last year’s 12-4 home victory in the regional final.
Wednesday, on a beautiful night for lacrosse in front of an overflow crowd, the rivals produced yet another memorable chapter.
One with quite the plot twist, as it turned out.
It took both offenses awhile to heat up.
It took until 5:02 remained in the first quarter for Sarka to start the scoring, as he finished a feed from senior defenseman Tommy Brett for a 1-0 lead.
Sarka scored again, unassisted, with 3:40 showing and it looked like the Capers might just be in business, but with 41 seconds remaining in the period, Scribner got the Yachtsmen on the board, making the score 2-1 after one quarter.
Scribner struck again 47 seconds into the second period, as he finished a feed from sophomore Lou Mainella and beat Cape Elizabeth senior goalie Alex Narvaez to tie the score.
Cape Elizabeth would retake the lead with 4:02 to go in the half, as Perkins, who has enjoyed a breakout season, finished unassisted to make it 3-2 Capers at halftime.
Nine saves from Tucker kept the Yachtsmen alive.
Both offenses continued to be frustrated for much of the third quarter, but with 5:36 showing, Scribner struck for the third time (Norris got the assist) to tie the game again.
Again, Cape Elizabeth answered, as after a controversial cross-checking penalty to sophomore Spencer Pierce, the Capers had two minutes of locked-in, man-up play and they took advantage as Perkins scored with 4:07 remaining in the quarter and again with 3:22 to go, pushing the lead to 5-3.
Earlier in the season, that would have been a death knell for Falmouth, but the Yachtsmen were unfazed and after preventing the Capers from scoring again and perhaps pulling away (Tucker made seven saves in the quarter), the visitors got a critical goal from Norris (assisted by Scribner) with 1:17 left in the quarter to make it anyone’s game entering the final stanza.
“That was a big goal,” Norris said. “After that, we just locked down and shut them down.”
“I really think Henry’s goal turned it around,” Farnham said. “It was a statement goal. The whole team rallied behind it.”
“I didn’t agree with the penalty, but I give all the credit to the kids,” LeBel added. “They responded far better than I did. They stayed focused and kept working hard. They gave up a couple goals, but they didn’t give up. Once we made it 5-4, we started to believe it could happen.”
In the fourth quarter, Falmouth produced its finest hour.
With 10:01 showing, Farnham scored his latest big goal, unassisted, tying the game, 5-5, and putting momentum solidly in the Yachtsmen’s corner.
With Falmouth’s defense continuing to frustrate the potent Cape Elizabeth attack and Tucker stopping the shots he saw, the Yachtsmen bided their time until 5:08 remained, when on a fast break, senior Jack Engleberger fed Russell, whose shot eluded Narvaez and the Yachtsmen were on top to stay, 6-5.
“We’re really dangerous,” Norris said. “We move he ball around as much as we can to find the matchup we like. If they take it away, we move it around and find something else.”
It took less than a minute for Falmouth to produce some breathing room, as Norris assisted on a Farnham goal with 4:17 to play and the Yachtsmen began to sense the upset was going to become a reality.
“I was feeling it at that point,” said Farnham. “Everyone on the bench was reflecting the excitement.”
With Pierce winning faceoffs, Falmouth was able to keep possession and run time off the clock and after chasing the brass ring for the better part of four years, the Yachtsmen were able to run the clock down to 0.0 and celebrate their 7-5 triumph.
“It feels great,” senior captain George Gilbert said. “I remember watching my brother lose to Cape in overtime of the Western Maine Final in 2010. I thought about that before the game. We’re a second half team, especially with our backs against the wall.”
“We’re very excited,” said sophomore defensive standout Brendan Hickey. “Cape’s won it three years in a row and to beat them there, it was a fun time. We made a tremendous comeback against Kennebunk and stuck together as a team. That gave us confidence to go all out against Cape. Our offense did a great job holding the ball in their end. That’s the best defense we could have asked for. We’re young, but we’re very excited to get it done for our seniors and for our town.”
“After beating Kennebunk, we were confident going into this game,” Norris said. “We thought we could beat (Cape). All the pressure was on them.”
“We came in and George, right before we warmed up, talked about us playing as a unit,” Farnham said. “Obviously, our defense played really well, Liam had a terrific game, like always, and the offense did what we had to do to win the game. We knew we wasn’t going to be easy. Spencer did a great job winning faceoffs. We were able to possess the ball in the offensive zone. There’s such a tradition (at Cape), but we went in and made a statement. It was pretty special.”
“Cape’s been on an outstanding run that they deserved,” LeBel added. “They’ve beaten us. They’ve had homefield advantage and parlayed that and went on and won championships. They’ve had phenomenal teams. To go in and beat that team on their homefield, an undefeated team, is really wonderful for the program. It validates that we’re for real. We’re just not throwing up a bunch of goals during the season, then not getting it done when it matters. People were starting to think we couldn’t beat Cape. Now, we’ve proved we can.”
Falmouth got three goals from Scribner, two from Farnham and one apiece from Norris and Russell. Norris had two assists, while Mainella and Scribner each finished with one.
Tucker came up huge with 18 saves, continuing his postseason brilliance.
“Liam had some wonderful saves,” LeBel said. “Some big saves. He’s played so well lately. I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t overthinking their shots and trying to pinpoint it a little more. We did that too, because with Narv, you have to place your shots. We hit some pipes. They missed opportunities and we missed opportunities.”
Best of all, the Yachtsmen’s defense was superb, holding the Capers to just five goals, something which last happened to Cape Elizabeth 48 games ago (a 7-5 home loss to NYA on May 24, 2013).
“We’ve left Liam out to dry a bit this season, so our defense got together and tried to fix everything we could and go as hard as we could for him,” Hickey said. “Systematically, we did great. Hustle, we did great. We won ground balls. We did the little things to win the game. Liam came up big in the big times.”
“It all started with our defense,” Gilbert said. “We shored things up and started playing more confidently and played as a unit, not as individuals. Beating Kennebunk after being down three at half was big for us. That was a turning point.”
“The defense limited their transition opportunities,” LeBel added. “They didn’t get the tic-tac-toe goals. We played good settled defense. I’m astonished we held that offense to five goals, especially at home. I still don’t know how it happened.
“I know coaches say this a lot, but I can’t pinpoint one person or a certain unit that carried us today. It was everyone. It was Liam making great saves, help defense, picking the ball up off the ground, getting it up the field quickly and the attack converting it into goals.”
Cape Elizabeth’s offense featured three goals from Perkins and two from Sarka.
Narvaez made eight saves.
The Capers enjoyed a 23-15 advantage in shots on frame, but only converted five of them.
“Falmouth played well,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Ben Raymond. “We won much of the statistical portion of the game, but not the goal’s part. The emotion and the pressure of this game was a little different than others. The kids wouldn’t say that, bu I feel like they felt a little more pressure than normal. We had plays that could have changed things, but wound up being goals for them. Defensively, they did a good job and Liam played really well. He made some big saves when he had to. We had a ton of shots and we got good shots, but it wasn’t a good shooting night on our part.”
While the Capers judge themselves on winning championships, a 13-win campaign and regional runner-up status still makes for an impressive season.
“We focused on not judging our season’s success or failure on one game, one loss,” Raymond said. “We made a lot of improvement this year. We really came together. Everybody worked hard. The kids enjoyed coming to practice every day. Hopefully that’s what they’ll take away. They’re all destined to go on and do bigger and better things in life.”
Among the top players departing will be Brett, Narvaez, Sarka, top offensive players J Bottomley and Riley Pillsbury and defenseman Nikko Pappas.
“The seniors had such a great career,” Raymond said. “They did so much for the program. So much for the guys who came before them and for the guys who came after. They’ve passed on how to be great teammates and leaders.”
Next year’s team will be led offensively by Perkins and rising seniors Connor Thoreck and Owen Thoreck. Seniors-to-be Jeb Boechenstein, Ben Ekedahl and Cole Spencer will be top midfielders. Rising senior Sam Price will replace Narvaez in goal.
Several others will get their opportunity to shine.
In other words, expect to hear more from the Capers in 2017.
“We lose a lot of valuable players, but we bring back some talented young men,” Raymond said. “Connor was very vocal after the game telling the guys to remember what losing feels like going into next year. Chances are, we’ll be in the same position next year and we expect it will turn out a different way.”
Falmouth and Yarmouth have met in regional finals four times in boys’ soccer, twice in girls’ soccer, once in boys’ basketball, twice in boys’ hockey, once in baseball, three times in boys’ tennis and twice in girls’ tennis, but never in a state final in any sport.
The Clippers and Yachtsmen play annually in boys’ lacrosse (Falmouth won, 12-7, May 12 at Yarmouth), but Saturday will mark the first-ever postseason meeting between the rivals.
As excited as the Yachtsmen were about slaying the Cape Elizabeth dragon, they know a loss Saturday will relegate that victory to a mere footnote, instead of a bridge to glory.
So they’ll go to Fitzpatrick Stadium Saturday afternoon looking for one final win to finish the job.
“Beating Cape was awesome, but we have to forget about it and focus on Saturday,” Norris said. “It’ll be something new and hopefully, it will end the way we want.”
“We have to come out full hustle like we did against Cape and keep pounding,” Hickey said. “The nerves will be there, but I’m very excited to play.”
“Yarmouth’s playing great lacrosse right now too,” said Farnham. “Their offense is putting up goals and their defense is playing well. We have to put it together like we did against Cape, play great shutdown D and the offense has to score some goals. I’m sure we’ll be a little nervous, but we’ll be fired up and ready to go.”
“It’s going to be a fun experience,” Gilbert said. “We have to really respect our opponent and go in humble and play hard as a unit.”
“(Beating Cape is) an awesome accomplisment, but it doesn’t mean anything unless we win on Saturday,” LeBel added. “Obviously, they have changed significantly since we saw them last. There’s always a concern when you go up against a great faceoff man (Clippers senior Ricky Tillotson) that you’ll have limited offensive opportunities and you’ll have to take advantage of them. The nice thing is we won the faceoff battle the first time. I’m hopeful we can figure out something to counter that to give us a few more possessions. Their offense is prolific. We have to play like we did (against Cape) defensively and that should give us an opportunity.
“It’s tremendous to get back to states. I’ve gone to the last three state games as a spectator and yearned to get back and feel that feeling of being on the turf at Fitzpatrick. I questioned when it would happen again. To be able to go back is great. I’m also realistic that we have to put in a lot of work to get ready because Yarmouth is a great team.”
Class B South semifinals
@ Falmouth 10 Kennebunk 9
Western B Final
@ Cape Elizabeth 12 Falmouth 4
Western B Final
@ Cape Elizabeth 11 Falmouth 8
Western B Final
@ Falmouth 10 Cape Elizabeth 9
Western B Final
@ Falmouth 11 Cape Elizabeth 9
Western B Final
Cape Elizabeth 7 @ Falmouth 6 (OT)
Western B Final
@ Cape Elizabeth 11 Falmouth 7