Falmouth’s boys’ lacrosse team rushes the field in celebration at the final horn of Saturday’s 13-9 win over rival Yarmouth in the Class B state final. The Yachtsmen won their first championship since 2012.
Chris Lambert photos.
More photos below.
Y- 1 4 1 3- 9
F- 5 4 4 0- 13
7:58 F Scribner (unassisted)
7:04 F Mainella (unassisted)
5:17 F Arrants (unassisted)
4:57 F Mainella (Scribner)
4:22 F Russell (unassisted)
3:27 Y A. Beatty (Jacobs) (MAN-UP)
9:13 Y M. Beatty (unassisted)
7:47 F Scribner (unassisted)
7:17 F Russell (unassisted)
5:54 Y A. Beatty (M. Beatty)
5:21 Y A. Beatty (MAN-UP)
4:26 Y Jacobs (unassisted)
3:01 F Mainella (Scribner)
16.8 F Gilbert (unassisted)
11:20 Y A. Beatty (unassisted)
8:26 F Russell (unassisted)
6:57 F Arrants (unassisted)
4:35 F Gilbert (Norris) (MAN-UP)
1:46 F Gilbert (unassisted)
9:11 Y Grant (unassisted)
8:43 Y Chappell (Jacobs)
5:57 Y H. Venden (unassisted)
Y- A. Beatty 4, M. Beatty, Chappell, Grant, Jacobs, H. Venden 1
F- Gilbert, Mainella, Russell 3, Arrants, Scribner 2
Y- Jacobs 2, M. Beatty 1
F- Scribner 2
Faceoffs (Yarmouth, 20-6)
Y- Tillotson 20 of 26
F- Pierce 6 of 22, Zinn 0 of 4
Ground balls (Yarmouth, 37-31)
Y- Conrad 14, Tillotson 8, Grant 4, Chappell 3, M. Beatty 2, Barton, A. Beatty, Jacobs, Mallett, May, Pidden
F- Hickey 8, Zinn 5, Mainella 4, Russell, Scribner 3, Nolan, Pierce 2, N. Farnham, Gilbert, Reed, Tucker 1
Shots on cage:
Y (Harke) 9
F (Tucker) 7
PORTLAND—What a difference one Saturday makes.
A week ago, Falmouth’s boys’ lacrosse team, mired in a two-game skid and dealing with a crisis of confidence, trailed Kennebunk by three goals at halftime of the teams’ Class B South semifinal.
Flash forward one week and the Yachtsmen found themselves dancing on the hallowed ground of Fitzpatrick Stadium celebrating a state championship, culminating a run which saw them rally past Kennebunk, upset Cape Elizabeth and Saturday, hold off Yarmouth.
An amazing journey of discovery, belief and ultimately, of heart and talent overcoming all else, produced the most inspirational postseason run in program history.
In the first-ever state final matchup between Falmouth and Yarmouth, ancient rivals in so many sports, the Yachtsmen quickly dispelled any fears of a post-Cape Elizabeth letdown, erupting for five first period goals in a 3 minute, 36 second span, as sophomore Lou Mainella scored twice, juniors Devin Russell and Jack Scribner struck once apiece and unheralded sophomore Nate Arrants also tickled the twine.
The Clippers, playing in their fourth consecutive state game, crept back in the game in the second period and when junior Bill Jacobs scored from an impossible angle with 4:26 left before halftime, Yarmouth only trailed by two goals and appeared to have all the momentum.
But the Yachtsmen wouldn’t buckle, as first Scribner set up Mainella to restore order, then, with 16.8 seconds to go, senior captain George Gilbert scored a critical unassisted goal to make it 9-5 at halftime.
With the Clippers turning the ball over nine times in the third period, Falmouth was able to further pull away, as after Yarmouth senior Andrew Beatty pulled his team within three, Russell, Arrants, Gilbert and Gilbert again scored to make it 13-6 with 12 minutes to play.
In the fourth quarter, the Yachtsmen were content to rely on their staunch defense and solid junior goalie Liam Tucker to hold the fort and while the Clippers did score three times down the stretch, it was far too little, too late and Falmouth went on to a 13-9 victory.
The Yachtsmen got multiple goals from five different players, never trailed and finished the season 12-3 with the third championship in program history, ending Yarmouth’s year at 11-5 in the process.
“It’s an amazing turnaround,” said Falmouth coach Mike LeBel. “I knew it could be done, but I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. I give the kids all the credit in the world. We put out a road map for them. They could have taken their own or follow ours. They followed ours and that’s why we’re here today.”
For more than a half-century, Falmouth and Yarmouth has been rivals in all sports and have met in the playoffs in most of them.
The Clippers and Yachtsmen have played 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 until Saturday, they had never played in a state game.
As recently as Wednesday it didn’t look like it was going to happen this year either, as Yarmouth was being penciled in for another state game berth, but few thought that the Yachtsmen would join them.
That’s because entering the playoffs, Falmouth looked like anything but a state title contender. The Yachtsmen did light up the scoreboard and win nine of their first 10 games (the only blemish came in a close 11-9 loss at Cape Elizabeth), but late in the season, they struggled mightily, falling at Kennebunk and at home to Cape Elizabeth (by a humbling 13-5 margin) to drop to the No. 2 seed in Class B South.
Falmouth earned a bye into the semifinals, but had to battle No. 3 Kennebunk and at halftime, it looked like the postseason was going to come to a quick end, as the Rams led, 8-5.
And then, the Yachtsmen began to play like champions, holding Kennebunk to just one second half goal and rallying to prevail, 10-9.
Wednesday, Falmouth went to top-ranked, undefeated, three-time defending state champion Cape Elizabeth for the Class B South Final, having dropped 10 of the pas 11 meetings against the Capers, including each of the past three regional finals, but the Yachtsmen became the first team to ever win at Cape Elizabeth in the playoffs, scoring the game’s final four goals and holding the Capers scoreless for the final 15 minutes, 22 seconds en route to a 7-5 triumph.
“We just bought into everything Coach said,” Scribner said. “We started adapting a family mentality a few weeks ago more than we had all season. Then it all came together. It all started clicking in the second half against Kennebunk.”
“I did have my concerns and they received my message loud and clear,” LeBel said. “We had a very open conversation as a team and coaches and the guys responded. They grew up a lot. They got more mentally and physically tough and that was a big advantage for us against Cape. We matched their intensity and physicality.”
Yarmouth struggled quite a bit early in the season, falling at home to Cape Elizabeth, defending Class A champion Brunswick and Falmouth, then, as it got healthier and more confident, hit its stride. The Clippers did fall late in the year at Cape Elizabeth, but won six of their last seven and earned the No. 3 seed in Class B North.
Yarmouth then ran roughshod on the playoff field, averaging 19 goals per game and getting the better of No. 6 NYA (19-4), No. 10 Gardiner (16-0) and No. 5 Maranacook (22-5).
Last year, the Clippers lost, 7-5, to Cape Elizabeth in the state game to fall to 4-7 all-time in state finals (see sidebar, below).
Falmouth won its previous two state games, both over NYA.
On May 5, the Yachtsmen beat the host Clippers, 12-7, behind five goals from Gilbert, as they blew open a close game with a surge before halftime.
Saturday afternoon, under beautiful 71-degree skies, in the first-ever playoff meeting between the programs, Falmouth’s hot start proved to be the difference.
Yarmouth actually had the first scoring chance, as its standout senior faceoff man, Ricky Tillotson, won possession and the ball came in front to senior Matthew Beatty, but Beatty’s bounce shot went over the cage.
The Yachtsmen broke the ice with 7:58 to play in the opening stanza, as Scribner scored unassisted.
That opened the floodgates, as Mainella, after cutting through the defense, finished unassisted 54 seconds later, Arrants scored unassisted with 5:17 left in the quarter, Scribner set up Mainella for a goal 20 seconds later and after Scribner was robbed by Clippers freshman goalie Liam Harke, Russell fought through the defense and finished unassisted with 4:22 remaining for a 5-0 advantage.
“We knew if we got off to a hot start, it would be difficult for them to come back,” Gilbert said. “We knew if we came out flying, we’d be good.”
“Since we beat Cape, I told them that I’d been here the past three years as a spectator and Cape always came in flat,” LeBel said. “I don’t know if it was a hangover from our game or if they thought were going to hammer Yarmouth. The potential was there for us to have a big letdown, so we had to stay focused and we did. We didn’t talk about Cape. We just focused on Yarmouth. It was definitely nice to see us not struggle at the beginning. I thought it would be even, back-and-forth. For us to get out to a 5-0 lead was really good. Our offense was clicking.”
A Falmouth penalty helped give Yarmouth’s offense some life, as after sophomore Emmett Zinn was sent off for a cross-check, Jacobs fed Andrew Beatty for a goal with 3:27 left to give the Clippers some life.
Yarmouth was much stronger in the second quarter, but the Yachtsmen never let the Clippers catch up.
With 9:13 to play before halftime, Matthew Beatty scored unassisted to make it 5-2.
Yarmouth had a chance to pull even closer after Falmouth sophomore defensive standout Brendan Hickey was sent off for a slash, but a rocket from sophomore Henry Venden hit the post.
With 7:47 left in the half, the Yachtsmen returned to their scoring ways, as Scribner tickled the twine assisted.
Thirty seconds later, after a Clippers’ turnover, Russell scored unassisted as well to restore the five-goal lead.
Back came Yarmouth again, as the Beatty brothers combined for a goal with 5:54 remaining, as Matthew Beatty set up Andrew Beatty.
Nineteen seconds later, Hickey was flagged for a hold and with 5:21 to play in the half, Andrew Beatty converted the man-up goal to make it 7-4.
Fifty-five seconds later, Jacobs scored the most spectacular goal of the game, scoring from seemingly no angle while he was smothered at the time by a defender. Tucker could do nothing with his rocket which suddenly cut the deficit to just two, 7-5.
But that’s as close as the Clippers would get.
With 3:01 left in the half, Scribner fed Mainella to stem the tide.
Then, with just 16.8 seconds showing, Gilbert willed his way to a shot which beat Harke and made it 9-5 Falmouth at the break.
“Momentum going into a half is a big thing,” Gilbert said. “The first time we played them, the same thing happened.”
“Going into the half, I thought we were going to lose that second quarter and that they would have momentum, but our offense was so prolific today,” LeBel said. “We came back every time. Every time they scored, we answered. That’s what kept them from coming back.”
In the first half, Tillotson won 11 of 16 faceoffs, but Yarmouth turned the ball over 11 times, six more than the Yachtsmen, who enjoyed a 19-9 shots advantage.
When Andrew Beatty scored unassisted 40 seconds into the second off, ripping a shot off the post and in, the Clippers hoped to again make a run, but Falmouth would control the remainder of the third period.
With 8:26 to play, Russell answered with an unassisted goal.
Then, with 6:57 left, Arrants got to run the gamut of emotions, as he scored his second goal (unassisted), but suffered a broken wrist on the play.
“We took Nate off the JV waiver wire,” LeBel joked after the game. “He came in and scored twice. He’s a converted attackman. We never expected he’d score, but did an awesome job. Amazing story until he broke his wrist.”
With 4:35 to go, after Matthew Beatty took a penalty, the Yachtsmen capitalized man-up as junior Henry Norris fed Gilbert.
“A huge reason we got here was George,” LeBel said. “He just wanted it. He wanted to be the guy I go to and tell him we have to get something done and he makes it happen. He scored goals, cleared the ball, played shutdown defense. I’ve been so impressed with that kid. He’s been an amazing leader.”
Gilbert scored again, unassisted, with a top shelf blast past Harke with 1:46 remaining and Falmouth was in command, up, 13-6, heading for the fourth quarter.
There, Tucker and his defense stood tall.
Just 38 seconds in, Yarmouth junior Remi Leblanc hit the post.
After Gilbert was sent off for a slashing penalty, Andrew Beatty had a great look, but he was robbed by Tucker.
Tucker then twice denied junior Anders Newberg.
On the second shot, senior Patrick Grant got the rebound and finished, but the lead was still 13-7 with 9:11 to go.
To their credit, the Clippers never quit and with 8:43 to go, Jacobs fed sophomore Silas Chappell for a goal to make it 13-8.
With 55.7 seconds remaining, Venden scored unassisted, but that was the final goal of the game.
After Tucker made a save on Jacobs with time winding down and before the celebration began, Falmouth senior captain Austin Wheeler, who hurt his knee during football season, got to see three seconds of action for the first time all spring, putting an ideal punctuation mark on the victory.
Those were the last three seconds of the game and at 5:14 p.m., after four frustrating years in the wilderness, Falmouth got to exult and celebrate a championship.
“I couldn’t have written a better script for this senior year,” Gilbert said. “It’s where we belong, honestly. There were some doubts at times, but we got together and got it done. Coach said on Thursday, ‘Great win (over Cape), but it means nothing if we don’t win the next one.’ We didn’t want to get upset like Cape did. We were playing like North Carolina in the NCAA (lacrosse) tournament. They were like the 12 seed, had away games throughout, no one thought they’d win it, but they found a way.”
“We have all the respect in the world for Yarmouth,” Scribner said. “They’ve been here. We knew they wanted it. We were able to capitalize early, we were patient on offense, our defense played great and Liam made some big saves. It could have been a lot different, but we kept working hard and played with a lot of passion. It’s incredible. A great group we’ve got here. Great coaches. We feel really happy.”
“We came off two very strong games and I think our energy was still there and we came out hard and strong,” Hickey said. “It was a closer game than the scoreboard indicated. It’s tough to slow them down. We tried to take away time and space today and it worked out. The Kennebunk game had good repercussions on our team. Our comeback boosted us through the playoffs and gave us a ton of confidence.”
“This run has been awesome,” LeBel added. “After being blanked three years and having to sit up in the stands and watch it, I think we produced a thrilling game for the fans and made it exciting.”
The Yachtsmen’s offense was balanced and prolific, as Gilbert, Mainella and Russell all scored three times and Arrants and Scribner had two goals apiece. Scribner also had two assists.
Tucker finished with seven saves.
Hickey had a team-high eight ground balls and Zinn collected five.
Falmouth enjoyed a 32-25 shots advantage (22-16 on cage) and only turned the ball over 11 times.
Yarmouth’s offense was paced by Andrew Beatty, who had four goals. Matthew Beatty, Chappell, Grant, Jacobs and Venden also tickled the twine. Jacobs assisted on two goals while Matthew Beatty added one assist.
Harke made nine saves.
Yarmouth won the ground ball battle, 37-31, as senior Walter Conrad led all players with 14 and Tillotson collected eight of his own.
Tillotson won 20 of 26 faceoffs, but the Clippers turned the ball over 25 times, 14 more than their opponent.
“We dug ourselves a hole in the first quarter,” said Clippers coach David Pearl. “That was really hard for us. The game was even after that. I think they played really well today and we got off to a slow start. In lacrosse, which is such a fast game, you can score quickly. We got momentum back, but that deficit was too much. Aside from the slow start, it was an evenly fought game.
“I felt like the guys were well prepared, but this will hurt a lot to them because of how much adversity they overcame. We talk a lot about resilience in Yarmouth. We have a strong tradition. The senior class was very successful and they’re great young men. That’s why I love coaching. I love this team and these boys. I know this is a disappointment, but I’m proud of every one of them.
“Let’s just say that Father’s Day has been very difficult the past four years. I feel like a father to a lot of these boys. I spend so much time with them. I cherish this. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. Sure, it’s tough to lose, but we have to put it in perspective, it’s a lacrosse game.”
Yarmouth graduates the Beatty brothers, Conrad and Grant (who each played in state finals in soccer, hockey and lacrosse this year), Tillotson, defensive sparkplug Topher Pidden and captain Jack Venden, who was injured this spring.
Returning will be Harke in goal, several key defenders and midfielders and Jacobs and Henry Venden to spark the offense.
The Clippers will keep kicking at the door, hoping to finally break it down and win their first championship since 2009.
“We want another crack at it,” Pearl said. “We have a lot of underclassmen who saw how the seniors conducted themselves and never gave up. I look forward to next year. I’m sure it will be a great season. We’ll just have to keep getting better and believing in ourselves.”
If Yarmouth gets back to states in 2017, there’s a good chance we’ll have a rematch of this year’s contest.
Falmouth does graduate a handful of players, most notably Gilbert, but a lot of talent returns.
The Yachtsmen are looking to go back-to-back, just like the 2011-12 squads did.
“We have a lot coming back,” said Hickey. “Under our coaching staff and the skill we usually produce, we should have a very good team again next year.”
“We should definitely have a lot of talent next year, but it won’t be given to us,” Scribner said. “We’ll have to work hard every day in practice.”
“This gives me a little leverage to make them work harder in the offseason and get together and play and do certain events,” LeBel added. “They’ve had this taste and I’m sure they want to reach this stage again. They won’t take it for granted. They understand how difficult it is to get here and I think they’ll work even harder next year.”
Yarmouth junior Bill Jacobs is defended by Falmouth sophomore Brendan Hickey.
Unheralded Falmouth sophomore Nate Arrants scores one of his two goals.
Falmouth junior Jack Scribner is shadowed by Yarmouth freshman Patrick Mallett.
Yarmouth senior Andrew Beatty beats Falmouth junior Liam Tucker as junior defender Seth Masciangelo arrives too late to help.
Falmouth junior Devin Russell launches a shot. Russell had three goals in the victory.
Falmouth senior George Gilbert shoots and scores as Yarmouth senior Walter Conrad defends. Gilbert bowed out with three pivotal goals.
Yarmouth senior Patrick Grant, who played in a state final in three separate sports this school year, beats Falmouth junior goalie Liam Tucker.
The Falmouth players celebrate with their fans after the victory.
Yarmouth captains Matthew Beatty, left, and Jack Venden, receive the runner-up trophy in the postgame ceremony.
Falmouth senior captains Austin Wheeler, left, and George Gilbert receive the championship trophy.
The champions and their prize.
Class B South semifinal
@ Falmouth 10 Kennebunk 9
Class B South Final
Falmouth 7 @ Cape Elizabeth 5
Class B North quarterfinal
@ Yarmouth 19 NYA 4
Falmouth 7 NYA 4
Yarmouth 9 Cape Elizabeth 4
Cape Elizabeth 9 Yarmouth 8 (OT)
Cape Elizabeth 11 Yarmouth 10 (OT)