FALMOUTH— If the Falmouth boys’ lacrosse team hasn’t quite arrived as an elite power, it’s safe to say the Yachtsmen are on approach.
Falmouth, which has been pegged by several coaches as a team of the future, made its most emphatic statement to date Wednesday.
Hosting perennial power North Yarmouth Academy, the Yachtsmen raced to a 5-0 lead, then, with the game on the line in the third period, won 22 ground balls to eight for the visitors and went on a 4-0 run to put the contest away as they improved to 6-2 on the season with the stunningly decisive 12-4 victory.
“No matter what, NYA is a huge win because they always have good players,” said Falmouth coach Mike LeBel. “They’re always very well coached. Chris Carpentier’s a very good coach. He always gave us fits at Freeport. That was a big part of my anxiety was knowing I had to coach against him.”
Ship comes in
The Yachtsmen had turned heads even prior to Wednesday. They gave defending Class A state champion Scarborough fits in the season opener before falling 7-5 at home. Falmouth then stunned visiting perennial contender Kennebunk 13-1. The Yachtsmen went to defending Western B champ Cape Elizabeth next and were tied with the Capers in the third period before going down to a 6-3 defeat.
Falmouth then turned around and downed St. Dom’s (20-6), York (10-0), Freeport (8-6) and Bonny Eagle (10-2) to set the stage for NYA.
The Panthers entered the game 5-2 and were coming off a 15-9 home win over Waynflete Monday. NYA’s losses came at Scarborough (11-8) and at home to Cape Elizabeth (11-9, in a game the Panthers led 7-3).
A year ago, Falmouth beat NYA for the first time, 6-3, at home. This time around, the Yachtsmen wouldn’t leave any doubt.
Falmouth set the tone early, forcing turnovers and winning ground balls, but didn’t tickle the twine until midway through the first period when sophomore Nick Bachman (from junior Mike Kane) beat NYA junior goalie Taylor Norton. Three more goals followed in short order as junior Chris Janelle (from junior Dan Hanley), junior Kyle Lucas (from Hanley) and Kane (from Bachman) scored for a 4-0 lead after one quarter.
When Kane (from Bachman) scored man-up 59 seconds in the second period for a 5-0 advantage, the Yachtsmen appeared home-free, but NYA would rally.
With 7:22 to go in the first half, sophomore Timothy Millett (from junior Cam Smith) beat Falmouth sophomore goalie Jay Hurdman to make it 5-1. Junior Phil Champoux then scored a pair of unassisted goals to make it 5-3. With 1:18 left in the half, the hosts ended a nine minute, 43 second drought when Lucas scored unassisted, but it was still essentially anyone’s game at halftime.
The Yachtsmen had a 28-15 advantage in ground balls, forced 14 turnovers and outshot the Panthers 14-6, but still had a lot of work to do.
When the second half started, Falmouth again set the tone, winning every contested ground ball, but the hosts couldn’t extend their lead until 5:14 remained in the third period when Lucas set up freshman Mitchell Tapley for a goal. Tallies from Bachman (assisted by Lucas) and Bachman (from Tapley) followed and the Yachtsmen were in command, up 9-3, after three periods.
“We had to step it up on defense,” Kane said. “Our slides were coming late. We started to pick it up on offense.”
Falmouth won three of four faceoffs in the quarter, forced nine turnovers and grabbed 22 of 30 ground balls.
NYA wouldn’t draw any closer.
In the fourth, Lucas fed Kane for a goal to make it 10-3. Then, after Champoux (from Smith) scored to make it 10-4, Hanley struck unassisted and Tapley (from Hanley) buried a shot to bring the curtain down on the Yachtsmen’s stunning 12-4 victory.
“This is a great win for us,” Kane said. “This is a big boost for our confidence. This is probably the funnest game I’ve played in all year. We’re really young. We have to learn what’s best for everyone and step up on defense and work harder on clearing the ball. We wore them down today.”
“The thing that scared me the most was the last four games we had were against middle tier teams and when you play those teams, you get into bad habits and they tend to carry over to games like this,” LeBel added. “You’re always unsure how the kids will react. But the kids just played outstanding. We used our depth to tire them out. We used multiple attackmen to make their defensemen tired. We wore them down and pulled away at the end. That’s how we operate.
“(The second half is) when you see our depth come out. We can run multiple lines of middies and attackmen. We’re patient. We’re growing offensively. We’re working for better shots, not just going down and chucking the ball. We tend to excel in the third and fourth quarters because other teams just don’t have our depth. When we’re even or barely ahead going into the second half, we know we’re in very good shape.”
Falmouth was led offensively by Bachman and Kane, who both scored three times. Bachman had two assists and six ground balls. Kane had one assist (and also had six ground balls). Tapley (one assist) and Lucas (three assists and seven ground balls) each had two goals. Hanley (three assists and a team-high eight ground balls) and Janelle both scored once. Hurdman stopped four shots.
For NYA, Champoux had three of the four goals and also led the team with seven ground balls. Millett scored the other goal. Smith had a pair of assists. Norton made seven saves.
The final team stats were heavily in Falmouth’s favor. The Yachtsmen won 61 ground balls to 35 for the Panthers, forced 33 turnovers and had a commanding 27-11 edge in shots on goal. Faceoffs were even, 10-10.
“We fought really hard the entire game,” Kane said. “We dominated on the ground balls. We were solid all around. The second we started stepping up I knew we’d go hard all game.”
The Panthers (5-3 and fifth in the Eastern B Heal Points standings) goes to Deering Friday, hosts Greely and powerhouse Portland next week, then closes their regular season at rival Yarmouth June 1.
Falmouth, meanwhile, can’t rest on its laurels. The Yachtsmen (6-2 and second to Cape Elizabeth in the Western B standings) plays at Portland Friday, hosts Yarmouth Tuesday, then closes at Greely and at home versus Cheverus.
Look for Falmouth to continue to grow.
“We have some big ones coming up,” Kane said. “We have to prepare for those guys and play more solid and control the ball on offense.”
“With kids this young, starting with freshmen and sophomore attackmen, the kids every game, get more experienced and more patient,” LeBel added. “That may help us in the long run. We may take our lumps against some teams, but in the long run, this is very beneficial.
“You never know. We’re pretty healthy right now. Knock on wood. We’ll see how it goes. We’re in that middle tier now. We’re not in that top tier yet.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mhoffer