Entering the 2010 boys’ soccer season, just about everyone expected the defending state champion Falmouth Yachtsmen and their fierce and talented rivals, the Yarmouth Clippers, to square off in the regional final on Nov. 3.
That’s exactly what transpired as the top-ranked Clippers and No. 3 Yachtsmen met for the third year in a row with a state final berth on the line Wednesday evening.
They weren’t the only teams from Forecaster Country to make it to November. North Yarmouth Academy, which barely qualified for the Western C playoffs as the No. 8 seed, upset top-ranked Wiscasset and No. 5 Hall-Dale to earn a regional final date against No. 3 Waynflete Wednesday afternoon.
Here we go again
The dominance of the Falmouth and Yarmouth boys’ programs this century has been well documented. The Yachtsmen have won Class B seven times since 2000 and the other three years saw the Clippers celebrate a championship. In many of those years, they were the two top teams in the state (regardless of class) and that could be the case again in 2010.
Entering November, the Clippers have enjoyed a magical ride. They went 13-0-1 in the regular season (the lone blemish was a 1-1 tie at Cape Elizabeth) and earned the top seed for the Western B playoffs. Yarmouth had no trouble with No. 8 Oak Hill, 3-0, in the quarterfinals, then edged No. 4 York, 1-0, in Saturday night’s semifinals.
Against the Raiders, junior Spanish exchange student Pau Melero scored twice and senior standout Luke Pierce added the third goal. The semifinal showdown against York was scoreless until the 63rd minute when Pierce (from junior Sam Torres) finally struck to allow the Clippers (15-0-1) to move on.
“York is very good,” said Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty. “They had the better of the play in the first half. On the goal, (assistant) coach (Dale) Wing saw something and we switched it up. Sam left the ball for Luke and he fired it just over the goalie’s fingertips.”
Falmouth, which won the state crown a year ago, struggled in the regular season, losing twice each to Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth, but its 9-4-1 mark was good for third in the region. Last Wednesday, in the quarterfinals, the Yachtsmen edged No. 6 Gray-New Gloucester, 1-0, on sophomore Cooper Lycan’s second half goal. In the semis, Saturday at Maranacook, Falmouth fell behind 1-0 early, but drew even on a goal from senior Sam White on a free kick. Then, in overtime, White set up junior Andrew Murry for the winner.
“It was a good game,” said Falmouth coach Dave Halligan. “(Maranacook) scored early. We dominated play, but couldn’t get one in. We finally broke through and that made us feel better. (Senior goalkeeper) Ben Goffin made a huge save with about two minutes left. Sam and Andy made a beautiful play for the winning goal. It was nice to see for Andy since he works so hard.”
Yarmouth beat Falmouth for the first time ever on the Clippers’ turf field back on Sept. 11 (1-0). On Oct. 12, in the first meeting on the Yachtsmen’s new turf field, Yarmouth held on for a 2-1 triumph.
The teams have met eight previous times in the playoffs, with Falmouth holding a 6-2 edge. This is the third straight season that the rivals have squared off in the regional final. Two years ago, the visiting Clippers rallied for a stunning 2-1 victory. Last fall, the Yachtsmen got revenge, erupting for three second half goals en route to a 3-0 triumph.
Yarmouth knew that beating Falmouth three times in one season would be very, very difficult.
“It should be a great game,” Hagerty said. “We have to watch out for Sam White on free kicks. He’s gotten very dangerous. We match up better with them than we have in a long time, as far as our strengths go.”
The Yachtsmen were excited for another chance.
“We’re proud to be there,” said Halligan. “We have the ability to do it. These games mean a lot. We’re looking forward to it.”
The winner advances to the Class B state final Saturday (likely at Falmouth High), against either Ellsworth (16-0) or Camden Hills (15-0-1).
Restoring the roar
NYA was 3-5 and in danger of missing the playoffs after a 3-2 home loss to Fryeburg Academy Oct. 7. The Panthers saved their best for last, however, going 4-0-1 down the stretch to wind up 7-5-1 and eighth in Western C.
Last Wednesday, in a veritable deluge at top-ranked, undefeated Wiscasset in the quarterfinals, NYA sprung a 1-0 upset when junior Forrest Milburn scored in overtime.
“It was a good game,” said Panthers coach Martyn Keen. “If the field wasn’t such a quagmire, it would have gone better. We missed some early chances, but pulled it out in OT.”
Saturday, at No. 5 Hall-Dale in the semis, NYA took an early 2-0 lead behind goals from Milburn and junior Matt Michaud. The Bulldogs would rally and made it a 2-1 game late in the first half, but the Panthers didn’t allow another and advanced.
“We should have won by four or five goals,” said Keen. “We took our foot off the gas and they got a lift before halftime. We had a string of injuries in the second half and couldn’t put it away. They almost tied it up.”
That set up a regional final date at No. 3 Waynflete in what would be the first ever playoff game between the rivals. NYA lost twice to the Flyers this fall, 2-0, in Portland Sept. 16 and 1-0 at home Oct. 2.
“We’re not the stereotypical No. 8 team going in,” said Keen. “It’s worked out well for us. The first time we played, it was our worst performance of the season. We lost late the second game, but it was very competitive. We have to find a way to score. I suspect it will be another tight game. A lot of the players know each other. I have great respect for (Waynflete coach) Brandon (Salway). He told me we’d see each other later in the season. It’s not a surprise. I hope it’s a good game and may the best team win.”
If the Panthers survive, they’ll face either Fort Kent (11-1-3) or Orono (14-1-1) in Saturday’s Class C state final (likely at Hampden Academy).
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com