(Ed. Note: This story originally appeared June 17, 2004)
PORTLAND—Nearly two decades of waiting and hoping came to an end Saturday at 4:42 p.m. at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland when the Yarmouth boys’ lacrosse team put the finishing touches on an 11-6 state championship game victory over its longtime nemesis, the Cape Elizabeth Capers, giving this proud program the only thing it was lacking, a long-sought-after state title.
The Clippers capped their season of dominance in impressive fashion, never trailing against the perennial champions, displaying a talented defense and clutch goalkeeping, in tandem with a balanced, explosive offense, to thrill the large Yarmouth cheering contingent on hand.
That’s right Clippers Nation, the Yarmouth boys’ lacrosse program is No. 1 at last.
“It feels so good to finally be on top,” Clippers senior standout Jon Miller said.
“It feels great,” junior goalie Alex Bubier added. “It’s an amazing feeling. I’ve been waiting for this for a year.”
The roots of this championship can be easily traced to the events of June 14, 2003. The Clippers, underdogs then, rallied late with four goals to send the state final against Cape Elizabeth to overtime tied at 8-8. The Clippers even had possession first in the “sudden victory” extra session, but couldn’t convert, and the Capers came down and scored to break their hearts.
This year, there was never any doubt.
Yarmouth opened with decisive wins over York (13-1), Falmouth (18-1), Waynflete (17-0), Cheverus (12-3) and Greely (15-2) before they finally were tested by rival NYA in a 12-8 win.
The Clippers really announced that they had arrived on May 11 when they erased an early 6-0 deficit and raced past Cape Elizabeth 13-11 at home. In the rematch, 11 days later in the muck, Yarmouth embarrassed the Capers on their home field, 15-7. The Clippers wound up the regular season 12-0, outscoring their hapless foes 179-48.
The playoffs started with another rout, 23-4 over Cony. Yarmouth next beat NYA for the third time this season (and the eighth in a row overall), 11-3, in the semifinals, then secured their state final berth by breaking open a tight, low-scoring regional final with 11 second half goals in a 13-3 win over previously unbeaten Brunswick
“The kids bought into the fact that it would be a marathon and not a sprint,” Yarmouth’s first-year coach Craig Curry said. “We wanted a nice, controlled progression of how we would improve. We wanted to improve through the last day. They were focused, patient and intense all year. The kids stuck together.”
Curry mentioned that longtime coach Barry White visited the team prior to the final and got them primed for victory.
“Barry came to practice the other day,” Curry said. “We invited him to give the boys a talk. He’s an eloquent, inspirational speaker.”
How sweet it is
Roughly 2,500 fans poured into Fitzpatrick Stadium Saturday to witness history. Few expected Yarmouth to beat Cape Elizabeth as easily as it had May 22, but the Clippers quickly seized control.
Sophomore Luke Stevens got the party started when he took a pass from senior Dan Leahy and scored with 9:01 remaining in the first quarter for a 1-0 lead. The Capers answered 25 seconds later when Ron Kelton’s bounce shot was deflected by Bubier, but still found its way into the net to tie the game at 1-1.
Undaunted, the Clippers retook the lead for good just 32 seconds later as Leahy fed senior Brent Stevens, who fired a shot past Cape Elizabeth goalie Cody Bothel. Exactly a minute later, sophomore Zach Caldwell scored unassisted for a 3-1 lead. Moments after Bubier made an impressive save on Capers junior standout Dan Rautenberg in close, Cape Elizabeth senior Matt O’Hearn scored unassisted to pull the Capers within a goal, 3-2.
Yarmouth responded however, capping the first period by getting strikes from Leahy (assisted by Caldwell) and sophomore Nick Sampson (from Leahy) to lead 5-2.
Cape Elizabeth struck first in the second period, getting a goal from junior Dave Bagdasarian (on an assist from senior Tim Thompson), but Yarmouth answered as Leahy (from Sampson) and junior Chris Hichborn (from Miller) scored to make it 7-3 at halftime.
“With (Cape’s) tradition, we knew that they could have come out a totally different team than what we saw during the regular season,” Miller said. “Going into the game we were confident that we were the more skilled team.”
Bubier made eight first half saves, but was really tested in the third quarter as the proud champions made one final push.
Rautenberg scored on a rebound with 8:11 left in the third to make it 7-4 Yarmouth. The Capers then had several other chances to get even closer, but were denied.
“Alex was tremendous,” Miller said. “He was a wall out there. I think it would have been a lot closer without him.”
“Bubier’s been great all year,” Leahy added.
Bubier expected the onslaught and praised his teammates.
“We knew that (Cape) would come out strong,” he said. “They have their tradition. They’re a great team. Our defense took care of me.”
The Yarmouth offense then put the win away as Hichborn scored unassisted (with 7:48 left), Leahy scored from Sampson (39 seconds later) and Brent Stevens took a pass from Caldwell and found the net for a commanding 10-4 lead.
“We came out and played loose,” Leahy said. “Quick passes and the quick outside shot is what got it done today.”
Cape Elizabeth got a goal from Thompson late in the third, then in the fourth, Rautenberg scored with 5:28 to play to make it 10-6, but Luke Stevens capped the scoring, as he took a pass from Caldwell and accounted for the 11-6 final score with a goal with 3:49 to play.
The clock ran out and Yarmouth, at last, celebrated being the best boys’ lacrosse team in the state of Maine.
“This is great,” Leahy said. “Everyone was thinking about this all year. A lot of us have been on the team since freshman year when we were awful. It means a lot to have gotten better every year and finally win the first championship for Yarmouth.”
“We knew that if we played our game, it could end up this way,” Miller added. “It was nice to have that cushion at the end.”
Bubier wound up with 16 saves. Leahy led the way on offense with three goals and three assists. Hichborn, Brent Stevens and Luke Stevens each added two goals. Sampson (who added a pair of assists) and Miller (one assist) scored once. Caldwell pitched in with three assists.
“It’s wonderful,” Curry beamed. “The key today was our defense, which carried us. They couldn’t get a clean possession off the faceoff. It was total hustle on our part.”
The Clippers got strong faceoff efforts from Miller and senior Ben Bohrman and stellar defensive play from Todd Lawrence, Will MacLeod and Hans Tobiason.
Yarmouth graduates eight seniors (Brian Ahlers, Bohrman, Lawrence, Leahy, MacLeod, Miller, Max Scherr and Brent Stevens), but will be eager to taste the thrill of victory again.
“I enjoy trying to come back and do it again,” Curry said.
Whatever happens in the future, no one associated with the Yarmouth program will forget the thrill of the long-awaited first championship.
The Yarmouth Clippers boys’ lacrosse team’s storybook season culminated Saturday with an 11-6 victory over Cape Elizabeth in the state championship game. Yarmouth peppered Capers goalie Cody Bothel with shots all day. Sophomore Nick Sampson gave the Clippers a 5-2 lead with this goal.