Yarmouth back in win column after downing SP
YARMOUTH—Look out boys' lacrosse world, the Yarmouth Clippers are returning to form.
A year removed from an uncharacteristic down season, the Clippers are putting it together once again.
Saturday evening, Yarmouth improved to 2-1 on the young season with an impressive 12-2 home victory over South Portland.
The Clippers were opportunistic and balanced on offense, did a superb job killing penalties and were rescued on several occasions by senior goalie Alex Kurtz as they led from start to finish.
Senior Anders Overhaug and junior Ethan Cyr both had three goals, Yarmouth raced to a 5-0 lead and blew the game open late in the third period as it dropped the Red Riots to 1-4 on the year.
"(The kids have) worked hard," said first-year Clippers coach David Pearl. "They laugh and have fun and enjoy what they're doing. I've seen so much progress since the beginning of the year. It's unbelievable."
Over the past decade, Yarmouth has been as strong as any boys' program in the state. Under Craig Curry's leadership, the Clippers won the 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009 state championships and reached the final in 2003, 2005 and 2010, only to fall by a single goal each time.
Last season, after Curry stepped down as coach, it was a different story. Yarmouth's record 73-game home win streak came to an end, the Clippers went 6-6 in the regular season, then were stunned in overtime in the semifinals by Gardiner, in a game which saw them fail to hold a 6-1 lead. Yarmouth finished under .500 for the first time in a decade.
This spring has been one of rebirth as longtime assistant David Pearl ascended to the head coach's position and several proud players returned, eager to restore the Clippers to prominence.
Yarmouth made a statement in its opener, holding off visiting North Yarmouth Academy, 11-9. Last year, the Panthers won decisively at Yarmouth and went to win the regional title that the Clippers had owned in seven of the prior eight years.
Wednesday, Yarmouth went to defending Class B state champion Falmouth and hung tough before falling, 14-7.
South Portland, meanwhile, is coming off a 7-6 season, which ended with an overtime loss to Marshwood in the Western A quarterfinals. The Red Riots have a lot of new faces in new places and have been competitive, but lost at Marshwood (10-4) and at home to Cheverus (5-4) and defending Class A state champion Scarborough (10-1) in addition to a 14-6 victory at Gorham.
Saturday, in the schools' first meeting, South Portland had its chances to take control early, but ultimately, the Clippers had their way.
The Red Riots controlled possession for several minutes at the start of the game, but Kurtz kept them off the board.
Yarmouth eventually got its offense going.
With 6:51 left in the opening stanza, just 27 seconds after Overhaug hit the post with a shot, senior Sam Torres set up junior Nick Ronan for a goal and a 1-0 advantage.
"One of the things we're seeing is that we're slow starters," Pearl said. "We're having trouble getting the wheels turning."
Eighteen seconds later, junior Quinn Hathcock scored unassisted and it was 2-0.
The third goal came with 4:59 to go in the first. This time Ronan set up senior Bart Gallagher, who beat South Portland freshman goalie T-Moe Hellier.
Sophomore Max Watson (from Torres, man-up) and Cyr (from Watson, man-up) scored to push the lead to 5-0. In the final minute of the quarter, the Red Riots got on the board when sophomore Andrew Hodge scored unassisted.
South Portland senior Joey DiBiase won six of the seven faceoffs in the first period, the Red Riots had an 11-9 shots on goal advantage and won 11 ground balls to 10 by the Clippers, but found themselves down four goals due largely to five clutch saves by Kurtz.
Yarmouth appeared primed to run away with it when Overhaug scored an unassisted goal with 7:10 to play in the half, but the Clippers wouldn't score again before the break.
With 1:02 remaining, playing man-up, South Portland senior Mike Salvatore took a pass from sophomore Thomas Leddy and beat Kurtz to cut the deficit to 6-2, a score that held until halftime.
The game stayed 6-2 for more than half of the third period as Yarmouth couldn't break it open and the Red Riots couldn't draw closer, due in large part to seven turnovers in the quarter.
The Clippers managed to end a 14 minute, 26 second scoring drought when Overhaug pounced on a turnover and raced in and scored unassisted with 4:44 remaining in the third.
It looked like that would be the score heading for the final period, but in the final seconds of the third quarter, Yarmouth managed to score twice and break South Portland's back.
Watson put home a rebound with 25.2 seconds left and after a draw win, the Clippers upped their lead to 9-2 when Watson set up Overhaug for a goal with just 0.8 seconds to go.
Yarmouth put the finishing touches on its victory in the fourth period as Cyr (from junior Christian Henry), Cyr again (from Overhaug) and Torres (unassisted, after a turnover) all scored to give the Clippers the 12-2 victory.
"A theme of our team is that they're great teammates," Pearl said. "They're a joy to teach and coach and be around because they share the ball. Hopefully that multi-facetedness will continue. They're learning and growing and I'm proud of them. It was a pretty physical game and they kept in it and didn't let it get away from them. "
Yarmouth was paced offensively by Cyr and Overhaug, who both scored three times. Watson added two goals, while Gallagher, Hathcock, Ronan and Torres each tickled the twine once. Torres and Watson added a pair of assists, while Henry, Overhaug and Ronan had one apiece.
"We have a lot of great players on offense," said Cyr. "We go five, six guys deep at midfield and we have three or four great attackmen. We've worked on shooting and finishing and getting everyone to score goals. We worked it around more when we had that drought. We started to turn it on a little more and shoot more."
Kurtz finished with nine saves, but they were all timely. He and the defense only allowed South Portland to score once in several man-up situations.
"(The Red Riots) played a little bit of a different offense, but our defense came up strong," said Kurtz. "We've worked on staying tight and working on our calls better. We've got a young defense, but they worked hard to stay strong for me there. We have to stay out of the box. The refs called it a little tight today, which is fine. We have to stay strong when we're down and work through adversity. We take pride in man-down. We worked on our slides and communication."
"Alex is turning into a real quarterback on the defense," Pearl said. "He's showing great patience. He's come into his own as a leader on the team."
The Clippers had a decided 57-31 edge in ground balls. Sophomore Thomas Lord led all players by grabbing 11.
"We work really hard on ground balls," said Cyr. "Thomas did phenomenal on ground balls today."
Cyr and Overhaug each had six. Torres collected five.
Senior Dennis Erving was 6 of 14 on faceoffs. Junior Ethan Masse went 1 of 2. Cyr finished 0 for 1.
Yarmouth committed 18 turnovers, but forced 27. The Clippers outshot the Red Riots by a more than 2-to-1 margin (45-22). They put 24 shots on cage to just 11 for South Portland.
The Red Riots, who were held scoreless the final 25:02 of the game, got goals from Hodge and Salvatore. Leddy had an assist. Hellier made 12 saves.
DiBiase did win 10 of 16 faceoffs. Salvatore was 0 for 1.
Salvatore led the team in ground balls with nine. Hodge collected six, freshman Andrew Whipple four.
"We had a lot of possession time, but we couldn't finish," lamented South Portland coach Tom Fiorini. "We struggled in the first quarter and we struggled from the end of the third into the fourth. That's the problem with this young team. If we can put together a full 48 minutes, we can run with a Yarmouth or a Scarborough. Until we can do that, it's not going to happen for us."
South Portland had a brutal five-game stretch to start the season, but its schedule now eases and the Red Riots project to earn some wins.
South Portland is home with Bonny Eagle Wednesday and goes to Windham Friday.
"The first five games I knew would be tough," Fiorini said. "I think we should have a nice ending seven games. We should be fine."
As for Yarmouth, it doesn't return to action until Saturday, but that evening will feature a visit from undefeated, powerhouse Cape Elizabeth, which already has a victory over Falmouth to its credit.
The Clippers will be up for the challenge.
"Coach Pearl coming back this season is a great advantage to have," Kurtz said. "Coach Curry stops by every once in awhile, which is great. It's nice to have an old Clipper back. The program's really turned around. I'm excited for the future."
They also know there's still a long way to go to get to championship caliber.
"We just need to work on passing and catching, cutting off ball, moving the ball, defense staying tight, staying out the box, working on ground balls and working on shooting," Cyr said. "Keep working on all the basics."
"We have the whole week to get better," added Pearl. "We know Cape is a premier team in the state. We look forward to the challenge. We certainly have to play better than we did today. We have a lot of work ahead of us. The devil's in the details in coaching and in playing. It's been challenging keeping the kids enthusiastic and setting up our systems and how we do things. A lot of the kids don't remember what we used to do. They're eager to learn and they want to do better."