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Yarmouth overcomes drought, beats Portland, 9-5

Sports

Yarmouth overcomes drought, beats Portland, 9-5

YARMOUTH—The Yarmouth boys' lacrosse team went almost 28 minutes without a goal Saturday afternoon, thanks in large part to superb Portland senior goalie Ryan Jurgelevich having his best game of the season, but the Clippers found a way to eventually find the net and enjoy a victory.

Yarmouth raced to a 3-0 lead just over six minutes in, but didn't tickle the twine again until 2:05 remained in the third period when junior Ian Edgecomb broke the spell and gave the Clippers the lead for good. Yarmouth scored three more times in a short span to seemingly seize control, but the Bulldogs pulled within 7-5 with 4:54 to play.

They would get no closer as Edgecomb scored his fourth goal of the game with 3:36 to play and less than a minute later, sophomore Max Watson delivered the coup de grace as the Clippers went on to a 9-5 victory, improving to 4-2, while dropping valiant Portland to 3-6.

"Overall, we got off to a good start, which is something we've been needing since we've been slow out of the gate the past few games," said Edgecomb. "It took until now to really get that out-of-the-gate start we needed. They came back and tied it, but we just had that extra stamina to keep going at them."

Recent powers

While Yarmouth could make the argument that it's been the state's premier program since 2004, Portland has certainly been in the top five.

The Bulldogs played in the Class A Final in 2007, 2009 and 2010, winning it all that middle year. Last season, Portland reached the Eastern B semifinals, but lost at Lewiston, 15-6.

Graduation the past two years has taken a heavy toll on the program and that combined with a very tough schedule has made life challenging for Portland this year, but the Bulldogs have remained competitive even against the best teams.

After opening with a 3-2 home loss to Thornton Academy, Portland rallied to beat visiting Massabesic, 7-5. Next came a 9-5 setback at Deering. A 14-6 victory at Gorham followed, but the Bulldogs then lost to visiting defending Class B champion Falmouth (13-4), at perennial contender Kennebunk (7-6) and at home to two-time reigning Class A champion Scarborough (8-2). Portland got back in the win column Wednesday at Noble, 14-1.

Yarmouth has returned to form this spring under new coach David Pearl. After finishing 6-7 and falling in the semifinals in 2011, the Clippers edged visiting rival NYA, 11-9, in their first game this spring. After a 14-7 loss at Falmouth, Yarmouth downed visiting South Portland, 12-2, then dropped a 12-8 home decision to Cape Elizabeth.

"That was a game where we came out strong, but not strong enough," said Edgecomb. "We were almost there. Cape was a great team. It was a fun game. It was a loss where we didn't walk away kicking ourselves."

The Clippers enjoyed a 17-2 victory at Lake Region Thursday.

Yarmouth and Portland have a limited history, but produced one of the most epic games in memory three years ago, when both were en route to championships. In a contest played on the Yarmouth High turf, featuring several players who would go on to compete in college, the Clippers held on for an 11-9 victory. They had met twice the year before with both winning at home (Portland, 12-11; Yarmouth, 9-1).

Saturday, the Clippers avoided their trend of getting off to slow starts, but they weren't able to deliver the knockout punch and the game remained tight until the end.

Yarmouth broke the ice with 9:21 to play in the first period when Edgecomb took a pass from junior Ethan Cyr and scored. Goals from junior Christian Henry (from Cyr at 7:24) and Edgecomb (from junior Brady Neujahr at 5:56) seemingly put the hosts in control, but Jurgelevich began to take over the game and give his teammates a chance to rally.

With 4:01 remaining in the opening stanza, the Bulldogs got their first goal as senior Seamus Kilbride, in his first game back from injury, took a pass from sophomore Ben Allen and beat Clippers senior goalie Alex Kurtz to cut the deficit to 3-1.

Jurgelevich made just three saves in the first quarter, but would turn in a second period which simply made jaws drop.

After Portland made it a 3-2 game on an unassisted goal from senior Brett O'Kelly with 9:15 left before halftime, Jurgelevich saved four successive great looks from Yarmouth senior Anders Overhaug.

"The thing I love about Anders is when I told him not to be frustrated, that's he played a great game, was that he said, 'I know, coach, the next one's going in,'" said Pearl. "He's the eternal optimist."

With 1:52 to go in the half, the Clippers were frustrated further when senior Sam Torres' shot wasn't saved, but hit the post.

The visitors went man-up in the final minute and got a gift from the officials when their were mistakenly awarded a third timeout of the half (teams only get two).

Portland took advantage and drew even when Kilbride set up senior Sam Hamilton for a goal with 35.3 seconds showing and the Bulldogs took plenty of confidence and momentum into the break, thanks in large part to Jurgelevich, who made 10 saves in the second quarter alone.

Jurgelevich made three more huge saves in the third period and Torres hit the post again, but Portland couldn't possess the ball (turning it over eight times in the quarter) and finally, Yarmouth managed to score.

The go-ahead goal came with 2:05 to go in the third and came on a great feed from Watson to a cutting Edgecomb, who leaped and fired a high shot past Jurgelevich, ending a 27 minute, 51 second drought.

"Kudos to (Jurgelevich)," said Edgecomb. "He's a good goalie. He got his foot right where everything was going. He had a lot of good saves. After a while, we put so many on him it seemed like he cracked a little bit. On a zone, it's just off-ball cuts. You just go across and just rip. They didn't see me coming. I had good people feeding me. They got it right to me."

"We were really stifled there by their zone defense for awhile," said Pearl. "We had to change our game. I give credit to the boys for figuring it out. Those two longpoles at the top made our middie-strong team struggle. I don't think there was much frustration and we were proud of the time we possessed the ball. We knew if we kept the pressure on, they'd crack. This is a group that doesn't get frustrated. It's such a positive group. I didn't sense frustration. It was more a relief when we finally scored that goal."

The Clippers got a fifth goal with just under 20 seconds to play in the third when Torres set up Cyr for a shot that Jurgelevich slowed, but couldn't stop.

Yarmouth got a gift 47 seconds into the fourth period when Jurgelevich's clear went right to Torres, who saw an empty net and finished. With 10:28 left in regulation, Watson scored unassisted and it appeared the Clippers were home free, up 7-3.

To its credit, Portland made another push.

Playing a man-down, Kilbride took a pass from senior Zack Lane and scored with 5:46 remaining, ending an 18 minute, 49 second dry spell.

Fifty-two seconds later, Allen scored unassisted through a screen and suddenly it was a 7-5 game.

But Yarmouth would finally put it away as in a carbon copy of the tie-breaking goal, Edgecomb took a pass from Watson and scored at 3:34.

Torres set up Watson for a goal with 2:58 to play and that was all she wrote as the Clippers went on to the hard-fought 9-5 triumph.

Edgecomb led all scorers with four goals. Watson scored twice, while Cyr, Henry and Torres each added on goal. Cyr, Torres and Watson all had two assists, while Neujahr had one helper.

Yarmouth won 10 of 18 faceoffs, as senior Dennis Erving went 9 of 17 and junior Parker Langmaid captured his lone opportunity. The Clippers also had a 53-38 advantage in ground balls, led by seven each from Cyr and Edgecomb, six from Torres and five apiece from Erving, Overhaug and senior Bart Gallagher. Yarmouth turned the ball over 19 times, but had a commanding 41-15 edge in shots goal (27-5 on cage).

The Clippers defense will be overlooked, but it deserves credit as well as it had to keep the game tied for the better part of a quarter and managed to force 29 turnovers.

"We were ready for a dogfight," said junior defender Drew Grout. "Going in with the people around us, we knew that they'd push and box out their man and that made it a dogfight. We knew from the start if we kept coming off the adjacent pass, we'd match up well one-on-one. We weren't worried. We knew we just needed to give the offense time to start clicking. They did. They didn't let us down.

"We have a great anchor with Kurtz. We know he'll call it out. He'll make saves we need him to make. That takes a load off our shoulders. We just play our best game and he'll pick up the slack. It's nice to see us get our confidence up. We rely on a lot of sophomores who are coming into their own. Just having confidence is key."

"Our D is playing top of their game right now," said Edgecomb. "All our sophomores and freshmen are coming into their own. We wouldn't be anywhere without (Kurtz)."

"The defense did step up," added Pearl. "I think they played a little tentatively, then we pushed out and got on their hands and created turnovers. Credit goes to the poles for putting pressure on their hands."

For Portland, Kilbride scored twice, Allen, Hamilton and O'Kelly once each. Kilbride also had two assists, while Allen and Lane each added one.

Without question, however, the biggest story of the game was Jurgelevich, who finished with 18 saves, virtually all of them highlight reel material.

"Ryan's a stud," Bulldogs coach Eric Begonia said. "He's an amazing goalie. He saw the ball really well today. He's an amazing leader. There were a lot of opportunities for them to score goals. He was communicating great and holding the defense responsible."

"He was unbelievable," said Pearl. "He's the best goalie I've seen all year. He's a great leader. He cleared the ball well. He did everything you ask from a goalie."

Lane went 8 of 16 on faceoffs, Allen and junior Liam Brochu each finished 0 for 1. Lane led all players in ground balls with eight. Allen and Kilbride each grabbed six.

"We've been in every single game late," Begonia said. "We just ran out of time. We have a depth issue and (Yarmouth's) a very skilled, well coached team. They limited their mistakes. I'm pretty happy with the performance. It was Seamus' first game back. That made a difference. The whole defensive unit, I'm happy with. They have a prolific offense. We wanted to limit their possession time, which was difficult to do, of course. All the credit to (Yarmouth). They're great kids, well coached. Our guys were pretty happy with the performance."

No rest

Portland has three games remaining. The Bulldogs were clinging to the seventh and final Eastern Class A playoff spot at press time. Portland has a big home test versus Cheverus Wednesday. A win in that game would essentially guarantee the Bulldogs a postseason berth. Portland also faces Windham on the road and Bonny Eagle at home to close things out.

"We have three more games to go," Begonia said. "We have a big one at Cheverus Wednesday. We'll take the good things out of what we did today. We want to get to the playoffs and see what we can do from there. Our schedule benefits us since we've seen all the top teams except Cape. We play a schedule this year that will give us an opportunity to play a playoff game, I hope. The guys deserve it. Hopefully we're there at the end."

As for Yarmouth, it's at Fryeburg Monday, visits NYA Wednesday and Scarborough Friday. If that isn't daunting enough, the Clippers close the regular season with a home tilt versus Falmouth and a trip to Cape Elizabeth.

"We know the small things we need to fix," Edgecomb said. "We have to keep it up in practice and start games strong like we did here."

"We are in the cauldron," said Pearl. "NYA, Scarborough, Falmouth and Cape. I think things are progressing. We're continuing to get better and guys are stepping up. We have a large number of playmakers on this team. I think they're becoming more seasoned. We've started so many new things this year. We're moving guys around and asking guys to play different positions. If we continue to put the pressure on like we did today, we'll be in a good place. We're looking forward to getting another crack at Falmouth and Cape. Any time we step on the field, I think we can win. The guys are looking forward to the challenge."

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.