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Falmouth holds on for dear life, edges Cape, 14-12

Sports

Falmouth holds on for dear life, edges Cape, 14-12

FALMOUTH—It was a win the Falmouth boys' lacrosse team had to have and the defending Class B state champions went out and got it.

Barely.

Hosting rival Cape Elizabeth, the team looming largest in the way of the Yachtsmen's quest for a repeat title, Falmouth avenged its lone loss of the season, but almost gave back a seemingly commanding eight-goal lead in the process.

The Yachtsmen took a 4-0 lead after one quarter, extended it thanks to a milestone goal from senior standout Mitch Tapley and appeared en route to an easy victory up 9-1, but the Capers got a goal back before halftime, then came out a different team in the second half.

Cape Elizabeth pulled within four goals twice in the third period and after Falmouth appeared to lock up the win with a 14-9 lead, kept pushing and scored three more times, but time ran out and the hosts held on for a 14-12 victory.

Tapley and junior Charlie Fay both scored five goals and the Yachtsmen improved to 8-1 with their eighth straight win and ended the Capers' undefeated run after seven games.

"You can't let up against Cape," said Tapley. "They have a great coach and he makes adjustments that work."

Playoff atmosphere

Cape Elizabeth has been the gold standard for boys' lacrosse in the state as long as the sport's been played at the high school level in Maine. While the Capers haven't won as many titles as they'd like over the past eight seasons (just two, 2005 and 2010), they feel they're capable of winning it all in 2012 and have gone out and proved why.

Cape Elizabeth opened with a 20-0 win over Lake Region, then delivered the rivalry's first blow with an 8-6 home victory over Falmouth April 21. The Capers then defeated visiting North Yarmouth Academy (14-2), host Waynflete (15-5), host Yarmouth (12-8), visiting Greely (14-5) and Cheverus (12-2).

Falmouth, under the stewardship of coach Mike LeBel and his right hand man Chris Richards, a longtime assistant at Cape Elizabeth, got to the Capers' level in 2009, losing only 6-3 in the regular season before pushing Cape Elizabeth in an 11-7 regional final setback.

On April 16, 2010, the Yachtsmen beat the Capers for the first time and they did  so emphatically, 11-4, on Cape Elizabeth's turf no less. Falmouth held off the visiting Capers later in the regular season, 9-7, but in the Western B Final, Cape Elizabeth turned the tide, handing the Yachtsmen an agonizing 7-6 overtime loss en route to the championship.

Last year, Falmouth finally got over the hump. The Yachtsmen again rolled over the Capers in the first meeting, 12-4, but lost at Cape Elizabeth, 8-7, in overtime. The teams squared off in the regional final at Falmouth and this time, the Yachtsmen prevailed, although they almost let a big lead slip away. Leading 11-5 with 2:30 to go, Falmouth surrendered four goals in less than two minutes, but escaped, 11-9.

The Yachtsmen were favorites in most quarters to repeat this year, but the loss at Cape Elizabeth in the opener was an eye-opener. Since then, Falmouth has taken care of business, defeating visiting Greely (15-7) and Yarmouth (14-7), host Portland (13-4), visiting Lake Region (18-1), host NYA (11-7) and Wells (21-4) and visiting Deering (18-0).

While the Yachtsmen were punchless in the first meeting this spring, failing to score for almost 19 minutes and digging a deep hole, Wednesday, Falmouth came out hot and delivered the first punch and seemingly had the Capers down for the count, but Cape Elizabeth rose off the canvas and made things very, very interesting.

Even without injured junior faceoff specialist Adam Haversat, the Capers won the opening draw and had a good possession early, but senior Forest Hewitt's shot hit the post.

The Yachtsmen took a 1-0 lead with 6:20 remaining in the first when sophomore Brad Gilbert scored unassisted, beating Cape Elizabeth senior goalie Will Goduti.

Just 43 seconds later, the hosts doubled their advantage when, playing a man-up, Tapley passed to junior Will Sipperly, who launched an absolute rocket from 20 years out into the net.

With just over a minute to play in the stanza, Fay got in on the act, collecting a rebound after his initial shot was saved and beating Goduti at the 1:27 mark, then taking a pass from Tapley and finishing 18 seconds later to make it 4-0 Falmouth after 12 minutes.

"We were stretching out the defense nicely and we were able to slip backdoor on them," Fay said. "There were a lot of great feeds coming my way."

"We didn't play well at the beginning of the game and they played very well," said Cape Elizabeth coach Ben Raymond. "I'd say it was more of what they were doing and less of what we were doing poorly. We had some good offensive possessions that didn't lead to goals and we got down a couple goals and we tried to score the four-point goal that doesn't exist. Then we gave the ball away and gave away some possessions instead of maintaining our offense. We had good looks. We hit the post once. They did a great job on offense identifying the open man on our slides and they scored a couple easy goals in tight on our crease. They have great dodgers and finishers on the crease."

The Capers' cause became even more dire when senior Thomas Bottomley, Haversat's replacement in the faceoff circle, had to sit the first three minutes of the second period when it was determined he was playing with an illegal stick.

The Yachtsmen capitalized with a pair of man-up goals as Fay (from senior Jack Cooleen) scored with 9:35 left in the first half and 24 seconds later, Tapley got his first goal of the night (from Gilbert) to make it 6-0.

The tally was the 100th of Tapley's high school career.

"Getting 100 goals is pretty cool, but it's just another goal," said Tapley. "You have to look at the rest of the team. I get set up all the time. I'm supposed to have that many. I have a great team, a great coach. It's a nice thing to have."

"(Mitch is) great," Fay said. "Obviously, he fuels a ton of my goals. Not only does he score a ton of goals, but his assist count is just as much as his goals."

"I remember him when he was just a freshman," added LeBel. "He started all four years. He was a smaller kid with really good skills. He had confidence. We didn't have a lot of older kids, so he got a lot of experience early on. He just went on from there."

Falmouth wasn't done and neither was Tapley as he took a pass from Sipperly and finished with 7:45 left in the half, giving the Yachtsmen a 7-0 lead.

Cape Elizabeth finally got on the board with 7:34 to go when sophomore Justin Cary (from Bottomley) beat Falmouth senior goalie Cam Bell.

That seemed like a mere footnote as Fay scored unassisted at 4:43 and senior Hunter LaFond (from classmate Mike Ryan) struck with 1:11 remaining, but the visitors got a glimpse of life when senior Brian Brett, who excelled all over the field on the night, scored unassisted with just 8.3 seconds showing in the half.

While the Yachtsmen had the big lead, the stat sheet suggested the score should be closer. Faceoffs were even, 6-6. The Capers had a 23-21 advantage in ground balls and forced 14 turnovers, while only committing 10. Cape Elizabeth even led in shots, 15-13, but Bell's five saves kept the Capers at bay.

Cape Elizabeth roared to life in the third quarter.

Before the second half began, in a rarely seen move, Raymond called timeout as the Capers didn't have the correct personnel on the field to play man-up (a Falmouth penalty carried over to the second half).

"Brian was looking for his helmet, (senior) Timmy (Lavallee) was getting a drink," Raymond said. "I didn't think we'd get on the field in time. Our focus at halftime wasn't on that man-up group. It was how to regroup. We had to go quickly."

Once Cape Elizabeth got it figured out, it only took 22 seconds for Cary to score unassisted. After winning the ensuing draw, Bottomley raced in and scored and suddenly the deficit (9-4) wasn't as daunting.

A Tapley goal (from Fay) at the 9:52 mark seemed to restore order, but the Capers got a goal from Brett (unassisted, at 7:08) and 13 seconds after Lavallee hit the post, junior Alex Bornick collected a ground ball and beat Bell to make it a 10-6 game with 6:39 still to go in the third.

"(Cape has) a really good coach and I'm sure they did some talking at halftime," said Fay. "It got cold and we started to slow down. I felt a little stiff coming out in the second half. They took advantage. They came out with a lot of excitement and took it to us."

With 5:53 showing, a Tapley goal was waved off because he was in the crease, but 33 seconds later, Sipperly set up Fay for a transition goal and an 11-6 lead. With 14.2 seconds to go in the third, Lavallee fed Cary for a goal in transition and Cape Elizabeth was still very much alive, down, 11-7, with 12 long minutes still to play.

The visitors crept closer when Bornick scored unassisted with 8:25 to go, but back-to-back unassisted goals from Tapley in a 40-second span pushed the lead to 13-8 with only 5:36 remaining.

Bornick (from freshman Griffin Thoreck) scored man-up with 4:55 to play, but LaFond (from Fay) answered with a man-up goal at the 3:27 mark, making it 14-9 and seemingly finally icing the victory.

Not so fast.

Cape Elizabeth made it 14-10 when Lavallee scored unassisted with 2:18 left on the clock.

With 1:15 to go, playing man-up, Lavallee set up Cary for a goal and the deficit was just three.

Then, with 13.7 seconds left, Bornick scored unassisted and it was 14-12, but there just wasn't enough time left for the Capers to complete the comeback.

Falmouth senior Abyn Reabe-Gerwig won the ensuing faceoff and the Yachtsmen ran out the clock on their 14-12 win.

"It was fun," Bell said. "The first game stunk, but we were pumped up and ready to go on our own turf. We always like playing Cape. It's one of the biggest rivalries in Maine. It was a lot higher scoring than I thought. We came out and dominated and we kind of let up a little bit. If you give Cape any chance, they'll come back. We'll have to learn from our mistakes and play a full 48-minute game."

Afterwards, it was hard to discern which team won and which lost.

"We came out with good intensity at the beginning and we should have kept that intensity the whole game, but we thought we already had the game in the bag," Tapley said. "Some kids made some mental mistakes. We had stupid slides, stupid shots. We should have kept that intensity going the whole game, but we did not. I knew we'd win the game. The team wasn't going to let them come back and win the game. That would have been absolutely terrible."

"I think we just lost focus," LeBel said. "We got tired in the second half. I expected certain kids to do too much. (Cape's) far more aggressive than we are on ground balls. It was very lopsided. They're grittier. They don't look as polished if you watch them, but they just get it done. They willed their way back in the game. They dictated what happened in the second half and got us back on our heels. They beat us in transition. We didn't play smart lacrosse in the second half. When a team gets desperate it can go one of two ways. You'll either get really blown out or fight back into it. It worked for them. When it came to crunch time, our seniors faltered a bit and made mental errors.

"A lot of what I saw was correctable. Ground ball tenacity is harder to fix. When we get beat in transition, that's just being out of position. It all starts with ground balls. You have to fight for it and want it.

"I feel like we just held on."

Falmouth's balanced and prolific offense was on full display. Fay and Tapley both had five goals and two assists. LaFond scored twice and Gilbert (one assist) and Sipperly (two assists) each had one goal. Cooleen and Ryan also set up goals. Bell, who missed the first meeting this spring, made nine saves, which proved to be huge as the game progressed.

The Yachtsmen, most specifically Reabe-Gerwig, won 17 of 28 faceoffs. They had a slight 47-43 edge in ground balls as Reabe-Gerwig collected nine, Fay and Ryan had a half dozen each and Sipperly grabbed five.

Falmouth committed 27 turnovers, but found a way to win regardless.

Cape Elizabeth's offense was paced by Bornick and Cary, who both tickled the twine on four occasions. Brett had two goals, Bottomley and Lavallee one apiece. Lavallee also had two assists, while Bottomley and Thoreck had one apiece.

"(Falmouth) did a great job on Timmy," said Raymond. "We've got other players on the field who can score. We have talented attackmen, great midfielders. Brian Brett had an outstanding game. Justin Cary scored a bunch of goals. If Alex finished a couple others, it could have been different."

Goduti made five saves. Bottomley went 9 of 21 on faceoffs, while Brett won 2 of 7 chances. Brett led all players with 12 ground balls. Bottomley had nine, while senior Ned Melanson collected five.

The Capers turned the ball over 19 times. They outshot the Yachtsmen, 38-24 (21-19 on cage).

"It was not a very good first half," Raymond lamented. "It was a lot like the last game we played here, except we got a little bit closer. We'll change things. We have other defenses that we'll show at a later date. Our defense played better in the second half. It put more pressure on the ball. That was the difference. They made things more difficult for them. It doesn't matter how good you are, it makes things a little bit more difficult if someone's on your hands the whole time. We had to take some chances."

See you June 13

Barring an epic upset, Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth will produce a third and most meaningful act June 13 in the Western Class B Final.

The only question is where.

The teams have met in each of the past three regional finals with the home team winning twice.

They won the first game, we won the second game," Bell said. "Hopefully we can get (to the regional final). Who knows what will happen in the end with Heal Points."

"We know they'll make changes based on how we played today," Fay said. "We have to work on holding the ball when they're pressuring us like that at the end. Hopefully the next time we see them, we'll beat them."

"I don't think the field matters," said Tapley. "If we play how we played at the beginning, we can beat anyone in the state."

Cape Elizabeth (now second to the Yachtsmen in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) had the feeling it will be making a return trip.

"My guess is that we will end up coming back here," Raymond said. "Our goal was to not have to do the (Heal Points) math. If we won this game, we wouldn't have had to do the math. We hope next time, if there is a next time, to play a whole game. You can't beat a team that good without playing at least a close game. "

The Capers have the more difficult remaining schedule. Cape Elizabeth is at Kennebunk Friday and after hosting Fryeburg Tuesday, goes to NYA May 25 before closing the regular season at home versus Yarmouth May 30.

The Yachtsmen, conversely, go to York Tuesday, then play at Yarmouth May 25 before hosting NYA in their finale May 30.

"If I had my choice, I'd rather play (the regional final) here, but it's going to be really difficult," LeBel said. "It's going to come right down to the wire. (The Capers) still have Kennebunk. That will give them Heal Points. We don't have any more Class A schools to play. We still have to play Yarmouth at Yarmouth and NYA here. (NYA's) great, but I don't think they can sneak up on us this time. I think we start (getting better) with possessing the ball and ground balls. It all starts with ground balls. It's a game of possession. If we have the ball, they can't score. It's fairly simple and straightforward. Maybe that's the only thing we work on until the tournament."

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

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Falmouth senior Mike Ryan and Cape Elizabeth senior Thomas Bottomley battle for a ground ball.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Cape Elizabeth senior Ian McInerney runs into a Falmouth defender but manages to keep possession.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Falmouth senior Hunter LaFond possesses while being hounded by Cape Elizabeth senior Ned Melanson.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

After one of his 17 faceoff wins, Falmouth senior Abyn Reabe-Gerwig shields the ball from Cape Elizabeth senior Thomas Bottomley.