NYA rallies to upset Yarmouth, 8-6
YARMOUTH—From the outside, the Yarmouth-North Yarmouth Academy boys' lacrosse rivalry may appear to have lost a little bit of its luster the past couple seasons, but watching the teams go at it for almost two hours Wednesday afternoon would have convinced you otherwise.
With both squads jockeying for playoff positioning and Heal Points, NYA hosted a pivotal showdown and when the dust (or in this case, turf pellets) settled, it was the Panthers making a statement, overcoming an early deficit and myriad penalties to earn their biggest victory of the season.
NYA trailed most of the way, but exploded for three goals in a 31-second span early the fourth period to take control. Senior Forrest Milburn tied the game after collecting a loose ball with 10:57 remaining. He then put his team ahead to stay some 21 seconds later and the hosts got some breathing room when the Ghosts of Panthers Upset Wins Past reared its head with 10:26 to go as a shot from sophomore Austin Kidder appeared headed over the goal, but somehow, it deflected off the outstretched stick of junior Aidan McLaughlin into the net.
NYA shut down the Clippers from there and evened its record at 4-4 with an 8-6 triumph, dropping Yarmouth to 6-3.
Milburn led the way with three goals and six different Panthers scored in all. NYA's defense and sophomore goalie Weston Nolan rose to the occasion and suddenly the Panthers have the look of a team capable of making a deep postseason run.
"For our own psyche, it puts us back in the hunt, where we want to be," said NYA interim head coach Peter Gerrity. "Leading into playoffs, this is one we needed for our confidence."
Neighborly in name only
Every year since 2002, either NYA or Yarmouth has represented the East in the state championship game. From 2000 through 2010, the teams squared off in the postseason with the winner going on to capture the state title in 2001, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.
The Clippers have dominated the rivalry the past decade, winning 12 in a row over the Panthers from 2002 until the final meeting of the 2006 regular season, which produced thrilling and controversial finish. The teams went to overtime where Yarmouth's Zach Caldwell appeared to score to end it, but the officials ruled the shot never went in and NYA transitioned and got the winning goal from Nick Lolar, who swatted a loose ball into the cage.
In 2007, the Panthers ended a five-year postseason skid at the hands of the Clippers with a victory in the regional final. Yarmouth enjoyed another seven-game win streak from the 2008 regional final through the opener last spring, but in the second 2011 meeting, NYA beat the host Clippers, 9-2, the Panthers' first victory at Yarmouth since the Clippers installed their turf field in the fall of 2001.
That NYA victory signified a changing of the guard and the Panthers went on to win Eastern B before losing to Falmouth, 15-4, in the state final.
NYA has been up and down in 2012, opening with a 10-4 victory over Wells, falling at Yarmouth (11-9), Cape Elizabeth (14-2) and at home to defending Class A champion Scarborough (4-3). After a 17-0 home win over Fryeburg, the Panthers battled visiting Falmouth to the finish before losing, 11-7. Saturday brought a 16-3 triumph at Gorham.
Prior to the win at Gorham, NYA coach Chris Carpentier stepped down and was replaced by Gerrity.
"Chris Carpentier resigned for personal reasons," said NYA athletic director Mike Dutton. "Peter moved up a step and longtime coach Bruce Myers is taking on a more active role."
Gerrity played at NYA, graduating in 2005, and also played at Hamilton College. He's worked as an assistant and JV coach with the Panthers off and on since his college days.
As for Yarmouth, it wasn't able to force a 12th straight playoff showdown with NYA last spring as it was upset by Gardiner in the semifinals to finish 6-7, its first sub-.500 record since 2001.
This spring, under new coach David Pearl, a longtime assistant with the program, the Clippers have returned to form. They opened with the 11-9 home win over NYA, then, after a 14-7 loss at Falmouth, Yarmouth downed visiting South Portland, 12-2, dropped a 12-8 home decision to Cape Elizabeth, enjoyed a 17-2 victory at Lake Region and held off visiting Portland Saturday, 9-5.
Wednesday, it was clear there isn't much separation between the teams, but the hosts did what it took to prevail.
The Clippers actually had a chance to take a healthy lead in the first period, but went 0-for-3 man-up and three times had point blank shots denied by Nolan.
Yarmouth did get on the board with 9:33 to in the first, when senior Sam Torres scored unassisted. At the five minute mark, junior Ethan Cyr hit the post and NYA escaped the opening 12 minute session down by only one.
The Panthers' offense came to life in the second quarter.
Just 1 minute, 8 seconds in, junior Jacob Scammon fought through a pair of defenders, then shot past Clippers senior goalie Alex Kurtz to tie it.
Yarmouth retook the lead 58 seconds later when it finally converted on the man advantage. Torres did the honors, taking a pass from junior Christian Henry and finishing.
The Clippers went up 3-1 when Henry (from senior Bart Gallagher) scored at 7:18, but 49 seconds later, NYA answered as Milburn scooped up a loose ball in front of the cage and beat Kurtz before the goalie could react.
With 4:22 to play before halftime, Yarmouth senior Anders Overhaug intercepted a pass in front of Kurtz and showing why he was one of the state's premier running backs in the fall, raced the length of the field before firing past Nolan to make it 4-2.
That would be the Clippers' high water mark.
With 3:13 showing, junior T.J. Daigler made a pretty move around a defender before finishing and with 1:21 left, senior Charlie Gerrity scored unassisted to make it a 4-4 game at halftime.
At the break, the stats were relatively even, but a slight edge in faceoffs (6-4), a healthy advantage in ground balls (26-16) and stellar play man-down not only kept the Panthers alive, but gave the hosts confidence going into the second half.
Three minutes into the third period, Yarmouth hit its second post of the game, this one a shot by Gallagher. With 8:34 remaining, NYA earned its first man-up opportunity of the contest, but couldn't convert.
Then, with 5:56 showing in the third, the hosts went on top for the first time, thanks to an unlikely source.
In another man-up situation, Scammon found senior Ben Randall, who beat Kurtz for just his second varsity goal (the first came in a lopsided win over Fryeburg).
"In a big game, it's my first goal," Randall said. "I ran across the crease, found myself open, Scammon threw me a great pass and I just threw it on cage and it went in. It was a big lift for the whole team, including the whole defense, to go ahead. It felt great."
It took the Clippers just two minutes to answer as Henry fed Torres in transition for a goal which ended a 12-minute, 24 second drought.
Playing two-men up as time wound down in the third, Yarmouth retook the lead when Gallagher scored unassisted with just five seconds showing for a 6-5 advantage, but the Clippers wouldn't score again and the early moments of the fourth quarter would belong to the Panthers.
With 10:57 to play in regulation, Milburn scored his second goal, which was almost a carbon copy of the first. Again, he was able to pounce on a loose ball in front and shoot it past Kurtz to make it 6-6.
"I just picked it up and put it in the net," Milburn said. "That's pretty much it."
After winning the ensuing faceoff, NYA transitioned to offense and junior Matt Hawkins fed Milburn for a shot Kurtz couldn't stop and just like that, the Panthers had the lead for good, 7-6.
"(Hawkins) passed it to me since my defender slid," Milburn said. "I got it, swept across and took a shot."
The hosts immediately added an insurance goal and it was a zany one.
Ten seconds after Milburn scored to put the hosts on top, Kidder, who was superb in the faceoff circle all day, launched a shot that was ticketed to soar several feet over the goal, but McLaughlin reached up with his stick and the slight contact he made with the ball redirected it downwards and past a stunned Kurtz to make it 8-6.
From there, NYA just had to hold on.
Yarmouth had ample opportunities to answer, including a few more man-up situations, but Nolan made four fourth quarter saves and his defenders caused the Clippers to commit five turnovers, including three in the waning moments.
When the final horn sounded, the Panthers celebrated their first home win over their rival in five tries, 8-6.
"It feels pretty good to get that weight off our shoulders," Milburn said. "The first half, the first quarter especially, our offense struggled to get off to a good start. We threw it away and didn't really possess the ball. That's why they were controlling it more. Our D is good shutting down offenses. Usually our offense struggles to put the ball in the net, but we did a pretty good job and Weston Nolan did a good job like always."
"It was a long win," said coach Gerrity. "It felt long, but the guys worked through it. We had a lot of penalties, which was frustrating. We were a little out of control with our sticks. Now we're 1-1 with Yarmouth, one of the best programs in the state. The kids know the history. I had four years against them in high school. It's been building. Every Yarmouth game is huge. It was fun. We had a couple minute run where we scored. The possessions went back-and-forth from there. It was scary when the ball was in our end."
NYA got three goals from Milburn and one apiece from Daigler, Gerrity, McLaughlin, Randall and Scammon. Hawkins, Kidder and Scammon each had an assist. Nolan made nine clutch saves, almost all of them coming in the first period Yarmouth onslaught and fourth quarter pressure cooker.
The Panthers won 11 of 17 faceoffs, as Kidder went 11 of 16 and sophomore Colin Merrill 0 for 1. The hosts also had a 44-40 advantage on ground balls, as Daigler led the way with four. NYA turned the ball over 25 times and was outshot, 33-32, but had a 21-15 advantage in shots on cage.
Then there was the unquantifiable excellence of the defense.
"We work on our defense a lot," said senior defender Jarno Mannisto. "We have a strong senior group. (Seniors) Parker (Howard), C.J. (Davis) and Charlie lead our close D. Today, I was playing (longstick middie) for the first time. I liked it a lot. We won a lot of ground balls down low and kept talking. We kept rotating defenses and I think they got a little frustrated. We knew we could play with them since the last game was so tight. We were missing a couple key players at their field. Today we had everybody and we wanted it more. It's always nice to beat Yarmouth."
"The defense was as good as it has been," said Randall. "The penalties were rough. We didn't play well in the first half. It's hard to run down penalties, but it's a big lift when you do. Our defense keeps us in a lot of games. They came out and played their hardest today and we appreciate it."
"We did a really good job handling the man-down and staying calm," coach Gerrity added. "Our zone helped keep them to outside shots. Weston, our goalie, is solid. There's a lot of pressure on him to make saves and clear the ball."
For Yarmouth, Torres had three goals, while Gallagher, Henry and Overhaug each scored once. Henry had two assists, Gallagher one. Kurtz made 13 saves. Senior Dennis Erving won 6 of 16 faceoffs. Junior Parker Langmaid went 0 for 1. Gallagher led the team and all players with nine ground balls. Torres collected five, Erving and freshman Henry Oliva four apiece. The Clippers finished with 25 untimely turnovers and were done in by a failure to convert man-up (just two goals in 11 opportunities) and by a little bad luck as well (two posts hit).
"Our guys really struggled today," Pearl said. "We work hard on man-up and pride ourselves on that in practice. Guys were ball-watching today. We talk all the time about working harder off-ball than on-ball. We didn't play as a team today. NYA had a zone defense and they packed it right in and we didn't execute. I didn't feel like our guys were in the flow of the game. We've changed up some of the things we're asking the guys to do. We didn't see a lot of execution today.
"Hats off to NYA. They contested us. They're a good team. They should be proud of what they did. I've seen them grow. We've both gotten better. They're a talented team. We didn't overlook them. We just didn't play as well as we should have."
Eye on the playoffs
Yarmouth (third in the latest Eastern Class B Heal Points standings behind Gardiner and St. Dom's) still hopes to earn homefield advantage for the playoffs and has three opportunities to help its cause before the regular season ends. Friday, the Clippers go to Scarborough. After a week off, they host Falmouth and on May 30, close the year at Cape Elizabeth.
"We need to win one of those games," Pearl said. "That's our opportunity. We asked the guys to take this feeling of disappointment and turn it toward determination. We could have used this victory. This is a hard loss, but it gives us inspiration to work even harder. We hope to see (NYA) again."
NYA (fourth, barely, behind the Clippers in the region) is back in action Friday at Thornton Academy. Games at Freeport and Falmouth and a home tilt versus Cape Elizabeth also loom.
"We've played really good lacrosse the past few weeks and this just reaffirms our confidence and gives us a boost," Randall said. "We're on a high going into the rest of the season. We'll ride it as far as we can."
"It's definitely a win we can build on," said Milburn. "A good momentum win. We can carry it through the rest of the season. Our coach told us it's pretty sure we'll get in the playoffs. Now, we're playing for homefield. It was good to get this win."
"TA will be a big challenge," added coach Gerrity. "Facing a top level Class A opponent. We had Scarborough earlier and lost 4-3. It'll be good to go up against another Class A team. Homefield is what we want for as long as we can have it. We need a couple more wins to do that. "