Yarmouth upsets unbeaten Scarborough
SCARBOROUGH—Two days after letting one slip away in a tough loss to its crosstown rival, the Yarmouth boys' lacrosse team once again found itself at a fourth quarter crossroads against one of the best teams in the state.
This time, it finished.
The Clippers came out Friday evening and stunned the host two-time Class A state champion Scarborough Red Storm with three quick goals, but as expected, the hosts rallied and twice tied the score in the fourth period.
But with the potential of another agonizing setback staring it in the face, Yarmouth mastered the man-up situation it had so much difficulty with Wednesday.
First, with 7:30 to go, senior Sam Torres scored to put the Clippers ahead, 6-5. Then, after Scarborough drew even on senior Jon Blaisdell's goal with 1:48 remaining, Yarmouth had a man-up opportunity again and senior Bart Gallagher delivered a gorgeous pass through traffic to junior Ethan Cyr, whose tally with 44 seconds left proved to be the difference and the Clippers held on to win, 7-6.
Torres had three goals, four teammates had one and senior goalie Alex Kurtz made nine clutch saves as Yarmouth improved to 7-3 and handed the Red Storm its first loss in 10 games this spring and first in 20 games overall.
"It was one heck of a game," Kurtz said. "It's exciting. We came in and took it to them. We came out ready to play. We focused yesterday on getting our intensity back in practice. You have to practice like you play and we came out to play."
Yarmouth has been very competitive this spring and has made great strides after last season's disappointing 6-7 finish. The Clippers opened with a 11-9 home win over North Yarmouth Academy, 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, 9-5. The Clippers led much of Wednesday's game at NYA, but didn't score the final quarter and suffered an 8-6 setback.
Yarmouth quickly regrouped and focused its attention on Scarborough.
"It was quiet after the loss, but the guys came out in practice and picked up right where they left off," said first-year Clippers coach David Pearl. "It's an upbeat, confident group."
The Red Storm have won the Class A crown each of the past two years and its lone loss in 2011 came at the hands of eventual Class B champion Falmouth.
This spring, Scarborough had managed to pass every test to date. After downing Westbrook (17-1), Biddeford (12-0), Bonny Eagle (17-2) and South Portland (10-1), the Red Storm got a test at NYA, but won, 4-3. Next came a home scare against Deering, but again, Scarborough survived, 7-6. Easy wins at Portland (8-2) and at home versus Gorham (19-5) followed, but Wednesday, the Red Storm was pushed again, at Kennebunk, but prevailed, 9-6.
The schools, despite being two of the most triumphant programs in the state, haven't met much over the years.
In the season opener in 2008, the first game as Scarborough varsity coach for Joe Hezlep, Yarmouth dominated, 19-6. The Clippers also took the most recent meeting, 13-6, in 2009.
Friday, Yarmouth appeared like it might run away and hide early, but the Red Storm made sure this one would be palpitating until the final horn.
Clippers senior Dennis Erving set the tone by winning the opening faceoff and senior Anders Overhaug scooped up the loose ball, raced in and beat Scarborough junior goalie David Pearson for a 1-0 lead just 13 seconds in.
Overhaug helped with the second goal as well, passing to Torres, who finished with 10:24 to go in the first period. When Torres scored unassisted 46 seconds later, Yarmouth appeared in command, up, 3-0.
"We took what they gave us at the start of the game," Torres said. "They weren't ready for the start we gave them. We wanted to jump on them."
While the Clippers have been prolific at times this spring, the offense has been subject to long droughts and the visitors would manage just one goal the rest of the first half, allowing the Red Storm to settle in and rally.
"Yarmouth did something a little different (at the start)," said Hezlep. "Something we haven't seen. The top couple teams in Class B play a little bit better as a unit than anybody we really see. They made a simple adjustment and we didn't handle it well. Credit to our guys. They talked their way through it really quickly and got back on track. We held them without a goal for a long time after the first three. I felt really good about that."
Scarborough broke the scoring ice with 1:31 left in the first period when, after a turnover, junior standout John Wheeler took a pass from senior Garret Hazelwood and beat Kurtz to make it 3-1.
With 9:58 to go in the second quarter, Yarmouth scored its first goal in 11 minutes, 40 seconds as Gallagher threw a high pass, but junior Ian Edgecomb managed to come down with it before beating Pearson to make it a 4-1 game.
"There were a few long possessions, but we had good looks," Pearl said. "I think our shot selection was a lot better today. There were times we rushed it, but they're a good defense. The wing play was better today. That's been a struggle and an emphasis for us."
With 5:21 to play before halftime, Wheeler set up senior Jon Blaisdell for a goal and the hosts were within two, 4-2, at the break.
Both teams could lament missed opportunities in the first half. The Clippers hadn't been able to build on their early momentum, while the Red Storm hadn't cut further into its deficit during Yarmouth's offensive struggles.
While the Clippers had a solid edge in faceoffs won (6-2), ground balls (26-17) and shots (14-9) over the first 24 minutes, they did commit 17 turnovers, several of which were forced by Scarborough senior standout Andrew Jones.
"Andrew played, as always, a phenomenal game," said Hezlep. "I can't tell you how fun it was for Jonesy to have to run with someone. (Overhaug's) a man-child. The first time he ran into him, (Andrew) fell back a little bit."
"(Jones is) a good defender," Pearl said. "We tried to work around him when we could. He was steady."
Yarmouth pushed its lead to 5-2 with 9:08 remaining in the third quarter on a fluky goal. Junior Christian Henry fired a shot that Pearson saved, but the rebound bounced off a defender and back into the goal.
With 5:54 left in the period, again after a Clippers' turnover, Wheeler fed Blaisdell in front for a shot Kurtz couldn't stop and the Red Storm was back within two.
Then, as time wound down in the stanza, Scarborough got even more momentum as Blaisdell passed to sophomore Cam Loiselle, whose shot tickled the twine with just 0.7 seconds showing and the hosts were only down 5-4 with 12 minutes to play.
It appeared inevitable that the Red Storm would pull even and it did so with 8:11 remaining.
After a great clear from Pearson hit Jones in stride, Jones fed Wheeler, whose shot was slowed by Kurtz, but not completely stopped and the referee ruled it crossed the line, tying the score at 5-5.
"We knew they'd make a run," Torres said. "They're so good in transition. When they get a few goals, they keep them coming."
Yarmouth was reeling, but got a break as it went on the man advantage. Wednesday, the Clippers converted just 2 of 11 such chances, but this time, Gallagher passed to Torres, who rocketed a shot past Pearson to allow the visitors to regain the lead, 6-5.
"We've worked a lot on man-up in practice," said Torres. "We just want to move the ball and be patient. I know if I have a good look, the person next to me has an even better look. I had a wide open look because we moved the ball. Our midfield is so strong, quick and athletic. We can dodge and get good looks every time, but it's about being patient and getting better looks. Our composure was huge for us."
"We spent a little time on man-up last night in practice," said Pearl. "It came through when it had to. I'm proud of the adjustments. We have to work harder still. The teams get better every day."
Yarmouth held on for almost six minutes, thanks in part to Kurtz, who denied senior Kellen Smith with 2:25 to play.
But after the Clippers turned the ball over, Scarborough pounced.
With 1:48 showing, senior Ryan Pallotta found Blaisdell open in front and Blaisdell finished, making it 6-6.
"It was difficult to hold on," Kurtz said. "They got me short stick side. They're in-tight game is unbelievable. (Blaisdell) had a great game. It's hard to stop those shots."
The Red Storm could sniff a comeback victory and Yarmouth was on the ropes, but Scarborough again bailed out the Clippers by committing a penalty.
Yarmouth was patient playing a man-up, moving the ball around the perimeter before Gallagher spotted a cutting Cyr, hit him with a perfect pass and with 14 seconds to go, Cyr finished and the Clippers had the lead for good, 7-6.
"Cyr's struggled finishing in practice," said Torres. "He's one of the hardest workers on our team and that's why he's out there. He started the season at midfield and we moved him to attack. He put it in the back of the net. We're happy for him because he's worked so hard. He deserves it."
Of course, 44 seconds can be an eternity in lacrosse and sure enough, the hosts would have chances to answer.
Senior Nick Mercer managed to beat Erving on the faceoff and Scarborough had life. Hezlep called timeout to set up a potential game-tying shot.
The Red Storm never managed to put one on cage, however, as it threw the ball away with 22.9 seconds left.
"We got the set we wanted," Hezlep said. "Wheeler was to take a look. If he had a shot, take it. If not, go behind and go again right away. Yarmouth just made a nice play and tipped the ball."
Yarmouth called timeout and put the ball on the stick of Overhaug, one of the state's premier running backs, but Overhaug tried to run through a good chunk of Scarborough's defense and the ball was jarred loose.
Luckily for the Clippers, however, Torres pounced on the ground ball and raced past midfield.
"Sam found a way to get that ground ball," said Pearl. "Anders wasn't supposed to run through six guys, but that's his mentality. Both of those guys ran all day long. They never seemed to come off the field and we need them to be that way in order to win. They're the heart and soul of this team."
Yarmouth was able to run out the clock and the Clippers celebrated their biggest win since the 2010 season.
"We had to win at least one of these last four games," said Torres. "The loss to NYA hurt so much. Coach told us to remember that feeling. We learned from NYA, you can't get down after a few goals."
"This is going to help our self esteem and get us back to where we want to be," Kurtz said. "We really needed it. It's always good to beat a team like this. Scarborough's very respected. It's phenomenal. It was an all-around team effort and our sideline helped us out. Our captains stepped up. Anders stepped up. Bart stepped up. Our D definitely stepped up. This is exactly what we want and need. Win, lose or tie in these types of games, it's unbelievable. It's more fun to come out with a win."
"We needed this win badly," added Pearl. "It's been a growing year for us and I think we grew up tonight. They did everything we asked them. We possessed the ball and worked hard. We looked nervous at times, but we loosened up. I'm proud of them. The way we played tonight is the way we practiced the night after NYA. We finally put together a game the way we practiced. We found a way to win. It's big for Heal Points and psyche. We're getting ready for the playoffs. It was a playoff atmosphere and mentality. Our team's had to grow up really quickly. This was helpful."
Yarmouth's offense was inconsistent, but Torres led the way with three goals. Cyr, Edgecomb, Henry and Overhaug also scored. Gallagher had three assists. Overhaug finished with one. Kurtz stopped nine shots.
Afterwards, Kurtz got plenty of praise from both sides.
"Kurtz always brings the intensity for us," Torres said. "He comes through for us. He makes tremendous saves and is vocal about it and that keeps us going."
"He always makes big saves," Pearl said. "He's a vocal and emotional team leader."
"We settled for a couple shots, but (Kurtz) made some saves on goals we thought we had," said Hezlep. "He stuffed Wheeler and Blaisdell from places they score from over 90 percent of the time. He made some huge plays for them."
Erving excelled in the faceoff circle, winning 11 of 16 opportunities.
"He was on fire today," said Kurtz. "We needed possession. We're glad he's getting into a rhythm."
The Clippers also finished with a 46-35 advantage on ground balls. Overhaug had a game-high eight, Torres seven and Cyr and Erving five each. Yarmouth committed 29 turnovers, but had a 32-23 edge in shots (shots on cage were 15-15).
Scarborough's offense was paced by Blaisdell with three goals. Wheeler had a pair, while Loiselle also scored. Every Red Storm goal was assisted. Wheeler had two, Blaisdell, Hazelwood, Jones and Pallotta one apiece. Pearson made eight saves. Mercer went 4 of 10 on faceoffs, Smith 1 of 8 and sophomore Austin Doody 0 of 2. Jones led the team with five ground balls, while Hazelwood and Loiselle both had four. Scarborough committed 22 turnovers, including a costly one on its final possession.
"Our goal is never to win every game, but to get better every day, however that happens," Hezlep said. "The guys responded well after the game. They knew they left it out there. We had one more play we had to make and we almost made it. We've had a couple close games, but I feel this is the one we played our best in. It was two really good teams. It was a lot of fun. We need to take care of the ball a little more and pick times to take chances. We prefer to score in transition. We like to push breaks when we get it. A few times, we're still unsure and don't go when we should."
Both teams still have their share of big games to come.
Scarborough looks to start a new winning streak Wednesday when it hosts Marshwood. The Red Storm closes the regular season at home May 30 versus Thornton Academy. Scarborough has the inside track for the top seed in Western Class A and wants nothing more than to make the rest of the region come to it.
"We do not like playing anywhere but on the turf," said Hezlep.
Yarmouth is idle until next Friday when it hosts Falmouth. The Clippers close at Cape Elizabeth May 30. Yarmouth is third in the Eastern B Heal Points standings and are closing in on Gardiner and St. Dom's. A win in either of their last two would likely allow the Clippers to have homefield advantage for the playoffs. No team in the state has been as successful at home as Yarmouth has over the past decade.
"We'll ride the momentum," said Torres. "We're fortunate to have four games that are playoff-like. We'll learn a lot and carry that momentum into playoffs. This win will be huge for us."
"We want to play the best teams in the state," said Pearl. "Our work has just begun. We plan on winning those games. When this group of guys steps on to the field, our confidence grows every day. We're looking forward to a hard week to get ready for Falmouth."