Falmouth makes it 10 straight with win at Yarmouth
YARMOUTH—The defending Class B state champion Falmouth boys' lacrosse team was in trouble at the start of the second period of Friday night's game at Yarmouth.
The Yachtsmen were already down by a goal and compounding matters, they had to play a man-down for three minutes due to an illegal stick, but they dug deep and turned the tide in their favor.
Falmouth, behind strong defense and two key saves from senior goalie Cam Bell, held the Clippers at bay and soon drew even on a rocket from junior Will Sipperly. Goals from seniors Jack Cooleen and Mitch Tapley put the Yachtsmen ahead to stay and they would pull away in the second half for a 12-6 victory, their 10th in succession.
Falmouth got three goals each from junior Charlie Fay and Sipperly, two goals and two assists from Tapley, nine saves from Bell and an all-around solid team effort as it improved to 10-1 on the year, dropping Yarmouth to 7-4.
"Yarmouth amazes me every game how passionately they play on their homefield, how they protect it and perform at a higher level here, so I knew it would be a battle," said Yachtsmen coach Mike LeBel. "I wasn't expecting anything different."
In the fog
Yarmouth has made great strides this season 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 14-0 home win over Freeport, a 17-2 victory at Lake Region, held off visiting Portland, 9-5 and host Fryeburg, 14-1, then lost at rival NYA, 8-6, before bouncing back to upset host two-time defending Class A state champion Scarborough, 7-6.
Falmouth, meanwhile, won Class B for the first time a year ago and is putting itself in position to repeat The Yachtsmen dropped their opener, 8-6, at Cape Elizabeth, but 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), visiting Deering (18-0), visiting Cape Elizabeth (14-12) and host York (15-5).
Prior to last year, the Yachtsmen had never beaten the Clippers, but they ended Yarmouth's 73-game home win streak (14-5), then got them again at Falmouth, 17-0.
Friday, the Yachtsmen hoped to make it four straight over the Clippers, one of the state's premier programs, and managed to do so, but it came with a degree of difficulty.
Falmouth took just 44 seconds to score first.
After senior faceoff specialist Abyn Reabe-Gerwig got possession, the Yachtsmen worked the ball around and senior Hunter LaFond set up Sipperly, whose shot eluded Yarmouth senior goalie Alex Kurtz to make it 1-0.
After several scoreless minutes, the hosts answered and drew even when senior Sam Torres passed to classmate Bart Gallagher, who spun past a defender then beat Bell.
Two seconds after a two man-up situation expired, Falmouth went back on top, 2-1, as Tapley passed to Fay for a goal.
The Clippers would have the better of the play the remainder of the first quarter.
After winning its lone faceoff of the first half, Yarmouth drew even when sophomore Max Watson scored unassisted on a rebound with 3:50 to go.
Then, with 2:07 showing, on a nearly identical play, junior Ian Edgecomb grabbed a rebound and whistled a shot past Bell to make it 3-2 Clippers.
Prior to the start of the second period, Fay's stick was deemed illegal and it was removed from the game. Fay had to sit for three minutes and Yarmouth suddenly had a chance to take a healthy lead.
It didn't happen.
The Clippers possessed for two minutes and unleashed three shots, but one was wide and Bell saved two others. Falmouth then managed to keep the ball and ran out the penalty, dodging a mighty bullet in the process.
"I have to credit (senior) Mike Ryan," said Sipperly. "He leads the defense. Cam made some big saves too."
"I think that was huge and I think it swung the momentum to our side," Ryan said. "It was bad we had to deal with it, but after, I was glad it happened because our defense was pumped for the rest of the game. It kept our heads in it. We were more focused than normal. We had to be locked in, more than in a man-to-man situation."
"It was a critical point in the game," LeBel added. "Luckily, we've been working more on our man-up, man-down lately. I wondered if it was a smart move and after this game, I know it was. In the past, we haven't had many man-up or man-down situations. To spend as much time as we did, I wasn't sure if we used our time wisely, but our man-down needed that attention. We had to break down who's on that unit. We practiced it a lot lately. The kids communicated better. I'm not surprised it was as successful today as it was."
Yarmouth would have two more men-up situations before halftime, but again came up empty.
"Our man-up really struggled tonight," said Clippers first-year coach David Pearl. "They did not play like they did at Scarborough and they definitely did not play like they did in practice last night. I called timeout for one of the men-up just to remind them of the things we did and we still struggled. It'll continue to be a focus for practices. We need to solve that, especially when we have a three-minute locked in penalty."
In the meantime, the Yachtsmen got their offense going.
With 8:10 to go in the half, 50 seconds after the penalty expired, Sipperly beat Kurtz top shelf stick side and the game was tied.
Then, with 4:26 remaining, the visitors took the lead for good, 4-3, when senior Jack Cooleen took a pass from Sipperly on the doorstep, faked a shot, then beat a helpless Kurtz.
Falmouth got a chance to play two men-up later in the quarter and showed the Clippers how it's done as sophomore Brad Gilbert set up Tapley for a goal and the Yachtsmen took a 5-3 lead to halftime.
In the first 24 minutes, Falmouth won nine of 10 faceoffs, had a 20-11 advantage on ground balls and got seven saves from Bell.
The Yachtsmen would get a little breathing room as the second half progressed.
With 8:53 to go in quarter number three, Sipperly scored unassisted.
Thirty-seven seconds later, Gilbert struck and the lead was up to 7-3.
With 5:13 remaining, Fay (from Sipperly) tickled the twine and it was an 8-3 game.
Thirty seconds later, Yarmouth finally ended a 21 minute, 24 second drought and Falmouth's 6-0 run when Edgecomb (from Torres) struck, but the Clippers could draw no closer before time ran out in the period.
The visitors would end all doubt in the fourth.
One minute, 13 seconds in, Tapley scored unassisted.
After junior Ethan Cyr answered for the Clippers at the 8:59 mark, scoring unassisted while being mauled by a defender, Ryan would get in on the scoring fun.
After helping hold the Yarmouth offense in check, Ryan had a chance to race down the field as he took a clear from Bell. After spotting a hole in the defense, Ryan roared in on Kurtz and his shot found the net, making it 10-5.
"It's nice when it happens," said Ryan. "I just got the ball, ran the field. I thought someone would slide to me, but they came late and I just let it go."
With 4:41 to go, LaFond gave Falmouth its biggest lead, scoring on an assist from Tapley. Forty-three seconds later, Fay scored unassisted to end the Yachtsmen's offensive production.
The Clippers scored for the final time with 2:35 remaining as senior Anders Overhaug finished a pass from Cyr.
That would be all she wrote as Falmouth went on to the 12-6 win.
"It was a very close game," said Sipperly. "We always expect great games here. They're one of the best organizations in Maine. We had to bring our best. We had to move the ball, go hard to the net, take that slide and it worked pretty well. We have great attackmen who can finish. It was really clicking tonight."
"Offensively, not much changed from the first time we played," Ryan said. "They weren't as sloppy as before, since that was an early-season game. They looked sharper, but I think we were prepared. We always get it going. Sometimes we start out slow. We have great coaches. They see what's going on and we fix things."
"Every time we see a team, they have a different defensive scheme for us," LeBel added. "It takes us a little time to figure it out and make adjustments. We did. We've spent a lot of time on conditioning lately. Our first line middies are in better shape and get up and down the field better. We got second half opportunities, capitalized and rolled from there."
The Yachtsmen's unrivaled depth showed up again Friday, as seven different players scored a goal. Fay and Sipperly led the way with three apiece. Tapley scored twice, while Cooleen, Gilbert, LaFond and Ryan all had one goal. Sipperly and Tapley also had a pair of assists, while Gilbert and LaFond added one apiece.
"It's nice because whenever we throw something new at the offense in practice, they make the adjustment," said LeBel. "They're better recognizing what the defense is doing. We're moving the ball better than we have all year. The guys are starting to understand what their teammates are doing, where they'll be, how to get them the ball."
Bell made nine saves. Reabe-Gerwig won 10 of his first 11 faceoffs and wound up 14 of 21.
"Abyn did a great job on the faceoffs," said LeBel. "When he wins a faceoff cleanly in our offensive zone, it helps."
The Yachtsmen had a 40-32 advantage on ground balls. Reabe-Gerwig and Sipperly both had seven, while Bell collected five, Cooleen and Ryan grabbed four apiece.
"Defensively, we're starting to communicate better," LeBel said. "Cam's stepping up. We're starting to play as a team."
Falmouth turned the ball over 18 times. The Yachtsmen had a 34-31 edge in shots (22-15 on cage).
For Yarmouth, even in defeat, Pearl found plenty to praise.
"We grew up again tonight," Pearl said. "I'm much prouder of how we played tonight compared to the first time we played them. I think a lot of the game we went toe-to-toe. At times, there's beautiful lacrosse being played. I don't think the score reflects at all how evenly matched we are. I think we can beat that team. I hope we get to see them in the postseason. I really would like that for these boys."
Yarmouth got two goals from Edgecomb and one each from Cyr, Gallagher, Overhaug and Watson. Torres had two assists, while Cyr had one. Kurtz made 10 saves, many of the impressive variety.
"Alex made some saves," said Pearl. "We've come to expect that from him. We have a very young defense, a junior, a freshman and a sophomore."
Junior Parker Langmaid won 5 of 10 faceoffs.
"Parker has been working so hard," said Pearl. "He's an example of how our team has grown up. He took one faceoff in the Scarborough game. (Senior) Dennis (Erving), our best defensive middie, had a concussion and was out. We asked Parker to step up to the plate. I'm proud of him. That's an example of a junior who doesn't quit and works hard every day. That's emblematic of our team. They come to practice and work hard. They're a joy to coach."
Cyr went 2 for 11 on faceoffs. Torres led the Clippers and all players with eight ground balls. Gallagher collected six. Yarmouth committed 22 turnovers, many unforced.
"We struggled, especially in the second quarter," said Pearl. "We didn't play our game. I think we became one dimensional. I don't think it's a lack of trying hard. I just think we sometimes become one dimensional where one player tries to do everything and tries to live up to everybody's expectations. If we can play more like a team, pass the ball better and work harder off-ball, I think we'll be more successful. We also struggled with turnovers. A lot of them were unforced. That took a lot of wind out of our sails. We dropped the ball. Every possession's precious against a good team. We were on our heels a lot. We asked a lot of our defensemen tonight and I think they played really well."
Falmouth was impressed with Yarmouth's effort.
"A lot of credit goes to Yarmouth," said LeBel. "They've improved so much. I'm so impressed with the program and with those kids for never giving up. I'm not surprised at all with their effort. They're a nice group of guys."
Yarmouth (third behind St. Dom's and Gardiner in the Eastern Class B Heal Points standings) closes the regular season at Cape Elizabeth Wednesday. The Clippers will likely wind up in the No. 3 spot and will host a quarterfinal on June 6. They could be very dangerous in the weeks to come.
"I love playing the best teams because it's our shot at greatness," said Pearl. "We love how the schedule has played out. After a disappointing loss on our home turf, we're looking forward to going to Cape. Last year we had a disappointing loss there. We'll try to turn it around. I know it'll be a hard road and we'll have to keep working hard every night. Hopefully we won't see NYA until the end. Especially if it's here. I'm looking forward to playing NYA again. That was our biggest disappointment."
Falmouth is on the verge of locking up the top seed in Western B for the third year in a row. The Yachtsmen simply have to defeat NYA in their home finale Wednesday to do so. Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth are likely on a collision course in the regional final June 13.
"I think we're set," Sipperly said. "We just have to keep working hard and we'll be OK. We'll have to bring it as hard as we can. If we do that, I think we'll be able to win."
"It's a great time to be peaking right before the postseason," Ryan said. "We're all really hungry. Especially us seniors. We're excited to play Cape. It's always a great game. It's fun."
"I want to play at home," LeBel added. "I don't want to go to Cape. No one wants to go and play at Cape. The kids are more comfortable at home. I think we play our best lacrosse there."