Early goal holds up as Yarmouth boys stay unbeaten
CUMBERLAND—When you're hoping to end an eight-game skid to your neighbor and rival, you simply can't let a golden opportunity slip by.
Unfortunately for the Greely boys' soccer team, that's exactly what happened Thursday evening.
Less than a minute into the first of two games this fall against unbeaten Yarmouth, the Rangers had a great look at taking an early lead, only to miss the shot.
The Clippers, offered a reprieve, got a chance of their own less than two minutes later and did not falter.
Junior Max Watson scored on a header in the game's third minute and despite ample opportunities, Greely never could catch up.
The Yarmouth defense put forth a solid 80 minute effort and held on for a 1-0 victory, improving to 6-0-2 while dropping the Rangers to 6-3 on the season.
"Overall, I think (Greely) outplayed us today," said Clippers coach Mike Hagerty. "They were the better team. They played more of what they wanted to do. They had the better of the play overall, but our kids found a way to win, which is terrific."
Both Greely and Yarmouth got to the quarterfinal round but no further in 2011. So far in 2012, each team has impressed.
The Rangers opened by blanking visiting Lake Region (9-0) and host Freeport (2-0). On Sept. 11, Greely was mere seconds away from beating visiting defending Class B champion Falmouth, but the Yachtsmen tied the score with 3.4 seconds to go and won it in the second overtime, 3-2. The Rangers bounced back by beating visiting Poland, 4-0, but fell at York, 1-0. Wins over host Fryeburg (5-1), Cape Elizabeth (1-0) and visiting Gray-New Gloucester (1-0) followed.
The Clippers settled for a 2-2 draw at North Yarmouth Academy in their opener. Yarmouth then defeated visiting Lake Region (4-0) and Cape Elizabeth (4-1), host York (1-0) and Cape Elizabeth (2-1), then won, 4-0, over visiting Poland, before twice failing to hold second half leads in a thrilling 2-2 home tie with Falmouth Saturday night.
Entering the game, Yarmouth had won eight straight against Greely and nine of 10 meetings dating back to Oct. 5, 2007 (please see sidebar, below).
Thursday, the Rangers had chances to end the slide, but couldn't finish.
The tone was set immediately when the Clippers turned the ball over and suddenly Greely junior Ted Hart was behind the defense, running in free on Yarmouth senior goalkeeper Andrew Fochler. Fochler came out to play the ball, but Hart got by him with a nifty move and it looked for certain the Rangers were going to get the jump.
Then, Hart's shot sailed just high over the open net.
"Teddy made a great play," said Greely coach Mike Andreasen. "I don't know if he looked up and overstruck it, but he made a great play to have that chance."
"We turned the ball over on the kickoff," Hagerty said. "I've never seen that."
In the third minute of the first half, Yarmouth earned a corner kick and as they did in an early victory over Cape Elizabeth, the Clippers played the corner short and it led to a goal.
Junior Ben Decker played the ball in to classmate David Murphy, who sent a pass back to Decker, who dribbled in and served the ball toward the back post where Watson was waiting to head it into the net for a 1-0 lead.
"It was a quick corner," Watson said. "We work on that to try to catch teams by surprise. David played a nice ball to Ben. Ben played a perfect ball to the back post. I happened to be there and I put it across the goal."
"Max has been open a lot on our set pieces and corner kicks," said Hagerty. "We hadn't given him a quality ball. That's the exact play we practiced last night. A lot of times when you play a short corner, people think you're going front post. Ben made a great service to the back post."
Greely's disappointment over missing its chance had turned into dismay.
"It was deflating," said Andreasen. "I thought we just didn't mark on the goal. They played the ball in and we just didn't see it. We worked on it yesterday (in practice)."
Two minutes later, Yarmouth almost doubled its lead, but junior Wyatt Jackson shot high.
The Rangers then turned the tide and had some looks to tie.
In the 23rd minute, Greely junior Matt Crowley shot high.
The Rangers kept the pressure on and seconds later, senior Liam Campbell floated a shot on goal that Fochler bobbled, allowing senior Ben Giffard to hit a shot which appeared ticketed for the net.
Instead, Clippers junior defender Wes Crawford, standing at the far post, casually swept the shot out of harm's way and the score remained 1-0.
"It was just instinct," said Crawford. "Hagerty tells us when the goalie comes out, someone's got to go to goal. It was my turn. Everyone else pressured. I basically had the easy work."
"That saved a goal," Hagerty said. "He saved a breakaway just before that. He got behind our two center-backs and cleared it. That's terrific soccer knowledge. He understands the game so well. He probably saved us two goals."
In the 27th minute, Rangers sophomore Mitchel Donovan managed to elude four defenders, but couldn't fire a shot.
Yarmouth's last chance of the first half came with 9:58 to go when Murphy fed Decker, whose shot was deflected just over the crossbar by Greely senior goalkeeper Elijah Leverett, setting up a corner kick, which was headed wide by Clippers sophomore Ben Vigue.
The second half was almost all Rangers, but they never could pull even.
With 32:18 remaining in regulation, a shot from Greely freshman Jacob Nason was punched away by Fochler.
In the 49th minute, Hart was taken down just outside the box, setting up a free kick. Senior Nicholas Shain did the honors and his feed forced Fochler to tip it over the crossbar, setting up a corner kick, which subsequently was headed away by a Yarmouth defender.
With 30:23 to play, a cross from Shain trickled across the goalmouth, but there was no Ranger there to bang it home.
In the 60th minute, Crawford came up huge again, breaking up a rush by Nason.
With 14:34 to go, a corner kick by Shain forced Fochler to punch the ball out. Junior Sam Porter got to it and shot, but it went wide. With 10 minutes remaining, Crawford had to clear another loose ball at the last second, setting up a corner, which was cleared away by Watson.
In the 75th minute, on another Greely corner, Yarmouth junior David Clemmer had to clear the ball away at the last second. Seconds later, senior Nick Dunnett took a free kick for the Rangers, but it too was punched away by Fochler.
"This is Andrew's first full year in goal," Hagerty said. "The decision to go after the ball and punch it, not to try to catch it, he did that on three balls tonight. He had no intention to try to catch it in traffic. He redirected the ball and got back on his line. I thought his decision making was terrific."
With 3:51 showing, a free kick by Shain sailed just high.
With 51.6 seconds left, a low shot by Nason went wide.
Greely earned one final free kick, but with 10.8 seconds to go, Fochler punched away Dunnett's boot and the Clippers held on to celebrate their 1-0 victory.
"The last few minutes were crazy," said Crawford. "It's like kickball. Kick and run."
"We came out knowing (Greely would) come hard," said Watson. "We were coming off a big game with Falmouth and we knew they'd be gunning for us, just like any team does this year. We were confident with the lead, but after the Falmouth game, we, as a team, knew we had to settle down and play like it was a 0-0 game. We had to grind it out the rest of the game. They have a lot of offensive power."
Yarmouth was outshot, 11-6, but did put five shots on frame to four for the hosts. Fochler made three saves and got a ton of support from his teammates.
"Andrew came up with some huge saves," Crawford said. "We knew who their dangerous players were. We tried to defend them in the middle. Our goal was to win the midfield. Max, Wyatt, David and Ben played really well. We played well in the middle. That won us the game. It's our hard work. Whenever anyone comes in, they work 110 percent."
"The guys really stepped up today," said Watson. "(Junior) Chandler (Smith) and (senior) Drew (Grout) helped out in the back. Andrew came up with some unbelievable saves. He played out of his mind. The midfield, Murphy, Decker, Ben Vigue, all played their parts."
"I thought the player of the game for us was Max," added Hagerty. "He obviously scored the goal and made a lot of plays in the air. He stopped a lot in the center-midfield. He doesn't get as much credit as he should. Our intent was to play 17, 18 guys tonight to try and stay as fresh as we could. (Senior) Michael Smith played three different positions. (Junior) Travis Hamre played three different positions. Wes played two different positions."
The Clippers hadn't made it easy on themselves, but managed to prevail nonetheless.
"At halftime, we talked about their forwards having too much room to turn," said Hagerty. "They're dangerous. They're dangerous down the middle of the field. Nason doesn't play like a freshman. He reminds me of players like (former Falmouth stars) Roger Levesque and Aaron Maines and Jimmy Velas. Nason looks like Aaron Maines did his freshman year. Mitchel Donovan is fast and dangerous in the midfield. Matt Crowley is probably one of the best midfielders in the state. Aidan Black, Teddy Hart. They're loaded in the middle. The goal was not to play down the middle and guess what? We played way too much down the middle and it showed. We play them again on our field, which is 75 yards wide. We better use 75 yards. Greely's one of the best teams in the state. We have to give Greely credit. They played well."
The Rangers knew they had their chances.
"Right now, we're still searching for that leader, especially an offensive leader," said Andreasen. "I want somebody to say offensively, 'I'll put this team on my back.'
"As a team, we give our all. I think it was our best effort in a number of games. The second half, I thought we had a lot of energy. The kids rose up to the challenge. It comes down to making plays. We had a free kick from the 20 yard line and didn't put it on goal. We wanted to test the goalie and put it in his hands. He did bobble it once and the defense cleared it away. (Yarmouth) is polished. They defend well as a team. You have to beat them with a decent shot. Unfortunately, we had nothing that decent. Winning is contagious. I feel frustrated because we haven't beaten them in a number of years. They have that little something we're still looking for. If we get it, I think we can still make waves. I really do."
Greely has two tough home games upcoming: Saturday versus York and Tuesday against Cape Elizabeth. The Rangers then close their regular season with games at Waynflete, Yarmouth (Oct. 11) and Falmouth.
Greely (eighth in the Western Class A Heal Points as of press time) hopes to improve its playoff standing.
"I think we're probably in," Andreasen said. "We don't want to be (number) 9 or 10 and have to travel for a prelim."
The Clippers see Falmouth again Saturday night, this time on the Yachtsmen's turf.
Yarmouth (fourth in the Western B Heals, but likely to move up once this result had been posted) has managed to avoid a setback to date and knows it can still improve.
"Everyone wants to win," Crawford said, of the Falmouth rematch. "It's going to be crazy. We should do well. We need to get the ball outside. We're dangerous outside."
"After a game like this, we'll rest," Watson said. "We keep moving forward. We know our game plan for Falmouth. We'll recover and get ready for Saturday night.
After hosting Freeport Tuesday, the Clippers go to Gray-New Gloucester and Fryeburg, then close at home versus Greely and York.
Yarmouth didn't expect to be unbeaten at this stage of the season, but hopes to keep the good times rolling.
"We came into the season knowing we wouldn't be a very old team," said Watson. "We have some seniors, but not a huge senior class. Our sophomores have really stepped up. Walter, a freshman, has played great soccer. My junior class is playing well. We have high expectations. We're happy with our results as of now."
"If you told me we'd play five games with Cape, York, Falmouth and Greely and we wouldn't be beaten yet, I'd say you're crazy," Hagerty said.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
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