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Yarmouth bests Falmouth in double OT thriller

Sports

Yarmouth bests Falmouth in double OT thriller

FALMOUTH—In a world where little matches the hype, not to mention exceeds it, the Falmouth-Yarmouth boys' soccer rivalry continues to raise the bar.

And thrill and amaze those who have the good fortune of looking on.

A mere week after a breathtaking second half of back-and-forth, anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better action produced a 2-2 draw in Yarmouth, the Clippers and Yachtsmen delivered another chapter of the state's best high school sports rivalry Saturday evening amid a steady rainfall at Falmouth's turf field.

The final regular season meeting between the rivals brought enormous stakes, as well as bragging rights.

With the teams aware that the winner would have the inside track on the top seed and homefield advantage for the Western Class B playoffs, the rematch was played with a postseason intensity, as these matchups always are.

As was the case last weekend, the first half saw chances, but no scoring.

Like last time, Yarmouth struck first, when junior Max Watson converted a penalty kick with just over 11 minutes to go.

Once again, the Clippers weren't able to close, thanks to one of the best clutch goal scorers this area has ever seen, Falmouth senior Grant Burfeind, who went airborne to head home a long feed from classmate Luke Andrews with 3:42 to go, tying the score, 1-1.

For the second Saturday in succession, the ancient rivals would go to overtime, but instead of settling for a tie, this time, Yarmouth managed to deliver resolution.

With just over a minute gone in the second overtime, junior David Murphy, who excelled in the midfield all night long, chipped a free kick into the box.

Falmouth junior goalkeeper Will D'Agostino came out to play the ball, but he ran into Clippers sophomore Brendan Dioli. The ball came free to Watson, who scored the winning goal in a victory at Greely some 48 hours before, and he wouldn't be denied, directing it into the net to give Yarmouth a stirring 2-1 win, lifting the Clippers to 7-0-2 and dropping the Yachtsmen to 7-1-1.

And to think, Falmouth and Yarmouth likely have one meeting remaining, hopefully in the Western Class B Final Halloween Night.

If so, good luck topping this one.

"These games are so much fun," said Watson. "With a team of that caliber and seniority, you have to respect all of their players. We know we have work hard and bring our level up higher to match them. We threw everything at them tonight and they threw everything they had at us and it showed."

Class warfare

Since 2000, only two teams have won the Class B championship: Falmouth (eight times) and Yarmouth (four).

Based on what we've seen so far in 2012, another season is likely to end with either a Clippers or Yachtsmen coronation.

Prior to Saturday, Falmouth handled visiting Cape Elizabeth (1-0) and North Yarmouth Academy (8-0), host Poland (7-0), host Greely (3-2, in a come-from-behind overtime thriller), host Freeport (3-0) and visiting Gray-New Gloucester (5-0) before rallying to tie Yarmouth. Tuesday, the Yachtsmen won at Traip, 4-1.

Yarmouth has been equally impressive, rallying to tie host NYA (2-2) in the opener, then downing visiting Lake Region (4-0) and Cape Elizabeth (4-1), host York (1-0) and Cape Elizabeth (2-1) and visiting Poland (4-0, prior to the Falmouth tie. Thursday, the Clippers went to Greely and rode an early Watson goal to a 1-0 triumph.

Almost anything's possible when these two teams square off and predicting who will win is a fool's errand.

While Falmouth has featured more of the big name stars over the years, Yarmouth has always managed to hang tough behind its tenacity and balance.

Saturday brought another round of memories as two proud, hopeful champions battled for 86-plus minutes before one finally had a win to celebrate.

Early in the first half, the Yachtsmen had the better of the play as speedy sophomore Luke Velas put on a show.

In the eighth minute, Velas raced down the right wing before sending a cross on goal that Clippers senior goalkeeper Andrew Fochler had to punch away.

Four minutes later, Velas stole the ball and had a great look at an open net, but his shot went wide.

In the 13th minute, Velas cut back to elude a defender, then shot high.

With 23:58 to go in the first half, Velas' cross forced Fochler to make a sprawling save.

With 10:06 left before halftime, Burfeind raced in on Fochler to get to a loose ball. The two collided and the ball squirted over to Falmouth senior Cooper Lycan, who shot just wide.

The final minutes of the half belonged to the Clippers and twice, on perfectly executed set pieces, the visitors failed to convert a golden scoring chance.

The first came with 3:57 remaining on what would be a harbinger of the winning tally an hour or so later.

Murphy took a free kick from 25 yards out, the ball came free to junior Wyatt Jackson near the right post and Jackson, who had to settle the ball and shoot in a split second, no easy maneuver, shot just wide.

Then, as time wound down, a corner kick by Murphy came free to Watson at the far post, but Watson kicked nothing but air. The horn sounded and the teams went to the break tied, 0-0.

"The good news is we had some kids who missed open goals, but they didn't get down and kept going," Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty said.

As the game went longer and longer without a score, it felt like the first goal would be the only tally, but that wouldn't be the case.

Before the ice was finally broken, both teams had chances.

Just four minutes into the second half, another nice free kick by Murphy came to Watson, who passed to Jackson, who shot just wide.

Two minutes later, Lycan had a promising rush, but it was broken up by Yarmouth junior Chandler Smith.

The hosts had back-to-back corner kicks in the 52nd minute, but couldn't get a shot on goal.

With 21:51 to play, a throw from Velas resulted in a loose ball in the box. Falmouth senior Ian McBrady, who scored in the first meeting, sent a shot that Fochler had to dive to save. Fochler momentarily lost the rebound, but pounced on it to keep the game scoreless.

With 14:12 remaining, the Yachtsmen had another great chance as senior J.P. White's free kick popped free in front of the goal. It was headed by Burfeind, but went just over the crossbar.

Then, with 11:01 left in regulation, Yarmouth got a break and took the lead.

Clippers senior Thomas Sullivan played the ball into the left side of the box and tried to turn the corner on a defender, but was tripped up.

Penalty kick.

Watson would be the player to take it. After scoring his first varsity goal in the win at Greely Thursday, Watson has suddenly become an offensive machine and he went one-on-one against D'Agostino and fired a high shot to the goalie's left. D'Agostino managed to get a finger on the ball, but its velocity was too much to stop and it tickled the twine for a 1-0 lead.

"I didn't think anything," Watson said. "I knew where I was going to put it and put it right there. D'Agostino's a great goalie. I just put it where I needed to put it."

"I tell kids all the time that I'll defer to the one who wants (to take the kick)," said Hagerty. "Max must have said, 'Give it to me.'"

Everyone in the stadium knew the game was far from over.

For starters, Falmouth had rallied not once, but twice the week before against Yarmouth and had scored a tying goal with 3.4 seconds to play in its overtime win at Greely. The Yachtsmen are tenacious and are at their best when their backs are to the wall.

Oh yeah, and they also have one Grant Burfeind on the roster. A Grant Burfeind who happened to have a birthday Saturday, which, combined with his pedigree, suggested more heroics were in store.

Before Burfeind added the latest chapter to his legend, Lycan sent a header just over the crossbar, Fochler had to punch away a serve by Falmouth senior Billy Mullin, came way out to kick away a serve by senior Jack Pike and played pugilist again with 5:55 to go, punching away another serve from Mullin.

Yarmouth momentarily transitioned to offense, but after a turnover, the Yachtsmen counterattacked and Andrews' long kick found Burfeind's head. Burfeind, having managed to stay on-side, while falling forward in the box, steered the ball past Fochler into the net to make it 1-1 with just 3:42 to play.

"(Grant) did it again," said Falmouth coach Dave Halligan. "The seniors have been in the trenches. They know what to do."

The Clippers were stunned, but had to regroup.

"We try to forget," Murphy said. "We have short-term memory and keep playing."

"We know every time we score a goal, they'll come twice as hard at us," Watson said. "They showed it the first game. We need to react better. Kudos to them for coming back."

"We talk a lot about mental toughness," Hagerty added. You can't get overly elated when you score and can't get too frustrated when they score. Good teams will get their chances. When you have a player like Burfeind, when he goes to the middle, he doesn't stay there. He curls away. He's dangerous. Our number one goal was to find him on set pieces and crosses. The very thing we said to look out for, we couldn't stop."

Each team had one chance to win it in regulation.

Just 20 seconds after the tying goal, Yarmouth sophomore Ben Vigue fired a blast that D'Agostino stopped.

With 2:39 remaining, Fochler came way out to deflect a Lycan shot, which led to a corner kick. The Clippers were able to to clear that threat and it was on to overtime.

In Maine high school boys' regular season soccer, teams play two five-minute "sudden victory" overtimes. If no one scores, it's a tie.

That's how the first meeting wound up, but this time there would be a winner.

The only remote chance in the first OT came a minute in when Yarmouth earned a corner kick, but the Clippers couldn't manage a shot.

Yarmouth forced play to start the second overtime and with just over four minutes to go, a Falmouth foul allowed Murphy to set up for a free kick up top, about 25 yards out.

The winning play was nicely executed, a bit wacky and even controversial, depending which team you cheered for.

Murphy lobbed a ball into the box and after Yarmouth sophomore Brendan Dioli collided with D'Agostino, Watson did the rest, sending the ball into the empty net.

Yarmouth 2 Falmouth 1.

"David played a perfect ball," Watson said. "He chipped it right over the wall. I just made my run. I happened to beat D'Agostino to the ball. It's always special to score a goal in these kind of games. I have to give it up to my team for playing their best game overall so far this year. We came out with the win. We knew we'd have chances and they'd have chances. It would be whoever finished tonight."

"In practice, we've worked on that play," said Murphy. "We came out and executed the play. It was crazy. Both teams played really well. You can tell how evenly matched we are. We want every game to be like this. They don't have many weaknesses."

"I thought David Murphy was the player of the match," Hagerty added. "Not just the assist, but so many calm decisions in the midfield. David put a nice chip. What happened it we curl off and run. Dioli was ahead of the pack. D'Agostino came out and there was a collision just as Max was flicking the ball. It was a great flick. It's something we design a little bit, but never running into the goalie. I don't know if there was a foul. Dioli should be looking back to flick it, not to run into the goalie.

"We'll take the victory. Soccer's a funny game. Overall, I thought it was a terrific game by both teams. This game was very back-and-forth. It felt very even. A tie might have been a deserved result, but we'll take the Heal Points. It was another chapter, a heck of a game."

In truth, no one expected Yarmouth to still be unbeaten after playing Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth twice each and Greely and York once to this point, but the Clippers, thanks to uncommon maturity and leadership, have come together sooner than anyone hoped.

"I think we knew all along we could be this good," Murphy said. "We're a really close team. We enjoy playing the game."

"We've meshed as a team," said Watson. "The younger guys have come together. Games like this, it's going to show."

"Considering our schedule, I would have bet money we'd have two or three losses because we're young," Hagerty added. "Tonight, we probably played 16, or 17 guys. A lot of them haven't played much. Our juniors and senors are such great leaders. The kids who go in know their teammates have trust in them. That's what I love about these kids. They work so hard for each other. They're a pleasure to coach."

D'Agostino was animated after the goal in his discussion with the officials, feeling that he was fouled and that the goal shouldn't have counted.

Afterwards, Halligan didn't complain about the no call.

"I saw the ball in the net," Halligan said. "It's hard to see back here. There was a skirmish. There's a lot of bumping, but that happens. It's part of the game."

Falmouth suffered its first loss in nearly a calendar year (Oct. 12, 2011), but certainly put on a show in the process.

"We had our chances," Halligan said. "We didn't put them away. When you don't put them away, it comes back to bite you against a good team. You have to give (Yarmouth) credit. They come at you hard and play an aggressive game. I was proud of our effort. It was a good, hard fought soccer game. I think both teams know they can be successful. It comes down to who works harder and imposes their will on the other. It's two good programs with good players. We don't have to hide any players on the field. They don't have to hide any players on the field. Even their young players are technically good players. There wasn't much whacking going on. It was a good, hard fought game tonight."

The Clippers finished with a 7-6 shots advantage (4-3 on frame). Fochler made four saves and also delivered countless haymaker punches to send the ball out of harm's way. D'Agostino stopped two shots. The Yachtsmen had a 6-2 edge in corner kicks.

Long way to go

While Falmouth and Yarmouth (as well as local fans) would love nothing more than to square off a third time in the Western B Final (which would effectively be the state game) Halloween Night, there's still a lot of soccer for each team to play.

The Yachtsmen (now third in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) are back in action Tuesday down at York. Falmouth still has to play at Cape Elizabeth, then finishes with home games against Poland, Greely and York.

"We have to try to keep it on an even keel, since it's a long season," Halligan said. "We want to be at our best at the end."

After seeing Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Greely and York in six of their first nine games, the Clippers' schedule does get slightly easier going forward. Yarmouth (currently a close second to Maranacook in the Heals) hosts Freeport Tuesday, plays at Gray-New Gloucester and Fryeburg, then closes with home tests against Greely and York.

"Freeport's a good game," Hagerty said. "It should be a game where we get fresh legs in. Gray's dangerous. We do have that tie earlier in the season which hurts a little bit. We have a lot of (Heal) Points on the board still with Greely and York. (We and Falmouth both) have a tough road to hoe, but we've gotten through most of it. It seems like we're in pretty good shape. I hope we see (Falmouth) in the Western Maine Final. That would be fitting. York is the darkhorse. It's a three team race."

"We need to work harder in practice to get better," Murphy said. "Everyone's so close in this league."

"We look at every game like it's most important," Watson said. "We'll have to play just as well to beat Freeport. You can't overlook any team. We're looking forward to seeing (Falmouth) again."

He's not the only one.

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

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Falmouth senior Grant Burfeind and Yarmouth senior Drew Grout battle for a header while Clippers senior Michael Smith and Yachtsmen senior Ian McBrady look on.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Falmouth senior Grant Burfeind tries to turn the corner on Yarmouth senior Michael Smith. For the umpteenth time in the past year, Burfeind scored a pivotal goal, tying the score in the 76th minute.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Falmouth senior Billy Mullin goes up over Yarmouth junior Ben Decker to play a ball out of the air.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth junior Wyatt Jackson was a force in the middle of the field and was closely watched on this play by Falmouth senior Cooper Lycan.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth senior Drew Grout shields Falmouth senior Cooper Lycan.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Falmouth sophomore Luke Velas attemps to elude Yarmouth junior Ben Decker.

Recent Yarmouth-Falmouth results

2012
@ Yarmouth 2 Falmouth 2

2011
@ Yarmouth 2 Falmouth 1
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 0

2010
@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0
Yarmouth 2 @ Falmouth 1
@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0 (OT) (Western Class B Final)

2009
@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 1 (tie)
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 1 (tie)
@ Falmouth 3 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B Final)

2008
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 1 (OT)
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0
Yarmouth 2 @ Falmouth 1 (Western Class B Final)

2007
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0
Yarmouth 1 @ Falmouth 0
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B semifinals)

2006
@ Falmouth 0 Yarmouth 0 (tie)
Falmouth 3 @ Yarmouth 1
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B semifinals)

2005
Yarmouth 2 @ Falmouth 0
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0

2004
@ Falmouth 0 Yarmouth 0 (tie)

2003
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0

2002
@ Falmouth 4 Yarmouth 0
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B semifinals)

2001
@ Yarmouth 2 Falmouth 2 (tie)
@ Falmouth 4 Yarmouth 0

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth junior David Murphy and Falmouth senior Hugh Grygiel do their best to earn possession.