Cape Elizabeth puts clamps on Clippers to take Class B crown
PORTLAND—For the better part of three months, the Cape Elizabeth boys' lacrosse team controlled everything it could control and plotted its every move as it inched its way toward a highly coveted state championship.
Yet Saturday afternoon in the Class B state final at Fitzpatrick Stadium, it was a play that was totally unplanned, one which was nothing more than a stroke of good fortune, which finally allowed the Capers to gain a little separation from their talented foe, the Yarmouth Clippers.
The state's most storied programs produced an old school battle and while Cape Elizabeth had largely had its way with Yarmouth in two regular season meetings, this time, the Clippers (and the hottest game conditions of the season) made the Capers sweat for 48 minutes.
Cape Elizabeth appeared en route to an easy win when it scored twice in the game's first 3 minutes, 36 seconds, but Yarmouth calmed down, got a goal back and drew even midway through the second quarter on a goal from sophomore Brendan Dioli.
The Capers retook the lead, 3-2, on sophomore Griffin Thoreck's unassisted tally later in the stanza and pushed their advantage to 5-2 in the third, but back roared the Clippers, who drew within one, 5-4, and as time wound down in the period, almost pulled even, but on this day, lady luck favored Cape Elizabeth.
After a Yarmouth game-tying bid hit the post, the Capers transitioned to offense and with 10.6 seconds left, senior Alex Bornick took a pass from classmate Justin Cary and finished to give his team a little breathing room.
An unassisted Bornick goal in the fourth period added to the lead and the state's best defense did the rest, shutting out the Clippers the final 16 minutes, 6 seconds and Cape Elizabeth went on to a 7-4 victory.
Bornick led all scorers with three goals, Cary scored twice and the Capers improved to 13-2 and ended Yarmouth's run at 12-4, as they won Class B for the second time, captured an eighth crown during the MPA-sanctioned era and made it 17 titles overall, dating back to 1987.
"(Championships) are always a new experience with a new bunch," said longtime Cape Elizabeth coach Ben Raymond, who has won eight of them and now has 204 victories overall in his career. "They all mean an awful lot, just because of all the effort that goes into it. We prepared a lot. It's a rewarding thing at the end to have your last game be a win in the state final. I feel very lucky. It puts a lot of value into the all the work the team and coaches put into it this year."
Here we go again
No teams have met more in the boys' lacrosse state finals than Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth.
Entering Saturday's showdown, the state's two most storied powers had played seven previous times for the big trophy, with the Capers prevailing on four occasions.
The first came in 1996 and it went overtime, but the Capers prevailed, 11-10. It took seven years for the powers to meet again in the final and again, after a late Clippers' rally, the game went to OT, where Cape Elizabeth escaped, 9-8. The next year, Yarmouth finally broke through, 11-6, but in 2005, the Capers returned the favor with a mild upset (7-6). After a two-year hiatus, the Clippers beat Cape Elizabeth in the 2008 finale (9-4) and again in 2009 (12-9), but in a game eerily similar to 2005, the Capers sprung a 7-6 upset three years ago.
Both squads lost in the regional final a year ago and in a season which saw the four traditional Class B powers (North Yarmouth Academy and two-time defending champion Falmouth being the others) about as even as even can be, something had to give in the playoffs and both Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth managed to be the last teams standing.
The Capers entered 2013 as the favorite and opened with a 19-0 blanking of visiting Lake Region. They were then upset at NYA, 9-6, but bounced back with an 11-10 overtime win at Falmouth, then handled visiting Waynflete, 16-9, visiting Yarmouth, 7-5, host Greely, 8-4, and host Cheverus, 6-2. After rallying from a three-goal deficit in the second half to shock visiting Falmouth, 9-6, the Capers blanked visiting Kennebunk, 5-0, and pitched another shutout at Fryeburg, 19-0, before their eight-game win streak came to a close at the hands of visiting NYA, 7-5. Cape Elizabeth bounced right back and finished strong with an emphatic 13-7 triumph at Yarmouth to go 10-2 and earn the top seed in Western B.
The Capers had a bye into the semifinals and had little trouble with No. 4 Waynflete, 17-4, then somehow survived No. 2 Falmouth one final time, 9-8, when senior Cam Wilson scored in overtime.
The Clippers set the tone for their season in the opener, a 7-6 win at NYA in a down-to-the-wire thriller. They then won at home over two-time defending Class B champion Falmouth in overtime, 10-9, then started 3-0 with a 15-4 victory at South Portland. Yarmouth was finally bested, 7-5, at Cape Elizabeth May 4. The Clippers bounced back to defeat host Freeport (15-2), visiting Lake Region (12-0), host Portland (17-5), visiting Fryeburg (21-2) and visiting NYA (11-6), before losing at home to eventual Class A state champion Scarborough, 10-7. After a breathtaking, come-from-behind 15-14 overtime win at Falmouth, Yarmouth closed with a 13-7 home loss to Cape Elizabeth to wind up 9-3 and third behind Gardiner and NYA in Eastern B.
The Clippers romped in their quarterfinal, dominating visiting No. 6 Oak Hill, 16-1. They then played an instant classic at the second-ranked Panthers in the semifinals before avenging last year's playoff loss with an 8-7 triumph. Wednesday, in the regional final, Yarmouth was no match for No. 1 Gardiner as it rolled, 15-3.
Saturday, the Clippers were considered the underdog, but in a fitting coda to the most exciting Class B season yet, they battled the Capers from start to finish.
Cape Elizabeth started fast, as Wilson found classmate Jake Lynch for a goal just 2 minutes, 12 seconds in.
When Cary (from Thoreck) beat Yarmouth senior goalie Sam Landry with 8:24 to play in the first period to make it 2-0, it looked like the Capers might just run away and hide.
The Clippers had other ideas.
After Landry got a pair of gifts, as two Cape Elizabeth shots rang off the post, Yarmouth got its offense going as sophomore Joe Oliva set up senior Christian Henry for a goal with just under a minute to go.
Senior Ian Edgecomb, who had so many highlight goals this spring, almost tied it as time wound down in the first, but his shot was barely off target.
The Clippers kept the pressure on in the second period and eventually drew even.
First, Landry made a key save on a Wilson bid.
Then, with 6:55 to play before halftime, Dioli, who has the skills to become one of the top players around as soon as next year, beat Capers junior Gabe McGinn unassisted to tie the score, 2-2.
Yarmouth couldn't grab the lead, however, and with 3:42 remaining, Thoreck, one of the regional final heroes, scored unassisted, ending a 16:42 drought and giving Cape Elizabeth a 3-2 lead at halftime.
In the first 24 minutes, faceoffs (4-3 Capers), ground balls (13-12 Capers) and turnovers (9-8 Clippers) were almost even, but Cape Elizabeth had a big edge (14-5) in shots. Six saves from Landry kept Yarmouth within hailing distance.
The Clippers would stay there in the second half.
When Cary and Bornick scored unassisted goals 40 seconds apart in the third period, the Capers had their biggest lead, 5-2, but the Clippers, bolstered by an interference penalty on Cape Elizabeth sophomore defender Curtis Alexander, reawakened on offense, pulling within two when senior Nick Ronan finished a feed from junior Isaac Dearden with 5:04 to in the quarter.
Fifty-eight seconds later, Edgecomb took a feed from Oliva and beat McGinn and just like that, the Capers' lead was down to one again, 5-4.
With 1:43 left, Dearden almost tied it, but his bounce shot just cleared the crossbar.
Regardless, Yarmouth was poised to enter the final stanza within one before misfortune struck and everyone on hand learned just how quickly bad luck one way can turn to good the other.
After the Clippers' fateful bid hit the post, Cary got a pass, raced into the offensive zone and instead of shooting, passed to Bornick, who beat Landry with 10.6 seconds showing to turn momentum back to Cape Elizabeth, which now led, 6-4.
"We all have a great relationship," Bornick said.. "Good chemistry shows on the field. If you don't, the connection won't happen. Justin's one of my best friends. Last year, we were competing for points. We let that go this year. It was about the end result. He assisted me a bunch of times."
"I got the ball," Cary said. "Alex came around. I saw him as I was about to shoot. Their goalie is very good up high. My guy was pushing up down low, so I couldn't get my hands down. I passed it to him and he scored."
Not surprisingly, the teams looked at the goal through vastly different prisms.
"Sometimes it's better to be lucky," Cape Elizabeth senior defensive standout Haversat said. "If it hits the post, we don't worry about it. We got the ground ball and got it to the offense and they scored."
"I think that was big," Raymond said. "They hit the pipe because Gabe played his angle well and forced that shot."
"That was an enormous momentum shift," Yarmouth coach David Pearl said. "That was just bad luck for us. We talk about working hard and making luck. That was a cruel bounce."
Even after the demoralizing goal, Yarmouth still had chances to rally in the fourth, but 17 second half turnovers hindered the Clippers' cause.
With 9:12 to go, a holding penalty on the Capers gave Yarmouth a man-up opportunity, but Haversat forced a turnover.
With 6:39 left, Edgecomb got a pass on the doorstep and shot, but McGinn made a huge save. The ball came back to Edgecomb, but his shot at an open net was just off target.
With 3:48 remaining, McGinn came up huge one final time, denying Clippers senior Quinn Hathcock.
Then, after another Yarmouth turnover, the ball came to Bornick, who beat a defender, then scored to push the lead to a much safer 7-4.
"(Adam) told us multiple times, if we got the ball to slow it down so they could get some rest," Bornick said. "We don't usually play on (hot) days like this. When we get a good possession and slow it down, we usually get a good look. I was getting kind of nervous after we went up three and they lowered it to one. Then, we started doing well in the midfield, getting ground balls, making good transition passes. We're a second half team."
Down the stretch, the Clippers kept the pressure on, but Dioli missed on a shot and inside the final 30 seconds, junior Brady Neujahr's bid hit the post.
At 4:38 p.m., the final horn sounded and after three long years, the Capers were back on top of Class B.
"This is just the best feeling in the world," said Haversat, who was visibly emotional after the final horn. "It was a close game for the whole time. No matter what the previous games said, we knew it would be close. We're both used to playing at night, not when it's sunny and hot. They played a great game."
"It's amazing," Bornick said. "I had one my freshman year, but I didn't step in the game, so it didn't mean as much. I wanted one leading the team. I owe it to everyone on the team. I couldn't ask for a better group of teammates. We work so hard. Coach pushes us. He doesn't give us much praise because he wants us to keep improving. It's been fantastic to play with my buddies. There's personal pressure, but we knew this year (the Class B) teams were even and that anyone could take it."
"It's the best feeling in the world," Cary said. "Twice as good as when I was a freshman. There's no better game than the state game against Yarmouth. We have the best defense in the state. By far. We're a very unselfish team. We make the second pass. We were connecting. Yarmouth's a good team. We beat them by a big gap last time. We were a little complacent after beating Falmouth. We were confident, but we tried not to be too cocky."
"It's an unbelievable first state championship," Thoreck said. "The best feeling. Better than Western Maine. This is awesome. I knew it wouldn't be as easy as the first couple meetings. State championships bring out hard work. Yarmouth worked hard, but we just stayed ahead. It was a grind. They played good defense. They made us work. It was hard to get quality shots. We didn't get as many shots as we normally do, but we got by."
Cape Elizabeth's offense was keyed by three goals from Bornick. Cary scored twice and Lynch and Thoreck each tickled the twine once. Cary, Thoreck and Wilson had assists.
"Yarmouth's defense played well," Raymond said. "Our offense struggled a little bit. They made it dificult for us to move the ball at times. They extended the pressure a little bit, but not enough where they got in bad spots to get beat. they played solid one-on-one defense. We didn't have success beating them one-on-one. We were lucky to get some goals in transition. We didn't find the one matchup we could beat. The kids were just tired. In a normal season, today wouldn't have seemed so hot, but it's been like 40 degrees."
McGinn had five key saves.
Haversat bowed out by winning nine of 14 faceoffs (the Capers finished with a 9-6 advantage) and collecting a game-high 10 ground balls (Cape Elizabeth had a 37-33 team edge), illustrating once again just how dominant the Capers' defense was this spring.
"We told them at halftime, the difference would be picking up ground balls," Raymond said. "I thought our defense played well in the first half and put the ball on the ground a lot, we just didn't pick it up. In the second half, Adam picked up a bunch of ground balls on his own. He was outstanding.
"We relied on our defense all year long. We tried to limit the shots other teams take with pressure. It was harder to do that today with the heat. The pressure we're able to apply with those athletes makes it hard on other teams. Offenses can't rest."
"We got a little tired, so we went to a condensed version of our defense," Haversat said. "We collapsed on them and our ride was pretty good. They didn't get many open looks. The offense did a great job possessing the ball. They gave us time to rest. Me, (senior) Brandon (Negele) and Curt did it on defense and got it to the offense and they did a great job possessing."
Cape Elizabeth outshot the Clippers, 22-18 (15-9 on cage), and were able to overcome 26 turnovers.
Yarmouth got goals from Dioli, Edgecomb, Henry and Ronan. Oliva had two assists, while Dearden added one. Landry bowed out with eight saves. Senior Ethan Cyr won six ground balls, while Henry and junior defender Thomas Lord both had four.
Ultimately, the Clippers couldn't overcome their 26 turnovers.
"We had our chances," Pearl lamented. "They hit pipes, we hit pipes. It's a game of inches and bounces. It was a defensive struggle. I have to say, if we only score four goals, we're not going to win. We've struggled against them all year. We couldn't get any transition. Their strength this year was between the boxes in the middle of the field. When we got momentum, we started winning the battle in the middle, but it was for a short period of time. I don't think they scored on us in settled offense after the first quarter. After that, it was in transition. That was a testament to our guys who played great defense. We were right there all along. I didn't feel we were out of it until the end.
"It was a gallant effort. I'm proud of them and Yarmouth is proud of them. Early in the season, it was said we were back and I said we were rising. This game shows we're back. We could have won it. It has been a lot of fun. We talk about the intense grind of the season. I'm really proud of how the guys responded. The guys showed up early for pratcice and stayed late shooting. We have a lot of heart. We never give up."
It's now been four long years since the Clippers celebrated a championship, but the 2014 team could be the squad to end that drought. While Yarmouth loses some key contributors and leaders to graduation, it also returns ample talent.
"Ben and I joke about the fact there's this thing called graduation and every year is an adventure," Pearl said. "I'm excited to get the underclassmen back. It's only my second year with them as head coach. I look at how far we've come in two years and I see that I now have freshmen and sophomores with state championship experience. That's great for our program. We have kids who are hungry to get back."
Shoes to fill
The Capers knew winning the 2013 championship was critical considering all the standout seniors due to graduate.
"The seniors, all of them, played really well," Raymond said. "They've been committed all year long. We did things we hadn't done in the past, like Parisi Speed School twice a week, so we went an hour before practice, then the two hour practice after. The seniors led the way. The kids could've hated it, but the seniors told them this would make the difference at the end of the season. We had to be fit."
Next year's team will be younger, but can't be overlooked.
"We have some big holes," Raymond said. "A lot of kids are on the team who didn't have huge roles this year who will look to have big roles next year. (Junior) Danny Brett and (sophomore) Cole Caswell, hopefully they'll be injury free. I don't have fear about Griffin. He'll be one of the top players in the state. The other night really solidified him as one of the best players around."
"I love the challenge of next year," Thoreck said. "I can't wait. If we keep working as hard as we have in the past, we can do it."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous game stories
Previous state games
Cape Elizabeth 9 Yarmouth 8 (OT)
Cape Elizabeth 15 Brunswick 7
NYA 13 Cape Elizabeth 10
Cape Elizabeth 10 NYA 8
Cape Elizabeth 11 Waynflete 3
Cape Elizabeth 16 NYA 9
Cape Elizabeth 16 Mt. Blue 9
Cape Elizabeth 11 Yarmouth 10 (OT)
Cape Elizabeth 20 Back Bay 15
Cape Elizabeth 16 Hyde 9
Cape Elizabeth 13 NYA 7
Cape Elizabeth 9 NYA 6
Cape Elizabeth 8 NYA 6
Cape Elizabeth 11 Hebron 7
Hyde 11 Cape Elizabeth 10
NYA 9 Cape Elizabeth 8
Cape Elizabeth 9 Yarmouth 8 (OT)
Cape Elizabeth 11 Yarmouth 10 (OT)