Champion Capers frustrate Yarmouth again
YARMOUTH—After stewing for the better part of 10 months, the Yarmouth boys' lacrosse team finally got its opportunity to avenge last year's Class B state championship game loss to Cape Elizabeth when it welcomed the Capers to town Tuesday evening.
And the Clippers learned that they better be careful what they wish for.
Despite a slow start as it shot itself in the foot with turnovers, Yarmouth held a 4-2 lead late in the first half before the Capers clicked and did what they do best.
Play staunch defense, move the ball and finish.
And frustrate the Clippers.
Just before halftime, junior Ben Shea and sophomore Riley Pillsbury tickled the twine to forge a 4-4 tie.
Cape Elizabeth then took the lead for good just before the end of the third quarter, when Shea picked off a failed clear from Yarmouth junior goalie Connor Hoehle and buried a shot.
Junior Noah Haversat then got in on the fun with successive goals in the fourth quarter to open things up and the Capers went on to a 10-6 victory.
Shea led all scorers with four goals, pacing a balanced attack. Haversat and freshman Owen Thoreck both had two goals as Cape Elizabeth improved to 2-0 on the young season, dropped the Clippers to 1-1 and made it 10 successive wins over Yarmouth dating back to 2010.
"We hadn't had a big game yet, so to come in here and be down and keep giving it to them is great," Shea said. "This is a great field to play on. Yarmouth's a big rival. We knew they wanted it after last year. They gave it to us and we battled back."
Both teams opened the regular season nearly two weeks ago.
Cape Elizabeth began its title defense with an easy 15-1 home victory over Waynflete, while Yarmouth went to York and rolled, 16-6.
Anytime the Capers and Clippers square off, it's a big deal, but this particular meeting, coming so early in the season, was especially enlightening as it revealed just where each team stood and how far they both have to go to return to Fitzpatrick Stadium on June 21.
The Capers entered Tuesday's game having won three in a row at Yarmouth and nine straight over the Clippers, dating back to the 2010 season.
Yarmouth's last win in the series came May 3, 2010, 8-4, on its turf, when Craig Curry was still the coach and the Clippers were the two-time defending Class B champions.
The teams have clearly been the gold standard in Maine boys' lacrosse, combining for 12 state titles since 1998 (eight for the Capers, four for the Clippers). That includes Cape Elizabeth's 7-4 win in last year's state final.
Tuesday, Yarmouth pushed the Capers hard, but ultimately, Cape Elizabeth had the answers again.
Not surprisingly, the Clippers came out sizzling and just 34 seconds in, freshman Bill Jacobs whistled a shot just high.
The hosts then went ahead, 1-0, with 10:47 left in the first period, when junior Brendan Dioli, who recently returned to the program from prep school, scored unassisted.
That proved to be Yarmouth's high point of the first quarter, as it began to turn the ball over with regularity (10 times in the first 12 minutes of the game).
"The turning point was in the first five minutes of the game when we couldn't clear the ball," said Clippers coach David Pearl. "We knew we were in trouble. We're a talented team and when we possess the ball, we can put it in the net. We have some firepower, but clearing the ball is job one. That's the name of the game, possession. It's so important. I credit (Cape's) ride, but it's execution and we didn't execute tonight."
Cape Elizabeth is fast, physical and smart on defense and that unit really set the tone.
"The key to our ride is to try to make the longest pass the one they have to throw and take our chances with that," said Capers coach Ben Raymond. "It's hard work. It's hard to make that pass."
Yarmouth's hopes were further compromised when junior defensive standout Henry Oliva went down with an apparent knee injury.
Cape Elizabeth finally got its offense going with 54.9 seconds left in the first, when Owen Thoreck scored unassisted to tie the game.
Junior Griffin Thoreck almost put the Capers on top with 16.1 seconds to go, but Hoehle made the save to keep the score 1-1 after one period.
Oliva returned to the game to start the second period, but the game remained tied until 6:34 remained before halftime, when, playing man-up, Yarmouth re-took the lead, 2-1, as senior Brady Neujahr finished a feed from classmate Max Watson to end a 16 minute, 13 second drought.
Seconds later, Oliva went down to the turf again and this time, he was done for the night.
"The injury affected us a lot," said Pearl. "Henry is one of the best defenders in the state. We had to do it by committee."
The Clippers would produce their best offensive stretch of the game, however, and opened a two-goal lead on two separate occasions.
With 4:03 to play in the half, Dioli fed junior Dylan Tureff for a goal and a 3-1 lead.
After Griffin Thoreck scored unassisted to pull the Capers back within one, Watson fed junior Joe Oliva for a goal in transition with 1:57 to go and the score was 4-2.
Yarmouth couldn't keep its edge, however, and by halftime, Cape Elizabeth was the team that was fired up.
Twenty-nine seconds after Oliva scored, Shea scored his first goal, unassisted.
Then, with 1:11 left before halftime, sophomore Riley Pillsbury (from Haversat) scored to make the score 4-4.
The Capers almost went ahead before the break, but Hoehle denied junior Andrew Kelly point blank with 10 seconds to go.
Regardless, momentum had swung.
"We realized it was our time," Shea said. "I felt I could constantly get past my man and get a shot off. I knew I had to hit those shots for us to come out with a win. Those goals were huge. We got our motivation going. Everyone on the team and on the sidelines was feeling it."
"Those goals were big," Raymond said. "All goals were big. Those gave us confidence going into halftime. The kids were confident in how things were going."
In the first 24 minutes, Cape Elizabeth senior James Monroe-Chausse won seven of 10 faceoffs, the Capers outshot the Clippers, 19-12, and Yarmouth was stymied by a dozen turnovers.
The game remained taut in the third quarter.
Cape Elizabeth took its first lead, 5-4, with 9:23 left in the frame, as Shea finished a feed from Owen Thoreck.
The Clippers battled back and tied the game one final time when Dioli beat Capers sophomore goalie Alex Narvaez and scored unassisted with 4:54 showing.
A minute later, Dioli got crushed in front of the goal and had to momentarily leave the game.
It appeared the contest would remain tied entering the fourth quarter, but with under a minute to go, Cape Elizabeth's defense forced the go-ahead tally.
Hoehle brought the ball out of the cage and looked for an open teammate, but he couldn't find anyone and with the clock about to expire on his time to get rid of the ball, he flung it down the middle of the field.
Problem was, Shea picked it off at midfield and suddenly, the scorer and the goalie were all alone.
Shea could have attempted to lob a risky long shot over Shea, but instead, he raced to the goal and with Hoehle backpedalling, he got close, then shot and tickled the twine to put the Capers ahead, 6-5.
"It was our ride," Shea said. "We executed it so well that the goalie had to get rid of (the ball) and I managed to get it. I just ran and saw it was me and the goalie. That's my ideal situation. It worked out. I realized I didn't have many people around me and I ran right to the goal."
"I would say that's definitely a gift goal, but it was our ride causing problems for them and they panicked and Ben was in the right spot," Raymond said. "Then, he didn't panic and throw it from midfield."
Then, a player with a familiar last name helped open things up in the fourth quarter.
Noah Haversat, the younger brother of last year's Spring Male Athlete of the Year, Adam, who now starts at Plymouth State (N.H.) University, scored unassisted with 10:30 to go and Cape Elizabeth had a multiple goal lead for the first time.
With 6:08 to play, Haversat struck again unassisted and the advantage was 8-5.
"Last year, I was a second- or third-line mid," Haversat said. "This year I'm first-line. I just got a lot bigger and faster and I built up my endurance a lot. We kept on scoring and they got down and we got up. It gave us energy. As the game progressed, we pressured a lot and we got possession a lot."
"Noah was on the field the entire first half and we got him a little rest in the second half," Raymond said. "When he got back on the field, he was more of an offensive threat. His possessions were that much more important in the second half. He did a great job dodging and made good decisions. Everybody has a green light to shoot. They start with a green light. We don't penalize anybody. We try to go to goal as much as possible. Extra shots should come."
Shea scored his final goal with 5:14 remaining, as he finished a feed from Griffin Thoreck.
Yarmouth kept faint hope alive when Joe Oliva scored unassisted with 4:13 to go, but the Clippers would draw no closer and Owen Thoreck iced it with 1:15 to play, as he finished a feed from senior Danny Brett to bring the curtain down on the Capers' statement-making 10-6 victory.
"I think it's huge, because (Yarmouth will) be a good team all season and they'll be worth a lot of Heal Points," Haversat said.
"I think it was a close game most of the way," Raymond said. "I think we played better in the second half. We picked up more ground balls. Defensively, we communicated a little bit better. Our slides were quicker. We didn't give up as many open looks. They settled for shots. We changed things up a little bit. They had some good looks in the first half. Alex made some big saves early in the game that kept us in it. Our ride was incredible all game. Our ability to ride and their inability to clear probably gave us 15 extra possessions.
"We talked about this game being worth a lot of (Heal Points). It could go a long way to determining where you play a playoff game. We don't want to go to Kennebunk. Going to Falmouth is OK, because it's turf. We'd hate to have an early season game cost us. We wanted to get Heal Points.
"Things were less sloppy tonight. We're definitely getting better. Vacation week was great. Playing Bridgton was great for us and gave the kids confidence even though we didn't win. Competing against older kids definitely helped us."
Shea led the way for the Capers with four goals. Haversat and Owen Thoreck both had two, while Pillsbury and Griffin Thoreck each scored once. Griffin Thoreck had two assists, while Brett, Haversat and Owen Thoreck all had one. Narvaez made nine saves.
Of equal importance, Cape Elizabeth won 11 of 20 faceoffs and had a big edge in ground balls, 43-27. Haversat led the way with 10. Senior Tom Feenstra collected nine and Shea and junior Noah Wolfinger, who was active all over the field, finished with four.
"We really focus on special teams," Wolfinger said. "That's a huge contributing factor to us playing all four quarters and winning all phases of the game. We possessed the ball. The defense really did a good job. We always start a little bit slow, but we never put our heads down. We have perseverance to stick through. No matter the score, we feel we always have a chance."
"Noah played really, really well," said Raymond. "He's a key in that ride as a longstick midfielder. He's really stepped up this year. He's one of our more athletic players. He's figured things out."
The Capers committed only 17 turnovers in a tough setting and outshot the Clippers, 32-23 (21-15 on frame).
Yarmouth's offense featured two goals apiece from Dioli and Oliva and one each from Neujahr and Tureff. Watson had two assists and Dioli added one. Dioli, Watson and senior Thomas Lord all had a team-high four ground balls. Hoehle made 11 saves.
The Clippers' 23 turnovers ultimately proved to be too much to overcome as they lost again to their rival.
"I don't think about avenging last year," Pearl said. "When you play Cape, a perennial power, or you play Falmouth or NYA, I don't have to say inspirational words. Guys get fired up. It's a different group of guys this year, but this was an important game to us. Cape's very aggressive and physical and they played that way here. They're big. The faceoffs were a problem, but it was more wing play than the faceoff man. We'll change some things up. We usually have Henry out there. That would have helped."
It's only May
Yarmouth doesn't have much time to lick its wounds and it faces another test Friday at a dangerous Greely squad, one that is capable of springing an upset.
"That won't be easy," Pearl said. "It's a budding rivalry."
After hosting Lake Region Wednesday of next week, the Clippers face the likes of Brunswick, NYA, South Portland, Falmouth and Kennebunk. A second showdown with the Capers will be held May 31 in Cape Elizabeth.
"I think this will be a resilient group," Pearl said. "I really love this team and I think they love each other. Part of being a teenager is that you have to grow up. We have to concentrate on getting better. I think we'll come back tomorrow and get back to work. I know I am."
As for Cape Elizabeth, it will host Kennebunk Saturday evening. After going to Wells Tuesday, its schedule also turns daunting, as showdowns loom against four-time defending Class A champion Scarborough, Falmouth, Brunswick and Greely.
The Capers still hold the upper hand on their Class B rivals, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
"Individually, we might not be as skilled as last year, but as a team, we're just as strong," said Haversat. "We're working on the little things, like ground balls, clearing and catching and throwing. We're working on that harder than last year."
"(Tonight) means a lot for us for Heal Points, but the train keeps rolling and we just look ahead to the next game," said Wolfinger. "We have a long way to go, but we definitely have the talent to get where we want to be. It's about us stepping on to the field every single game and playing at 100 percent. What we've done in the past is great for the program, but we're looking forward to winning games that matter this year. "
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Cape Elizabeth-Yarmouth results
Cape Elizabeth 12 @ Yarmouth 8
@ Cape Elizabeth 10 Yarmouth 5
Yarmouth 9 @ Cape Elizabeth 3
@ Yarmouth 7 Cape Elizabeth 3
Class B State Final
Yarmouth 9 Cape Elizabeth 4
@ Cape Elizabeth 9 Yarmouth 5
@ Yarmouth 8 Cape Elizabeth 7
@ Yarmouth 4 Cape Elizabeth 3
Yarmouth 6 @ Cape Elizabeth 5
@ Cape Elizabeth 8 Yarmouth 6
@ Yarmouth 15 Cape Elizabeth 8
Cape Elizabeth 7 Yarmouth 6
@ Yarmouth 13 Cape Elizabeth 11
Yarmouth 15 @ Cape Elizabeth 7
Yarmouth 11 Cape Elizabeth 6
@ Cape Elizabeth 7 Yarmouth 1
Cape Elizabeth 9 Yarmouth 8 (OT)
Cape Elizabeth 16 @ Yarmouth 6
Cape Elizabeth 15 @ Yarmouth 6