Lightning (make that Edgecomb) strikes twice...Yarmouth downs Falmouth in OT again
FALMOUTH—For years, Yarmouth and Falmouth male athletes have produced riveting drama on the pitch, hardwood and the ice.
Friday evening, the ancient rivals played a lacrosse game for the ages, an epic that spilled over the allotted 48 minutes into overtime and into lore.
The two-time defending Class B state champion Yachtsmen appeared to have control of the game on several occasions, leading 3-0 early, 11-7 late in the third quarter and 14-11 with six minutes to play, but the hosts couldn't deliver a knockout punch.
The Clippers, in a long-awaited offensive explosion, kept on fighting and when senior Ian Edgecomb scored back-to-back goals with 2:27 and 1:59 remaining in regulation, Yarmouth had forged a tie.
The game would go to overtime and then was over in a flash, as Clippers junior Brady Neujahr, who has known so many memorable moments on the gridiron, won a controversial faceoff, passed to senior Ethan Cyr and Cyr found Edgecomb for a quick shot into the goal for his second game-winner this spring against the Yachtsmen and a palpitating 15-14 victory.
Yarmouth rose from the dead to improve to 9-2, drop Falmouth to 7-4 and perhaps set the stage for a third meeting, which would come in the state final June 15 and would likely be found lacking compared to the two regular season showdowns to date.
"Wow," said an emotionally spent Clippers coach David Pearl. "This was an epic. It's shaped up to be quite a rivalry. I told them after the game, I think this is something I don't think you'll ever forget. It's the beauty of sport. Being an underdog and coming from behind. This team has shown that all season. We've been down in so many games and we've always come back. We never gave up. That's been the theme. I'm really proud of them."
This rivalry has gone from one extreme to the other over the past couple seasons (please see sidebar, below).
Prior to May 13, 2011, Falmouth had never beaten the Clippers, but starting with a 14-5 win that evening (which ended Yarmouth's nine-year, 73-game home win streak), the Yachtsmen began a four-game win streak over the Clippers by a composite 57-18 margin. Last year, Falmouth beat Yarmouth twice, 14-7 at home and 12-6 away.
On April 24, however, the Clippers swung the pendulum back with a palpitating 10-9 overtime win on Edgecomb's goal just 22 seconds into the extra session.
That was part of a tough start to the season for the Yachtsmen. After an 18-1 home win over Portland, Falmouth fell in OT again, 11-10, at home to Cape Elizabeth. The Yachtsmen got back in the win column, 10-2, at Lake Region, then earned a big dose of confidence with an 8-5 home victory over NYA. That victory kicked the Yachtsmen in gear and they proceeded to down visiting Wells (18-8), host Deering (14-4) and host Greely (12-3). Falmouth's win streak came to an end last week with a 9-6 loss at Cape Elizabeth, but Tuesday, the Yachtsmen handled visiting York from start to finish, 17-2.
Yarmouth, which had won at rival NYA, 7-6, also on an Edgecomb game-winner, before the OT win over Falmouth, started 3-0 with a 15-4 victory at South Portland, then was finally bested, 7-5, at Cape Elizabeth. 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 three-time defending Class A state champion Scarborough, 10-7, Saturday.
Friday night, in a game played for the most part in a steady rainfall, Yarmouth was seeking its first win on Falmouth's turf field and its first over the Yachtsmen since 2010, but Falmouth was bound and determined to gain revenge from the first meeting.
Something had to give and it took 48 minutes, 10 seconds to finally deliver resolution and who says history doesn't repeat itself?
The Yachtsmen appeared en route to an easy win when they shot to a quick 3-0 lead.
Junior Joe Dancoes got the offense going when he took a pass from classmate I.V. Stucker and finished just under four minutes in. The tandem hooked up again with 3:38 left in the first period and 13 seconds later, after one of junior Tyler Jordan's many faceoff wins, Stucker scored unassisted for a 3-0 advantage.
Falmouth gave Yarmouth some life late in the first, however, as senior standout Charlie Fay was penalized for a slash and with 1:01 to go, senior Nick Ronan took a pass from Neujahr and beat Yachtsmen senior goalie Will Nash to get his team on the board.
"I think it was pregame jitters that led into the first quarter," Edgecomb said. "It took us a little while to get the traction under our feet, no pun intended with the wet turf. Once we got it going, we were trading blows, back and forth."
Falmouth gave the visitors another gift to start the second quarter as Dancoes' stick was deemed to have too deep a pocket, giving the Clippers a one minute man advantage. Neujahr almost pulled Yarmouth closer, but his shot hit the post.
The visitors' offense was just kicking into gear, however, and with 10:12 to play before halftime, sophomore Joe Oliva scored his first goal (unassisted) to make it 3-2.
Senior Quinn Hathcock tied it unassisted two minutes later, but the Yachtsmen went back on top on an unassisted tally from Stucker.
The Clippers forged another tie when Oliva scored unassisted with 6:39 to go before the break, but Falmouth countered again and went back on top, 5-4, when Fay took a pass from senior Kris Samaras and beat Yarmouth senior goalie Sam Landry.
Again, the Clippers rallied and drew even when senior Christian Henry scored unassisted.
This time, after a penalty to Stucker for a cross-check, Yarmouth managed to go on top for the first time as Neujahr finished a feed from junior Isaac Dearden for a 6-5 advantage with just over three minutes to play before halftime.
That lead lasted just over a minute as Fay tied the score with an unassisted strike with 1:33 left.
Thirteen seconds later, Samaras scored unassisted to give Falmouth the lead, 7-6.
Stucker had a chance to extend the advantage further, but Landry robbed him in front to keep the Clippers' deficit at a single goal.
The second half would be as explosive and entertaining as the first.
When Fay scored unassisted and Gilbert was credited for a goal on a pass which somehow deflected into the net, the Yachtsmen appeared to be back in control, leading, 9-6, but with 7:22 to play in the third quarter, Oliva found sophomore Brendan Dioli, who has emerged as a star in recent games, for a goal to make it 9-7.
"Dioli did a really good job up top," Neujahr said. "It 's a team game. We got it moving. We never quit."
Falmouth then got a man-up goal from Fay (assisted by Gilbert) and with 3:51 left in third, after Fay scored unassisted (leaping a sprawling Clipper defender in a single bound before finishing), the lead was 11-7.
Yarmouth refused to buckle and got an unassisted goal from Dioli after a spin move and an unassisted tally from Henry to make it an 11-9 contest.
An unassisted goal from Fay with 24.9 seconds left in the stanza appeared to give the Yachtsmen momentum, but after Neujahr handed Jordan a rare faceoff defeat, Neujhar fed Henry for a goal to make it 12-10 after three quarters.
Hathcock scored unassisted 63 seconds into the fourth, pulling the Clippers within a single goal, but after Yarmouth threw the ball away, Stucker somehow came up with it behind the defense, raced in and scored to make it 13-11 with 10:13 to play.
Fay added an unassisted goal, his seventh of the night, with 9:09 remaining, giving Falmouth a 14-11 lead, but the Yachtsmen wouldn't score again.
The Clippers' rally began with 5:58 to go when Henry scored unassisted.
The Yachtsmen almost delivered the dagger with 3:20 left as Dancoes took a pass and had a wide open look in front, but Landry made the game's biggest save.
"That was the only time I thought it might be over, if Joe Dancoes scored on the fastbreak," Falmouth coach Mike LeBel said. "If we got that goal, we'd have been good."
Instead, that save kept Yarmouth within hailing distance and when Edgecomb scored his first goal of the game (unassisted, with 2:27 to go), the Clippers had life.
Sure enough, Yarmouth won the ensuing faceoff and with 1:59 to play in regulation, Edgecomb scored unassisted to tie the game, 14-14.
"Ian had a great game," Pearl said. "He works really hard. He has to be patient. He wanted it tonight and you could see it in his eyes."
The game would ultimately go to overtime, but not before the visitors had their chances to end it in regulation.
After the Clippers won possession on the ensuing faceoff and called timeout, Falmouth senior Hugh Grygiel was sent to the sidelines for a minute for a cross-check, giving the visitors a golden opportunity to cap their comeback with an improbable win.
It wasn't to be as Henry shot high and Edgecomb had a bid denied by Nash as time wound down.
In Maine boys' high school lacrosse, teams play as many four-minute "sudden victory" overtimes as necessary until a winner emerges.
It isn't often the winning goal comes from the overtime faceoff, but in this case, that's how it played out, much to Yarmouth's jubilation and Falmouth's chagrin.
Jordan and Neujahr met in the circle to start the OT and Neujahr managed to come up with possession, even though the Falmouth sideline screamed for a trip to be called on Neujahr, who had knocked Jordan off balance.
The Yachtsmen barely had time to register their complaint before the Clippers were exulting.
Neujahr came up with the loose ball, quickly passed to Cyr and Cyr found Edgecomb alone for a shot. Edgecomb, whose legend grows by the hour, got the pass and didn't hesitate, firing a shot while standing just in front of the crease which Nash had no chance to stop.
The clock read 8:43 p.m.
Yarmouth 15 Falmouth 14.
You've got to be kidding me.
"It was almost identical to the first game," Edgecomb said. "Brady got it, picked it up and it was 1-2-3. I just had to take the shot. It feels like deja vu, except we were on a different field. Doing it at Falmouth means a lot more. It's one thing to beat them with our fans behind us, but this is their hallowed ground. It means a lot to come in here and beat them. Brady hasn't been our main faceoff guy. It took him awhile to get in the swing of things. He didn't win a lot of them, but he won the ones that counted. Coming back from the Scarborough loss, which was a tough loss, we needed this to get the fire burning again. "
"Coach said to me, 'You got this,'" said Neujahr. "I didn't win many (faceoffs). I don't even know how that happened. I just kind of got in there, pushed him off and got it and did what we've been taught to do. It's amazing. We work on that drill every day. It was basically the same thing as last time. There's something about overtime, it's whoever gets the ball first seems to win. It's awesome. There's nothing like this in sports. You dream about overtime games like this. This is up there with some of my football wins."
"The fact we won the last faceoff shows that Brady didn't give up," Pearl added. "It's so hard to lose 80 percent of the faceoffs and go out to the circle time and again. He hadn't taken a faceoff since the last time we played Falmouth. I give all the credit to him. He won the one that mattered. You could see our seniors wanted it tonight. They've lost on this field the last couple years. I'm really, really proud of them. This team has a lot of heart. We have a ball when we practice.
"We were very confident going into overtime. When we get the ball on offense, we feel we can score every time. The guys are showing patience, possessing the ball and looking for matchups and shots. The fastbreak at the end was really beautiful. We didn't have possession a lot, but when we did, we scored. We cleared well. They had beautiful goals, we had beautiful goals. Everyone looked for matchups in their favor. It was a lot of fun. This is something we've looked forward to. Beating them at home is a joy, but there's a lot to be said for winning here. Falmouth's a dangerous team. There's a decent chance we'll see them again."
LeBel was left apoplectic.
"I think it was an absolutely blown call," LeBel said. "One of the worst non-calls I've seen. Especially when (Tyler) had won 75 percent of the faceoffs. He's the best faceoff guy in the state. They had to do what they could to prevent it. A team shouldn't win on a non-call like that. Losing on a blatant trip like that was unfair. It's extremely disappointing. It's not the way that game should have ended."
The Clippers got four goals from Henry, three from Edgecomb, two apiece from Dioli, Hathcock and Oliva and one each from Neujahr and Ronan. Neujahr hd two assists, while Cyr, Dearden and Oliva all finished with one. Landry wound up with 10 saves, all of which were critical. While Yarmouth was dominated in the faceoff circle, Neujahr managed to win six of 15 chances, including the biggest of all at the end.
Yarmouth had a 43-40 edge in ground balls, as Henry led the Clippers with seven. Neujahr collected six.
Falmouth got seven goals from the unstoppable Fay.
"We really had a hard time with Fay," Pearl said. "He's really a hard matchup for us. He's big and strong. He's got an incredible angle shooting from up high and he has an incredible shot."
Stucker added three goals, Dancoes two and Gilbert and Samaras one apiece. Stucker assisted on two goals, while Gilbert and Samaras had one helper apiece. Nash made 11 saves.
The Yachtsmen controlled possession, as Jordan won 12 ground balls and Gilbert won 22 of 31 opportunities.
Falmouth only turned the ball over 15 times (as did Yarmouth) and had a 38-37 shots advantage (although the Clippers put 26 shots on cage to 24 for the Yachtsmen).
"I told the kids I'd like to blame the loss on the officials, but I can't," said LeBel. "We had multiple chances to put the game out of reach, but we continually made mental mistakes and (Yarmouth) converted. Offensively, I thought we played very well. Whenever you score 14 goals, you should win the game. When you win that lopsided a number of faceoffs, you should win. We had extra possessions, but we kept shooting ourselves in the foot. The defense just broke down. Kudos to Yarmouth for staying in it. It was just too easy at times. It was similar to the Cape game. (Yarmouth) took the ball and scored. Their attack was better than our defense tonight. There just wasn't enough intensity or passion. We were up 3-0 and got a penalty and they scored. We didn't manage the lead correctly.
"The Cape loss was probably worse. We had that game in hand. The first Yarmouth game was back and forth all game. The second Cape game, we just melted down. Tonight, there's no one to blame but ourselves."
Falmouth (which closes at NYA Wednesday) is likely locked into the No. 2 spot in Western Class A.
"It was a tough one tonight, but we didn't really need it for Heal Points or seeding," LeBel said. "It would have been good for confidence. Now, we have to re-establish it. We'll learn from this and try to fix what's wrong. We'll keep trying to improve. We want to turn things around and have a good performance against NYA. We need a boost."
Yarmouth (battling NYA and Gardiner for the top spot in Eastern B) finishes up the regular season Thursday with another daunting test, a visit from Cape Elizabeth, which really flustered the Clippers in the teams' first meeting. Yarmouth is hoping to close strong and produce a few more palpitating victories when it matters most.
"The last few years it's been Cape-Falmouth," Edgecomb said. "Now, it's us, Cape, Falmouth and NYA. Everyone's neck-and-neck. One goal could change the course of history."
"We look forward to having another chance to matchup with (Cape)," Pearl said. "I want to win because I want to beat Cape. We want to be ranked first, but we want to put a full game together against a great team. There are so many players on these teams that are incredible. Beautiful lacrosse is being played."
Never was that more evident than Friday evening amid conditions that were anything but.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Falmouth-Yarmouth meetings
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Yarmouth 13 @ Falmouth 2