Everything but a winner in first Falmouth-Yarmouth showdown
YARMOUTH—Act one of the 2012 version of the best rivalry in southern Maine high school sports lived up to billing Saturday afternoon, producing the drama, clutch plays and momentum swings we've grown accustomed to from the Falmouth and Yarmouth boys' soccer juggernauts over the years.
The only thing that was missing after 90 palpitating minutes was a resolution.
The teams failed to score in the first half, but the action was fast and furious in the second.
The host Clippers struck first when junior David Clemmer scored on a rebound with 21:28 to play, but just six minutes later, the Yachtsmen answered as senior Ian McBrady buried a rebound.
Yarmouth then appeared to have the win wrapped up when freshman Walter Conrad scored his first varsity goal with just 5:10 remaining, but again, never-say-die Falmouth rose off the canvas and to the surprise of no one, it was senior Grant Burfeind doing the honors, tying the score on a goal out of a scrum just 29 seconds later.
The game would go to overtime, but neither powerhouse could break through and the squads settled for a 2-2 draw, with the promise of even more memories to be made when they meet again for another Saturday Night Special in Falmouth next week.
"It was a great game," said Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty. "It's everything you expect and then some."
Worth the wait
Falmouth and Yarmouth have often met very early in the season in recent years, but this fall, the squads played almost half their respective schedules before squaring off.
The Yachtsmen, who won Class B for the eighth time in 12 seasons last fall, picked right up where they left off with wins over 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).
The Clippers, who have won Class B on the four occasions that Falmouth has not, most recently in 2010, suffered a stunning playoff ouster a year ago, falling to Fryeburg in the quarterfinals, but they have quickly returned to form this autumn. After battling back from an early 2-0 deficit to tie host NYA (2-2) in the opener, Yarmouth defeated visiting Lake Region (4-0) and Cape Elizabeth (4-1), host York (1-0) and Cape Elizabeth (2-1) and visiting Poland (4-0).
In the early part of the 21st Century (please see sidebar), Falmouth had a clear edge over Yarmouth (winning 14 times and tying two others in 18 meetings between 2000 and 2007), but in recent seasons, the rivalry has tilted more the Clippers way to the tune of a 5-4-2 edge over the past four seasons.
In 2010, Yarmouth beat the Yachtsmen for the first time in nine tries on its own turf field, went on to down them again in Falmouth, then once more (in overtime) in a breathtaking Western Class B Final in Yarmouth. The Clippers actually made it four straight over the Yachtsmen with a 2-1 home victory in the first meeting last autumn, but Falmouth bounced back with a 1-0 home triumph, a win which spearheaded its championship run.
Saturday, in a game which began under a blazing sun, but ended with fog and a chill in the air, the rivals put on a great show of skill, tenacity and athleticism in front of a big crowd, but ultimately had to kiss their respective sisters.
The visitors had the better of the play early.
In the second minute, senior standout J.P. White got to a loose throw in the Yarmouth box and deflected the ball to McBrady, but his shot was denied by Clippers senior goalkeeper Andrew Fochler.
In the 16th minute, sophomore Luke Velas fought for the ball in a scrum and managed to get a shot off, but he couldn't get much on it and again, Fochler got in the way.
Yarmouth then flipped the switch and for the rest of the half (with one exception), had the Yachtsmen on their heels.
With 16:05 to go in the half, Falmouth junior goalkeeper Will D'Agostino first made his presence felt by racing out to snare a cross from Clippers senior Mark Brown, which was intended for junior Ben Decker.
Two minutes later, a nice run from Yarmouth senior Ethan Cyr created a scoring chance, but sophomore Adam LaBrie, who has enjoyed a knack for timely goals so far this year, saw his bid denied at the last second when Yachtsmen senior Jack Pike knocked the ball away.
With 6:32 left, Clippers junior Wyatt Jackson won a 50-50 ball and sent a shot on goal, but D'Agostino turned it away.
Falmouth can create offense from anywhere on the field and that was evident in the 35th minute, when White beat a pair of Yarmouth defenders and forced Fochler to make a sprawling save.
The Clippers then returned to the attack and junior David Murphy sent a cross that was just out of the reach of Decker. Decker ran the ball down, however, and sent a cross on goal, but D'Agostino came out to claim it.
"I'd have to say we're a really deep team," said Yarmouth junior Chandler Smith, who had a stellar afternoon. "There are so many good players that we can play without dropping a level. When subs came on, we really picked it up. We're in great shape right now. The first 15, 20 minutes, we got a little flustered, but we'll start coming into our own earlier in the game."
Yarmouth's best look of the half came with 1:54 remaining when senior Griffin O'Rourke took a pass from Jackson and had a point blank shot that D'Agostino denied.
"I felt like I was on my game," D'Agostino said. "I just did what I had to do."
"Sometimes you forget about those saves, but he kept us int the game and gave us a chance," said Falmouth coach Dave Halligan.
As time wound down, the Clippers earned their fourth corner kick of the half, but Jackson's header went just high and 40 minutes had resolved nothing.
Neither would the next 50, but was there ever ample excitement.
Yarmouth continued to carry play early in the second half and with 31:26 to go, a corner kick off the foot of Decker forced D'Agostino to come out and punch the ball away.
Six minutes later, Clippers senior Thomas Sullivan eluded two defenders, then appeared to slip a third to race in free on goal, but in the process, the ball bounced up and hit his hand, killing the play.
After Fochler broke up a Burfeind rush at one end, Yarmouth transitioned to offense and finally, with 21:28 to go, the hosts broke the ice.
The goal was started on a corner kick, as Decker lofted a nice ball into the box. Jackson outleaped the throng gathered there and sent a header that D'Agostino couldn't reach. The visitors got a momentary reprieve when the ball ricocheted off the crossbar, but it came right to Clemmer in front and he buried the rebound for a 1-0 advantage.
"The first goal was unfortunate," D'Agostino said. "It hit the post and went right to his feet. Nothing we could do."
What Falmouth could do was answer and the Yachtsmen did just that.
A mere 33 seconds after the goal, White managed to get around Fochler, who had come out to play him, and sent a cross on goal, but a Yarmouth defender managed to steer it out of harm's way.
The next Falmouth threat, however, resulted in the equalizer.
With 15:18 remaining in regulation, dangerous Yachtsmen senior Cooper Lycan found himself with a lot of room in the middle. He dribbled in, then sent a low rocket at Fochler. The goal managed to get in front of the ball, but couldn't handle the rebound.
"We beat them on a rebound last year," said Hagerty. "It happens. Andy has to trust also that his backs will check back and try to clear those for him. I thought he did a good job knowing when to come off his line and when to stay back and I thought the backs did a really nice job."
Just like that, the wind was out of the Clippers' sails, but there was still plenty of time to go.
Fochler earned a measure of redemption with 14:32 to play when he made a sprawling save of a low shot from Falmouth senior Hugh Grygiel.
Two minutes later, a free kick from Smith was punched away by D'Agostino.
D'Agostino then had to make a sprawling save on a low shot from Murphy with 6:46 to play.
The Clippers kept the pressure on and with 5:10 to go, appeared to win it as Decker fed junior Max Watson, who passed to Conrad moving to his left. Conrad, a lefty, had room and tucked a shot over D'Agostino, to the goalie's right, and Yarmouth was up, 2-1.
The problem for the home team was that there was still time on the clock and as long as even a second remains, Falmouth never gives up.
The Yachtsmen tied the game at Greely with 3.4 seconds remaining. This time, they responded quickly, as in just 29 seconds after the Clippers took the lead.
Falmouth pushed on offense and again, Lycan set up the goal, sending a ball into the box, where it caromed free right to the foot of Burfeind and no one scores late goals like Grant Burfeind.
Since beating Yarmouth in last year's regular season game, all Burfeind has managed to do is score the winner in the regional final at York, in the state game, then last week in overtime at Greely.
Burfeind made sure he did his job and just like that, before the Yarmouth cheering section had even quieted down from Conrad's goal, the game was deadlocked anew, 2-2.
"I feel like we play our best when we're down," said Burfeind. "When we got in those situations, we got desperate and that led to good stuff. We need to play like that all the time. We were fired up. We weren't going to lose the game. We've been in that situation before. We just did what we do best. I can't exactly remember, but I feel like it was a classic scrum up front. I just had to bang it in. I was in the right place at the right time."
"Twice we came back," said Halligan. "I'm pleased with the effort. It's a veteran group. They've been in a lot of close games and they know it's not over until the final whistle. They fight to the end."
The Clippers were stunned.
"We didn't track our runs enough," said Smith. "That won't happen again. The goals shouldn't have happened and won't in the future."
"I'm not sure exactly how they tied it, but of course it was Burfeind," said Hagerty. "He's a crafty kid. Dave does a nice job moving those kids around. We were in a matchup zone, not man-to-man. We had to be aware of his strength, which is moving without the ball."
Both teams had chances to win it in regulation.
Just 15 seconds after drawing even, McBrady fired a low shot that Fochler was able to handle.
With 3:04 to go, Murphy's cross on a corner kick was punched away again by D'Agostino.
With 1:30 showing, McBrady headed away a Yarmouth corner and it was off to overtime.
In Maine high school soccer, in the regular season, teams play two five-minute, "sudden victory" overtimes. If the game remains deadlocked after 10 minutes, it results in a tie.
That's how this one would play out, but not without more drama and an ample dose of controversy.
Just 1:17 into the first OT, White and Jackson went up for a ball in the air. A harsh collision ensued with White taking the worst of it, having to leave the game with what Falmouth athletic trainer Rob Sullivan later called a broken nose. The game's lead official said afterwards that the collision was face to face and no elbow was involved and as a result, no yellow or red card was issued.
Halligan and assistant Todd Whitcomb were apoplectic.
"Absolutely it should have had some punishment," said Halligan. "You saw the same thing I saw."
Not surprisingly, Hagerty saw things differently.
"That was a horrible play when poor J.P. got it in the face," Hagerty said. "(Wyatt) won the ball. His elbows weren't up. It was a face to face hit. We'll watch it on tape. You never want to see someone get hurt. It wasn't a foul and it didn't change the game. It was unfortunate."
White was able to return for the final minute of the game.
"I was glad he was able to get back in because he's probably the best player in the conference," said Hagerty.
Later in the first OT, Fochler beat Grygiel to a loose ball in the box and a free kick off the foot of Smith at the other end was bobbled by D'Agostino, but ultimately corralled at the last second.
Two minutes into the final five-minute session, a Falmouth foul just outside the box gave Yarmouth a free kick, but Murphy's boot bounced off an attacker.
With 1:50 to go, Murphy sent a cross that was too high to be dangerous.
The final chance went to the Yachtsmen, as with nine seconds to go, Lycan got into the box, but Clippers junior defender Travis Hamre stole the ball and that was that.
Yarmouth 2 Falmouth 2.
See you next week.
Since the Yachtsmen rallied twice to tie, they were a little more pleased with the result, but still wanted more.
"We knew, especially for the seniors, that it might be the last time we played on this field, so it was a big game for us," said Burfeind. "We came in and gave it everything we had."
"We grew a lot today," D'Agostino said. "We'll try to take what we learned in this game and apply it to next time we see them. Hopefully we'll play better next time. We're looking forward to it."
"It was a good game up to a point," Halligan added. "We would have liked to have come away with a win, but I was happy with how (the guys) responded."
The Clippers felt they let one get away, but splitting Heal Points with the defending champion is not the worst thing in the world.
"It's a little disappointing, but mainly because we could have found another level, played cleaner and better and taken better shots," said Smith. "It was a fantastic game. It was really great intensity. We really played as a team. We gave so much. The intense rivalry just adds to the team atmosphere. Andrew played really well tonight. He's an unbelievable goalie. Our backs are playing out their minds right now. We'll clean up our mistakes as the season goes on."
"I would have liked the 'W,'" said Hagerty. "Our goal today was to try to put pressure on them. A lot of teams over the years, and we've done it, sit back against Falmouth and defend and hope to counter, so we decided to go out there and try to get numbers forward. I thought all the kids did a good job. I thought Ethan Cyr played as well as I've seen in four years. Walter's a freshman. He never played that position before. We put him there because he's left-footed on the left side. His goal should have been the winner. We held them scoreless for 65 minutes. That's pretty good against that offense. We will learn from this game for sure. That's the most dangerous team we've played so far. Clearly. The next time we play them, we have to take advantage of any chances we get. I thought the kids did a nice job on set pieces and made some nice runs out of the midfield. We had more chances. It's a really positive showing. I'm still really pleased with our depth and our work ethic. We went in against a senior heavy team. They start nine seniors and we didn't blink. Our young kids were excellent tonight."
One of the key matchups Saturday was Smith doing his best to hold the explosive White in check. Smith, with some help of course, managed to keep White off the score sheet.
"(J.P. is) really good, but you have to stay composed and can't lunge," said Smith. "He reads the lunge. I know I had other backs to support me. We played hard soccer. No words were shared between us. It was really nice to play against him. It was a good challenge."
"I thought Chandler's reads on when to step in those lanes was terrific," Hagerty said. "He played him as well as you can."
Statistically, Yarmouth had a 14-9 advantage in shots (8-7 on frame). The Clippers had a commanding 11-1 edge in corner kicks. Both D'Agostino and Fochler made five saves.
No rest for the weary
Before the rivals square off again Saturday at 6:15 p.m., at Falmouth High School, they both face other tests this week.
The Yachtsmen (now 6-0-1 and first in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) go to an unfamiliar field and foe in Class C Traip Academy Tuesday. Falmouth also has two games remaining against York and one each versus Cape Elizabeth and Greely before the regular season ends.
"We're not satisfied with this," said Burfeind. "We want to win every game. We'll see them at home. We'll play hard next Saturday."
The Clippers (5-0-2 and second in Western B) have the daunting task of visiting Greely Thursday, which won't be an easy task. Yarmouth then goes to Falmouth Saturday and also still has home games left against Greely and York.
"There's so much room for growth," Smith said. "We keep picking it up. It's so much fun. We just played Cape-York-Cape and that was a fantastic week for us. We're deep and can keep everyone fresh without lowering the level of soccer. That's something we have this year that we didn't have last year. We're looking forward to next Saturday."
"There are areas we can get better and cleaner," Hagerty said. "Falmouth is the preseason favorite. This is hopefully good confidence we can beat anybody. We see them in a week and have Greely in between. What a week!"