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Another Falmouth coronation in the books

Sports

Another Falmouth coronation in the books

SCARBOROUGH—The most storied boys' soccer program in the state of Maine has done it again.

But it certainly didn't come easily.

"It" was yet another Class B state championship won by the Falmouth boys' soccer juggernaut, the second in a row, ninth in 13 seasons and a record 11th overall.

Saturday afternoon at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex, Falmouth got past Camden Hills for the second year in a row on the final Saturday of the season, by the same score as last year, and in the process, reminded everyone that no other team is as clutch or plays as well from behind.

After a frustrating first half ended 0-0, Falmouth was staggered by a Windjammers' goal just 87 seconds into the second half, but the Yachtsmen have risen off the deck multiple times this fall and it took them all of 60 seconds to answer as sophomore Luke Velas banged home a shot from in close to make it a brand new game.

After several close calls and with overtime looming, Falmouth earned a corner kick and with 8:34 left, a Camden Hills defender stopped a sure goal with his hand, earning a red card, disqualification and giving the Yachtsmen a penalty kick.

Senior J.P. White, fittingly, considering the enormous role he plays for this team, did the honors and there was never a doubt that White would finish. He buried his shot to give Falmouth the lead and the Yachtsmen's unheralded defense slammed the door from there en route to a 2-1 victory.

Falmouth ended the Windjammers' year at 14-2-2 and finished 13-3-2.

"It never gets old," said longtime Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan, who has led the program to all 11 of its championships and now has 314 victories with Falmouth. "It's always special. It's like the first time. We didn't get rattled. I didn't see anyone hang their heads. We knew we had to kick it into the next gear and we did."

Eleventh heaven

Falmouth has long been synonymous with soccer excellence and this century has belonged almost exclusively to the Yachtsmen.

Other than four titles won by rival Yarmouth, Falmouth has ascended to the Class B pinnacle every season since 2000, including last year.

This fall, the Yachtsmen met every challenge early on, but hit some bumps in the road as the season progressed. After holding off visiting Cape Elizabeth, 1-0, in the opener, Falmouth crushed visiting North Yarmouth Academy (8-0) and host Poland (7-0). Then, the Yachtsmen were down 2-1 late at Greely before tying the game in improbable fashion on White's strike with just 3.4 seconds remaining. Falmouth won it, 3-2, in double overtime on a goal from senior Grant Burfeind, last year's playoff hero. Wins at Freeport (3-0) and at home against Gray-New Gloucester (5-0) allowed the Yachtsmen to take a perfect record to Yarmouth Sept. 22 and twice Falmouth rallied to ultimately force a 2-2 draw. After rolling at Traip, 4-1, the Yachtsmen hosted Yarmouth Sept. 29, but despite one more rally, lost in the second overtime, 2-1. Falmouth then settled for a 1-1 tie at York and lost at Cape Elizabeth, 1-0. After a 3-0 home win over Poland, the Yachtsmen stumbled again, 1-0, to visiting Greely. A 4-1 home triumph over York helped Falmouth gain some momentum going into the playoffs.

As the No. 3 seed, the Yachtsmen had little trouble with sixth-ranked Gray-New Gloucester in the quarterfinals, 4-0, but a semifinal round tilt at No. 2 Maranacook was a mighty scare. Falmouth scored first, but the Black Bears tied it and after 80 minutes of regulation and 30 more of overtime, nothing had been decided, necessitating penalty kicks to determine a winner. The Yachtsmen lost at Maranacook in that very fashion back in the 2004 semifinals, but this time, they refused to go home and won the round, 4-1, to take the game, 2-1. Wednesday, Falmouth went to No. 1 Yarmouth for what appeared to be a great matchup, but two early goals gave the Yachtsmen complete command and they never looked back en route to a 2-0 victory.

Falmouth has never lost in the state game, winning Class C in 1996 (4-0 over George Stevens Academy) and 1997 (4-0 over Piscataquis) and Class B in 2000 (4-1 over Mt. Desert Island), 2001 (1-0 over John Bapst), 2002 (2-1 over Winslow), 2003 (6-1 over Winslow), 2006 (2-0 over John Bapst), 2007 (3-0 over Ellsworth), 2009 (3-0 over Ellsworth) and last year (2-1) over Camden Hills.

Camden Hills bounced back from its loss in last year's state final by winning 11 of 14 games, with the only blemishes coming in scoreless draws versus Winslow and Maranacook and a 2-1 loss to Oceanside. The Windjammers earned the No. 2 seed in Eastern B and eliminated No. 7 Hermon (4-0) in the quarterfinals, third-ranked Winslow (2-1) in the semis and No. 1 Ellsworth, 2-1, in overtime, in Thursday's regional final.

The Windjammers are no strangers to the state final either, winning Class B as Camden-Rockport in 1991 (2-1 over Yarmouth) and losing in the state game as Camden-Rockport in 1990 (2-1 to York), 1995 (1-0 to Marshwood) and last year as Camden Hills.

Saturday, nothing came easily, but Falmouth found its way to the pinnacle once more, giving the West 19 straight Class B state game victories.

The first chance went to Camden Hills, but junior captain Peter Vannorsdall shot high in the fourth minute.

In the 10th minute, the Yachtsmen had a good look, but Velas headed a pass from senior Burfeind wide.

Play continued and Falmouth was awarded a free kick from the side, to the right of the goal. White lined it up, bent a shot over the wall and it appeared as if the ball was ticketed for the upper right corner of the goal, but Windjammers' senior sweeper Marshal Crockett leaped and headed the ball out of harm's way to keep the game scoreless.

After White was just wide on a free kick and had another saved by Camden Hills junior goalkeeper Marshall Spear, a header by Yachtsmen senior Alden Bohrmann was grabbed by Spear, despite running into Falmouth senior Cooper Lycan at the same time.

In the 31st minute, a deflected shot by Yachtsmen junior Nick Burton forced Spear (11 saves) to leap to make the stop.

With 8 minutes to go before halftime, the Windjammers had a golden opportunity when a rebound came to senior Alex Blohm, but Blohm's shot at an open net went wide.

Late in the half, Vannorsdall was just high on a free kick and White set up senior Ian McBrady for a header, but Spear made the save.

Just 26 seconds into the second half, Falmouth threatened to take the lead, but a cross from Burfeind was snared by Spear.

Then, the fun began.

With 38:33 left in regulation, Camden Hills got some rare breathing room in the Yachtsmen's zone and junior Grayson Szumilas threaded a pass to junior Colin Morse, who shot past Falmouth junior goalkeeper Will D'Agostino to make it 1-0 Windjammers.

"That was a miscommunication on our part and they made us play, but this is one of the best defensive groups we've had," Halligan said.

"It was a miscommunication in the back," said senior Jack Pike. "We didn't judge it right. It really got us going."

Indeed, the Yachtsmen had Camden Hills right where they wanted.

The lead lasted but a minute.

The Yachtsmen turned up the intensity and the pressure and earned a corner kick. The serve by White was long to the far post, but senior Tom Wilberg won possession, turned and passed to Velas, who had a great look at the goal. Velas' shot was high, but the ball bounced off the bottom of the crossbar and into the net to make it a 1-1 game.

"We know if we get down, we just have to keep working," Velas said. "We did and we got a goal. There was a shuffle. Tom passed it back and I sent it right in. Under the bar. It gave us momentum."

"We knew we had to get one quickly before they packed it in," White said. "Velas came up huge."

"We've played from behind this year and we responded when we got behind," Halligan added. "They say the five minutes after a goal is scored are the most dangerous and we proved that."

Velas (who scored in the state game as a sophomore, something his accomplished older brother, Jimmy, couldn't do until his senior season) went from being loved by his coach to earning Halligan's occasional ire during the course of the game, suggesting that while he's pretty impressive, he's still a work in progress.

"When I stop yelling at him, he should be concerned," Halligan said. "I know he can do it. He knows he can do it. He's a special talent. He'll have to be huge for us down the road."

Camden Hills' shot at an upset had been severely compromised.

"We had it, up 1-0," said Windjammers coach Ryan Hurley. "We knew the first five minutes after that goal would be the most dangerous time in the game and they came out and did what they had to do. They scored the kind of goal they've scored all year. A ball someone doesn't clear and it winds up on someone's foot. We didn't get tight enough on them on the second ball."

Falmouth then went for the kill.

With 34:35 left, Lycan missed an open net.

Two minutes later, Spear had to punch away a White free kick.

With 31:01 showing, Falmouth senior Billy Mullin fed Lycan, but his header was saved.

In the 51st minute, after Szumilas shot wide for the Windjammers, Spear punched away another White free kick, senior Luke Andrews took a pass from Velas and shot high, White one-timed a shot that was saved, White eluded two defenders, shot and had it turned aside and a shot from senior Hugh Grygiel rolled wide.

With 10 minutes to go, White fed Lycan for a low shot which went just wide.

Then, the Yachtsmen struck.

With a little help.

After earning a corner kick, White's serve was right on target, in front of the goal, forcing Spear to commit and come out. The ball was headed by Wilberg on target, but Gallagher stuck out his hand to prevent the ball from going in.

Red card.

Disqualification.

Penalty kick.

"I thought (the defender) was going down to try to head the ball into the ground," said Hurley, who stressed that Gallagher was the reason Camden Hills won its regional final. "I guess his hand touched it. You can't fault him for that."

With 8:34 to play in the game, White strolled to the ball nestled on the PK stripe. With Spear guessing and committing to his left, White calmly struck the ball in the other direction, into the left corner of the goal and Falmouth was finally on top, 2-1.

"I saw the ball shot and it looked like they got a hand on it," said White. "I knew I'd take (the PK). I just wanted to keep it low and on frame. We do it every day after practice. I usually go to the same side every time."

"J.P. has been one of the top players in the state the past four years," Halligan said. "I think he's the top player this year. He doesn't just score goals. He makes things happen. Everything goes through him."

The Windjammers had time to answer, but the Yachtsmen's defense wasn't about to buckle at that stage.

The only chance Camden Hills had came with 4:47 remaining, when Blohm shot just high.

Falmouth almost made it 3-1 with 3:25 left, but Lycan's bid was robbed by a diving Spear.

From there, the Yachtsmen's defenders smothered the Windjammers and when Lycan cleared the ball out of the zone with 22 seconds to play, the celebration began.

When the final horn sounded at 5:02 p.m., Falmouth was a 2-1 victor and had another state title to hail.

"It was tougher than we expected," Velas said. "(Camden Hills is ) a good team. Working as a team and playing together got us through."

"We came into this game thinking we've played together our entire lives and we wanted to come out of it with no regrets and we did that," said Pike. "We knew (Camden Hills) lost a lot of seniors, but that they had some good players this year. We executed our game plan. We were getting chances. We knew we needed to focus and execute and the goals would come. Luke got a nice goal and J.P. had the clutch PK. He's the biggest leader on the team. I'm glad he's on my team."

"We get to go out on top, it's awesome," White added. "It's great to know we left everything on the field. We were a little frustrated, but we knew we had to keep plugging away and that chances would come and we just had to finish.  At the end, we just had to clear it out, hold them and not give them any chances. It was a good job by the defense."

Camden Hills certainly turned Falmouth's head with its effort.

"They're a really good team," White said. "A lot better than what I heard. They put up a good fight. "

"They're a good program," said Halligan. "They've lost one regular season game in three years. I think it helped us playing them last year. We respect them."

Hurley, a former Yarmouth assistant coach, was thrilled with his team's effort.

"We played hard," Hurley said. "I knew we could do it. We're down three starters. My first and third-leading scorers were out of the game and so was one of my center-backs. Concussions and blown out knees. I couldn't be more proud of my boys. That was a hell of an effort."

Ultimately, the Yachtsmen's seniors refused to go home with anything but another trophy.

"Senior leadership was the difference," Pike said. "We have 15 this year. Everyone supports each other. We played together in youth soccer. We came up to high school and won here. We're great friends with great chemistry. We loved playing with each other."

"Everyone wanted to win so badly," White said. "There are so many good players. Being surrounded by the best talent in the state makes you better. You have to rise to the occasion."

"This group of seniors has been a part of our success the past four years," Halligan added. "They're a special group. You could see that when they scored on us. Even in our losses, we played well. Sometimes you can dominate a game and not be successful. That's the game of soccer. I tell the kids to avoid the high highs and the low lows. We had a huge lift beating Yarmouth. You're always concerned about a letdown, but I knew the seniors had winning states as a goal and they rose to the occasion."

New look in 2013

Not only will Falmouth part with 15 seniors prior to next season, but there's a very good chance the Yachtsmen will be playing in Class A by this time next year. After running roughshod over Class B, Falmouth will welcome a new challenge and will, as always, have its sights set on going all the way.

"We'll be young next year, but we're up for the challenge," Halligan said. "If we go to Class A, we'll struggle a little bit. We know what works. It's high school soccer. We'll train the first day of preseason to win another state championship. We don't believe in rebuilding. We believe in making the most of what we have and seeing what happens."

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

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Falmouth sophomore Luke Velas plays the ball between Camden Hills defenders Tristan Fong (31) and Jack Gallagher.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Falmouth senior Ian McBrady battles Camden Hills junior Peter Vannorsdall for possession.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Falmouth senior Cooper Lycan battles Camden Hills freshman Tristan Fong for a ball in the air.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Falmouth senior Grant Burfeind turns the corner on Camden Hills senior Weston Bryant.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Falmouth senior Hugh Grygiel soars to head the ball.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Falmouth senior Luke Andrews seeks leverage while battling Camden Hills junior Grayson Szumilas for the ball.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Falmouth junior goalkeeper Will D'Agostino goes airborne to make a save.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Falmouth sophomore Luke Velas is the center of attention after he ties the game early in the second half.

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