Yarmouth downs Falmouth in OT classic
YARMOUTH—Moments after his team's biggest win in three years, Yarmouth senior goalie Sam Landry said it all.
Simply and concisely.
Yes, the storied Clippers program is back and if Saturday's palpitating last-minute victory at crosstown rival North Yarmouth Academy wasn't enough to emphasize that point, Wednesday's evening's even more thrilling 10-9 overtime win over visiting, two-time defending Class B state champion Falmouth left no doubt.
In a game that was as close as close can be for 48-plus minutes, neither team led by more than two goals and on eight different occasions, the Yachtsmen and Clippers found themselves deadlocked, the final occurrence coming when Falmouth junior Brad Gilbert scored with 42.7 seconds to play in regulation.
That necessitated an extra session, but it didn't take long for Yarmouth to send its fans home happy.
After senior Ethan Cyr somehow came out of a monster scrum with the faceoff, he raced into the attacking zone and fed senior Christian Henry, who spotted classmate Ian Edgecomb open in front of the goal. Edgecomb took the pass and finished and the Clippers were able to celebrate a 10-9 triumph which changed the pre-conceptions of the Class B landscape.
Junior Brady Neujahr led the way with three goals and Landry made 15 saves as Yarmouth improved to 2-0 and dropped Falmouth to 0-1 in the early going.
"Winning at home against a team of that quality is a great feeling," said Clippers coach David Pearl. "It's been a long time coming. We've had a rough two years against those guys. We really didn't have anything to lose. It's an early-season game. We weren't expected to win. A lot of these guys had never beaten (Falmouth). We know we're a better team this year (than we have been). I had a lot of confidence. This was really fun all the way to the end."
A taste of June lacrosse in April
Falmouth has become the premier program in the state, a distinction Yarmouth held not too long ago. Last year, the Yachtsmen beat NYA, 7-4, to win their second straight Class B state championship. Falmouth lost several key players to graduation or, in the case of standout Willy Sipperly, to prep school, but the program is strong enough to allow the Yachtsmen to remain on the short list of favorites.
Yarmouth fell by a goal to NYA in last year's regional final, but likes its chances to return to the elite this spring, making an impressive statement in its opener, edging host NYA, 7-6, on a goal from Edgecomb with 44.9 seconds to go.
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.
Wednesday, the Yachtsmen quickly learned that these Clippers are more in the mold of the champions of yore and an instant classic quickly developed.
It took only 54 seconds for Yarmouth to strike first, as sophomore Joe Oliva somehow got his stick on a pass from behind the goal and the ball deflected past Falmouth senior goalie Will Nash into the net for a 1-0 lead.
When Neujahr scored unassisted with 8:18 to go in the first period, the hosts appeared to be in good shape, but the lead quickly vanished.
Individual goals from junior I.V. Stucker and senior standout Charlie Fay in a 49-second span made it a 2-2 contest.
The Clippers went back on top when Neujahr took a pass from Cyr and beat Nash with 2:46 left in the first, but 24 seconds later, Yachtsmen junior Tyler Jordan fed sophomore Bryce Kuhn, who beat Landry to tie it again, 3-3, which is how the first quarter ended.
"(Yarmouth) always comes out very aggressive at the beginning of the game, especially at home," said Falmouth coach Mike LeBel. "They're very prideful here. When we've beaten them before here, but it's always close at halftime."
Neither team could seize control in the second period either.
Fifty-five seconds in, Yarmouth retook the lead, 4-3, on an unassisted goal from senior Nick Ronan.
Gilbert tied it with an unassisted goal with 10:27 to go before halftime.
Falmouth took what proved to be its only lead 20 seconds later, when Fay fed Kuhn for a goal, but the Clippers made it 5-5 when Henry set up junior Isaac Dearden for a goal with 5:07 showing in the half.
With 34.4 seconds to go, Cyr scored unassisted and Yarmouth took a 6-5 advantage to intermission.
The first half statistics were symbolic of the game's closeness, as the Yachtsmen won seven of 13 faceoffs, ground balls and turnovers were dead even and the Clippers had a slight (23-20) shots advantage.
Nothing changed in quarter number three.
Falmouth tied the score 91 seconds in when Kuhn made a heads-up play, batting home a loose ball in front of Landry, hockey-style, to make it 6-6.
Yarmouth went back on top, 7-6, when Oliva set up Ronan at the 7:25 mark, but with 5:50 left, Stucker found Gilbert for a goal which tied the score once more.
The Clippers went back on top in the see-saw affair, 8-7, when, playing man-up after a Yachtsmen penalty, Neujahr scored unassisted.
That's how it would stay entering what would be an action-packed fourth period.
A minute in, Fay attempted to tie the score, but his rocket was snared by Landry.
Falmouth would tie the game, 8-8, with 9:50 left in regulation, as senior Kris Samaras pounced on a rebound and scored a man-up goal.
The game would stay deadlocked for nearly seven minutes, but both teams had opportunities to go on top.
Nash robbed both Edgecomb and Oliva.
At the other end, Landry denied scoring chances by Gilbert and Fay.
Then, with 2:55 remaining, Edgecomb spotted Cyr in traffic in front, Cyr caught the pass, then fired through a screen past Nash to make it 9-8 Yarmouth.
The Clippers had their chances to close out the win in regulation, but couldn't do so.
After winning the ensuing faceoff, Yarmouth turned the ball over.
Landry then twice frustrated Stucker to keep the Clippers on top.
Yarmouth transitioned to offense, but with 1:15 to go, a shot by Cyr landed on the outside netting of the goal, giving the ball back to the champs.
Nine seconds later, the Clippers made life more difficult for themselves when Oliva had to come off the field for 30 seconds after being flagged for pushing.
Sure enough, Falmouth took advantage.
It would be Gilbert doing the honors, finishing a pass from Stucker and for the eighth time, the game was deadlocked, this time, 9-9.
Yarmouth almost won it in regulation, but Ronan was denied in close by Nash and Cyr, with time winding down, got the ball with room in front, but he bounced his shot over the cage and it was on to overtime.
In the short interim between the end of regulation and the start of overtime, the Clippers didn't panic even though they'd let a lead slip away in the final minute and had apparently given Falmouth the momentum.
"We talked about just doing the simple things we do well," Pearl said. "When guys don't do what we practice and don't have trust in their teammates, we have silly mistakes. We had some mental errors and let them get back in the game."
In Maine high school boys' lacrosse, teams play as many four-minute "sudden victory" overtime sessions as necessary until someone scores to determine a winner.
This one was over quickly.
Cyr and Jordan did battle in the faceoff circle and the ball was batted around with several Falmouth players having an opportunity to snare it. It didn't happen and somehow, Cyr came out of the scrum with the ball.
"Cyr's one of the hardest workers on the field," said Edgecomb. "He spends time in the weight room and on the field. He's smart, he's strong. We really need him."
"When Ethan Cyr is possessed as he was in getting that ground ball, he'll get the ground ball," Pearl said. "He's a great lacrosse player. We asked a lot of him tonight."
With that bit of unpleasantness out of the way, Cyr found some open space in the midfield and ran into the attacking zone.
As the defense converged, Cyr passed to Henry behind the goal and as Henry made his move, a defender came over to impede his progress.
That left Edgecomb wide open on the doorstep.
Henry spotted his open teammate and all Edgecomb had to do was fire the ball into the net before Nash could recover.
Yarmouth 10 Falmouth 9.
"(The ball) went to Christian, my guy left me to get to him and I was just there to finish," said Edgecomb. "It was great. Our first game was a statement, but this is really statement that we're back. We're reinstating Yarmouth Pride. We haven't really had it the past two years. It really shows that even though (Falmouth's) the defending champions, that we're there too. They can't run over us like they did the last two years.
"(Heading into overtime), we just wanted to stay strong. It (stunk) they tied it up, but mistakes happen. They capitalized. I think we just were able to rally and keep the momentum we had going throughout the game."
"Ian's very patient," Pearl said. "He's learned his role. I thought he played a great game tonight. He was responsible for a lot of the patience we showed on offense. He showed a lot of maturity. I kept telling him, 'Be patient. Be patient. It's going to be there.' He came off the field and said, 'Coach, I'm a patient man.' It's nice when it works out like that."
Yarmouth celebrated as if it won a championship.
"There really are no words to describe it," Landry said. "It's really a family. We pulled through tonight."
The Clippers featured a balanced offense with six different goal scorers. Neujahr had three, Cyr and Ronan two each and Dearden, Edgecomb and Oliva one apiece.
"Some of those goals were really beautiful," said Pearl. "The goals that were easy were fruits of working hard as a team."
Henry added two assists, while Cyr, Edgecomb and Oliva all had one.
Then, there was Landry, who was brilliant to the tune of 15 saves.
"It's been fun," Landry said. "Fun is the overwhelming feeling I've been having. I wasn't feeling so good yesterday, but I came back today ready to go. I was seeing the ball well."
"Sam has stepped up incredibly," Edgecomb said. "He's picked up his game."
"Sam Landry was unbelievable," Pearl said. "He sat behind Alex Kurtz for three years. He's come out and made incredible saves and incredible clears. He ran hard out of the cage and found the open man. He handled Falmouth's rides. He's probably the most improved player on the team at this point."
The final team stats were razor thin, as faceoffs finished 12-12 (Jordan took every one for Falmouth, while Cyr went 10 of 17 and Neujahr 2 of 7 for the Clippers), Yarmouth won the ground ball battle, 37-35 (Henry had a team-high six and Cyr, senior Quinn Hathcock and junior Thomas Lord five apiece), the Clippers had 18 turnovers to 16 for the visitors and shots narrowly went the Yachtsmen's way, 41-39 (24-19 on cage).
Falmouth got three goals apiece from Gilbert and Kuhn and one each from Fay, Samaras and Stucker.
Yarmouth's ability to hold the Yachtsmen's big guns in check, went a long way toward spelling victory.
"I think, especially on I.V., it was more what (Yarmouth) did," LeBel said. "With their game plan, I don't think he saw the field well enough. They slid to him really quickly and executed it really well."
"Charlie Fay is a very, very good player," Pearl said. "He's a tough matchup with his size. Quinn Hathcock played great. I think he's probably the most tired guy on the team. I'll credit him with really shutting down Fay."
Stucker had two assists, while Fay and Jordan both had one. Jordan led the team with six ground balls. Senior Luke Andrews had five, while Fay and Stucker each collected four. Nash finished with nine saves.
"I didn't really feel a momentum switch (when we scored late)," LeBel said. "I felt it was going to be tough if (Yarmouth) got the ball. I knew it would be tough for us to stop them. We just weren't clicking on defense.
"It's real tough. I thought we'd be able to figure out some things offensively and defensively, but we weren't able to make the proper adjustments. (The Clippers) were very disciplined in their offensive play and very patient defensively. They earned and deserved to win the game. They worked harder than we did. They outworked us from start to finish. All the credit really goes to them. They had a great game plan. We didn't execute well enough on offense and on defense. We fell asleep at times. We have a lot of new faces. It's just a fact. I'm not trying to make excuses. Lack of experience. We do a lot of ball watching. We're not as good of a team as we were last year and Yarmouth's much better this year. I like how they play. They're very well coached."
If you enjoyed this one, the Clippers and Yachtsmen play again May 24, in Falmouth. A third meeting could come in the Class B state final, June 15.
As for the here and now, Falmouth hosts Portland in an interclass game Saturday, then has its first of two (likely three) showdowns with Cape Elizabeth Monday night at home.
"We learned a lot today," LeBel said. "We'll try to be better prepared next time. I hope we get better and get back on track against Portland Saturday."
Yarmouth is also back in action Saturday, with a tough test at vastly improved Western A contender South Portland. After a week off, the Clippers go to Cape Elizabeth the following Saturday.
Yarmouth might be "back," but it still has a long way to go before it can return to championship level for the first time since 2009.
"We're a well-rounded team," Edgecomb said. "Right now, we're soaring. We just need to keep working and keep pushing because from here, if we keep working, the only place we can go is up."
"We're on the rise," Pearl said. "We're rising again. The seniors have played together for three years now. They're playing well together. It's from a lot of hard work. Our practices are intense and very competitive. I have guys competing for positions on this team. They're looking over their shoulders and it raises the intensity. One of our advantages is that we're a very deep team. We're also a very tight team. We're starting to trust each other. I hope we have no letdown (Saturday). I hope we've learned. We can't work as hard as we do and have a letdown."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
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