Falmouth downs NYA for first signature win of 2013
FALMOUTH—Entering Monday night's home game against red-hot North Yarmouth Academy, the Falmouth boys' lacrosse team was in major need of a victory against a top opponent.
Afetr losing in overtime to Yarmouth and Cape Elizabeth, the two-time defending Class B state champion Yachtsmen weren't exactly on the ropes, but their confidence was wavering.
Until they were able to produce their most complete effort of the season.
While the Panthers managed to tie Falmouth on three different occasions, they never took the lead and Yachtsmen senior standout Charlie Fay's fourth tally, midway through the third period put his team ahead to stay.
Falmouth had a chance to put it away when it played with a man advantage for three minutes late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, but the Yachtsmen weren't able to score and doubt remained.
But while the prolific Falmouth offense never ran wild, the squad's unheralded defense held NYA to just one goal in the final 22-plus minutes and the Yachtsmen finally got a little separation late en route to an 8-5 victory.
Fay had four goals and Falmouth improved to 3-2, dropped the Panthers to 4-2 and defeated NYA for the 11th time in succession.
"It's a huge win," said Yachtsmen coach Mike LeBel. "I saw (NYA) torch Scarborough when they played very well. I think they have some of the best players in the state on their team. I knew what we were facing. We had a pretty good game plan and the kids executed well. They're just learning. You can see the progression every day in practice and every game. It's fun to watch. We know it's a process. We're not going to come out and win every game, but we're going to learn."
NYA won the first seven meetings against Falmouth (see below), but the Yachtsmen turned the tide with a 6-3 home win over the Panthers in 2008, which began Falmouth's five-year win streak against NYA. That included state game wins in 2011 (15-4) and last spring (7-4).
Both teams have been in the middle of some thrilling games this season.
The Yachtsmen opened with a 10-9 overtime loss at Yarmouth and after an 18-1 home win over Portland, fell in OT again last Monday, 11-10, at home to Cape Elizabeth. Falmouth got back in the win column two days later, 10-2, at Lake Region.
NYA suffered a painful loss of its own to start the season, 7-6, to visiting rival Yarmouth, but the Panthers turned things around with a 16-4 win at Wells, then made everyone sit up and take notice by rallying from 5-1 down to defeat visiting Cape Elizabeth, 9-6. Wins at three-time defending Class A champion Scarborough (8-5) and Fryeburg (12-2) followed.
Monday, NYA had its moments, but in the end, it was Falmouth's night.
It took just 54 seconds for Fay to set the tone with an unassisted tally.
The Panthers almost tied the score with 8:56 to go in the first quarter, but senior Matt Hawkins' shot hit the post.
NYA did make it 1-1 at the 4:11 mark, when, playing man-up, senior Oliver Silverson took a pass from classmate Jacob Scammon and beat Falmouth senior goalie Will Nash.
Fay put the Yachtsmen ahead, 2-1, after winning a ground ball and firing a shot past Panthers sophomore goalie D.J. Nicholas at 2:29, but with 1:35 left in the first, Silverson got a rebound of his own shot and finished to make it a 2-2 game.
One minute, 48 seconds into the second quarter, Fay took a pass from junior I.V. Stucker and beat Nicholas to give Falmouth a 3-2 lead and four minutes later, Stucker fought through the defense to score unassisted to push the advantage to two goals.
The Panthers responded with 3:34 remaining in the half, when senior T.J. Daigler tucked a shot just under the crossbar, making it a 4-3 game at the break.
While the Yachtsmen were winning six of nine faceoffs (as junior Tyler Jordan continues to excel in the circle), shots were even, 14-14, in the first 24 minutes.
Seventy-seven seconds into the second half, Silverson set up Daigler for the tying goal, but NYA's offense soon grew dormant.
With 7:07 showing in the period, Fay scored another unassisted goal to put Falmouth ahead to stay, 5-4.
"(Junior) Brad (Gilbert) was taking the first dodge and getting their defense shifting," said Fay. "They watched I.V. on the crease. I took the open dodge. I was hitting tonight."
The Yachstmen had their chance to gain some separation late in the stanza when Panthers senior Ben Claytor was sent to the sidelines for three minutes for a non-releasable stick to the head penalty, but Falmouth (playing without Stucker, who was shaken up when hit by Claytor) managed just one shot (Fay was denied by Nicholas) and turned the ball over twice.
As the third period gave way to the fourth, Falmouth's lead remained 5-4, just as it had last June in the state final.
Even with its recent struggles, the Yachtsmen weren't concerned about failing to add to their lead.
"I wasn't too worried about not scoring (with the man advantage)," LeBel said. "I knew we'd be a little out of synch because I.V. was out of the game. I was really just trying to possess the ball for three minutes and keep the ball out of their sticks and not get our guys tired by chasing them."
After NYA killed off Claytor's penalty, it had a chance to draw even, but couldn't do so.
Then, with 8:48 to go, Fay found sophomore Bryce Kuhn wide open on the doorstep and Nicholas had no chance to make the stop as Kuhn finished to snap a nearly 10 minute drought, pushing the lead to 6-4.
After an apparent goal from senior Jeremy Sylvain was waved off for goalie interference and Daigler and Sylvain were both robbed by Nash, Silverson (unassisted) beat Nash, who slowed the ball, but couldn't prevent it from crossing the line, snapping an 18-plus minute drought and making the score 6-5 with 4:38 still to play.
Falmouth, which blew a five-goal lead against Cape Elizabeth, was at a crossroads. Unable to survive another painful setback, the Yachtsmen had to respond and 30 seconds later, they did.
It would be Gilbert doing the honors, finishing a pass from Stucker to make it 7-5.
Then, with 3:24 remaining, Kuhn spotted senior Kris Samaras wide open in front and Samaras essentially delivered the coup de grace.
"I just wanted to pull away," Fay said. "I didn't really care when or how we did it. I just didn't want them to catch up like the past two games."
Falmouth won the ensuing faceoff and ran over three minutes off the clock before turning the ball over with three seconds to go.
NYA had no chance to respond and the Yachtsmen were able to celebrate a hard-fought and overdue 8-5 triumph.
"This one was big," said Falmouth senior defensive standout Hugh Grygiel. "It turned our season around. It got us a winning record. We got a little lazy in our losses, but we had persistence tonight and it paid off. We heard they'd run a different system and we worked on that in practice all week long. They didn't start off with it, but they switched to it later on and we were ready for it."
"This was huge," Fay said. "We're kind of making a name for us, finally. With two overtime losses, people were forgetting about us. They were tough losses, but they motivated us and showed us we have to play all four quarters. We have to finish it off early because we're not an overtime team, apparently."
"If anything, this gives us confidence to know we can win close games," LeBel added. "We weren't too worried about losing to Yarmouth. Cape was tough, just because the way we lost it."
Fay, in his first action in a week after being sidelined by a hand injury, as well as a concussion, continued to be an unstoppable force, scoring four times.
"I haven't played since last Monday against Cape," Fay said. "(Athletic trainer) Rob (Sullivan) helped up taping up my thumb. I felt good."
"I had no idea how (Charlie would) perform," LeBel said. "I was really pleased."
Gilbert, Kuhn, Samaras and Stucker all had one goal.
Fay, Gilbert, Kuhn and Stucker also had assists. Nash made seven saves. Jordan won 10 of 15 faceoffs.
The Yachtsmen had a 29-26 advantage in ground balls, as Grygiel led the way with seven.
Grygiel didn't even begin the season on the roster, but after playing key roles in soccer and hockey state titles, he didn't want to miss out on another potential title run.
"I realized I should still be playing a sport," Grygiel said. "I wanted to come back. I asked coach to give me a shot and here I am. I'm having a blast."
Falmouth had a 28-22 shots advantage (17-12 on cage). The Yachtsmen overcame 18 turnovers and played strong defense throughout.
"(NYA's) offense has great midfielders and their attack can run," said LeBel. "Their game's to dodge and dump. I think we did a good job collapsing on the crease and knowing who had the first slide and the second slide. It came together defensively for us tonight. That was key going in."
NYA was paced by Silverson (three goals, one assist, four ground balls) and Daigler (two goals, four ground balls). Scammon also had an assist. Nicholas made nine clutch saves.
The Panthers did commit 21 turnovers and were done in by several penalties.
Both teams have several key tests remaining before they can even begin to think about a title run.
The Panthers hope to get back on track Saturday at home versus Gorham. They have their rematch at Yarmouth May 15. NYA also goes to Cape Elizabeth May 24 and finishes the regular season at home versus Falmouth May 29.
"If we play a perfect game, we think we can beat them," Gerrity said. "The next one will be fun. It's our Senior game. It's rock paper, scissors. Everybody's beaten everybody. I don't think anything's been decided."
Long before seeing NYA again, the Yachtsmen will also have rematches at Cape Elizabeth and at home versus Yarmouth (May 24). Falmouth is home with Wells Wednesday and plays at Deering Friday.
"We have plenty of new faces on the field," Fay said. "It's only a matter of time until we mesh better. We have to keep working as a team and have fewer turnovers. As long as we keep converting, we should be good."
"We have some time to work on things," said LeBel. "We all need playing time and experience. It's good to go into this stretch with a quality win."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
@ Falmouth 14 NYA 2
Falmouth 15 @ NYA 4
Class B Final
Falmouth 15 NYA 4
Falmouth 12 @ NYA 9
@ Falmouth 14 NYA 6
@ Falmouth 6 NYA 3
NYA 10 @ Falmouth 1
@ NYA 8 Falmouth 7
@ NYA 19 Falmouth 5
@ NYA 12 Falmouth 2
NYA 14 @ Falmouth 3
NYA 13 @ Falmouth 7
NYA 10 @ Falmouth 9 (OT)