Portland falls to Yarmouth in boys' lacrosse epic
Bulldogs' second half comeback not enough
YARMOUTH— The Portland boys' lacrosse team certainly did its part Monday night to turn the "Game of the Year" into a game for the ages.
The Bulldogs rallied from four goals down in the second half to take a momentary lead, but when all was said and done, they weren't able to end host Yarmouth's seven-year, 59-game home win streak and suffered their first loss of the season, 11-9.
Portland took its first and only lead of the game, 9-8, on sophomore Caleb Kenney's unassisted tally with 5:15 to play, but the Clippers responded with three unanswered in the waning moments to send the Bulldogs home in despair.
"A game like this was great for the game of lacrosse," Portland coach Eric Begonia said. "It was a good night. It'll echo across the lacrosse community."
Exceeding the hype
With Yarmouth the defending Class B state champion and Portland emerging as the team to beat in Class A, all eyes were on this contest.
The Clippers had won their first six games by a composite 88-19 margin. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, had drubbed their first five opponents to the tune of 73-10, then went to Cape Elizabeth Saturday night and rolled to a 13-7 win (see Web site for more on that game).
The teams met twice a year ago. Portland beat Yarmouth for the first time ever, 12-11, at home, then the Clippers got revenge, 9-1, on their home turf.
This one would be riveting until the very end.
In a sign of things to come, the hosts took a 1-0 lead with 9:57 to go in the first period when senior Jake Gallagher set up senior Peter Erickson for a goal on the man-advantage. Two minutes later, the Clippers made it 2-0 when junior Steven Petrovek fed junior Evan Henry, whose shot eluded Portland senior goalie Nick Sterling.
The Bulldogs broke the ice with 7:25 to go, when playing a man-up, sophomore Bronson Guimond took a pass from senior Sam Guimond (his older brother) and beat Yarmouth junior goalie Cam Woodworth.
The visitors tied the game with 4:11 to play in the period when junior Kevin Nielsen intercepted a pass at midfield and fed senior Tyler Sandler, who set up Sam Guimond for a goal.
The Clippers retook the lead, 3-2, when again on the man-advantage, Gallagher took a pass from Henry and scored. With just under a minute to play in the first, Petrovek set up senior Rob Highland for a goal, but with 22.5 seconds left, Portland senior Andrew Holt fed senior standout K.R. Jurgelevich, whose goal pulled the Bulldogs within one, 4-3, after one period.
Portland had an edge in faceoffs won, ground balls and shots on goal, but six turnovers and a pair of untimely penalties put it in a hole.
With 8:43 to go in the second quarter, the Bulldogs tied the game for a second time when senior Dylan Kenney (from Jurgelevich) scored a man-up goal. Yarmouth went right back on top, however, with 6:25 left, when (again playing man-up) junior Colby Shields converted Gallagher's pass and scored. With 3:21 to play in the half, Highland (from Petrovek) tickled the twine, and with 1:40 to go (man-up), the Clippers went ahead 7-4 when Shields (from Erickson) did the trick.
Yarmouth scored on four of six man-up opportunities and forced 16 Bulldogs turnovers in the half to gain a little breathing room.
When junior Mike Johnson (from Henry) scored 1 minute, 17 seconds into the second half, it appeared as if the Clippers were going to open things up, but Portland was primed to answer.
With 2 minutes to play in the third, Nielsen (from Holt) scored man-up to end an 18 minute, 43 second drought. With 8.8 seconds to go, Caleb Kenney converted man-up and Portland was back within two, 8-6.
"We made some mental mistakes and had turnovers and penalties in the first half," said Begonia. "Other than that, the second half was more indicative of who we are. We needed someone to step up and make a play. We had young leadership tonight. Caleb Kenney had some looks and was a difference-maker down the stretch."
Kenney almost brought the visitors closer at the buzzer, but his long shot was ruled to have gone into the net after the horn sounded and the Clippers had a two-goal lead to protect with 12 minutes to go.
The Bulldogs kept coming in the fourth.
Just 43 seconds in, Sam Guimond took a pass from senior Kyle Roberts and scored to cut the deficit to one. Portland completed its comeback with 5:51 left in regulation when Holt collected a loose ball and scored unassisted to make it 8-8. Caleb Kenney put the visitors on top 36 seconds later, but the Bulldogs wouldn't be able to hold on.
With 4:35 remaining, Petrovek scored unassisted, ending an 18 minute, 18 second drought for Yarmouth. After the Clippers regained possession, Petrovek fed Gallagher to put the hosts on top, 10-9, with 3:50 play.
Portland would have its chances in the waning moments to rally again, but after the teams traded turnovers and the Bulldogs called timeout, Jurgelevich was denied, not by Woodworth, but by the post on a game-tying bid with 1:08 to go.
"Much like the other night at Cape, (K.R.) was drawing a crowd, double-team, triple-team, and we saw that," Begonia said. "He got inside there and had a shot. It was a great shot, but it's a game of inches. That could have been the equalizer and who knows what would have happened from there? We had our man-up unit in there, but we just didn't get it."
The Bulldogs would get one more opportunity after a Clippers' turnover, but with 15 seconds left, Nielsen's shot was wide and an ensuing inbounds pass went awry, giving the ball back to Yarmouth with 6.4 seconds left.
Erickson and Petrovek then combined to ice it as Erickson's long pass was grabbed by Petrovek and fired into the net as the final horn sounded.
"At halftime, we wanted to see what our team was made of," Begonia said. "We had a tough stretch here with two games in a row on the road against the perennial powers. We came in here and were more than respectable. We had some adversity tonight. Yarmouth's well-coached and well-disciplined. We like to think of ourselves in the same light.
"We knew it would be an even match if we played a complete 48 minutes. Some people might have counted us out at halftime, but we got back in it and it came down to the fourth quarter. The only thing we're disappointed with is the final score. We ran into a great team that takes care of the ball and stayed out of the penalty box. I'm proud of my guys to have a good showing in a tough place to play."
Seven different players scored for the Clippers. Gallagher had two goals and two assists, Petrovek had two goals and four assists, and Highland and Shields also scored twice. Ten of Yarmouth's 11 goals were assisted.
For Portland, Sam Guimond (one assist) and Caleb Kenney each scored twice. Bronson Guimond, Holt (two assists), Dylan Kenney and Nielsen had one goal apiece. The Clippers held the prolific Jurgelevich to one goal and one assist.
The final statistics were reflective of how close the game was.
Portland had a 14-9 edge in faceoffs and won 45 ground balls (Jurgelevich led the way with nine) to 38 for the hosts. Yarmouth forced 34 turnovers (and had 29) and had a 33-32 edge in shots on goal.
Sterling stopped 12 shots for the Bulldogs. Woodworth made 11 saves for the Clippers.
Yarmouth was 4-of-6 in man-up situations. Portland finished 4-for-5.
The Bulldogs (6-1 and first in the Western A Heal Points standings) host Gorham Wednesday and Falmouth Friday.
"It's going to sting a little bit and that's okay, but I want them to remember that our goal wasn't to go undefeated," Begonia said. "We want to win a state championship. We're in a good position to do that. We still have a long way to go."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com.