OT kind to Cape, cruel to Falmouth one final time
CAPE ELIZABETH—Nick Krunkkala, Alex Weaver and Timmy Lavallee, you have company.
Cam Wilson has now joined the ranks of all-time heroes from the state's most storied boys' lacrosse program after delivering a goal to cap an absolute epic Western Class B Final Wednesday evening at Hannaford Field.
The fifth straight regional final showdown between Cape Elizabeth, the proudest and most pedigreed program in Maine, and two-time defending Class B champion Falmouth, featured a little bit of everything, from driving rain early in the game to a swarm of mosquitoes at the end, but most of all, it delivered what most hugely hyped sporting events cannot.
Jawdropping drama and unrelenting passion.
As was the case in the two regular season meetings, Falmouth took the lead, but once again, Cape Elizabeth roared back and the second half was a battle of wills, heart and determination as the Capers and Yachtsmen said anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better.
For the second time in three meetings this spring, 48 minutes weren't enough to decide matters and once again, the game went to overtime.
And once again, Cape Elizabeth found itself exulting, while Falmouth looked on in shock, horror and sheer agony as its dreams of a three-peat faded to black.
With 1 minute, 59 seconds elapsed in the "sudden victory" extra session, the precision Capers offense pulled off perhaps their finest play of the year, as senior Alex Bornick fired a perfect pass to Wilson, his classmate, who, despite playing with a balky knee, made a perfect cut to get a step on a defender. Wilson didn't even have time to think and he one-timed a shot past valiant Yachtsmen senior goalie Will Nash, into the lower right corner of the goal and Cape Elizabeth had survived, 9-8.
The Capers got five goals from sophomore Griffin Thoreck, in his breakout, big stage performance, two more from Wilson, seven clutch saves from junior goalie Gabe McGinn and another all-around display of dominance from senior defender Adam Haversat as they improved to 12-2, ended Falmouth's run at a very misleading 9-5 and advanced to set up an old school Cape Elizabeth-Yarmouth showdown in Saturday's Class B state final, which begins at 3 p.m., at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
"It's the best feeling I've ever had," Wilson said. "It came down to our boys having a lot of mental toughness. We never quit. We always know we have the skill and ability to come back. We keep that attitude, stay positive and it works out."
All eyes on this one
For the fifth year in a row, Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth found themselves on a regional final collision course and they got there by different roads.
The Capers, the preseason favorites, only stumbled twice, while the Yachtsmen, protecting the crown, lost four times, all in gutwrenching fashion.
Cape Elizabeth opened with a 19-0 blanking of visiting Lake Region. The Capers were then upset at North Yarmouth Academy, 9-6, but bounced back with an 11-10 overtime win at Falmouth, then handled visiting Waynflete, 16-9, visiting Yarmouth, 7-5, host Greely, 8-4, and host Cheverus, 6-2. After rallying from a three-goal deficit in the second half to shock visiting Falmouth, 9-6, the Capers blanked visiting Kennebunk, 5-0, and pitched another shutout at Fryeburg, 19-0, before its eight-game win streak came to a close at the hands of visiting NYA, 7-5. Cape Elizabeth bounced right back and finished strong with an emphatic 13-7 triumph at Yarmouth to go 10-2 and earn the top seed in Western B.
The Capers had a bye into the semifinals and had little trouble with No. 4 Waynflete, 17-4.
Falmouth suffered a painful 10-9 overtime loss at Yarmouth in the opener. After an 18-1 home win over Portland, it fell in OT again, 11-10, at home to Cape Elizabeth. The Yachtsmen got back in the win column, 10-2, at Lake Region, then earned a big dose of confidence with an 8-5 home victory over NYA. That victory kicked the Yachtsmen in gear and they proceeded to down visiting Wells (18-8), host Deering (14-4) and host Greely (12-3). Falmouth's win streak came to an end with a 9-6 loss at Cape Elizabeth, but the Yachtsmen handled visiting York from start to finish, 17-2, before suffering another punch in the mouth from Yarmouth, when they blew a three-goal fourth quarter lead and fell, 15-14, in OT. Falmouth finally closed out a tough game against a top team in its finale, holding on for an 11-10 win at NYA, to go 8-4, good for the No. 2 seed.
Like the Capers, the Yachtsmen rolled in their semifinal Saturday, spotting No. 3 Greely a pair of goals before handling the Rangers, 16-7.
Four years ago, Falmouth was on the verge of arriving as a legitimate title contender, but Cape Elizabeth beat the Yachtsmen back, 11-7. In 2010, Falmouth was the top seed for the first time and had beaten the Capers in both regular season meetings, but Cape Elizabeth rallied and broke the Yachtsmen's heart when Lavallee's overtime goal gave the Capers a 7-6 win en route to the state title. Finally, in 2011, Falmouth vanquished Cape Elizabeth in June, downing the visiting Capers, 11-9. The Yachtsmen did it again last spring, by a 10-9 margin, in Falmouth.
With the Yachtsmen looking to beat Cape Elizabeth the third postseason in a row and the Capers looking to beat Falmouth for the third time this season, something had to give Wednesday night and that something took a second shy of 50 minutes to determine.
In pregame warmups, the skies were clear and it appeared the throng on hand was in for a pleasant night of lacrosse, but just as the game began, it started to rain (almost a pre-requisite it seems for a Cape Elizabeth-Falmouth showdown) and it just kept coming down harder as the first quarter progressed.
Neither team seemed to mind and both started quickly.
Just 73 seconds in, Thoreck hinted at a monster night to come when he took a pass from Bornick, stepped in and Nash had no chance to stop his rocket, which gave the hosts a 1-0 lead.
The Capers wouldn't lead again until the second half.
The Yachtsmen drew even with 9:50 to play in the first, as senior standout Charlie Fay fed classmate Kris Samaras in front and Samaras beat McGinn to make it 1-1.
Falmouth's first lead came with 8:25 left, when, in transition, Samaras set up sophomore C.J. Leighton for a goal.
Fay struck unassisted with 4:40 remaining and after one, the Yachtsman had a 3-1 lead.
That, of course, was good news and bad news.
A team always wants to lead, but being ahead (8-3 in the first meeting, 5-2 in the second) hadn't done much for Falmouth against Cape Elizabeth this year.
Sure enough, the Capers controlled the second quarter and battled back.
Wilson's first good look at the goal resulted in frustration, when he hit the pipe with 8:55 to go before halftime, but a little over a minute later, Thoreck got another good look and finished to cut the deficit to one.
Thoreck almost tied the game with 5 minutes remaining, but Nash made a clutch ave.
After Cape Elizabeth senior defender Brandon Negele received a 30 second interference penalty, Falmouth made the Capers pay, as Leighton found junior Brad Gilbert for a man-up goal with 3:47 left in the half.
Back came the hosts, as Wilson (from senior Justin Cary) scored with 2:15 showing and after Nash denied Bornick, Cary set up Thoreck for the tying goal with 40.4 seconds left.
Yachtsmen junior standout I.V. Stucker almost gave his team the lead back, but with 2 seconds to go, his shot hit the post.
Twenty-four minutes had solved nothing and as it turned out, 48 minutes wouldn't either.
Neither team scored for over six minutes in the third period, as Nash twice turned aside Bornick and each squad had to kill a penalty.
Then, with 5:29 to go in the frame, after Cape Elizabeth junior Trevor Gale received a 30 second pushing penalty, Stucker put Falmouth back on top, finishing a feed from Gilbert man-up.
It took just 63 seconds for the Capers to answer, as Bornick found an open Thoreck in front and Thoreck didn't miss, making it 5-5.
After Cape Elizabeth junior Thomas Feenstra's bid to put his team ahead was saved by Nash, the Yachtsmen retook the lead for the final time, as Stucker set up junior Joe Dancoes with 1:32 remaining, but Falmouth again, couldn't hold on.
With 58 seconds to go, Thoreck, deked a defender before beating Nash to tie the score.
Thirty seconds later, Bornick set up senior Max Barber, who finished to give the Capers their first lead since the early moments, 7-6, an advantage they took to the palpitating fourth period.
Falmouth junior Tyler Jordan, one of the state's premier faceoff men, had been frustrated by Haversat most of the night, but he won possession to start the fourth and the ball came to Samaras in close, but his bid to tie the score was denied by McGinn.
Fay then had a look, but again McGinn came up huge.
After Cape Elizabeth killed off a pushing penalty, Cary had a bid to stretch the lead to two, but Nash turned it aside.
Then, with 6:16 to go in regulation, Fay, quiet since the first quarter, finally got some room, raced in and fired a shot McGinn couldn't stop to make it a brand new ballgame, 7-7.
Both teams had good chances to take the lead, but a shot by Capers senior James Yokabaskas was wide and with 4:20 remaining, a Samaras rebound goal was waved off as Stucker fell into the crease after having his initial shot saved.
At the other end, Cape Elizabeth retook the lead, 8-7, with 3:51 showing, thanks to the hustle of a defender.
The Capers defense is the best in the state, but the likes of Haversat and Negele love to be involved in the offense as well and it was Negele who made a long run up the field before setting up Bornick, who shot past Nash for his first goal of the game.
"It was one of the biggest assists we've had all season," said Haversat, who scored a goal in the regular season finale at Yarmouth. "Usually you don't see that kind of effort from Negele in practice. He lets everything out in games. He has incredible stick skills. I've never seen him run faster and we've played our whole lives together."
The lead lasted all of 49 seconds, as Dancoes took a pass from Stucker and finished to make it 8-8 with 3:02 to play.
Although there was plenty of time still left in regulation, you got the feeling that overtime unofficially began at that point and both teams had their chances to finish it off before extra time officially began.
Falmouth won the ensuing faceoff and with 2:19 left, Gilbert had a good look, but shot high.
The Yachtsmen kept the ball, but Cape Elizabeth sophomore defenseman Curtis Alexander forced a turnover, allowing the Capers to come into the offensive zone.
After a timeout, Thoreck got a look with 11.8 seconds to play, but a smart and timely defensive play from Falmouth senior Hugh Grygiel affected the shot and it was off target.
As time wound down, Thoreck would have had time to fire one last rocket, but he couldn't handle a pass cleanly and it was on to overtime.
In Maine high school boys' lacrosse, regular and postseason, teams play four minute "sudden victory" overtime sessions until someone scores.
Based on pedigrees, the Capers were huge favorites entering the OT, having won several playoff games in the past in that manner, while the Yachtsmen were 0-3 in overtime this year alone.
Falmouth got the first chance, however, as Jordan won the faecoff, but the Yachtsmen couldn't settle and get a shot, turning the ball over as Alexander came up with a pivotal ground ball.
Cape Elizabeth wasn't able to convert either, however, as an errant pass was intercepted by Fay, who raced into the offensive zone looking to end it.
Fay was able to fire a shot, but it was awkward as he was falling and his bid went just wide.
The ball went out of bounds to the Capers and they transitioned to offense. Bornick had the next chance to end it, but his shot was off target. Cape Elizabeth kept the ball and after not liking what he saw, longtime coach Ben Raymond called timeout.
Coaches can only dream of timeouts working as well as this one.
It didn't take long for the Capers to end it, as Bornick had the ball on the left side, suddenly Wilson was racing through and the pass and the shot were the stuff that dreams are made of.
At 8:47 p.m., Wilson's shot tickled the twine, giving Cape Elizabeth a utterly scintillating 9-8 victory and unleashing one of the starkest divides of emotion you'll ever see, as the Capers piled on Wilson in mass celebration, while the Yachtsmen sagged to the ground in sheer heartbreak and disbelief.
"We tried to run the play a couple times, but couldn't really set it up," Wilson said. "We finally set it up on the overtime goal. Everything went perfectly. I got open on the cut. Alex threw me a great pass and I just hit that lower right corner. We're drilled to hit that corner. I had a good feeling when I let it go. I barely had time to look at the net. When you catch it in there, you know there will be people on you, so you just shoot as fast as you can. I didn't see the ball go in, but I saw the net move and I just took off. It's a surreal feeling. It took me a second to realize the game was over and that we're going to the state championship."
"I was pretty nervous," Thoreck said. "A little shaky. So much adrenaline. It meant so much for our seniors to have their first Western Maine Final game on this field. It's so good to win it. Going into overtime, Coach just said, 'Do your best. Make your shot count and make sure it goes in.' Considering our past overtime, we felt good. We ran a play we've been practicing for weeks and it really paid off. We're so even. It's an honor to play against (Falmouth). It's the best competition in Maine. I'm so grateful to be with this team and play in a game like this."
"It was unreal," Haversat said. "I had butterflies in my stomach, but we were confident. We knew if we got the ball, (the offense) would do something with it. The defense has confidence in the offense. (After we scored) I was bursting into tears. I was ready to hug anybody. Playing three years on varsity, starting every year, finally beating Falmouth once and for all, especially three times this year, is just the most amazing feeling. We just wanted to beat Falmouth. I knew we had to go out and play the best we could. We had to be together and be a family. That's what won us the game."
"Going into overtime, we didn't really talk about winning or losing," Raymond added. "It was just, 'Here's what we do if we win the faceoff. Here's what we do if we don't win the faceoff.' We called the same play for overtime that we did for the last possession of regulation. The difference is, after a few times scrambling down the field, we actually ran the play. We called timeout more to settle everybody down. We reminded them of the play. Cam again said, 'Get it on my stick and I'll put it in the goal.' We were confident. We were going to run it for somebody else, but he wanted it. When he said that, that's all we needed to hear from a senior at this point, especially a guy like Cam, who is a humongous piece for this team. He does everything. He probably plays 80 percent of the game, which is unheard of.
"This meant a lot to the seniors. They've done a nice job as a whole. They had an upbeat attitude. At no point did they get down. They really took responsibility of demonstrating the importance of every possession."
On a night where Falmouth did a great job limiting Bornick's effectiveness, Thoreck was the offensive star, scoring five times.
"It feels great to really contribute to a great win," said Thoreck. "It's one of the bigger games of my career so far. I just tried my hardest to make my dodges count, get my hands free, then get good shots on goal."
"Our attackmen did a good job of realizing where Griffin was, where (Falmouth) was sliding from," Raymond said. "They sagged down, so the look was to the opposite corner. We've worked on that pass quite a bit. When Alex threw that pass and Griffin finished at the beginning of the game, we were pretty excited and we reminded them to keep looking for that pass. Griffin had success dodging. He's a very good shooter. When he has confidence, he's even better."
Wilson had two goals, including the program's biggest in three seasons, which was impressive enough, but when you consider he wasn't close to 100 percent physically, that adds to the legend.
"I hurt (my knee) in practice, in a collision," Wilson said. "I was still feeling it today, but it wasn't really affecting me. Then, my knee hit (Fay's) knee really hard in the same spot in a collision. It was a really bad stinger. I was able to go back in, luckily. (Athletic trainer Lisa Favreau) has magic fingers."
Barber and Bornick both scored once. Bornick did have four assists, while Cary added two and Negele had one.
McGinn made seven saves and every single one was critical.
"Gabe made some really good saves tonight," Raymond said.
As always, McGinn's defenders were tremendous.
"We played amazing defense, doubling up on Fay and Gilbert and I.V.," Haversat said. "Pressuring them and putting our best defenders on those players shut their offense down for a little while. They had trouble passing and finding a good look. Fay didn't touch the ball much. He was frustrated. He didn't like just scoring two goals."
Haversat took all 21 faceoffs and won 12 of them. He also had a game-high nine ground balls, as the Capers finished with a 39-33 advantage in that critical category (Wilson added seven).
"Adam was a humongous difference," Raymond said. "He took all the faceoffs. We wanted him there in case we don't win it, he's the best guy to take (the ball) away. Looking at the film, he'd had the best success against Jordan. Then we had him on Charlie Fay. We had him doing all sorts of things and that made the difference changing the looks for them."
Cape Elizabeth finished with a 32-18 shots advantage (20-15 on cage).
Perhaps the most amazing stat of the evening was that in nearly 50 minutes of high pressure lacrosse, with the season on the line against a tenacious opponent, the Capers committed a mere 15 turnovers.
The hard-luck Yachtsmen were paced by two goals apiece from Dancoes and Fay. Gilbert, Leighton, Samaras and Stucker each had one. Stucker added two assists, while Fay, Gilbert, Leighton and Samaras all finished with one. Nash played a superb game, making 11 key saves.
"Will hadn't played in the cage since eighth grade," LeBel said. "He didn't play lacrosse last year. He gave it a shot."
Jordan led the team with eight ground balls, while Fay collected six and Grygiel had five. Falmouth was hindered by 26 turnovers.
Ultimately, the Yachtsmen, once again, could only lament what-if.
"If you're a fan of lacrosse in Maine, it's fantastic, but it stinks to be us right now," Falmouth coach Mike LeBel said. "I think we had higher aspirations. When you come into a game like this, you want to win. If you don't, it's going to hurt. I think our kids performed great. I think you had two teams who played really well. I didn't see a lot of unforced errors. It wasn't a sloppy game. When it came down to it, Cape just had one more play in them than we did. That's the way it should end, it's just that we were on the wrong side. I couldn't have asked for any more from them in this game. It's not like we went out there and played poorly and lost to a bad team. We lost to an outstanding team.
"I can't explain it. We had a big target on our back this year. It seemed like everybody had their best game against us. They never faltered. Yarmouth played two great games against us. Cape played three great games against us. I've got to look at it from a point of view of having to replace nine of 10 starters from a year ago and look at the progress these guys made this season. I couldn't be more proud of them. Everybody felt with who we lost, that we wouldn't have a shot. We had a shot, on Cape's turf, and fell one goal short. A lot of people didn't give us a chance to come this close. It's a testament to the kids and how hard they worked. Kris Samaras, Hugh Grygiel, they didn't play at all last year. They came back and played significant roles and were probably our hardest workers. They were fun to be around."
Falmouth will be hard-hit again by graduation, with Fay (literally and figuratively) having the biggest shoes to fill.
"It's going to be hard to replace these guys, like Charlie, and everything he did," LeBel said. "Guys like (senior Luke) Andrews, Grygiel, good athletes, who won championships in other sports, who stepped up and helped us out this year."
Regardless, the Yachtsmen expect to be back in this position in 2014 and to prevail.
"Our kids work really hard in the offseason," said LeBel. "They're involved in a lot of lacrosse. They'll continue to improve. We have a really good core coming back, a lot of kids, who, if they develop, we'll be in very good shape. Anytime you can start out with an All-American like I.V. Stucker back, you have something to work with."
Raymond had high praise for Falmouth's effort.
"We go into a game like this knowing it will be competitive, which is really fun," Raymond said. "We know they'll do some things differently. They know we're going to be doing things differently. They have kids who work hard and play year-round. We have the same. We're similar teams in our makeup. We have a little more depth this year, but they have top end players, especially offensively. We're in similar situations with first-year starting goalies. Mike does an outstanding job with them. They play hard. They play well and they're a good bunch of kids, just like ours."
The Raymond-LeBel chess match was certainly fun to watch.
"Other than the first quarter, defensively we played a totally different defense than we did last time," Raymond said. "Anytime we can buy a possession here and there, that's a big thing. They're a very talented offense. They did the same thing to us. They played zone for a little while, which they didn't do the first two games. We had a lot of shots, but they weren't the best shots."
Championship within grasp
Cape Elizabeth enters Saturday's showdown with Yarmouth confident. The Capers controlled both regular season meetings and never trailed. The teams have met seven prior times in the state final, with Cape Elizabeth taking five of them.
The first came in 1996 and it went overtime, but the Capers prevailed, 11-10 (when Krunkkala played the hero). It took seven years for the powers to meet again in the final and again, after a late Clippers' rally, the game went to OT, where Weaver's goal gave Cape Elizabeth a 9-8 triumph. The next year, Yarmouth finally broke through, 11-6, but in 2005, the Capers returned the favor with a mild upset (7-6). After a two-year hiatus, the Clippers beat Cape Elizabeth in the 2008 finale (9-4) and again in 2009 (12-9), but in a game eerily similar to 2005, the Capers sprung a 7-6 upset three years ago.
Cape Elizabeth knows Wednesday's seismic win means little if it's upset by Yarmouth and the Capers, the seniors especially, are bound and determined to give it 48 final minutes of excellence and collect their trophy.
"We have to play like we did the last regular season game, do the best we can and just make sure we get good possessions, capitalize on them and play good defense on their scorers," Thoreck said.
"Yarmouth will be another tough one," Haversat said. "We can't underestimate a team, even though we've beat them twice. If we play as a team and a family, we'll be able to hold that trophy in the air and show the fans we're the best. It's the seniors' year. We've put in so much commitment this year."
"I've never been to a state final in lacrosse," Wilson said. "We've always been eliminated by Falmouth. I've only been to Fitzy once, for freshman football. I don't know what to expect, but I know it's going to be a time I'll remember for the rest of my life."
Raymond, who has played and coached in too many state games to count, is eager for another opportunity.
"The last time we played (Yarmouth), we played really well as a team, moved the ball really well," Raymond said. "I'd like to say we won't do anything different, because we played so well last time, but I'm sure we'll be doing a lot of new things."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Cape Elizabeth-Falmouth playoff results
Western B Final
@ Falmouth 10 Cape Elizabeth 9
Western B Final
@ Falmouth 11 Cape Elizabeth 9
Western B Final
Cape Elizabeth 7 @ Falmouth 6 (OT)
@ Cape Elizabeth 6 Falmouth 3
Western B Final
@ Cape Elizabeth 11 Falmouth 7