Joining the elite; Falmouth boys' lacrosse team lives up to billing
(Ed. Note: For full NYA and Portland game stories, please visit our Web site, at www.theforecaster.net)
If the Falmouth boys' lacrosse team hasn't quite arrived as an elite power, it's safe to say the Yachtsmen are on approach.
Falmouth, which has been pegged by several coaches as a team of the future, made a pair of emphatic statements last week that the future is now, crushing visiting North Yarmouth Academy, 12-4, then giving host powerhouse Portland a mighty scare before succumbing, 8-7.
Growing up in front of our eyes
The Yachtsmen only have two seniors on their roster, but are being well served by their youth and are coming of age quite nicely. After dropping close decisions to defending Class A state champion Scarborough, 7-5, and defending Western B champion Cape Elizabeth, 6-3, earlier in the year, Falmouth took a four-game winning streak into last Wednesday's home test against perennial contender NYA, a team the Yachtsmen managed to beat for the first time ever a year ago.
The Yachtsmen raced to a 5-0 lead, then, with the game on the line in the third period, won 22 ground balls to eight for the visitors, and went on a 4-0 run to put the contest away and win 12-4.
Falmouth was led offensively by sophomore Nick Bachman and junior Mike Kane, who each scored three times. Bachman had two assists and six ground balls. Kane had one assist (and also had six ground balls). Freshman Mitchell Tapley (one assist) and junior Kyle Lucas (three assists and seven ground balls) both had two goals. Juniors Dan Hanley (three assists and a team-high eight ground balls) and Chris Janelle both scored once. Sophomore goalie Jay Hurdman stopped four shots.
"This is a great win for us," Kane said. "This is a big boost for our confidence. This is probably the funnest game I've played in all year. We're really young. We have to learn what's best for everyone and step up on defense and work harder on clearing the ball. We wore them down today."
"No matter what, NYA is a huge win because they always have good players," added Falmouth coach Mike LeBel. "They're always very well coached. The kids just played outstanding. We used our depth to tire them out. We used multiple attackmen to make their defensemen tired. We wore them down and pulled away at the end. That's how we operate.
"(The second half is) when you see our depth come out. We can run multiple lines of middies and attackmen. We're patient. We're growing offensively. We're working for better shots, not just going down and chucking the ball. We tend to excel in the third and fourth quarters because other teams just don't have our depth. When we're even or barely ahead going into the second half, we know we're in very good shape."
The final team stats were heavily in Falmouth's favor. The Yachtsmen won 61 ground balls to 35 for the Panthers, forced 33 turnovers and had a commanding 27-11 edge in shots on goal. Faceoffs were even, 10-10.
"We fought really hard the entire game," Kane said. "We dominated on the ground balls. We were solid all around. The second we started stepping up I knew we'd go hard all game."
If the decisiveness of the NYA win came as a surprise, imagine the intensity of shock for those on-hand at Fitzpatrick Stadium Friday afternoon.
The Yachtsmen weren't given much of a chance against a Portland juggernaut which had won seven of its first eight and was coming off a 23-1 drubbing of Gorham.
The teams last met three years ago when Falmouth sprung a home upset, 10-8.
Friday, the Yachtsmen almost did it again.
Falmouth hinted that it meant business in the first period, taking a 2-0 lead on goals from Bachman and Hanley. The Bulldogs didn't get on the board until 3:16 remained in the first period when senior All-American K.R. Jurgelevich scored unassisted after a steal.
Portland would erupt in the second period and seemingly seize control with five unanswered goals to take a 6-2 lead into the break.
Everything changed in the third period, however, when in a two-minute span, the Yachtsmen struck three times to get right back in it.
With 6:17 left in the quarter, Bachman scored unassisted to end a 24 minute, 1 second drought. Bachman (from freshman Jack Cooleen) scored again a minute later and with 4:17 to go, Tapley (from Hanley) beat Portland senior goalie Nick Sterling to make it 6-5.
With 3:05 to play in the quarter, Cooleen took a pass from Tapley and scored to tie the game at 6-6 and convince Portland to change goalies.
Playing with infinite confidence, the visitors took a 7-6 lead with 8:05 to play in regulation, when Cooleen (from Hanley) fired home a shot from in close.
Suddenly, an upset looked eminently possible, but the Bulldogs would bounce back.
With 7:01 to go, sophomore Bronson Guimond tied the score (ending a 18 minute, 6 second drought) when he grabbed a rebound and fired a shot into the net. Just 35 seconds later, Guimond did it again, this time taking a pass from senior Andrew Holt before firing to make it 8-7.
That would be the final score, but Falmouth came mighty close to tying it on a couple occasions.
With 5:11 left, Hanley's shot hit the post. With 2:45 to play, a shot off the stick of junior Mike Kane was saved. Then, with 25 seconds to go, Kane maneuvered for a shot, but was stripped by Casparius, who ran downfield and allowed Portland to finally run out the clock.
The Bulldogs knew they had dodged a bullet.
"Falmouth can play with anyone," said Portland coach Eric Begonia. "(Falmouth has) 12 or 15 guys that can run up and down the field and they have young legs. We don't go as deep as they do."
Falmouth (6-3) was left to lament what-if.
"(The Bulldogs are) a great team," said LeBel. "They're very well-coached. I was very pleased with their sportsmanship. There was no chippiness. Portland obviously has far more experience than we do.
"It was an outstanding game to be a part of. We never gave up. I'm so proud of the guys. It's just fun to play good lacrosse. It's fun to watch and fun to coach."
Bachman scored three times, while Cooleen had two goals and an assist. Hurdman made 11 saves.
Falmouth's most brutal stretch of the season concluded Wednesday afternoon (too late for print, see Web site for game story), when it hosted undefeated, defending Class B state champion Yarmouth.
The Yachtsmen get a chance to avenge last year's agonizing overtime semifinal round playoff loss when they go to Greely Friday, then wrap up the regular season at home versus Cheverus Wednesday of next week.
Falmouth (first in the latest Heal Points standings and sixth in the coaches' poll) still has a shot to sneak into the top spot in Western Class B.
"We have some big ones coming up," Kane said. "We have to prepare for those guys and play more solid and control the ball on offense."
"With kids this young, starting with freshmen and sophomore attackmen, the kids every game, get more experienced and more patient," LeBel added. "That may help us in the long run. We may take our lumps against some teams, but in the long run, this is very beneficial. We're pretty healthy right now. Knock on wood. We'll see how it goes. We're in that middle tier now. We're not in that top tier yet."
Based on what happened last week, that's debatable.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com.