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First showdown goes Yarmouth's way...barely

Sports

First showdown goes Yarmouth's way...barely

YARMOUTH—While it wasn't a vintage Falmouth-Yarmouth passion play, another memorable chapter was added to the state's most storied boys' soccer rivalry Monday evening.

The undefeated Clippers and once-beaten Yachtsmen went toe-to-toe for 80 palpitating minutes, but in the end, just once did the ball find the net.

That came late in the first half, when Yarmouth, after dominating for several minutes with nothing to show for it, benefited from a fortunate bounce, as senior captain Chandler Smith pounced on a rebound and finished.

The Clippers could never add a second goal, but their defense, most notably senior Travis Hamre, who served as the shadow of Falmouth junior Luke Velas from start to finish, didn't give the visitors much of a chance to answer.

The Yachtsmen finally got a great opportunity with just over two minutes to go, but unheralded Yarmouth junior goalkeeper Alex Lyon made the save of the season to preserve the lead and the Clippers went on to a 1-0 win, improving to 6-0-2, dropping Falmouth to 3-2-2 in the process.

"I actually thought we played a really good first half," said longtime Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty. "We had good chances to put it away on the doorstep in the first half. Those are chances that can come back to bite you and they almost did at the end."

Best rivalry around

From 1999 through 2012, Falmouth and Yarmouth ran roughshod on Class B, combining for 13 state championships (nine for the Yachtsmen), often going through the other en route.

That, along with proximity and the passion of their respective fan bases, made for an intense rivalry, one which almost always produced memorable games featuring several players who would go on to play in college.

Entering Monday's meeting, since the start of the 2001 season, Falmouth held a 15-9-5 series advantage (please see sidebar, below), but since 2010, Yarmouth had won five times to the Yachtsmen's two (with another game ending in a tie).

Last fall, the teams battled to a 2-2 draw in Yarmouth, the Clippers eked out a 2-1 double overtime win in Falmouth, then, in the Western B Final, back in Yarmouth, the Yachtsmen staggered the Clippers with a couple early goals and won, 2-0, en route to their final Class B title.

With Falmouth moving to Class A for the postseason this fall, the rivalry might (and I emphasize might) lose a little luster, but both squads entered Monday night's showdown boasting their usual gaudy records.

The Yachtsmen opened with victories over host Gray-New Gloucester (4-0) and visiting Kennebunk (2-1, in double overtime), then the goals started to dry up. After settling for a scoreless home tie against Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth again was held scoreless in a 0-0 draw at York. After beating visiting Poland, 4-0, the Yachtsmen fell for the first time Friday, 3-0, at home against Greely.

The Clippers opened 2013 with a 4-0 home win over Poland. After rallying for a 2-2 tie at Greely, the Clippers handled host Freeport, 5-1. A scoreless tie at York was followed by a 2-0 win at Kennebunk, a 3-0 victory at Waynflete and a palpitating 1-0 overtime victory at Cape Elizabeth Friday night. 

Monday, Yarmouth never got a comfortable lead, but didn't manage to escape with a 'W.'

In the first minute, the Clippers set the tone when senior standout David Murphy sent a long free kick on target, but Falmouth senior goalkeeper Will D'Agostino punched it away.

The Yachtsmen's first chance came in the third minute, when sophomore Nigel Dunn's low shot was saved by Lyon.

Yarmouth then controlled the balance of the first half, but it took a long time for the Clippers to tickle the twine.

After D'Agostino punched away a free kick by Yarmouth senior Wes Crawford, junior Ben Vigue couldn't handle a long serve and junior Adam LaBrie couldn't quite reach a cross from senior Ben Decker.

In the 13th minute, a Murphy throw from the side landed untouched in the box, but foreshadowed a more productive moment to come.

The frustrations continued as LaBrie had a shot saved, Murphy was taken down in the box, but no call was made, LaBrie sent a left-footed shot wide, D'Agostino punched away a Crawford corner kick and senior Max Watson sent a blast on frame which D'Agostino saved.

In the 23rd minute, Velas got a rare good look, but his rocket slid just wide of the post.

The Clippers returned to offense, where junior Connor Lainey sent a one-timer just high, LaBrie was brought down in the box without a call, senior Wyatt Jackson headed LaBrie's feed on target, only to have D'Agostino make the save, and Murphy sent a shot just off target.

Then, with 3:32 left before halftime, Yarmouth finally broke through.

The score began innocuously with a Murphy throw from the side, but his throws are as dangerous as corner kicks and the ball deflected off a Falmouth defender, bounced off D'Agostino and Smith raced in to one-time the ball past the goalie for a 1-0 advantage.

"I would say it was an awesome throw from David, who played a great game," said the always modest Smith. "Adam, who also had a great game, made a great run to the front post and I just got lucky."

"It wasn't that frustrating because I knew we were playing well as a team and I knew eventually a goal would come," Murphy said. "Any chance against a good team like Falmouth is a good chance."

"I thought our decision making was great," Hagerty added. "We did a nice job spacing and pushing the ball forward to feet and holding possession. We strung passes together and had good chances in the offensive third. Chandler was supposed to be in line with that skip. People want to call that luck, but if you're in the right spot, hopefully it gets to you. If he wasn't in that spot, he wouldn't have a chance to finish."

In the last frenetic 30 seconds of the half, Yarmouth earned three corner kicks, but the first was punched away by D'Agostino, the second was knocked away by the goalie and as time expired, on the third corner, Lainey sent a shot high.

Despite a 12-6 edge in shots (6-1 on frame), the Clippers clung to an anything-but-comfortable 1-0 advantage.

For most of the second half, Yarmouth completely stymied the Falmouth attack, but couldn't add to its lead. Then, in the waning moments, the Yachtsmen almost found a way to improbably pull even.

With 38:23 to go in regulation, Smith's header on a corner kick went high.

Three minutes later, senior David Clemmer passed to ball to LaBrie, who had a good look, but he couldn't get much on the shot and D'Agostino had an easy save.

Falmouth counter-attacked and sent a feed ahead to Velas bearing in on goal, but Lyon raced out to get to the ball just in time.

After Smith cleared a loose ball, Yachtsmen senior captain Nick Burton's throw trickled across the box untouched.

With 27:32 remaining, Watson set up Vigue for a great look, but D'Agostino again denied it.

Murphy and LaBrie then had shots denied and Vigue had a shot deflected wide.

With 11:55 to go, Falmouth got its first "shot" of the second half, one that was more a deflection off a Yarmouth defender, but to the horror of the home fans, the ball rolled toward the goal before trickling out of bounds just wide, keeping the score, 1-0.

With 7:35 left, Falmouth earned a corner, but the ball was cleared by the defense.

The same thing happened at the 6 minute mark.

Then, with 2:25 showing, the visitors almost got the equalizer.

The ball came up top to freshman Jonah Spiegal, who fired a left-footed blast that appeared ticketed for the far right corner of the goal.

Instead, Lyon got a great read on the ball, dove to his left and made a highlight reel diving save to keep his team on top.

"I saw it and I dove," Lyon said. "It's just sort of reactionary. It happened so fast."

Needless to say, Lyon's teammates and coach were thrilled.

"Alex has made great saves all season," Murphy said. "That's all we can ask for. He played a great game tonight."

"I've seen Alex make that save over and over and over again," Smith said. "He's stepping up and playing awesome. He's really come along."

"He had the great save of the game," added Hagerty. "It was a good hit. That would have been a heartbreaker. Against Cape, he made two or three big saves when he had to. It's a luxury to have Coach (Dale) Wing as a goalie coach. Alex has always been a smart goalie. His body has to catch up to his mind. He had the angle coverage on that shot. Barely, but it was covered. Some goalies may have drifted a little too much to their right, but his positioning is a testament to how good a goalie he is from the neck up."

That was the last, best chance for the Yachtsmen.

In the final minute, Yarmouth got the ball back into the Falmouth zone and LaBrie had a couple good looks which D'Agostino saved.

As the clock read 8:59 p.m., the game clock expired and the Clippers were able to celebrate their 1-0 victory.

"(We're) always about looking forward, but there was thought in the minds of guys who lost last year that we wanted to come out strong," Smith said.

"It's a huge deal for Heal Points and for the Brady Cup (given to the best team in head-to-head competition between Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Greely and Yarmouth)," said Murphy. "I don't know how many people know about the Brady Cup. That's almost as big as the state championship, because it shows who's the best team throughout the whole season and it's really meaningful to us. It's unsettling to go through a half of a game against Falmouth with a one-goal lead. It was a little nervewracking."

"We moved the ball nicely and did a nice job," Hagerty added. "Neither team was as clean as they could have been. It was damp and the ball was skipping. Neither team's first touch was as clean as it will be in a few weeks.  Falmouth's a young team. They don't play a ton of seniors. They only have two kids with significant varsity experience. They did a better job in the second half. They played more direct. We didn't do a good job controlling that and they had some chances. One on our mistake and one they created nicely. They won't be an easy out in the playoffs by any means. I feel like they gained confidence and especially how they played in the second half, they know they can play with us."

Yarmouth finished with a 24-8 shots advantage (14-3 on frame) and had eight corner kicks to four for Falmouth. Lyon made three saves.

Falmouth got 13 saves from D'Agostino, but for the fourth time in five games, couldn't score a goal.

"We wanted to try to keep it close and have a chance in the end and we were there," longtime Yachtsmen coach Dave Halligan said. "They were a little stronger than we were. Will, a senior captain, kept us in the game. He looks at it as a loss, but he played great and kept us in the game. Our defense is playing well. They had one bad game against Greely, but other than that, we've given up just one goal from the field."

Much of the reason for Falmouth's frustration was Yarmouth's defense, which pitched its sixth shutout of the season, including its fifth in a row.

"The defense does everything they possibly can for me," Lyon said. "They let up so few shots. They're so tight pressing. Nothing gets by them."

"All credit goes to Travis on Velas, he played outstanding tonight," Smith said. "He played the best he's ever played. Luke's an awesome player who is really tough to shut down."

New era

After the game, players and coaches were asked if the rivalry has lost some luster now that the rivalry won't continue into the postseason.

Those involved felt that things have changed, but that it is still intense.

"I think that the only reason it feels a little different is because more and more of our players know more and more of their players," said Smith. "Travel soccer is picking up more and more and we know each other. It's become more personal and friendly. (This rivalry) hasn't always been friendly, but it's an awesome rivalry."

"I think it's still Falmouth-Yarmouth," said Hagerty. "If there was luster lost, it's because these kids don't have history. It was a nice crowd, but it wasn't the energy we sometimes get."

"The guys still get fired up," Halligan said. "That's the respect both teams have for each other."

Crucible

Both Falmouth and Yarmouth might feel like they're already in the playoffs now considering the strength of their respective schedules.

The Yachtsmen's road tour continues Wednesday at Cape Elizabeth and Saturday at Greely. Falmouth returns home Tuesday of next week to face Yarmouth for the final time in 2013. After a home game versus York, the Yachtsmen (seventh in the Western A Heal Points standings) visit Kennebunk and Freeport, then finish at home against Waynflete.

"Every game is huge," Halligan said. "There's a lot of balance and a lot of parity. We're paying our dues. If we can physically survive it, we'll be fine. We'll play our best at the end. If we get in, we'll see what happens."

The Clippers (first in Western B, with Greely hot on their heels) have just one road game remaining, but that doesn't mean there are many breathers on the schedule.

For starters, Yarmouth welcomes York Wednesday.

"York's a very dangerous team," said Hagerty. "The good thing is we have them at home. We feel like we're a better team on turf. There's never an easy game with York. There hasn't been in my 17 years here."

The Clippers then host Cape Elizabeth Saturday. After playing their final road game (at Falmouth), the Clippers close at home versus Kennebunk, Greely and Gray-New Gloucester.

"We love the tough games," Murphy said. "It's more fun to play with a huge fan base. Playing under the lights. It's more fun than other games. There's always room to grow, but I think we're making small steps to get to where we want to be."

"At this stage, we've seen we've played well in parts of the game, but it opened our eyes that it could have slipped away," said Smith. "We have another level to progress to this year and we have faith we can step up to that next level. That's our game plan for Wednesday and going forward. I love our schedule. It's fantastic. To play fantastic teams every week is great. These are the games you remember. You don't remember the blowouts. You don't remember getting blown out in games. You remember the games you have to fight for."

"The beauty of this schedule is we can keep growing," Hagerty added. "We have to get better in the final third. We're doing a good job creating chances, we just have to do something with those chances. We expect to get a lot quicker, cleaner and faster on this turf. This year, I think we're built as a turf team. Some years it didn't matter, but I think this year, we're definitely a better turf team."

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Photo: Michael Strout

In a microcosm of the night, Yarmouth senior Travis Hamre holds Falmouth junior Luke Velas in check. The Clippers largely shut down the Yachtsmen attack in the victory.

Photo: Michael Strout

Falmouth sophomore Nigel Dunn heads the ball away from Yarmouth junior Adam LaBrie.

Photo: Michael Strout

Yarmouth senior David Clemmer protects the ball from Falmouth freshman Schuyler Parkinson.

Photo: Michael Strout

Yarmouth senior David Murphy gets a step on Falmouth senior Nick Burton.

Photo: Michael Strout

Falmouth senior Nick Burton and Yarmouth senior Wyatt Jackson meet in the air to contest a header.

Photo: Michael Strout

Falmouth senior goalkeeper Will D'Agostino goes all out to make a save.

Recent Yarmouth-Falmouth results

2012
@ Yarmouth 2 Falmouth 2
Yarmouth 2 @ Falmouth 1 (2 OT)
Falmouth 2 @ Yarmouth 0 (Western B Final)

2011
@ Yarmouth 2 Falmouth 1
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 0

2010
@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0
Yarmouth 2 @ Falmouth 1
@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0 (OT) (Western Class B Final)

2009
@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 1 (tie)
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 1 (tie)
@ Falmouth 3 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B Final)

2008
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 1 (OT)
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0
Yarmouth 2 @ Falmouth 1 (Western Class B Final)

2007
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0
Yarmouth 1 @ Falmouth 0
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B semifinals)

2006
@ Falmouth 0 Yarmouth 0 (tie)
Falmouth 3 @ Yarmouth 1
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B semifinals)

2005
Yarmouth 2 @ Falmouth 0
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0

2004
@ Falmouth 0 Yarmouth 0 (tie)

2003
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0

2002
@ Falmouth 4 Yarmouth 0
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B semifinals)

2001
@ Yarmouth 2 Falmouth 2 (tie)
@ Falmouth 4 Yarmouth 0