Yarmouth boys secure top seed with decisive win over Greely
YARMOUTH—Just when it looks like the Yarmouth boys' soccer team can't get any better, the Clippers produce yet another emphatic performance against a top-notch foe.
A mere eight days after its biggest win over rival Falmouth in at least a quarter century, Yarmouth hosted Greely Wednesday night in a contest pivotal for Western Class B playoff positioning.
After rallying to tie the Rangers, 2-2, last month in Cumberland, the Clippers weren't about to let this meeting hang in the balance late and they made a powerful statement nearly from the beginning.
Greely almost took the lead in the first minute, but Yarmouth settled down and in the fourth minute, went on top for good when junior Ben Vigue set up senior captain Max Watson for a goal.
After several close calls, the Clippers made it 2-0 when senior captain Chandler Smith set up junior Adam LaBrie for a goal with 6:16 to go before halftime.
Cognizant that it had rallied from two goals down in the first meeting and that Greely was eminently capable of doing the same, Yarmouth didn't let up in the second half and got an all-important third tally less than six minutes in when senior Wyatt Jackson scored on a rebound.
With just over 30 minutes to go, Watson ended all doubt by converting a penalty kick and even though Greely got a late goal from junior Harry Shain, the Clippers went on to a most impressive 4-1 triumph, lifting their record to 10-0-3 while dropping the Rangers to 9-2-2 in the process.
"The kids were really zoned in tonight," said Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty. "Very focused. This was something they've looked forward to since the first matchup. We played as well as we could have played and we benefited from some good bounces."
Yarmouth 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. After beating visiting Falmouth, 1-0, Yarmouth had its way with visiting York, 4-1, then rallied to tie visiting Cape Elizabeth in a shootout, 3-3. Last week, the Clippers went to Falmouth and earned a stunningly decisive 6-1 victory. Saturday, Yarmouth held off visiting Kennebunk, 1-0.
The Rangers dominated visiting Fryeburg, 7-0, in their opener, then let a 2-0 lead slip away in a frustrating 2-2 home draw versus Yarmouth. Greely then beat visiting Gray-New Gloucester, 1-0, but slipped up at Kennebunk, falling, 2-1. The Rangers then came to life with wins at Cape Elizabeth (2-1), at home against Freeport (4-0), at Falmouth (3-0), at a York team which hadn't given up a goal to that point all season (3-0), at home against Kennebunk (1-0) and at home against Falmouth (2-1) before settling for a scoreless home tie versus York. Saturday, the Rangers returned to their winning ways with a 2-0 home victory over Cape Elizabeth.
After Greely snapped a nine-game losing streak against Yarmouth last fall, the teams played that palpitating tie last month, which left the Clippers' series lead at 12-8-5 dating back to 2001 (please see sidebar, below).
Wednesday, Yarmouth continued to dazzle.
First, however, the Rangers earned a corner kick 30 seconds in and senior Matt Crowley's serve got through and hit the post before being cleared from harm's way. Greely then got a free kick from the side only to have nothing come of it and a pair of great opportunities to get an early lead had gone by the wayside.
"It was pretty scary, but we have enough leadership where we can rebound from that and that didn't affect us much," said Yarmouth senior defensive standout and free kick specialist Wes Crawford. "We put it behind us and we scored."
The Clippers' first offensive foray resulted in a goal, as Vigue won a 50-50 ball and with two defenders bearing down, touched a pass ahead to Watson, who raced in down the right side. Rangers senior goalkeeper Alex McAdoo came out to cut down the angle, but Watson beat him with a low shot just inside the far post and just 3:43 in, Yarmouth had the lead for good, 1-0.
"We're really starting to pull together and play as a team," said Watson, who, after watching his younger sister, Lilly, play the hero in the girls' game just prior, earned his seat at the dinner table with the quick strike. "When everyone does their job, we're tough to beat. We're coming together at the right time. We've worked on runs in the middle. I made a run and Ben picked up his head, saw me and he played the ball through. McAdoo came off his line and I put it far post. That's what we've worked on in practice."
"That first goal was a lift," said Crawford.
"Now we're seeing the Max everyone should know exists," added Hagerty, alluding to Watson's return from a nagging knee injury. "He's a heck of a player. He commands attention. He benefits from his teammates behind him. He's showing his offensive talent."
Yarmouth's offense has benefited this year from the return of a favorite son, Eoin Lynch, who last donned a Clippers uniform in 2001 (before going on to play at Providence College and professionally in Ireland), but has had a huge impact on this squad.
"We've worked with Eoin on shooting," said Watson. "He's a born scorer. To have his knowledge is huge for us."
"We had Eoin Lynch come back this year and work with our forwards," Hagerty said. "Looking at our stats, our shots have steadily increased. Scoring opportunities and the way our forwards have worked together has gotten better and that's 100 percent on Eoin. He's such a nice complement to the coaches. We have Coach (Dale) Wing working with the goalies. I work with the backs and midfielders. He's really shored up our attacking mindset. We feel like we can score goals. I can't overemphasize how important it's been to have him come back. Not just his pedigree, but his ability to emphasize what the team means to the town."
A minute after the first goal, LaBrie almost made it 2-0, but after splitting two defenders and firing a low shot, his bid was denied by McAdoo.
McAdoo robbed LaBrie again, this time in sprawling fashion, with 33:35 to play in the first half.
In the 15th minute, Yarmouth senior David Murphy shot just wide on a corner.
Two minutes later, Jackson's header (from junior Connor Lainey off a corner) was saved.
In the 19th minute, Greely returned to the attack and earned a corner kick after a shot by dangerous sophomore Jacob Nason was deflected wide. On the ensuing corner, Nason got his head on Crowley's feed, but the ball sailed just high.
With 6:16 to before halftime, the hosts got a little breathing room as Smith, on the Yarmouth side of the field, played a long pass ahead into the box. It bounced once and the speedy LaBrie, who got a step on the defense, one-touched it past McAdoo into the goal to make it 2-0.
Smith and LaBrie could have been on the field alone practicing that play and not executed it as smoothly.
"Chandler has been solid all year for us," said Watson.
The Clippers finished the first half with a 10-5 shots advantage (8-2 on frame). Only six saves from McAdoo kept Greely's faint hopes alive.
Yarmouth, having twice erased two-goal second half deficits this fall, was well aware during intermission that it still had work to do and that the next goal would be pivotal.
It didn't take long for the Clippers to get it and really open things up.
With 36:18 left in regulation, seconds after Wing asked his attackers if they were ready to "hunt," Jackson proved hungriest, collecting a rebound and beating McAdoo to make it 3-0.
"We talked about making sure we didn't start the second half like the first half," Hagerty said. "(Senior) Ben Decker deserves a lot of credit. He really got a lot of balls to his feet and made good decisions down the sideline. By making those runs and passes, it gave us time to get out. Once we find our shape, we're tough to get through. I'm really pleased with Ben. I thought he had one of his best games of the season. He calmed us down."
Yarmouth continued to press and with 30:12 remaining, a shot by LaBrie appeared goal bound, but Rangers senior defender Patrick O'Shea reached out and made the save with his hand. Problem is, O'Shea's not the goalie and as a result, the hosts earned a penalty kick.
Watson did the honors and fired a hard, low shot to the right corner and despite a diving attempt, McAdoo couldn't reach it, making it 4-0 Clippers.
"PKs are all about focusing on one spot," Watson said. "The goalie has to guess. I put it in my spot and it was 50-50 if he guessed right."
To its credit, Greely never gave up and was rewarded with 8:44 to play, when junior Reid Howland served up a corner kick which junior Harry Shain headed past Yarmouth junior goalkeeper Alex Lyon to make it 4-1.
The Rangers almost made things very interesting with 6 minutes to go, but a re-direct by senior Aidan Black was stopped by a sprawling Lyon.
The Clippers went on from there to secure their 4-1 triumph, locking up the top seed for the Western B playoffs and perhaps best of all, guaranteeing possession of the "Brady Cup (given to the team with the best record in head-to-head competition between Yarmouth, Greely, Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth) for a record fourth straight season.
"The Brady Cup's a very big deal," Crawford said. "It shows we're consistent. It's a big deal for me and I know it is for the other seniors as well."
"To show consistency through our schedule is huge for us," said Watson. "Apart from state championships and elite rankings, the Brady Cup's what we go for every year. We're happy to have it back."
"We knew this game would have more weight," Hagerty added. "It was for the No. 1 seed and for the Brady Cup. It's the first time a team has won it four years in a row, which is a source of great pride. Four of these seniors were on varsity as freshmen. They understand the amount of pride we take in that. It rewards excellence in the regular season. To go through the most difficult regular season schedule we've had and perform well, is a testament to their work and to the coaching staff."
Yarmouth outshot Greely, 16-14 (13-5 on frame). The Clippers had seven corner kicks to six for the Rangers. Lyon made four saves.
Yarmouth's defense, once again. was stellar.
"We were worried about Nason, because he has speed up top," Crawford said. "He's a very good player. Our midfielders could deal with Crowley."
"(Sophomore Walter (Conrad) was terrific one-on-one with Nason," Hagerty said. "Greely's a great team. Certainly top five in the state. They just had a tough night. They have a great senior class. Kids like Matt and Aidan are class kids, quality players. I guarantee if we play again, it won't be like this. It will be a one-goal game. I really have a lot of respect for their entire program, from (coach) Mike (Andreasen) on down. They had an incredible season as well. Only losing twice is a darn good statement for them."
McAdoo had six saves, while junior backup goalkeeper John Wright stopped three shots for Greely, which just couldn't find any answers.
"We didn't make the most of our opportunities," said Andreasen. "We had that corner kick hit the post, but no one was on it. We had shots. A team like Yarmouth doesn't give you many opportunities. When they give you one, you have to take advantage. We didn't do that tonight. They came out on a mission. Possessed. Playing for first place. They guarded their turf well. They outskilled us too. They were technically cleaner. They were tactically better. They were better in every phase. I was outcoached. The first game we were in control of, then we had breakdowns late. Tonight, we were never in control. We took it on the chin. We made some mistakes in the back. I don't know what happened. That was odd. From there, we never got our rhythm back. We wanted to get it to 1-0 at half. The second one was the backbreaker."
Circle Nov. 6
There's an excellent chance Greely will come back to Yarmouth for the regional final in three weeks, which could be the game of the year.
First things first, as the Rangers finish at Lake Region Saturday. Greely will be the No. 2 seed for the playoffs and is in strong position to turn heads in its first year in the Class B postseason.
"We have to regroup," Andreasen said. "Luckily, we live to play more. Right now, Yarmouth's the team we want to be. We have another game, then they count for real and we can't take anyone for granted. I like where we're going in. We've gotten kids back from injuries. We're getting them ready for hopefully round three. Clearly round two wasn't our best round. If we do play them again, there will be plenty of emotion. It would be the Western Maine Final."
The Clippers (who will be the No. 1 seed for the second year in a row) host Gray-New Gloucester on Senior Night Monday.
Then, Yarmouth will focus on becoming the championship team it already resembles.
"We can't change much now," said Crawford. "I think our defense is clicking. Our midfield is clicking. We just need to keep it up."
"We have experience in the back and we have confidence in our defenders," Watson said. "Homefield is big. We love playing here. Our fans are great."
"We wanted homefield advantage and we got it," Hagerty added. "Gray's sneaking up. We may see them right away again in the playoffs. We'll let the kids enjoy the Brady Cup tonight. I'm proud of their effort. The seniors did a great job again."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
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