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Yarmouth the favorite as boys' lacrosse playoffs commence

Sports

Yarmouth the favorite as boys' lacrosse playoffs commence

The 2009 boys' lacrosse playoffs are set to begin and once again, all eyes are on the Yarmouth Clippers.

The Clippers have won three of the past five state championships, including last year's, and could easily be going for a sixth in a row if it wasn't for one-goal losses in the 2005 state final and the 2007 Eastern B title tilt.

Yarmouth managed to go 12-0 this spring for just the second time in program history, capping its regular season with decisive home wins over rival North Yarmouth Academy (12-4) and at Falmouth (18-5).

The Clippers were expected to get a stern test from the up-and-coming Yachtsmen, who had previously handily defeated NYA and came close to upsetting Cape Elizabeth, Portland and Scarborough.

Instead, Yarmouth dominated from start to finish last Wednesday in a game played on Falmouth's home field. The Clippers had a mind-boggling 17-1 advantage in ground balls and outshot the Yachtsmen 14-3 in a one-sided first period which ended with Yarmouth ahead, 3-0. The Clippers pushed their lead to 5-0 at the break, then blew it open in the second half, getting eight goals from junior Steven Petrovek and five from senior Rob Highland.

"We knew (Falmouth) gave Portland a good run, so we knew we had to come out and
work as hard as we could," said Highland. "Everyone thinks that just because we're a
turf team, we wouldn't be good on grass, but we practiced. I thought it
would be a pretty close game. Things worked out for us."

"Our hope was to come out strong," added Yarmouth coach Craig Curry. "We put some guys out there who provide some excitement and have a nose for the ground like (senior) Colin Simsarian. We fed off his enthusiasm and his energy."

When all was said and done, the Clippers won 17 of 25 faceoffs, had a 43-26 edge in shots and a 48-26 advantage in ground balls as they joined the 2004 squad (the first state champion) as Yarmouth teams to finish a season without a blemish.

"It feels good," said Highland. "We lost a lot of skill players, but this team has a lot
of parts. We've won games because we stuck with it and didn't give up."

"I feel great for the boys, they did it," Curry added. "They're proud of themselves, but they know it's over and now we're 0-0. This is a very pleasant surprise. Only two kids who played today had substantial time on the field last year. All the others had faith in themselves and waited their turn. Now it's their turn and I'm happy for them."

Yarmouth earned a bye into Saturday's semifinal round. The Clippers will draw either No. 4 St. Dom's (8-4) or No. 5 Morse (9-3). Yarmouth didn't face either team this year. Two years ago, the Clippers downed Morse 20-1 in the quarterfinals in the only prior playoff meeting. Yarmouth has never faced St. Dom's in the postseason.

If the Clippers make it to next Wednesday's regional final, there's a good chance they'll square off against a familiar foe.

NYA has battled Yarmouth every year in the playoffs dating back to 1999. This year, the Panthers finished 7-5 under first-year coach Chris Carpentier, and earned the No. 3 seed in Eastern B. NYA hosts No. 6 Gardiner (9-3) in Thursday's quarterfinal round. The Panthers and Tigers didn't play this season or in any prior postseason.

"I think we'll show a lot of passion in the playoffs," said Carpeniter. "If we play our game and control the ball, we can play a whole four quarters.” 

Freeport won its final four games to wind up 5-7, good for the seventh and final Eastern B seed. The Falcons went to No. 2 Mt. Blue (12-0) for a quarterfinal Wednesday (too late for print). Freeport didn't play the Cougars this year. The only prior playoff meeting came in 2003 (a 17-2 win for Mt. Blue in the preliminary round).

If Freeport could spring the upset, it would likely go to NYA in the semifinals Saturday. The teams played in the opener back on April 28 and the host Panthers won, 12-2. NYA won the only prior playoff meeting, 9-5 in the 2005 quarterfinal round. Adding even more spice to that potential matchup is the fact that Carpentier coached the Falcons prior to taking over the Panthers.

Whatever happens in the quarterfinal and semifinal round, when all is said and done, all roads to the championship will go through Yarmouth (where the Clippers have won 62 straight, dating to May, 2002).

"We're not going into any game thinking we're the top dog," said Highland. "I
think we'll work as hard as we can. We'll think we're the underdog."

"I'm sure we'll see NYA again," Curry added. "Mt. Blue is undefeated. They could be a great team, we have no idea. Teams have to come to us and we like it (at home)."

Falmouth's time?

The word on the Yachtsmen of Falmouth was that they were a year away, but after they demolished NYA and nearly upset Portland, some felt the future was now and that Cape Elizabeth had better watch out.

The Yachtsmen did come back to earth a bit with the loss to Yarmouth.

"Obviously, (Yarmouth's) very talented and experienced," said Falmouth coach Mike LeBel. "They're bigger, stronger and faster. They're disciplined and well-coached. They had every conceivable advantage on us, but (that game) shouldn't have been that lopsided. Especially on the grass.

"I don't understand how we could play so well against Portland and so poorly (against Yarmouth). When that team plays that well, no one is going to beat them. No one has a chance against them. They were more aggressive on ground balls. The ground ball and faceoff stats said a lot. We didn't have an answer for Highland. He kept taking the ball up top and we didn't slide early enough and he shot and scored. Then we got desperate and started sliding early and playing erratic defense and then they started beating us in transition. It was all Highland 6-on-6. (Senior defender) Sam (Dunwoody) was fine on Petrovek 6-on-6, he wasn't scoring. He scored on the transition opportunities. Sam is a legitimate defenseman. He had a great game."

Falmouth wound up 8-4 and took the second seed into the playoffs.

"We're behind Cape, which is fine," LeBel said. "Throughout the year, they were a
better team than we were. I think the guys will be ready for the
playoffs."

On Saturday, the Yachtsmen will host No. 3 Greely (6-6) in the semifinals. On May 29, Falmouth won 9-0 in Cumberland. Falmouth got a measure of revenge for last year's controversial 7-6 (overtime) playoff loss, but would really like to return the favor this June and beat the Rangers for the first time in the past three postseasons (Falmouth also lost in overtime, 8-7, in the 2007 quarterfinals).

The winner will likely travel to Cape Elizabeth for the regional final next week. Falmouth fell 6-3 on the road to the Capers, May 6. Greely was a 14-6 loser in Cape Elizabeth May 22. Last year, the Rangers were eliminated by the Capers, 11-5 in the regional final. Falmouth has never met Cape Elizabeth in the playoffs.

Schedule

Looking ahead, the regional final round will be played next Wednesday on the field of the highest remaining seed. The Class B state game is Saturday, June 20 at Fitzpatrick Stadium, beginning at 3 p.m.