Falmouth's back on top of Class B boys' soccer world; Yachtsmen's second half surge beats Ellsworth, 3-0
SCARBOROUGH — The Falmouth boys' soccer team is king of the mountain once again.
The Yachtsmen won their seventh Class B state championship in 10 seasons Saturday afternoon at Scarborough High School, but it took the team's prolific offense over 40 minutes to get going.
Once Falmouth broke the ice, on senior standout Gabe Hoffman-Johnson's goal just 1 minute, 32 seconds into the second stanza, the floodgates opened and junior Sam White and senior Alec Dunn struck as well. Junior goalkeeper Ben Goffin made a crucial save with the game still in the balance and the Yachtsmen put the finishing touches on their 16-0-2 campaign with a 3-0 victory over a very plucky Ellsworth squad.
"I thought we came out stronger in the second half and improved on our performance," said Dunn, one of nine seniors on the roster. "The first goal kind of accelerated our game."
Back on top
Falmouth has long been one of the state's premier programs, but the Yachtsmen were served a dose of humility a year ago. As the top seed, Falmouth was upset at home by fierce rival Yarmouth in the Western B Final and wasn't able to play for a third straight championship. The agony of that setback drove this year's squad which had one simple goal: getting to the state game and taking home the Gold Ball.
Despite playing a very challenging schedule, the Yachtsmen rose to the occasion all year, winning 12 times by a composite 82-4 margin and tying Yarmouth twice (1-1 each time). Falmouth earned the top seed for the Western B playoffs and demolished No. 8 Fryeburg 10-0 in the quarterfinals, blanked No. 5 Lincoln Academy 5-0 in the semifinals, then earned a huge measure of revenge with a 3-0 home win over No. 2 Yarmouth in Wednesday's regional final.
That victory allowed the Yachtsmen to advance to meet Eastern B champion Ellsworth for the second time in three years in the state game. In 2007, Falmouth was a 3-0 winner.
This time, the Yachtsmen were frustrated in the first half by a spirited effort from the Eagles.
Hoffman-Johnson had a great early chance to give his team the lead, but pushed a shot wide on an open net. Ellsworth held its own by possessing the ball frequently, but couldn't take the lead.
At halftime, Falmouth relaxed and quickly seized control in the second half.
Hoffman-Johnson would give the Yachtsmen the only goal they'd need with 38:28 to play, when he headed home Dunn's pass to make it 1-0.
"There was a little feeling of frustration, but we weren't too down on ourselves," said Hoffman-Johnson, an All-American selection in 2008. "We had some chances in the first half. Coach settled us down at halftime. We had a corner. Alec was able to get control. We made eye contact. I made the run, he sent it to me and I headed it in."
"It was a typical state game in the first half," said longtime Falmouth coach Dave Halligan. "Everybody was a little bit nervous. Once we settled in, good things happened for us. The first time we played them a couple years ago, it was like that. We just needed to relax a little bit and play."
While the Yachtsmen went on to a relatively easy win, momentum almost changed big-time with 31:29 to play. After a foul, Ellsworth senior Matt Duhaime earned a free kick just outside the box and launched a sinking blast toward the lower right corner of the net. But out of nowhere, racing to his left, Goffin snared the bid and kept it a 1-0 game.
"They got a free kick at the top of the box and the kid hit a nice shot, but I just stopped it," said Goffin.
"To me, that was probably the biggest part of the half," Hoffman-Johnson said. "They could have taken momentum right back. Ben probably saved the game for us right there."
"Ben's been solid for us all year," Halligan added. "He doesn't get the credit he deserves. He has 11 shutouts now. He's only given up four goals."
Any Eagles upset hopes were dashed when White made it 2-0 in the 54th minute. White took a pass from Dunn, dribbled up the left side, beat the defense and fired a low shot into the goal.
Less than three minutes later, Dunn iced it, converting a feed from senior Ford Borhman and scoring to make it 3-0.
"Someone played the ball to Ford and he worked hard to get it across," Dunn said. "It deflected off one person and I touched it in. This is awesome. Doing it senior year is a great feeling. Last year, we went in expecting to win. This year, we knew we had to work hard every practice and every game. It paid off."
Ellsworth (16-1-1) never seriously threatened from there and Falmouth was soon able to celebrate yet another title.
"It feels really great, especially after losing to Yarmouth last year," Goffin said. "I think we were just nervous at first. Once we started playing our game, we started getting goals."
"Ever since last year, that feeling after losing, this is what we've been working for," Hoffman-Johnson said. "It's great. For a lot of us, we expected a little too much last year and took things for granted. We stayed focused this year. This was our goal from the beginning."
"They're all special, but after last year, we appreciate it more," Halligan added. "We'll enjoy the moment. You never know when you'll get back. We knew we'd only go as far as the senior class would take us. They've been on top of their game all season long. It's a special group. We have some outstanding players. It was a good team effort tonight."
With plenty of firepower returning, the Yachtsmen will have to be viewed as the favorite once again next autumn.
"I hope we can do it next year too," Goffin said.
"We have some very good players coming back," added Halligan. "Our young guys got a taste of it. If they work hard, we'll get back here."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org