YARMOUTH—The Freeport boys’ lacrosse team came to town Tuesday hoping to give the perennially strong North Yarmouth Academy Panthers a scare.
Instead, it was the Panthers who delivered a frightening performance.
NYA led from start to finish, got goals from eight different players and dominated on ground balls as it cruised to a 19-6 triumph.
Junior Matt Kibler scored five times (and had three assists), sophomore Forrest Milburn added four goals and three assists and senior Brandon Barrett gobbled up a whopping 16 ground balls as the Panthers balanced their record at 3-3, dropping the Falcons to 3-2.
“We stayed focused all four quarters,” said NYA coach Chris Carpentier, who formerly coached Freeport. “They did what I asked them do. We finally put together four quarters and hopefully we can continue to do that.”
The Panthers dropped three of their first games this spring, 11-5 at Yarmouth, 12-2 at Cape Elizabeth and 12-9 at home to Falmouth. NYA did win 10-7 at Greely and Saturday pummeled visiting Oak Hill, 16-1.
Freeport, which reached the regional semifinals last season for just the second time in program history before losing to NYA, began 2010 with a 10-7 home loss to Cape Elizabeth, but bounced back with three straight victories, 10-2 at Fryeburg, 14-0 over visiting Lake Region and 13-6 at home over Edward Little.
Last year, the Panthers easily won in the regular season, 12-2, in Yarmouth, but in the playoff contest (also in Yarmouth), the Falcons made things interesting before falling, 14-9.
This time around, Freeport dug a hole early and couldn’t respond.
Just 35 seconds in, NYA took the lead for good when Milburn scored. A minute later, junior Finn Hadlock set up freshman Isaac Lipton for a goal and a 2-0 lead. With 8:20 left in the first half, Milburn set up Kibler’s first goal for a 3-0 advantage.
The Falcons got on the board with 5:05 remaining in the quarter when senior Christo Milholland scored unassisted, but after Freeport failed to draw closer with a man advantage, the Panthers went up 4-1 after Kibler set up junior Tim Millett for a goal.
With 1:21 to go in the first, Freeport made it 4-2 on an unassisted goal from senior Jackson Dodge, but in the final minute, Milburn (unassisted) and Hadlock (from Millett) beat Falcons sophomore goalie Alex Sturtevant for a 6-2 advantage.
“It was good for us to come out and put up a lot of goals early,” Kibler said.
The Falcons could have been closer, but they went 0-for-3 a man-up and turned the ball over 10 times.
“Our game plan was to get a couple quick ones and get it going, but I don’t think we really showed up,” lamented Freeport coach Geoff Arris. “It got frustrating.”
In the second minute of the second quarter, NYA made it 7-2 when the omnipresent Kibler fed senior Phil Champoux for a goal. After Milholland assisted on senior Thomas Dorsey’s goal for the visitors, Kibler scored unassisted and Kibler struck again (from Millett) to make it a 9-3 game at halftime.
The Panthers had a 26-8 shots advantage in the first half and had an almost 2-to-1 edge in ground balls.
Early in the second half, NYA went up by nine on goals from Millett (a dazzling backhanded shot, set up by Hadlock), Milburn (from Champoux) and junior Dylan Seely (a man-up tally, from Milburn). After junior Hans Pope (from Dorsey) scored man-up for Freeport, Kibler (on a gorgeous pass from Millett), Kibler (from Milburn) and Champoux (man-up, from Hadlock) answered for the Panthers to make it a 15-4 contest.
Pope (unassisted) and Milburn (from Millett) traded goals late in the third and NYA held a 16-5 advantage at the start of the final stanza.
With 9:01 to go, Seely scored from Kibler to force a running clock. With 6:53 remaining, freshman Jacob Scammon scored his first varsity goal. After Dorsey scored from freshman Conner Kelly, Scammon scored unassisted in the final minute to account for the 19-6 final score.
“We came off a couple big losses this year and came into this game really focused,” Barrett said. “We got the first goal and won the little battles. We’re coming together finally. We’ve grown from our losses. We’re keeping up-tempo in practice and that’s coming through in games.”
While Kibler and Milburn combined for nine goals and six assists, they had plenty of company. Champoux (two assists), Millett (four assists), Scammon and Seely all had two goals, while Hadlock (four assists) and Lipton finished with one apiece.
“I think we have a lot of guys who can do it on offense,” Kibler said. “We started off a little sluggish and slow, but it looks like our offense is coming together and our defense is doing well too. If we’re playing well, I think we can play with anyone.”
“It’s a good feeling to see the younger guys also get involved,” Carpentier added. “Hopefully when our next challenge comes, we’ll be ready.”
NYA, which got 10 saves from senior goalie Taylor Norton, had a 15-12 edge in faceoffs, a commanding 49-22 advantage in shots (30-16 on goal), forced 36 turnovers (while committing 26) and won 55 ground balls to 35 for the visitors. Barrett dominated with 16.
“I try to be a ground ball machine,” Barrett said. “I’ve gotten back into playing (longstick middie) this year. The last two years we were short on poles. It’s nice to get back to the midfield. We need possession and ground balls.”
“Brandon’s found a new home at the LSM position,” Carpentier added. “I feel comfortable letting him go at midfield with the defense I have now.”
Norton had nine ground balls, while Champoux snared seven. Kibler wound up with six.
For Freeport, Dorsey and Pope both had two goals, while Dodge and Milholland each had one. Dorsey, Kelly and Milholland had assists. Sturtevant stopped 11 shots. Dodge had a team-high seven ground balls, while sophomore Evan Hench finished with five.
“We just couldn’t pull it together,” Arris said. “There’s something about this field. I thought this would be our best game of the season. It’s a little disappointing. We’ll come back. Hopefully we’ll turn it right around and start fresh.”
The Falcons are home with Fryeburg Thursday and go to Lincoln Academy Saturday.
NYA (ranked 10th in the latest coaches’ poll), meanwhile, faces a big test at Western A power Scarborough Friday night. Tuesday of next week, the Panthers host Yarmouth. They also still have key games remaining with Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
NYA senior Phil Champoux runs past Freeport senior Josh Sturtevant as the Panthers had their way offensively.
NYA junior Finn Hadlock turns the corner on Freeport junior Bennett Wade. The Panthers led from start to finish in a 19-6 victory.
NYA freshman Matt Hawkins gets tangled up with Freeport senior Jackson Dodge during Tuesday afternoon’s contest.
More photos below.