TA surges late to deny Falmouth's title bid

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Falmouth senior Brendan Hickey and Thornton Academy sophomore Sam Edborg get tangled up during Saturday’s Class A state final. The Golden Trojans erased a fourth quarter deficit and beat the Yachtsmen, 14-12, to win a championship for the first time.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Class A State Final, June 16, 2018, Fitzpatrick Stadium, Portland

Thornton Academy 14 Falmouth 12

TA- 2 5 2 5- 14
F- 5 3 2 2- 12

First quarter
9:32 TA Levasseur (LeBlanc)
7:38 F Tucker (Hickey)
6:26 TA Labreck (unassisted)
6:16 F St. Louis (unassisted)
6:03 F Mainella (N. Farnham)
3:59 F Tucker (N. Farnham)
3:15 F N. Farnham (Mainella)

Second quarter
11:36 TA Labreck (unassisted)
10:59 TA Labreck (unassisted)
7:44 F Reed (unassisted)
6:29 F Tucker (unassisted)
3:29 TA Levasseur (LeBlanc) (MAN-UP)
1:40 TA Webb (unassisted)
22.2 F Mainella (Hickey)
5.7 TA Edborg (unassisted)

Third quarter
7:28 TA LeBlanc (unassisted)
7:11 TA Levasseur (Edborg)
4:13 F Fitzgerald (N. Farnham)
2:10 F N. Farnham (Mainella) (MAN-UP)

Fourth quarter
9:59 F N. Farnham (Tucker)
8:54 TA Webb (Edborg)
6:50 TA Labreck (Webb)
4:57 TA Labreck (Edborg)
3:20 TA Labreck (unassisted)
1:44 TA Edborg (LeBlanc)
47.3 F N. Farnham (Tucker)

Goals:
TA- Labreck 6, Levasseur 3, Edborg, Webb 2, LeBlanc 1
F- N. Farnham 4, Tucker 3, Mainella 2, Fitzgerald, Reed, St. Louis 1

Assists:
TA- Edborg, LeBlanc 3, Webb 1
F- N. Farnham 3, Hickey, Mainella, Tucker 2 

Draws (Thornton Academy, 21-9)
TA- Edborg 21 of 28, Pelletier 0 of 2
F- St. Louis 7 of 21, Zinn 1 of 4, Hickey 1 of 3, Allen 0 of 2  

Ground balls:
TA- 27
F- 35

Turnovers:
TA- 20
F- 18

Shots:
TA- 35
F- 28

Shots on cage:
TA- 23
F- 21

Saves:
TA (Patry) 9
F (Berry) 9 (Chapman) 0

PORTLAND—Falmouth didn’t make it easy, but Thornton Academy had just enough to win its first boys’ lacrosse championship Saturday evening at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.

Two-and-a-half weeks after losing by seven goals in Saco, the Yachtsmen got another crack at the Golden Trojans in the Class A state final and for three-plus quarters, Falmouth had undefeated, favored Thornton Academy on the ropes.

But with the game, the season and their destiny on the line, the Golden Trojans dominated the final nine minutes and came away with the long-sought after hardware.

Juniors Thomas Levasseur and C.J. Labreck sandwiched goals around a tally from Falmouth junior Reilly Tucker to give Thornton Academy an early 2-1 lead, but the Yachtsmen closed the first period on a 4-0 run, thanks to goals from junior Iyendae St. Louis, senior Lou Mainella, Tucker and senior Nick Farnham for a 5-2 advantage.

Labreck put the Golden Trojans on his back and scored consecutive jawdropping unassisted goals, but Falmouth answered again, as junior Riley Reed and Tucker scored to add to the lead. After Levasseur and senior Jack Webb again pulled Thornton Academy within one, Mainella countered, but with 5.7 seconds to go, senior Noah Edborg cut the Yachtsmen’s lead to 8-7 at the break.

Senior Wyatt LeBlanc and Levasseur opened the second half with goals to put the Golden Trojans ahead, but again, Falmouth responded, as sophomore Thomas Fitzgerald tied it and Farnham scored man-up to give the Yachtsmen a 10-9 advantage heading for the fourth period.

When Farnham scored again with 9:59 to play, Falmouth entertained dreams of a title, but Thornton Academy went on a 5-0 run to essentially grab the crown.

After Webb cut the deficit to one, Labreck scored with 6:50 to go to tie it, then scored again with 4:57 remaining to put the Golden Trojans ahead for good.

Labreck added one more goal and Edborg scored as well for breathing room and while Farnham scored once more in the final minute, Thornton Academy went on and closed out its 14-12 victory.

Labreck scored six times and Levasseur added three goals to help the Golden Trojans finish 15-0, end the Yachtsmen’s season at 13-2 and secure the first state title in the program’s history.

“We gave it everything we had,” said Falmouth coach Dave Barton. “We told the guys it’s OK to be upset right now, but there’s something powerful about giving everything you’ve got in a three month season and these guys did everything we asked. I’m super-proud.” 

Showdown

Falmouth and Thornton Academy separated themselves from the pack early this season and their encounter Saturday, in the final game of the high school lacrosse season, regardless of class or gender, came as a surprise only to a few.

The Yachtsmen, in their first season in Class A North, won 11 of 12 games and were only tested in a couple of their victories. As the top seed in the region, Falmouth earned a bye into the semifinals, where it dispatched No. 4 Lewiston, 14-10. Wednesday, the Yachtsmen were tested for a half by No. 2 Portland, before eventually pulling away for a 15-6 victory.

The Golden Trojans, longtime bridesmaids, who hadn’t been able to get past the regional final round, including last year, when they lost, 20-16, to Scarborough, put it all together this spring, winning all 12 games and only getting pushed once, in a double-overtime victory over Cape Elizabeth. As the top seed in Class A South, Thornton Academy earned a bye into the semifinals, then dominated No. 5 South Portland, 13-4, in the semifinals and eliminated the second-seeded Capers with shocking ease in the regional final, 15-6.

The squads squared off May 29 in Saco and the Golden Trojans beat the Yachtsmen handily, 12-5, behind four goals from Levasseur (Farnham and Mainella had two apiece for Falmouth).

Prior to the state final, Falmouth and Thornton Academy had never played in the postseason.

While the Golden Trojans were making their first appearance on the big stage, the Yachtsmen were playing in a state game for the fourth time, after winning Class B championships over North Yarmouth Academy in 2011 and 2012 and Yarmouth in 2016 (see sidebar, below, for previous results).

Saturday, on a beautiful 83 degree evening, the lacrosse season and high school sports year came to a close with a game that saw Falmouth give Thornton Academy fits much of the game before the Golden Trojans closed like champions.

St. Louis won the opening faceoff and the Yachtsmen got the first shot, but Thornton Academy junior goalie Ean Patry denied Mainella.

Then, with 9:32 to play in the first quarter, LeBlanc set up Levasseur to open the scoring.

After Falmouth junior goalie Kai Berry denied sophomore Sam Edborg, the Yachtsmen tied the score with 7:38 on the clock, as senior Brendan Hickey raced in and set up Tucker for a goal.

Labreck first made his presence felt with 6:26 to go in the frame, scoring to give the Golden Trojans the lead, but 10 seconds later, after a St. Louis faceoff win, St. Louis ran and in and finished to tie it, 2-2.

Falmouth went ahead for the first time with 6:03 left in the quarter, as St. Louis won the faceoff again and Farnham passed to Mainella for the go-ahead tally.

With 3:59 on the clock, Tucker scored for the second time, from Nick Farnham, and 44 seconds later, Mainella fed Farnham for a 5-2 lead, a score that would hold up into the second quarter after Noah Edborg hit the crossbar in the final minute.

Labreck started the new frame by demonstrating what makes him close to impossible at times, first, completely leaving two defenders in his wake before scoring with 11:36 to go in the half, then scoring unassisted again 37 seconds later to cut the deficit to one.

After senior Tucker Weeks missed wide and Noah Edborg’s potential game-tying goal was waved off because he was in the crease, Reed picked up the ball after a turnover, raced in and beat Patry for a 6-4 lead with 7:44 left.

With 6:29 on the clock, Tucker made it a three-goal game again with an unassisted tally.

“They were beating us at our own game,” said Golden Trojans coach Ryan Hersey. “The first time we played, they would slow the ball down when they got it, get their defensive guys out, then put their offensive middies in instead of pushing the ball. Today, they got three first half goals pushing the ball.”

Thornton Academy answered again, as LeBlanc fed Levasseur for a man-up goal with 3:29 remaining in the half and with 1:40 on the clock, Webb bulled his way around the crease before turning and shooting past Berry to pull the Golden Trojans within one, 7-6.

Thornton Academy had a chance to draw even man-up, but after Noah Edborg missed wide, the Golden Trojans committed another turnover, Hickey scooped up the ball and after meeting resistance, Hickey flicked the ball over his head on a bounce to Mainella, who finished a man-down goal with 22.2 seconds to go.

That goal should have given the Yachtsmen momentum going into the half, but with 5.7 seconds remaining, Noah Edborg scored unassisted to again make it a one-goal game, 8-7, at the break.

In the first half, Falmouth had a commanding edge in ground balls and Thornton Academy committed 10 turnovers to help the Yachtsmen cling to the lead.

The Golden Trojans came out strong in the second half and went on top, but it didn’t last.

After Labreck missed wide and Berry denied Webb and Levasseur, LeBlanc scored unassisted with 7:28 remaining in the third quarter to tie it, 8-8.

It took just 17 seconds for Thornton Academy to score again, as after Sam Edborg won the faceoff, Noah Edborg set up Levasseur for a 9-8 lead.

Patry momentarily preserved it by robbing Fitzgerald, but with 4:13 on the clock, Fitzgerald, from Farnham, tried again and finished to tie the score.

Then, with 2:10 left, 35 seconds after going man-up, Falmouth retook the lead, 10-9, as Mainella set up Farnham for a shot which Patry had no chance to save.

The Yachtsmen nearly got another goal as time expired, as Farnham ripped a shot into the net, but after a conference, the officials ruled that the ball was still in Farnham’s netting when the horn went off and the score remained 10-9 heading for the fateful fourth period.

Where Thornton Academy flipped the switch and went out and won the title.

Early in the fourth, Berry kept Falmouth on top by denying shots from Noah Edborg, Webb and Edborg again.

Then, with 9:59 left, the Yachtsmen got an insurance goal, as Tucker set up Farnham for another rocket which tickled the twine, making it 11-9.

The Golden Trojans’ comeback began with 8:54 left, as Noah Edborg got the ball to Webb in front and he finished to cut the deficit to one.

After Patry kept the deficit at one by denying Falmouth senior Henry Farnham, the ball rolled loose, Thornton Academy senior defenseman Cam Houde fought for it, couldn’t pick it up, then golfed it up the field where it found the stick of Webb, who passed to Labreck in front for a shot that Berry had no chance to save and with 6:50 remaining, the game was tied, 11-11.

Barton replaced Berry with senior Ethan Chapman and Chapman had no chance on the go-ahead goal.

With 4:57 to play, after play had been blown dead, Noah Edborg inbounded from the end line, but the Yachtsmen had a defensive mix up and Labreck found himself wide open to take the pass, shoot and score and the Golden Trojans finally had the lead for good, 12-11.

“They took awhile to get back and we took advantage,” Labreck said. “He found me wide open and we finished that play. We had to take advantage quickly and we did.” 

With 3:20 remaining, Labreck scored unassisted for a two-goal lead and Berry returned in goal.

“We were looking for a spark,” Barton said, of the goalie change. “Kai made some saves. He stole a few on the doorstep. We have two upperclassmen goalies who gave it everything they had. We went back to Kai because we needed to press out and get the ball back.”

A minute later, Tucker had a good look to cut into the deficit when he got the ball in front, but at the last second, a defender made contact with his stick, forcing him to shoot high.

Then, with 1:44 left, LeBlanc set up Noah Edborg for a goal and Thornton Academy was up by three and a championship was close enough to taste.

After Mainella shot high and Patry saved a shot by Nick Farnham, Falmouth finally answered with 47.3 seconds to go, as Tucker fed Farnham for his fourth goal, but Sam Edborg won the ensuing faceoff and the Golden Trojans were able to run out the clock and at 8:02 p.m., celebrate their first championship, 14-12.

“It feels amazing,” Labreck said. “This is my first championship. There was a little panic, but we’re strong mentally and physically. We had to keep fighting and know eventually it would go our way and it did. This was the first time we’ve been down by that much. We had to fight through adversity. Falmouth found open looks and made our defense work. They’re a great team and I give them credit.”

“It’s huge,” Hersey said. “It’s a validation that we’re doing the right things. Winning a championship validates all the time and effort spent to grow a program. Defensively, we stepped up and Ean had a few huge saves. We got into our groove, which is pushing the ball and go. We have the athletes to run-and-gun. With Sam winning all the faceoffs, we were able to run-and-gun and play our game.” 

Labreck put on a show, leading all scorers with six goals.

“It helps to have a kid like C.J.,” Hersey said. “He really put the team on his back.” 

Levasseur added three goals, while Noah Edborg and Webb scored two each and LeBlanc finished with one.

Edborg and LeBlanc had three assists apiece and Webb added one.

Patry made nine saves.

Sam Edborg helped Thornton Academy win 21 of 30 faceoffs.

“The faceoff game was a big momentum changer,” Barton said. “Sam figured it out second quarter into the second half. Some of the 50-50 GBs (ground balls) we were winning in the first quarter, started to go to them.”

LeBlanc had a team-high five ground balls.

The Golden Trojans had a 35-28 shots advantage (23-21 on cage) and overcame 20 turnovers.

Thornton Academy will be hard-hit by graduation, as eight players depart, including several key contributors, but this program’s future is just as bright as its present and this won’t be the last time the Golden Trojans celebrate a title.

“We’ll go hard next year, just as hard as this year,” said Labreck. 

“The seniors really took charge this year,” Hersey said. “We have some very talented kids and some freshmen and sophomores who will have to step up next year. There were probably 60, 70 kids from Saco Bay Lacrosse in the stands today. For them to aspire to be like these guys is huge for our future.” 

Not quite enough

Falmouth got a terrific swan song from Nick Farnham, who had four goals and three assists. Tucker added three goals, Mainella had two and Fitzgerald, Reed and St. Louis each finished with one.

Hickey, Mainella and Tucker all had two assists.

Berry made nine saves.

The Yachtsmen had a 35-27 edge in ground balls (senior Marcus Dyhrburg, Nick Farnham, Hickey, Reed and St. Louis all collected five) and only turned the ball over 18 times.

“We were healthier this time, we shot the ball a lot better and put in a wrinkle offensively,” Barton said. “We executed well offensively for two-and-a-half quarters. We didn’t play our best game a couple weeks ago and quite honestly, we still didn’t play our best game. We had a lot of turnovers on the perimeter. They’re an aggressive zone to begin with and they pressed out more. Credit to them. They forced turnovers and Ean made saves when he needed to. Credit to Ryan. He’s done a great job. They were a force all year and they earned it. We got in a track meet last time and it’s no mystery they’re a lot deeper in the midfield and they started burying some shots.”

Even though there was plenty of disappointment in the wake of the loss, its first in four state game appearances, Falmouth had plenty of pride as well.

“It’s a talented group and we grew off the field as well,” Barton said. “It’s a powerful thing to get 30 guys rowing in the same direction.”

The Yachtsmen graduate 13 seniors, including both Farnhams, Hickey and Mainella and that accomplished group will be missed.

“The seniors meant everything,” Barton said. “You get into coaching to coach guys like those 13. They’ve played in some monstrous games. They’re 13 fantastic kids.”

Falmouth should be right back in the title mix in 2019, as it looks to complete the job and win Class A for the first time.

“I think the underclassmen get it,” Barton said. “We have guys returning at key spots, but we have some critical spots to replace. We’ll get back to the drawing board and hopefully make another run.”

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

Falmouth senior Lou Mainella fires a shot.

Falmouth junior Kai Berry saves a shot by Thornton Academy senior Noah Edborg.

Falmouth junior Reilly Tucker shoots as Thornton Academy junior Eli Arsenault defends.

Falmouth senior Nick Farnham shoots and scores as Thornton Academy junior Anthony Bracamonte arrives too late.

Falmouth senior Emmitt Zinn, who returned from injury, defends sophomore Sam Edborg.

Falmouth senior Aidan Gallup shields the ball from Thornton Academy junior Eli Arsenault.

Falmouth senior Henry Farnham lines up a shot.

Falmouth junior Riley Reed gets a celebratory lift from senior Lou Mainella after scoring a goal.

Falmouth senior Nick Farnham is congratulated by classmate Lou Mainella after one of Farnham’s four goals.

Falmouth senior Emmitt Zinn, Lou Mainella and Brendan Hickey receive the runner-up trophy.

Thornton Academy senior captains Wyatt LeBlanc, left, Noah Edborg and Ean Patry show off the championship trophy.

Previous Falmouth game stories

Falmouth 14 @ Scarborough 4

@ Falmouth 14 Cape Elizabeth 8

Falmouth 8 @ Yarmouth 7

@ Falmouth 10 Brunswick 7

@ Thornton Academy 12 Falmouth 5

Previous Thornton Academy game stories

Thornton Academy 14 @ South Portland 4

@ Thornton Academy 12 Falmouth 5

@ Thornton Academy 15 Cape Elizabeth 6

Previous Falmouth state game results

2016
Class B
Falmouth 13 Yarmouth 9

2012
Class B

Falmouth 7 NYA 4 

2011
Class B

Falmouth 15 NYA 4 

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.