FALMOUTH—It isn’t always pretty, but the Falmouth boys’ lacrosse team almost always finds a way.
Wednesday evening, hosting upset-minded Greely, the Yachtsmen took advantage of several man-up opportunities to build an 8-2 halftime lead, but things got interesting when the Rangers scored three straight goals to start the second half.
Then, Falmouth restored order.
Paced by the scoring sensation that is senior I.V. Stucker, the Yachtsmen gradually pulled away and went on to a 15-8 victory, their ninth in 10 outings this spring.
Stucker tied a career high with seven goals, junior C.J. Leighton added three and Falmouth was able to solve Greely senior goalie Griffin Doree often enough to drop the Rangers to 6-4.
“We just had to capitalize on the opportunities we were given,” Stucker said. “We had to keep our heads. Every team will go on a run, we just had to fight back. Greely’s definitely a rival. We always play our best against them.”
Both squads have had their moments this spring and are among the best teams in the area.
Falmouth crushed visiting Kennebunk (15-2), host North Yarmouth Academy (12-4), visiting Fryeburg (16-2) and host Freeport (17-4), then was finally tested at Cheverus, where it managed to prevail, 12-10. The Yachtsmen fell from the undefeated ranks, 12-8, at reigning Class B champion Cape Elizabeth, but bounced back to handle visiting, four-time defending Class A champion Scarborough, 15-11, then outslugged host Yarmouth, 17-12, and rolled past visiting Wells, 17-8.
The Rangers romped, 22-4, at Lake Region to start the season, then downed visiting North Yarmouth Academy, 4-1. A 9-5 home loss to Yarmouth followed, but Greely bounced back to win at York (13-3), at home over Western A contender Thornton Academy (7-6) and at longtime power Kennebunk (9-6). Losses at Messalonskee (12-6) and at home to Cape Elizabeth (8-4) followed, but the Rangers got back in the win column Friday, 16-2, over visiting Freeport.
Entering the game, Falmouth held an 11-3 all-time edge over Greely (see sidebar, below), with all three Rangers’ victories coming in overtime.
The teams have played five times in the playoffs, with the Yachtsmen holding a 3-2 edge (including a 16-7 victory in last year’s semifinals).
Wednesday, Greely sought its first win over Falmouth in nine tries, since a palpitating 7-6 overtime victory in the 2008 semifinals, but the Yachtsmen kept their good times rolling.
Just a minute in, Stucker hinted at a big night to come, when he scored unassisted past Doree to put Falmouth ahead for good.
Stucker then set up senior Joe Dancoes for a goal and with 4:53 to play in the first period, Stucker scored another unassisted goal for a 3-0 advantage.
The Rangers got on the board 26 seconds into the second quarter, when sophomore Owen Potenziano finished a feed from junior Tim Adams and beat Yachtsmen senior goalie Nick Beaulieu to cut the deficit to 3-1.
After going nearly 12 minutes without a goal and after being stymied by Doree several times playing man-up, Falmouth went up, 4-1, when Stucker finished unassisted with the hosts playing with a man advantage.
With 4:15 to play in the half, Stucker struck unassisted again.
The Yachtsmen scored again man-up with 3:37 to go, when Leighton finished a feed from sophomore George Gilbert.
An unassisted goal from Potenziano ended Falmouth’s run, but Gilbert scored unassisted and after junior Bryce Kuhn hit the post, Stucker finished a pass from senior Brad Gilbert and scored another man-up goal to make the score 8-2 at halftime.
“Man-up has been tough for us lately,” said Yachtsmen coach Mike LeBel. “It hasn’t clicked well. We didn’t practice Saturday, Sunday or Monday and we had a short practice yesterday. To see the guys click better tonight was encouraging. The ability of our guys to recognize and attack situations and adjust to the goalie, who had a fantastic game, was great.”
“The penalties hurt,” lamented Rangers coach Mike Storey. “Anytime you’re man down for a long stretch, it’s hard to hold up and it’s hard to expect to your goalie to hold up. We have to make better decisions.”
Just when it appeared the Yachtsmen were primed to pull away, Greely began the second half on a run.
Just 35 seconds in, Adams set up junior Mitchel Mullin for a goal.
With 10:29 to go in the third period, senior Will Peck scored unassisted.
Peck scored unassisted again with 7:48 remaining and the Rangers had cut the halftime deficit in half.
“We weren’t sliding or communicating,” LeBel said. “We weren’t identifying who had to go. That allowed them to get to the cage. Give credit to Greely. They were messing us up with their motion in front of the cage. Nicky couldn’t pick up shots quickly enough.”
Stucker ensured the Rangers would draw no closer when he found Leighton in front for a goal with 5:11 to go.
“They were beating us off the faceoffs and got possession,” Stucker said. “If we don’t have the ball, we can’t score. If you put shots on net, some will fall.””
Brad Gilbert then scored unassisted to push the lead to 10-5.
After Adams (from senior Gwynn Zambello, man-up) scored for Greely, Stucker scored another unassisted goal, but with 40.6 seconds to go in the third, junior Sam Doolittle scored unassisted and the Rangers were very much in the game, down, 11-7, heading for the final stanza.
There, Falmouth put it away.
Stucker scored his seventh and final goal (again man-up), from Leighton, with 10:03 to go to make it 12-7.
Brad Gilbert and Kuhn added unassisted goals and with 1:09 to play, Kuhn set up Leighton to finish the Yachtsmen’s scoring.
Then, as time expired, Doolittle scored an unassisted goal to account for Falmouth’s 15-8 triumph.
“I think the season is pretty much unfolding the way I expected,” LeBel said. “I expected us to score a lot of goals every game and I thought we’d give up a lot of goals, but I thought during the season our defense would improve with the experience we have back there. Communication is still an issue with our defense. We’ll keep hammering away at it. We hope it clicks before the tournament. I was concerned about Greely. They’re always tough and they get better each year.”
Stucker almost outscored Greely by himself, as he tickled the twine seven times.
“Once we got it going man-up, we couldn’t be stopped,” Stucker said. “Getting goals on Doree is no small task. I think he’s one of the top goalies in the state. We moved the ball around. With this offense, anybody can score. Once we get it moving, it’s just next man up.”
“I.V. is getting better and better at recognizing what the defense is giving him,” said LeBel. “If he’s feeling it, that’s fine. He has the green light.”
“(I.V.) does a great job,” said Storey. “He’s a great player. We trust Griffin to save shots from the outside, but he played well.”
Leighton added three goals and Brad Gilbert had two. Dancoes, George Gilbert and Kuhn each scored once.
Dancoes, Brad Gilbert, George Gilbert, Kuhn and Stucker all had one assist.
Greely got two goals apiece from Doolittle, Peck and Potenziano and one each from Adams and Mullin. Adams had two assists, while Zambello finished with one.
“We started to put things together in the second half,” Storey said. “The hardest thing is to settle down in big game situations. The whole first half, we didn’t come to play. When we do come to play, we can put stuff together. We kind off dropped off again in the fourth quarter. One step at a time. These top teams teach us a lot.”
Doree impressed by saving several Falmouth shots.
“(Their goalie) made us work,” said LeBel. “We had to think about where we were shooting tonight. That’s one of the best performances I’ve seen against us. I’m impressed with his performance. That game could have gotten out of hand for them and he kept them in it.”
Greely (which is now fourth in the Western B Heal Points standings) plays at NYA Saturday, then closes at home against Kennebunk Thursday of next week.
“There’s a good chance we’ll be back here,” said Storey. “I feel great about a rematch. Every opportunity we have to play a high caliber team like Falmouth or Cape, we’ll take it. The more experience we get, we get better and better. We’ll get there if we keep working.”
Falmouth (second in Western B) goes to Kennebunk Saturday, then finishes at home Wednesday against Cape Elizabeth.
“We have two big ones to end the season,” said Stucker. “I think we’re playing our best lacrosse now and that’s what we want to do going into playoffs. Kennebunk will be tough the second time. We came out hot against them. Anytime we play Cape, it’s a big deal.”
“Kennebunk plays everybody tough,” LeBel said. “When their defense and goalie are clicking, they’re tough to beat. It’s a concern to go down there and play on the grass. We’re a high-tempo offense. The grass is more mental than anything. It keeps us from scoring as much as we could. I don’t expect anything but a nailbiter against Cape. It will probably be one of the best games of the season. If you’re a lacrosse fan, you’ve got to be pretty excited.”
Greely junior Gabe Belisle scoops up a loose ball.
Falmouth senior Brad Gilbert winds up for a shot.
Greely junior Sam Doolittle looks for an open teammate.
Falmouth sophomore George Gilbert shoots on Greely senior goalie Griffin Doree.
Falmouth senior I.V. Stucker, who scored seven goals, runs past Greely sophomore Sam Peck.
Falmouth junior Bryce Kuhn shoots as Greely senior Andrew Benger defends.
Greely sophomore Owen Potenziano is defended by Falmouth senior Brandon Boehm.
Greely junior Harry Shain defends Falmouth junior C.J. Leighton.
Greely sophomore Sam Peck runs past Falmouth senior Marshall Kirk.
Falmouth 12 @ Greely 3
Western B semifinals
@ Falmouth 16 Greely 7
@ Falmouth 15 Greely 7
@ Falmouth 14 Greely 2
Falmouth 16 Greely 6
Western B semifinals
@ Falmouth 22 Greely 5
Falmouth 9 @ Greely 0
Western B semifinals
@ Falmouth 17 Greely 5
Western B semifinals
@ Greely 7 Falmouth 6 (OT)
Falmouth 10 @ Greely 9
Western B quarterfinals
@ Greely 8 Falmouth 7 (OT)
@ Greely 12 Falmouth 11 (OT)
Falmouth 9 @ Greely 7
Falmouth 10 @ Greely 9
Falmouth senior I.V. Stucker (left) and junior C.J. Leighton celebrate a goal during the Yachtsmen’s 15-8 home win over Greely Wednesday night.
G- 0 2 5 1- 8
F- 3 5 3 4- 15
11:00 F Stucker (unassisted)
5:41 F Dancoes (Stucker)
4:53 F Stucker (unassisted)
11:34 G Potenziano (Adams)
5:01 F Stucker (unassisted) MAN-UP
4:15 F Stucker (unassisted)
3:37 F Leighton (G. Gilbert) MAN-UP
3:07 G Potenziano (unassisted)
1:46 F G. Gilbert (unassisted)
28.1 F Stucker (B. Gilbert) MAN-UP
11:25 G Mullin (Adams)
10:29 G W. Peck (unassisted)
7:48 G W. Peck (unassisted)
5:11 F Leighton (Stucker)
3:41 F B. Gilbert (unassisted)
1:31 G Adams (Zambello) MAN-UP
1:16 F Stucker (unassisted)
40.6 G Doolittle (unassisted)
10:03 F Stucker (Leighton) MAN-UP
6:35 F B. Gilbert (unassisted)
2:02 F Kuhn (unassisted)
1:09 F Leighton (Kuhn)
0.1 G Doolittle (unassisted)
G- Doolittle, Peck, Potenziano 2, Adams, Mullin 1
F- Stucker 7, Leighton 3, B. Gilbert 2, Dancoes, G. Gilbert, Kuhn 1
G- Adams 2, Zambello 1
F- Dancoes, B. Gilbert, G. Gilbert, Kuhn, Stucker 1