YARMOUTH—The Yarmouth boys’ soccer program is about much more than winning games.
Sure, the Clippers win a ton, but sometimes, even on nights when they fail to prevail, good things happen.
Saturday evening, Yarmouth hosted Waynflete in an interclass showdown between two of the state’s premier boys’ programs, but before a foot (or any other body part) touched a ball, the evening took on a solemn, yet hopeful and ultimately triumphant tone.
For what was believed to be the first time in state history, a game doubled as a fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer, as several women (some survivors, some gone but not forgotten) and their family members were honored as awareness was spread about the disease.
Once the game began, it appeared the Clippers were going to keep their train rolling, as sophomore Henry Coolidge scored in the seventh minute and senior standout Adam LaBrie added a second goal three minutes later.
Yarmouth kept the pressure on and almost went up, 3-0, but a Coolidge shot hit the crossbar and Waynflete’s star junior goalkeeper Milo Belleau prevented further damage.
Then, with 12:04 to play before halftime, the Flyers got life, as standout senior Harry Baker-Connick finished as only he can to provide a spark.
The Clippers held that lead until less than 15 minutes remained in regulation, when a Yarmouth defender was called for a handball in the box, giving Waynflete a penalty kick.
Junior Willy Burdick, who has become a PK specialist in recent days, did the honors and buried the shot to even the game, 2-2.
Both teams had some chances later and during 10 minutes of overtime, but neither could tickle the twine again and the contest ended in a deadlock.
Yarmouth saw its four-game win streak end as the Clippers are now 5-1-1 on the season, while the Flyers continue to get better by the day and are 4-1-1.
“I think probably everybody thought (we’d get blown out when it was 2-0), but we showed great fight and resiliency,” said longtime Waynflete coach Brandon Salway. “Being able to battle back from down two goals and doing it on their field was really impressive.”
“I think we let one slip away,” said Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty. “Good result for them, not so good result for us. This might be a Heal Points game we’ll regret down the road. They would have been worth a lot of Points. A tie gives us some, but not as many. We’ll learn from it and keep going.”
Prior to kickoff, Ovarian Cancer survivors and their families were introduced to the crowd.
The evening came about due a recent discussion Hagerty had with Sherry Lapointe, a longtime occupational therapist in the Yarmouth schools, whose sons, Cody and Logan, both played for the Clippers.
“Sherry approached me in school asking if we would be interested in having a game for her cancer too, since she had long been impressed by the Breast Cancer Night we do and wanted to see if we could replicate it in September for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month,” Hagerty said. “She looked into it and believes this is the first event of it’s kind in Maine.”
Hagerty then publicly honored Lapointe’s fellow survivors: Yarmouth Elementary School technology director Cathy Wolinski, the sister of longtime Yarmouth math teacher Roberto Borda, the 92-year-old mother of Yarmouth High School principal Ted Hall and Dona Gordon, who works in the middle school’s cafeteria, but who is better known as the grandmother of Clippers junior Noah Pellerin.
Family members of those who lost their battle were also recognized. That group included Claire Madden, whose grandson, Harrison Butler, is a member of Yarmouth’s first team, Sarah Johnson, the mother of three Yarmouth students, and Elaine Swissler, the wife of Yarmouth’s beloved longtime scorekeeper, Ray Swissler.
Finally, in a connection to the game discovered not long before it began, official Marc Ouellette, a teacher in Biddeford and the coach of the powerhouse Greely girls’ Alpine ski program, mentioned to Hagerty that his wife, Kathryn, is battling the disease. She was included in the ceremony, which ended not with a moment of silence, but with a hearty round of applause.
“It was a wonderful ceremony,” Hagerty said. “Marc Ouellette is one of the most special officials around. He’s a special man. I’m glad that we got send a note to his wife and say a few prayers,
“I’d like to think the night itself is the beginning of something. If this was the first event to raise awareness, it’s a lot bigger than soccer is. Who knows? Maybe 20 years down the road, Ovarian Cancer could be cured because of a spark that was lit here.”
A percentage of ticket sales went to the Ovarian Cancer fund and players wore teal (the color of Ovarian Cancer awareness) shoelaces.
On the pitch, Waynflete and Yarmouth have long been among the state’s boys’ soccer elite and both have gotten off to strong starts in 2014.
The Flyers won their first two games via shutout, blanking host Traip (5-0) and visiting Fryeburg (9-0). After a 1-0 home loss to perennial powerhouse Falmouth, he Flyers bounced back with a 4-0 win at Lake Region, then dominated visiting rival North Yarmouth Academy Tuesday, 5-0.
The Clippers won their opener, 7-0, at Poland, then fell at home to defending Class B champion Greely, 1-0. Yarmouth then enjoyed a come-from-behind 5-3 home victory over Cape Elizabeth, a 5-0 home blanking of Freeport, a 3-1 home win over York and a 7-0 romp at Kennebunk Tuesday.
Entering Saturday, the teams had only met three prior times: a scoreless tie in 2007 in Yarmouth, a 2-0 Clippers’ win in 2008 in Portland and last year’s 3-0 Yarmouth victory at Waynflete.
This time, the Flyers fought hard throughout and while the Clippers had more chances, no resolution was achieved.
Yarmouth, which when it’s clicking, is close to unstoppable, came flying out of the gate and just six minutes, one second in, got the jump.
The goal started in the back, with a nice pass from junior defensive standout Walter Conrad. Conrad played the ball ahead to LaBrie, who sent it to Coolidge, who finished for a quick 1-0 lead.
The Clippers were just getting warmed up.
With 30:46 to play in the first half, Coolidge returned the favor. Again, a defender got the attack going, as a nice stop from senior Garrett Flanagan transitioned play the other way and after Coolidge got the ball, he sent a gorgeous pass right to the feet of the streaking LaBrie, who sent a shot past Belleau into the right corner and Yarmouth had a seemingly commanding 2-0 advantage.
“I was actually afraid the emotion at the beginning with one of the player’s grandmothers and teachers these guys know would cause us to get off to a slow start, but it wasn’t the case,” Hagerty said.
Three minutes later, Coolidge almost delivered the quick coup de grace, but after collecting the ball in front, his shot at an open net was too hard and sailed just high enough to rattle off the crossbar and bounce out of harm’s way.
The Clippers kept pressuring, but a cross from Coolidge to Pellerin was headed just wide and Belleau came way out to beat junior Patrick Grant to a Coolidge header.
Then, Waynflete got its offense going and on its first shot, turned the tide.
To no one’s surprise, it was Baker-Connick who sparked the rally. He managed to outfight a defender for a 50-50 ball, got a step, cut into the box and when Yarmouth senior goalkeeper Alex Lyon came out, Baker-Connick buried a low shot past him and into the net to suddenly make the score, 2-1.
“I kept yelling, ‘We have to keep playing. It doesn’t matter what the score is,'” Baker-Connick said. “We had to get better. I got kind of lucky. We both jumped up for the ball. I got a lucky bounce, it came right to me, I brought it to the middle and shot it low.”
The Flyers had life.
“We hadn’t faced adversity yet really,” Salway said. “A little bit against Falmouth, but this was major adversity. They punched us right in the face to start. They play so fast and physical. If we hadn’t stepped it up, it would have been 5-0 or 6-0. Harry’s goal gave us life and energy. At that point, we realized we could play with them. I thought players fought and won individual battles.”
Hagerty wasn’t happy.
“Their first goal was frustrating simply because that’s something we’ve talked about in practice,” Hagerty said. “We made mental mistakes tonight. (Harry’s) a very good striker. We were supposed to have someone closer to defend, but we left him out to dry.”
While the Clippers outshot Waynflete in the first half, 14-1, their lead was just a goal.
For much of the second half, almost nothing happened, but play picked up in the final 20 minutes.
After Yarmouth junior Matt Beatty headed out a Waynflete corner kick, the hosts had another chance to extend the lead only to see senior Connor Lainey had LaBrie’s cross into the arms of Belleau.
With 14:40 to play, the Flyers got another break and pounced.
After Waynflete sent the ball into the box, play was stopped and it was ruled that a Clipper had touched the ball with his hand, giving the Flyers a PK and a chance to tie the score (while there was no question the ball hit a hand, in reality, there was some dispute whether a player from Yarmouth or Waynflete was the culprit).
Burdick, who has made a habit of taking and making penalty kicks in recent days, stepped to the line with all eyes on him. He calmly beat Lyon to his left and just like that, the game was deadlocked, 2-2.
“Willy is a really good finisher,” Baker-Connick said. “He’s a sweeper, but he has a good shot for sure.”
“We’ve had several PKs and we missed two at Lake Region, but Willy’s been really good in practice,” Salway said. “Others have made them, but he makes them impressively. He has confidence he’ll make them and the team has confidence he’s going to make them.”
With their lead having evaporated, the Clippers tried to win in regulation, but a rush by Pellerin was broken up by Belleau, LaBrie ripped a free kick just wide, LaBrie’s header on a cross from Grant was saved by Belleau and after the Flyers failed to convert on consecutive corner kicks, Yarmouth junior Nick Kamra had a shot saved (barely) by Belleau (who bobbled the ball, but collected it just before LaBrie could kick it out of his hands) and in the final minute, Belleau stopped another LaBrie shot.
That sent the contest to overtime, where the teams had 10 minutes to determine a winner, but couldn’t do so.
In the first OT session, Clippers junior defender Conor O’Donnell got back just in time to head the ball away from Waynflete senior Clancy Mitchell. At the other end, Belleau fell on a loose ball after a cross from Yarmouth sophomore Matt Dostie.
Action picked up in the final overtime, as LaBrie got his head on a corner kick, but sent it way too high, Clippers junior Andrew Beatty sent a shot wide, Grant headed the ball into Belleau’s hands, Flyers freshman defender Christian Brooks cleared a loose ball from the box and in the waning seconds, Baker-Connick broke up a LaBrie rush.
That ended the contest, 2-2.
Waynflete was quite content with the result.
“Milo made some big saves, we got that goal and we figured out could play with these guys,” Baker-Connick said. “They’re such a good team. Everyone on their team is so fundamental and so fast. It was good to see we could play with them. We talked at halftime about having a chance and playing hard. Our defense played tremendous.”
“To have a win and a tie against the Yarmouths collectively (NYA and Yarmouth) this week is huge,” Salway said. “Yarmouth’s so good. They move so well off the ball. They’re well prepared.”
The Clippers weren’t thrilled they had to settle for a draw, but gave credit where credit was due.
“Give Waynflete credit,” Hagerty said. “They’re a good team. They’re strong down the middle. None of their players tried to do more than they should have. That’s the mark of a well-coached team. They have three or four really nice players. I think the difference was putting the ball on frame. We just needed one more and I think it would have been a different game. I still think we coulda, woulda, shoulda. The first 20 minutes, we were moving and flying and it was really good soccer. Then, we weren’t able to play to feet. “
Yarmouth finished with a 27-2 shots advantage (9-2 on frame). Lyon didn’t make a save.
Waynflete had a 5-4 edge in corner kicks and got seven saves from Belleau, who certainly impressed.
“Their goalie has got to be one of the best goalies in the conference and the state,” Hagerty said. “He’s athletic and he’s strong. I like the way he comes off his line. So far this year, he’s the best goalie I’ve seen. Against (Belleau), you have to put a lot on frame to get one by him. I thought in the first half we had the right recipe with low crosses in the box.”
Waynflete (now third in the Western Class C Heals) is back in action Tuesday when Poland pays a visit. The Flyers also have home games remaining against Gray-New Gloucester, Sacopee Valley and Traip Academy and have to play at Sacopee Valley, NYA, Gray-New Gloucester and Freeport.
“We have to keep getting better and working as hard as we can,” Baker-Connick said. “We can work on possession. We struggled on offense in the preseason, but we seem to get better every game. That’s all we can hope for going into the playoffs.”
“This is a huge step for us, so hopefully this gives us confidence and shows us how hard we have to play,” Salway said. “Poland is worth quite a bit on Tuesday.”
Yarmouth (second to Greely in Western B) enters the lion’s den in Cape Elizabeth Tuesday, then hosts ancient rival Falmouth in a showdown Saturday (which will be Breast Cancer Awareness Night). The Clippers then go to York, play their last regular season home game (versus Kennebunk) and close with contests at Gray-New Gloucester, Greely and Falmouth.
“We have to get more consistent,” Hagerty said. “In our tie and our loss, I feel we’ve had the better of the play, but we have to get better in the final third. I’d bet if you polled all the high school coaches in the state, 99 percent would say, ‘We have to get better in the final third.’ It’s going to be a very competitive week. We’ll learn from this.”
Waynflete junior Abel Alemayo heads the ball away from Yarmouth junior Patrick Grant.
Waynflete senior Harry Baker-Connick gets past Yarmouth junior Conor O’Donnell.
Yarmouth junior Matt Beatty finds some operating room.
Yarmouth sophomore Henry Coolidge, who had a goal and an assist, is shadowed by Waynflete junior Jack Weston.
Yarmouth sophomore Matt Dostie jumps to knock the ball away from Waynflete freshman Ilyas Abdi.
Yarmouth senior Adam LaBrie skies to head the ball, but his shot is off target.
Waynflete junior Aaron Lee takes the ball away from Yarmouth junior Noah Pellerin.
Waynflete junior Ahmed Mohamed plays the ball off his chest as Yarmouth junior Nick Kamra defends.
Waynflete senior standout Harry Baker-Connick exults after his momentum-turning goal late in the first half.
Yarmouth senior Adam LaBrie (21) is congratulated by sophomore Henry Coolidge (27), along with juniors Nick Kamra and Patrick Grant, after his goal (assisted by Coolidge) put the Clippers up, 2-0, early.
Yarmouth 2 @ Waynflete 0
@ Yarmouth 0 Waynflete 0 (tie)
Yarmouth’s captains Ben Vigue, Adam LaBrie and Connor Lainey join Ovarian Cancer survivors and their family members at a ceremony prior to the start of Saturday’s game.
Waynflete senior Clancy Mitchell and Yarmouth senior Connor Lainey meet in the air and seemingly balance the ball between their heads during a 2-2 draw in an interclass showdown Saturday night.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.