YARMOUTH—When the Yarmouth boys’ soccer team is clicking, it’s a sight to behold.
Now if the Clippers would only stop digging themselves a hole, they’d be close to invincible.
Saturday evening, Yarmouth continued its recent strong play with a dizzying display of ball control and offensive pressure against visiting York.
First, the Clippers, as they frequently seem to do this fall, fell behind on what proved to be the Wildcats’ only shot of the game in the fourth minute.
Yarmouth would produce 31 shots on the night, but it took a long time until the Clippers found the back of the net.
After being frustrated time and again, either by shots off the mark or bids denied by York senior goalkeeper Connor Smith, Yarmouth turned the tide just before halftime when junior sparkplug Patrick Grant set up senior standout Adam LaBrie for the equalizer.
The Clippers kept coming in the second half and went ahead to stay with 26:05 remaining, as LaBrie found himself in the perfect position to head home a corner kick serve from junior Walter Conrad.
Six minutes later, senior Connor Lainey put the finishing touches on the victory by catching Smith and the Wildcats defense off-guard and quick-kicking a free kick into the net.
Yarmouth never looked back from there and went on to a 3-1 victory.
The Clippers made it three wins in succession, improved to 4-1 and dropped York to 2-3 in the process.
“We dominated after we fell behind,” LaBrie said. “We have to fix (the slow starts). It’s happened almost every game. Teams get ahead of us. We know we can come back strong, but we can’t let it happen.”
Yarmouth easily won its opener, 7-0, at Poland, then wasn’t able to avenge last year’s playoff ouster, suffering a disappointing 1-0 home loss to defending Class B champion Greely. That setback appeared to awaken the Clippers, however, and a come-from-behind 5-3 home victory over Cape Elizabeth was followed by a 5-0 home blanking of Freeport Tuesday.
York had no trouble with visiting Lake Region in its opener, winning, 4-0, but the Wildcats then lost at Cape Elizabeth (4-1) and at Kennebunk (3-1) before responding Monday with a 4-1 victory at Wells.
Last year, Yarmouth settled for a scoreless tie at York, but romped at home, 4-1.
Saturday, the Wildcats were seeking their first win over the Clippers since Oct. 17, 2011 (1-0, in Yarmouth), but instead, the hosts extended their unbeaten streak in the series to six and did so with brilliance.
But before the Clippers could hit their offensive stride, they found themselves behind, as the Wildcats made the absolute most of their one chance.
After a failed clear, York senior Zane Insko flicked the ball over the Yarmouth defense and senior Mikey Bennett was there to one-time it past Clippers senior goalkeeper Alex Lyon for a 1-0 lead.
“It was a lapse,” LaBrie said. “We just had a deflection.”
“That goal was a wakeup call for us,” said Lainey. “We didn’t communicate too well, but we stayed positive when we got down. We knew we’d get chances. We kept playing our game.
“We were going to clear the ball and the backs were even with (Bennett), so when the ball got deflected on the clear, (Insko) played it over the top,” added Clippers coach Mike Hagerty. “We needed more depth. It was a great goal and a great finish.”
Yarmouth turned to its Cape Elizabeth experience, when it erased a two-goal deficit, to remain confident and it wasn’t long before the Clippers were peppering the York goal.
Yarmouth’s first chance came in the sixth minute, when sophomore Matt Dostie set up junior Chris Pidden in front, but Smith made the save.
A minute later, Smith denied a shot from junior Matt Beatty.
After senior Ben Vigue shot wide and Conrad rocketed a left-footed shot just high, LaBrie had his first look, but Smith made the save.
LaBrie got his head on a corner in the 27th minute, but Smith made the stop.
With 11 minutes to play in the first half, Dostie’s blast hit the crossbar, Smith made a diving save on sophomore Henry Coolidge’s rebound and Grant sent the rebound of that shot just wide of the post, ratcheting up the Clippers’ frustration level.
“It was really frustrating not scoring,” LaBrie said. “We have to tuck those away.”
“We have to get smarter in the box,” Hagerty said. “Part of it is still figuring out each other’s tendencies, especially in the final third. Which kids like to take a touch, which kids defer, which kids get aggressive. We had good shots today. We have to get better at picking our spots. Not worrying as much about power as placement. I felt like we were patient to get a good chance even though it was frustrating.”
Finally, with 2:19 to play before halftime, Yarmouth was rewarded for its hard work.
York tried to clear the ball from the zone, but Coolidge corralled it with operating room in the middle, passed to Grant racing free on the right and Grant dribbled in on goal. Smith came out, but Grant flicked the ball past the goalie, right to a wide open LaBrie in front and LaBrie calmly tucked the ball home to tie the score, 1-1.
“It was a nice cross right across and I just had to tap it in,” said LaBrie. “Patty’s great like that.”
“It was great goal that was well put together,” said Hagerty. “‘Coolie’ to Patrick to Adam, it was very clinical. It felt like (a goal) was going to happen. Getting it before halftime was important.”
It wasn’t surprising that Grant and LaBrie combined for the score.
“LaBrie has been phenomenal,” Hagerty said. “Adam’s game, his assists, his head, his air game, his finishing, he’s becoming the most complete striker around. He’s much more aggressive than he was last year. He deferred too much last year. Now, if he gets the ball, he’s going and we’re feeding off that aggressiveness. He draws so much attention that other people benefit. Patrick’s done the same thing. He’s just our motor. He can turn the corner and put kids under pressure and give us a presence outside.”
In the first 40 minutes, the Clippers had five corner kicks and fired 18 shots (nine on frame) to just one for the Wildcats, but the game was deadlocked, thanks in large part to eight saves from Smith.
“At halftime, the guys wanted to get out of the shed and keep playing,” said Hagerty. “They were ready to go.”
Yarmouth’s dominance would be even more emphatic in the second half.
Just 16 seconds in, Lainey shot high.
Before the first minute of the half was complete, a Grant blast was saved and the rebound was cleared.
With 36:14 to play, Conrad connected on a blistering shot that Smith had to tip over the crossbar to set up a corner kick.
Three minutes later, LaBrie was taken down in the box, but no call was made.
Conrad then shot just wide as it looked as if the Clippers would be mired in frustration again, but with 26:05 remaining, Yarmouth earned a corner kick (its ninth of the game) and that proved to be the charm.
Conrad lofted the ball in front, LaBrie found space and for the second time in the game, he simply had to steer the ball home (this time with his head) as the Clippers went ahead for good.
The goal was no accident.
“We worked on that in practice,” said LaBrie. “We have a lot of movement. I just happened to be there. It was a beautiful cross from Walter.”
“We changed that play last night to try and get a little more movement in the box,” Hagerty said. “That created a gap for Adam to get into. He had a great finish. It was a beautiful serve from Walter.”
In this game, a 2-1 lead felt like 20-1, but the Clippers wanted insurance and got it with 20:23 left to play.
The third goal came with a little sleight of hand (or in this case, foot).
After a foul just outside the box, Lainey set up for a free kick, but when Smith came out to set up a defensive wall, Lainey saw his opportunity and caught almost everyone on hand off guard by firing the ball into the open net for a 3-1 lead.
“They backed off and the guy next to me said, ‘Shoot it, shoot it,'” Lainey said. “It was pretty easy.”
“That was a smart play,” Hagerty said. “There’s a reason we don’t have our goalie set up the wall and that’s it. Four kids on the bench said, ‘The goalie’s setting the wall up.’ Not loud enough for Connor to hear, but someone told him. He looked up and it was a terrific finish. We won’t get that goal against them again. That was a smart soccer play. I’m proud of Connor for recognizing that. That’s what makes a difference in a close game.”
York wasn’t able to respond and while Conrad was denied and junior Nate Gallagher just missed down the stretch, Yarmouth went on to the 3-1 victory.
“We’re hitting our stride,” LaBrie said. “We’re picking it up in practice. The bench is pushing the starters. The young guys are stepping it up and it’s great to see.”
“We’re progressing well,” said Lainey. “We’re playing more possession like we did last year. We have a lot of new players. It’s good to get big wins.”
“The kids did a good job,” Hagerty added. “After (York’s) goal, I thought we responded well because we stayed calm. No one got frustrated, no one panicked. The good news is we’re scoring goals. The bad news is we’re doing it from behind too often. One of the things we’re still trying to figure out is our depth. Today, we played 18 or 19 kids and it didn’t feel like the level dropped. It was good combination play. Having three guys up top opened up a lot of space in the midfield. We’re starting to find what kids do well. We’re still trying to put kids in the best position. Matt Beatty played three different positions. Walter played three levels tonight. Matt Dostie was outside back and forward. We changed formations in the middle of the first half.”
The final stats were staggering, as the Clippers enjoyed a 31-1 advantage in shots (16-1 on frame) and took 16 corners to none for the visitors.
Only a dozen Smith saves kept the score respectable. Lyon didn’t make a save for Yarmouth.
York (seventh in the Western Class B Heal Points standings at press time) hopes to bounce back Tuesday, but it has to go to Falmouth. The Wildcats return home to face Gray-New Gloucester Thursday.
As for Yarmouth (ranked third behind Greely and Cape Elizabeth), Tuesday brings a trip to Kennebunk. The Clippers host Western C contender Waynflete Saturday. The Clippers then go to Cape Elizabeth and host Falmouth.
If it can learn to play a full 80 minutes, there’s no telling how much better this squad can get.
“We have to start better for sure,” LaBrie said. “We have to finish our chances. We feel like we can be right at the top.”
“We had to learn to play with each other and now we’re getting in a rhythm,” Lainey said. “We have to stay fit and keep working hard, keep working as a team and improve our finish.”
“We’re zoning in on the three or four kids who give us the best offense and the three or four kids who give us the best defense,” Hagerty added. “It’s getting them to give it more often. I think we’ll be really good by October. I feel like with the experience our kids are getting, they won’t get nervous in big games.”
Yarmouth junior Matthew Beatty races up the field.
Yarmouth senior Luke Bray clears the ball away from a York attacker.
Yarmouth junior Walter Conrad, who made his presence felt on defense, at the midfield and even on offense, skies to head the ball away from York junior Jordan Domes.
Yarmouth sophomore Matt Dostie fires a shot.
The unstoppable force known as Yarmouth senior Adam LaBrie stymies the York defense.
Yarmouth senior Ben Vigue tries to get past York senior Mikey Bennett.
Yarmouth junior Patrick Grant shoots the ball past York senior goalkeeper Connor Smith late in the first half. Senior Adam LaBrie was there to tap the ball home and the Clippers’ onslaught was underway.
Yarmouth junior Patrick Grant (10) dives on senior Adam LaBrie as part of a celebration of LaBrie’s goal (set up by Grant) which tied the score against York just before halftime. The Clippers tacked on two more goals in the second half to prevail, 3-1.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.