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- The Forecaster
CUMBERLAND—There continues to be almost no separation between the Yarmouth and Greely boys’ soccer teams.
And there’s a very good chance the Clippers and Rangers still have one more showdown on tap.
Friday evening, in a front a huge and raucous crowd, with homefield advantage for the upcoming playoffs at stake, the rivals went back and forth for 80 minutes with not a single goal being scored in the normal run of play.
But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a winner.
With a little over 12 minutes to play in the first half, just moments after a no call in Yarmouth’s defensive end, the Clippers earned a penalty kick and senior Connor Lainey made it count.
Yarmouth hit the post twice and had another breakaway chance denied, but the one goal was all it could manage and the Clippers then had to hold on for dear life down the stretch.
They were able to do so, as senior goalkeeper Alex Lyon came up with big stops and his defense stood tall, with senior Garrett Flanagan heading the ball off the line on a corner kick late and Yarmouth went on to a 1-0 victory.
The Clippers improved to 9-2-2, beat Greely for the first time in three tries, assumed the top spot in Western Class B and dropped the Rangers to 8-3-2.
“It’s always a battle against Greely,” Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty said. “We talked tonight about playing this like it was a playoff game and like it could be our last game. We came out tonight with a purpose. It’s the most locked in we’ve been for two halves all year. We’ve played some good halves, but this is the best game we’ve played. I do feel like we deserved to win tonight. I’m happy for the kids.”
As was the case a year ago, the second Greely-Yarmouth regular season meeting came with homefield advantage for the playoffs at stake.
In 2013, the Clippers won with ease at home, 4-1, but it didn’t help, as the Rangers came to Yarmouth and sprung a shocker in the regional final, 2-1, en route to a championship.
This fall, both teams have again set the pace.
The Rangers opened their title defense with a 4-0 victory at Fryeburg Academy, then made an early statement with a 1-0 win at Yarmouth. After settling for a scoreless draw at Falmouth, Greely eked out a 1-0 double overtime win at Gray-New Gloucester, blanked host Kennebunk (3-0) and enjoyed 2-1 victories over visiting Cape Elizabeth and host Freeport. A 1-0 home loss to Falmouth was followed by a 1-1 tie at York. After beating visiting Kennebunk, 4-1, the Rangers lost at Cape Elizabeth 2-1. Tuesday, Greely got back on track with a 10-0 home victory over Lake Region.
The Clippers won their opener, 7-0, at Poland, then fell at home to Greely, 1-0. Yarmouth then enjoyed a 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, before letting a 2-0 lead slip away in a 2-2 home draw versus Waynflete. After earning a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Cape Elizabeth, the Clippers were staggered by visiting Falmouth, 5-2. Yarmouth then settled for a scoreless tie at York and only beat visiting Kennebunk, 1-0, but Tuesday, the offense returned in an 8-1 victory at Gray-New Gloucester.
Entering Friday, Yarmouth held a 13-10 advantage (with five ties) since the start of the 2001 season (see sidebar, below). Greely hoped to make it three in a row in the series, but the Clippers found a way.
Yarmouth had a golden opportunity to strike just 81 seconds when elusive junior Patrick Grant got the ball behind the defense, stayed on-side and went one-on-one with Greely senior goalkeeper John Wright, but Wright stood tall, deflected the bid and the rebound was cleared.
In the ninth minute, Clippers senior standout Adam LaBrie was on the verge on a breakaway, but Rangers senior defender Harry Shain got back to slow him and Wright came out to deny a shot.
In the 12th minute, a blast from Yarmouth sophomore Matt Dostie sailed wide.
In the 14th minute, the Clippers earned a corner kick and the ball was headed a couple times in the box, but nothing came of it.
Greely’s first good chance came in the 18th minute, when the ball was fed into the box. A collision resulted and the ball sat free, but Lyon snared it.
LaBrie almost had a breakaway again the 20th minute, but two defenders cut off his angle and Wright was able to deny the threat.
Lyon kept the game scoreless with a tremendous diving save in the 26th minute, just getting a piece of a blast from Rangers junior Lucas Watt.
“It was just instinctual,” Lyon said. “Those saves are fun.”
“Alex made some great saves,” Flanagan said. “He gives us confidence because we know we have a guy back there who can make big saves.”
“Alex made tough stops on a wet night,” Hagerty added. “He’s doing a better job talking. When he communicates with his backs, he does well. He didn’t hesitate to come off his line. He’s always calm like that. He’s made some big saves like that one. Two at Cape, one down at York. His positioning was excellent. When he puts himself in position to make those saves, he does. Credit to him and (assistant) Coach (Dale) Wing.”
After a no call when Rangers junior standout Jacob Nason was taken down in the box, the Clippers transitioned, got a break and took advantage.
On a long free kick, the ball was lofted toward the box and Greely sophomore Dylan Fried was ruled to have impeded LaBrie and a penalty kick was awarded.
“I thought that was a good no-call (in our end), but they had Adam in a bear hug (on our call),” Hagerty said. “I think if the kid had one arm around (Adam) and not two, it might not have been called.”
Not surprisingly, Rangers coach Mike Andreasen didn’t quite see things the same way.
“Both calls should have been made,” Andreasen said. “Jake told me he pushed the ball by (the defender) and he tripped him. My guys said Dylan grabbed (LaBrie) and brought him down. As an official, I’m of the opinion if I make a call that’s controversial, I’m going to try to balance it a little bit. Maybe you put the ball just outside the box. It was so close. You have to acknowledge the foul, but a PK?”
Lainey did the honors and his low shot to Wright’s right found the net for a 1-0 lead with 12:04 to play in the half.
“I was pretty nervous, but I just go kick it and put it in the back of the net,” Lainey said.
The Clippers almost doubled their lead late in the half, but Grant (who was robbed by Wright 81 seconds into the game), was denied again with 81 seconds to go, as after a Lainey free kick slipped through Wright’s hands, Grant’s blast at an open net hit the post and Yarmouth took a 1-0 advantage to the break.
In the first half, the Clippers had a 3-2 corner kicks edge and a 6-3 shots advantage, but three Wright saves kept the Rangers within striking distance.
“At halftime, we talked about feeling like we should have been ahead, 1-0, and let’s go get another,” Hagerty said.
Early in the second half, Nason tried to chip the ball to junior Nick Pronovost, but Lyon got there first.
After LaBrie headed a shot wide, Watt had a free kick opportunity, but his serve whistled through the box untouched.
With 25:30 to play, Watt served the ball into the box and senior Ben Ingraham got his head on it, but it sailed just over the crossbar.
LaBrie tried to double the lead at the other end, but his rocket sailed just wide.
Greely sophomore Hunter Graham then unleashed a long, low shot which skipped a time or two, but Lyon managed to stop it.
Yarmouth went back on the attack and LaBrie headed a Grant cross wide before junior Nick Kamra had a great look which got past Wright only to again, much to the Clippers’ chagrin, ring squarely off the near post.
After senior Ben Vigue just missed a long shot, the Rangers tried to counter, but a long feed to Nason was broken up by Yarmouth junior defender Conor O’Donnell.
Then, with 4:38 left, Flanagan made the defensive play of his career, preserving the lead.
On a corner kick, Lyon got a hand on the ball and tried to clear it, but it found the head of a Ranger and appeared en route to the goal.
Instead, Flanagan leaped at the perfect time and headed the ball away.
“I think the ball just got caught in a scrum,” Flanagan said. “I just saw it heading toward the goal. Alex was on the ground and I knew it would be the equalizer, so I couldn’t let it go in. I just reacted. It wasn’t a great header. It bounced at the 6 and Connor cleared it out.”
“I got a fist on it, someone headed it and Garrett was able to head it off the line,” Lyon said.
“That was going in,” Hagerty added. “That would have been a heartbreaker.”
Seconds later, the ball was served in and Greely sophomore Paul Bischoff headed it just wide.
After a long shot from Fried was saved by Lyon, O’Donnell cleared the ball, but as time wound down, the Rangers had one final chance and a great serve found the head of Graham, but his header was grabbed by Lyon and Yarmouth survived, 1-0.
“It’s a huge win,” Lainey said. “It feels awesome. Our defense was great. I wasn’t scared once. They held down the fort well. They played tough.”
“It feels great,” Lyon said. “Last season, we were the best team, in my opinion, and they upset us. They beat us in the first game this year, so it just felt right, winning this one. My defense was absolutely brilliant. All game, they let so little through. They marked Nason so tightly. I feel like we’re finally starting to click the last few games. Getting homefield (advantage) is important. The number one seed allows us to theoretically play easier teams.”
“We kept our composure,” Hagerty added. “You can have a letdown after you miss a breakaway, Patrick didn’t. You can have a letdown after hitting the post twice, the team didn’t. They kept going. Some of our kids played calmly, but still played fast. That’s really hard for high school kids. They were very unselfish tonight. Tonight, because the ball did most of the work, we didn’t have to go deep into our bench. The kids who played did an excellent job. We got a little over-committed a few times in the back, but Greely’s good and they can put you under pressure quickly.”
Hagerty raved about the effort of several players.
“Connor Lainey did a really good job staying in the middle in the second half and stealing a lot of through balls to Hunter and Jacob,” Hagerty said. “Connor took away their space. Tactically, he played a great game tonight. Ben Vigue is finally back (from injury). He played on the outside. You don’t see outside backs impacting games as much as Ben and (sophomore) Matt Dostie did tonight. Matt had wonderful runs in the first half. Ben did an excellent job offensively and defensively. He’s getting back to his game shape. He made great decisions with the ball.”
Yarmouth finished with a 17-9 shots advantage (each team put seven shots on frame) and had six corner kicks to three for Greely. Lyon made seven saves.
Wright made six saves for the Rangers, who were left frustrated.
“I don’t know how we missed those at the end,” Andreasen lamented. “If (Hunter) hits the ball down with his head, it’s a goal. Both teams wanted it a lot. I don’t think either team made a play. The PK was making a call. Yarmouth had chances, but didn’t make a play. I would have felt better if they scored a second goal. Even though this is game 13, both teams are searching a little bit. We didn’t play with a lot of urgency.”
There’s a very good chance Greely and Yarmouth could square off in the regional final for the second year in a row.
“When they beat us, 4-1, last year, we walked out like we were hit by a buzzsaw,” Andreasen said. “This year, we don’t feel that way.”
“Greely’s good,” Hagerty said. “They’re going to be tough. It will be a wonderful playoff game if we get that far and it would be at our place.”
The Rangers (bound for second in Western B) wrap up their regular season Tuesday when York pays a visit.
Greely won’t be daunted by having to win a road playoff game. The Rangers have made a habit of doing such a thing en route to a championship.
“You get on a bus, go to enemy territory and you can focus,” Andreasen said. “We may have to do that. You just have to get in. We won a title recently. Luckily, I have guys who have won before.”
Yarmouth will finish first in Western B and while the Clippers don’t have to win at Falmouth in the finale Tuesday, there’s plenty of incentive for them to do so.
“It’s always fun to play Falmouth,” Lainey said. “We had a couple tough games, but I think we’ve had our slump and now we’re ready. We just have to finish.”
“(The first game) was kind of a fluke,” Flanagan said. “We won’t let it happen again. We have to come out hard. I think we’re hitting our stride right now.”
“We want to win the Brady Cup (the Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Greely, Yarmouth round robin),” Hagerty added. “We’d like to see if we can score on 50 percent of our shots on goal (like they did the last game).”
Yarmouth junior Walter Conrad looks to distribute the ball.
Greely sophomore Dylan Fried skies to head the ball.
Yarmouth junior Patrick Grant tries to control the ball as Greely junior Lucas Watt joins the fray.
Greely senior Ben Ingraham gets a step on Yarmouth junior Nick Kamra.
Greely junior Jacob Nason fights Yarmouth sophomore Henry Coolidge for the ball.
Yarmouth junior Conor O’Donnell heads the ball away from Greely senior Harry Shain.
Yarmouth senior Ben Vigue plays the ball off his chest as Greely freshman Luc Dionne looks on.
Greely senior goalkeeper John Wright gets to the ball just in time to deny charging Yarmouth senior Adam LaBrie.
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Yarmouth junior Matthew Beatty blankets Greely sophomore Hunter Graham as he heads the ball during the teams’ battle for the top spot in Western Class B Friday night. The Clippers scored a first half penalty kick and made it hold up in a 1-0 victory.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.