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BRUNSWICK—The 2014 Yarmouth boys’ lacrosse team is still finding its stride and Monday evening proved to be a very encouraging step.
The Clippers paid a crossover visit to Brunswick and the perennial powers played a down to the wire affair.
Yarmouth took a 3-1 lead after one period, but didn’t score again until late in the third, when it found itself tied, 3-3. Then, senior Max Watson scored his third and fourth goals to put the Clippers ahead to stay, but Yarmouth couldn’t exhale until the final horn.
Leading, 7-4, inside the final minute, the Clippers were staggered by a pair of Dragons’ goals in a 10-second span. Brunswick even got possession again, but missed a shot and had a second bid saved by Yarmouth junior goalie Connor Hoehle and the Clippers escaped with a 7-6 victory.
Yarmouth was paced by Watson’s four goals, two more from freshman Bill Jacobs, 13 saves from Hoehle and a strong defensive effort, spearheaded by senior Thomas Lord, as it improved to 4-1, dropping the Dragons to 5-1 in the process.
“Our team is tough,” said Watson. “We’re resilient. Even when things do break down and we’re playing a great team like Brunswick, we hang in there. Credit the guys on the bench and on the field. We’re a very good team. We come out with passion and intensity. It’s the heart that makes the difference.”
Both teams came close to winning an elusive championship in 2013 and both feel they’re title-worthy this spring.
Brunswick, which lost a regional final heartbreaker to Cheverus a year ago, handled its first five foes this season by an average 15-4 margin. After dominating rival Mt. Ararat on the road (17-2), the Dragons won at Edward Little (18-4), held off visiting Messalonskee (10-8), handled visiting Oxford Hills (18-2), then won at Cony Thursday, 12-3.
Yarmouth, which lost to Cape Elizabeth in last year’s Class B state final, opened by knocking off host York, 16-6, then lost at home to the Capers, 10-6, before winning at Greely (9-5) and at home over Lake Region (21-1).
Prior to lacrosse splitting into two classes in 2006, Brunswick and Yarmouth often met in the postseason. The Dragons beat the Clippers in the 2002 East Region Final and Yarmouth returned the favor two years later, en route to its first championship. The teams hadn’t played a countable game since 2011, when the Clippers went to Brunswick and prevailed, 10-0.
Monday, on a gorgeous night for lacrosse, two proud programs struggled at times, but also showed moments of greatness.
In the first half, goals were at a premium.
Hoehle showed he came to play when denied Brunswick senior Ryan Black 39 seconds in.
The hosts broke through with 10:07 left in the first period, as junior standout Cam Glover set up junior Kyle Woodruff for a 1-0 lead.
The Dragons almost made it 2-0 a minute later, when, playing man-up, they got the ball to junior Owen Ginty on the doorstep, but Hoehle made the save.
Yarmouth tied the game with 6:40 to go in the first, when Jacobs took a pass from senior Brady Neujahr and beat Brunswick senior goalie Chris Mrvichkin.
After Hoehle preserved the tie by saving bids from senior Lucas McCue and junior Tyler Hillis, Watson got on the board, finishing in transition to give the Clippers their first lead.
Watson scored again, unassisted, with 1:14 remaining in the first period to give Yarmouth a 3-1 advantage and after Hoehle made another big save, on Glover with one second left, the Clippers took a two-goal lead to the second quarter.
Where their offense went stagnant.
Jacobs almost made the score 4-1 57 seconds in, but Mrvichkin made the save.
Brunswick then drew within one when junior Matt Brooks scored unassisted with 9:57 to go before halftime, ending a 12 minute, 10 second drought.
Neither team would tickle the twine again until the second half, but both had chances.
Mrvichkin denied by Watson and junior Brendan Dioli and late in the quarter, a shot from McCue was saved by Hoehle, keeping the score 3-2 at halftime.
In the first 24 minutes, Yarmouth won five of seven draws, Brunswick had a slim 16-14 edge in ground balls and the Clippers put nine shots on cage to seven by the Dragons.
Not much changed in the second half.
After Hoehle momentarily kept Yarmouth ahead by robbing Ginty, the hosts pulled even with 3:38 to go in the third quarter when junior T.J. Sullivan scored unassisted, ending an 18:19 dry spell.
Speaking of droughts, the Clippers’ hit 22:37 before Watson took matters into his own hands to put the visitors ahead to stay.
With 2:37 left in the third, Watson caught a pass from Neujahr in the middle of the field, looked up and saw green grass in front of him. He bulled in and fired a shot past Mrvichkin to turn the tide.
“When you’re in a drought like that, someone has to step up,” Watson said. “I can say my whole team stepped up behind me. Brady got that ball and found me in the middle of the field. When you have an open stretch in front of you, you take the chance.”
“Max is very, very competitive,” Yarmouth coach David Pearl said. “He’s a hard worker and a leader. We’re having a hard team playing as a team. Guys are not dodging with their heads up and passing the ball. When we play together and we have long possessions and grind it out, we can be successful. We’ve got very talented players, but if we don’t share the ball, we’re one dimensional, especially against a good goalie like tonight.”
A minute later, Yarmouth earned a man-up opportunity and made Brunswick pay, as senior Isaak Dearden passed to Watson, who again finished to make it 5-3, as Mrvichkin slowed the ball with his stick, but couldn’t stop it from rolling across the line.
“We have a (man-up) play and if you have a shot, Coach will let you take it,” Watson said. “I was open in that situation.”
Late in the frame, Hoehle denied Black and Jacobs had a shot saved by Mrvichkin, keeping it a two-goal game heading for the final stanza.
There, the Clippers appeared to open up a safe lead, only to see the Dragons roar back in a frenetic finish.
With 9:47 remaining, Dioli set up junior Joe Oliva for a goal and Yarmouth had a little breathing room.
After five scoreless minutes, Brunswick went man-up, but Hoehle intercepted a pass to help kill the penalty.
Jacobs almost iced the win with 2:58 to play, but Mrvichkin made the save and the Dragons then made things very interesting.
With 2:14 showing, McCue scored unassisted to make it a two-goal game, ending another long (13:24) dry spell.
Twenty-three seconds later, the visitors got a fortuitous bounce and seemingly salted away the win, as the ball came out of the stick of sophomore Walter Conrad, who was solid all night on faceoffs, bounced on the ground, then landed right in the waiting hands of Jacobs, who beat Mrvichkin for a 7-4 advantage.
Brunswick again went man-up and again, Yarmouth’s defense stood tall, as Hoehle, with some help from his best friend, the post, prevented a goal.
First, Hoehle robbed Sullivan. Ginty and Brooks then clanged shots off the iron.
Finally, with 36.4 seconds to go, Brooks set up Ginty for a goal, but it appeared to be too little, too late.
Instead, Glover won the ensuing draw and after the ball popped loose, Sullivan snared it and shot it past Hoehle to suddenly make the score 7-6 with 26.1 seconds to go.
When Glover won another faceoff, the possibility of a tie and overtime loomed, but after McCue’s bounce shot went over the frame, Ginty had a look in the waning seconds, but Hoehle snared it, passed the ball to Lord and Lord flung the ball down the field as time ran out and Yarmouth held on, 7-6.
“I went to the ball, looked at the clock and thought I could make it float for at least a few seconds, so I threw it up,” Lord said. “It’s a good feeling at the end of a game. It got scary at the end. They hit some pipes, which helped us. We made some mental mistakes, but we kind of grinded it out and held on for dear life. Connor made some key saves. That helped a lot. It was fun lacrosse.”
“I’m proud of the guys,” said Pearl. “(Brunswick’s) a great team. A relentless team. Their ride is great. They played all 48 minutes and some. They were inspired. They were on their homefield. Undefeated. They’re hungry to get back to the top, just like us. I’ve never seen guys fly up and down the field like they did. They really wanted it. They have great athletes, quality kids, hard workers, a lot of good players. They gave us everything we could handle.”
Watson paced the Yarmouth offense with four goals. Jacobs added two and Oliva also tickled the twine. Dearden, Dioli and Neujahr all had assists.
The Clippers enjoyed a 43-37 advantage in ground balls, as Lord led the way with seven and freshman Bobby Murray added six.
Hoehle finished with 13 big saves.
“They hit some pipes at the end of the game and Connor ‘played the angles’ and it worked out,” Pearl said.
Yarmouth committed 24 turnovers, but had a 31-26 shots advantage.
“Possession is something we still need to work on,” Pearl said. “There were sloppy stretches. Their defense is very good.”
Brunswick had five different players score, as Sullivan had two goals and Brooks, Ginty, McCue and Woodruff each added one. Brooks and Glover also had assists. Sullivan led all players with eight ground balls. Mrvichkin made seven saves.
The Dragons had a 10-7 edge in faceoffs. They put 19 shots on frame to 14 for the Clippers, but were doomed by 29 turnovers.
“The stats at halftime were pretty even, so we knew it was going to come down to possession,” Don Glover said. “For us, it was ground balls and winning those battles, but they came up with some good ground balls at times and that kind of deflated us. We had chances at the end. We had a flurry. We hit the post a few times. It was a good game. We were just a little jittery. Some of our turnovers, we were forcing. We got caught in situations where we threw floaters. We took chances at the end. Yarmouth made us pay.”
Ultimately, the fans and the sport were the winners Monday, as the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference allowed its member teams to once again play out of conference games.
What we saw Monday between Brunswick and Yarmouth can only help generate interest in lacrosse going forward.
“This has been a four-year battle to get these opportunities to play against quality programs,” Don Glover said. “Nothing against the KVAC, there’s quality programs there, but to leave your conference and play these other schools is huge for the sport, it’s huge for the schools and it’s good for the kids. Yarmouth’s a neighbor. We have a history. We have a great rapport.”
“We’ve played some big games on this field,” said Pearl. “We played a state championship game (a 9-8 overtime loss to Cape Elizabeth in 2003) on this field. I have all the respect in the world for Brunswick.”
Brunswick and Yarmouth now return to the regular part of their schedule, with one exception.
The Dragons (who remain first in the Eastern Class A Heal Points standings) host Lewiston Wednesday, then play their second crossover Friday, when they go to unbeaten Cape Elizabeth.
“I like our character as a team,” Don Glover said. “We have a busy week, that’s for sure. More good tests. Obviously, Cape’s playing well. They’re a quality program. We’re really excited for another crossover.”
The Clippers (who are first in Eastern B) are at crosstown rival North Yarmouth Academy Tuesday, then host Western A power, undefeated South Portland, Friday night. A home showdown with powerhouse Falmouth looms Tuesday of next week.
Yarmouth also has Kennebunk on the slate and rematches with Cape Elizabeth and NYA still to come.
“We weren’t playing as a team against Cape, but tonight, we showed we’re very good when we play as a team,” Watson said. “Things are coming together for us.”
“I do know our guys will be fired up (for NYA),” Pearl said. “It’s a rivalry where there aren’t a lot of inspirational words needed from the coach. There’s still a long way to go. It’s a big week for us. We’re looking forward to working hard.”
Yarmouth 10 @ Brunswick 0
@ Yarmouth 13 Brunswick 6
East Region semifinals
@ Yarmouth 17 Brunswick 3
East Region Final
@ Yarmouth 13 Brunswick 3
Yarmouth 11 @ Brunswick 7
East Region Final
@ Brunswick 11 Yarmouth 5