Yarmouth senior Jack Jones plays the ball ahead during the Clippers’ 4-1 victory at Greely Saturday afternoon. Jones scored three second half goals.
CUMBERLAND—Greely’s up-and-coming boys’ soccer team did a lot of things right Saturday afternoon when it hosted four-time defending Class B state champion Yarmouth, but when you face the Clippers, you have to be almost perfect.
Like Yarmouth’s record over the past couple seasons.
While the Rangers made them work for it, the Clippers found a way to pull away and earn yet another victory.
Yarmouth started fast, as just 3 minutes, 34 seconds in, senior Eric LaBrie, after a long run, found senior Jack Romano at the back post for a 1-0 lead.
Greely, which hadn’t scored a goal all season, came close to doing so midway through the second half, but couldn’t convert and with 19:07 to play, senior Jack Jones doubled the Clippers’ advantage.
Jones struck again with 8:20 on the clock, finishing a throw-in from junior Aidan Hickey.
Then, Jones earned his hat trick in highlight reel fashion with 6:39 on the clock, heading a shot just under the bar.
Greely finally scored its first goal of the season with 37.5 seconds on the clock, when senior Charlie Saffian finished, but the Clippers went on to a 4-1 victory.
Yarmouth improved to 3-0 on the season, increased its three-year win streak to 26 games, its unbeaten streak to 33 and in the process, made it seven victories in a row over the 0-1-2 Rangers.
“We know we’ll always get everyone’s best game,” Jones said. “I don’t think of it as pressure. It’s extra motivation.”
Yarmouth’s quest for a (big school) record fifth consecutive state championship began with a 4-1 win at York and a 2-1 come-from-behind home victory over Cape Elizabeth.
Greely played twice and didn’t score a goal, but didn’t concede one either, as it settled for scoreless draws at both Cape Elizabeth and Freeport.
Entering play Saturday, Yarmouth held a 22-10 (with six ties) advantage in the rivalry since the start of the 2001 season (see sidebar below). The Rangers sought their first win in the series since Sept. 9, 2014 (1-0 at Yarmouth) and their first at home since Oct. 10, 2007 (1-0), but instead, the Clippers improved to 10-0-1 versus their rival in the past 11 meetings.
Greely had the first chance, as a free kick came into the box and when Yarmouth tried to clear the ball, it ricocheted back toward the goal before Clippers junior goalkeeper Isaac Owen snared it.
Yarmouth then went on the attack and got the jump.
Once again it was LaBrie creating the chance, taking a pass from Jones and racing up the right flank before crossing the ball to Romano, who only had to tap it in at the back post, beating junior goalkeeper Spencer Wetmore, for a quick 1-0 lead.
“It was important to score first,” Jones said. “Eric’s passes are unbelievable. He’s such a threat and attracts attention from the defense, but he knows when you’re open. It’s one of his most underrated abilities.”
“When Eric draws defenders, you have to run and he’ll see you,” said longtime Clippers coach Mike Hagerty. “If we move well without the ball, good things happen.”
The Clippers looked to build on their advantage, but LaBrie was just off target with his left foot, Wetmore saved a LaBrie one-timer and Romano sailed a shot just wide.
Greely then went on the attack, as sophomore Jonathon Piesik missed wide, senior Pietro Ambrosini’s rush was broken up by Yarmouth junior back John D’Appolonia and a blast from sophomore Chris Williams was cradled by Owen.
The final 10 minutes of the half belonged to the Clippers, but they (more specifically Jones) were frustrated.
First, sophomore Cam Merrill headed a throw from Hickey just high.
Jones then fired a left-footed blast that Wetmore leaped to tip over the crossbar for a corner.
With 1:24 on the clock, Jones floated a 25-yard left-footed blast on target, but it didn’t dip low enough, kissing off the crossbar.
In the waning seconds, junior Jason Lainey looked to double the lead, but his shot sailed wide and Yarmouth took a 1-0 lead to halftime.
“We talked about the importance of a really good start,” said Hagerty. “Maybe we forgot to talk about the importance of a second goal. I thought we could have gotten another one before halftime.”
The Clippers had a 4-2 edge in shots on frame in the first 40 minutes and took six corners to none for Greely, but three Wetmore saves kept the Rangers close.
Yarmouth finally got some separation in the second half.
First, Greely nearly drew even.
With 23:05 left, Clippers sophomore back Will Dickinson cleared a loose ball from the line with Owen out of the play.
A minute later, Rangers junior Andy Moore dribbled around and through the Yarmouth defense before firing a shot right at a diving Owen, who made the save. The rebound came out to Piesik, but his attempt was blocked.
That’s as close as Greely would get to tying the score.
“I love my kids,” said longtime Rangers coach Mike Andreasen. “They’re relatively inexperienced. We need a playmaker, someone who can score. If we made it 1-1, you never know.”
With 19:55 remaining, LaBrie had a shot saved by Wetmore, but 48 seconds later, after LaBrie passed to Romano and the ball was knocked away, it came to Jones, who was finally rewarded for his hard work by banging home the rebound for a 2-0 lead.
“I had a good feeling about this game,” Jones said. “I felt if I kept trying, I’d get a goal.”
“We brag about Jack’s ability to read the game and be in the right space,” Hagerty said. “He moves so well off the ball.”
Jones wasn’t done.
After Wetmore saved a shot from sophomore Will Hunter, Jones made it 3-0 by controlling a long throw from Hickey, then beating Wetmore to the goalie’s left with 8:20 on the clock.
With 6:39 to play, Romano crossed the ball to Merrill, who headed it to Jones, who headed the ball off the bottom of the crossbar and in to extend the lead to 4-0.
“It was a great cross from Jack to Cam, who sent it across to me,” said Jones. “I had the easy part, scoring from just a few yards.”
“We worked on running with their weak-side runners, but a lot of their stuff today was with their weak-side,” Andreasen lamented. “They’re very technical. They can clean up a bad play and make it a good play. That comes with confidence. When you have LaBrie as a centerpiece and Jack Jones too, that’s tough.”
Greely nearly got its elusive goal with 5:15 to play, but junior Ethan Fraser’s long run was broken up.
Fraser then missed just wide two minutes later.
The goal finally came with 37.5 seconds to go and came from an unlikely source, Saffian, who was playing his first varsity minutes.
Saffian got the ball with room and boomed a shot into the net to get the Rangers on the board.
“Charlie is a really hardworking kid and a good guy,” Andreasen said. “He gives me all he’s got at practice. It was his varsity experience. He plays four sports. He puts a smile on everyone’s faces. Yarmouth’s level of sportsmanship exceeded what I thought.”
“The kids knew that when Charlie went in that we wanted to give him a chance,” Hagerty said. “He’s a great kid. That’s the stuff you should be able to do in high school sports.”
Yarmouth then ran out the clock and celebrated its 4-1 victory.
“We watched (Greely) play Freeport and they do compete,” Hagerty said. “I’m glad we got them early before they figure things out and they will. They had so many guys back behind the ball. It’s always a tough field to play on. I’m glad we got the York and Greely grass games out of the way.”
The Clippers had an 11-5 edge in shots on frame and took eight corners to Greely’s two. Owen made four saves.
Greely got six saves from Wetmore and battled for 80 minutes.
“I thought we played really, really hard,” said Andreasen. “We’re looking up the mountain at (Yarmouth). Hopefully we’ll get near them.”
Greely hopes to earn its first win Thursday when Fryeburg Academy comes to Cumberland. The Rangers then go to Class C South contender Waynflete Saturday.
“We had the Cape, Freeport, Yarmouth triple and got two ties and a loss,” said Andreasen. “It could have been worse. Now, hopefully it gets a little easier.”
Yarmouth figures to be tested by visiting Freeport Tuesday. The Clippers then go to Wells Thursday.
“We knew these first four games would be tough, but I’ve been happy with how the kids have responded,” Hagerty said. “We’re a different team than last year, but the kids have worked hard in practice. They’re working well together, which is tough with so many new kids. It’s all working out.”
Yarmouth 5 @ Greely 3
@ Yarmouth 5 Greely 0
Yarmouth 4 @ Greely 1
@ Yarmouth 2 Greely 1
Class B South semifinals
@ Yarmouth 3 Greely 2 (OT)
@ Yarmouth 2 Greely 0
Yarmouth 2 @ Greely 1
Yarmouth 1 @ Greely 0
@ Yarmouth 2 Greely 1
@ Yarmouth 1 Greely 0
@ Greely 1 Yarmouth 0
@ Yarmouth 0 Greely 0 (tie)
@ Greely 2 Yarmouth 1 (2 OT)
@ Greely 1 Yarmouth 1 (tie)
Greely 1 @ Yarmouth 0
Yarmouth 3 @ Greely 1
Greely 1 @ Yarmouth 0
@ Yarmouth 1 Greely 1 (tie)
@ Greely 3 Yarmouth 3 (tie)
Greely 2 @ Yarmouth 0
@ Greely 2 Yarmouth 1
@ Greely 2 Yarmouth 0
Greely 2 @ Yarmouth 1