(Ed. Note: This story originally ran June 17, 2006)
PORTLAND—A year after a bitter loss in the state championship game, the 2006 Yarmouth Clippers boys’ lacrosse team left no doubt that it was the best that Class B had to offer.
Saturday afternoon at Fitzpatrick Stadium, the Clippers captured their second crown in three seasons by racing to a 5-0 lead over Kennebunk, then weathering a fierce comeback from the feisty and capable Rams en route to an 8-5 victory.
The win, which came just a couple of hours after the Yarmouth girls stunned Waynflete in their finale, left no doubt that Yarmouth is lacrosse titletown.
“It’s the best feeling,” senior defensive standout Hans Tobiason said. “Amazing. I felt this sophomore year and last year was awful, but this is a great feeling. Our offense took care of getting a lead and the defense just held them off. It’s been amazing being a part of this program. I’m definitely going to miss Yarmouth.”
“It’s awesome,” added third-year coach Craig Curry. “It’s a great feeling. I’m happy for the kids. They played their hearts out. So did Kennebunk. They came after us.”
Yarmouth won its first state title in 2004, capping an undefeated season with a decisive win over Cape Elizabeth in the championship game. Last spring, the Clippers were favored to win again, but were stunned by the Capers 7-6 in the title tilt. That loss ate at the program for a year and the 2006 Yarmouth squad was focused from Day One on returning to the pinnacle.
The Clippers were their usual dominant selves for most of the regular season, winning their first 11 contests, including a 15-2 home drubbing of Kennebunk (May 26). The only close calls in that stretch were one-goal wins over Cape Elizabeth (4-3 at home May 19 and 6-5 at the Capers 12 days later) and an 8-4 home win over NYA May 10, in a game that wasn’t decided until the final quarter.
Perhaps the best thing to happen to Yarmouth (although the Clippers certainly didn’t feel that way at the time) was a regular season-ending loss at NYA June 2. In that game, senior Zach Caldwell appeared to have scored the game-winning goal in overtime, only to have the referees rule that it never went in. NYA would later score the winner and Yarmouth wound up 11-1.
The Clippers still earned the top seed in Eastern Class B, survived a stern test from No. 5 Freeport in the semifinals, winning 11-9, then got their measure of revenge against No. 2 NYA in the regional final Wednesday, 9-3.
Many on the Yarmouth side hoped to get another crack at Cape Elizabeth in the state championship game, but the Capers were beaten in overtime by Kennebunk in the Western B Final, marking the first time ever that Cape Elizabeth wouldn’t compete in a state final.
The Clippers entered Saturday full of confidence, after routing the Rams last month, but the rematch would be much, much closer.
Just 26 seconds in, senior Luke Stevens (who missed much of the year with injury) took a pass from junior Francis Ellis and beat Kennebunk freshman goalie Cullen Finn (19 saves) for a 1-0 advantage. With 9:57 to play in the first, Yarmouth sophomore John Curry (from junior Rob Peixotto) scored. At the 5:46 mark, Peixotto set up senior Mike Outwin for a 3-0 lead. The Clippers capped their surge when Curry (again from Peixotto) scored with 2:45 to play in the first period.
When Ellis (from senior Nick Sampson) scored on the man-advantage midway through the second quarter for a 5-0 lead, it appeared as if the game would be a laugher, but the Rams did not wilt.
Kennebunk finally got on the scoreboard 1 minute and 18 seconds prior to halftime when senior Sean Foley (from junior Casey Riley) scored a man-up goal.
In the third, the Rams really made things interesting as senior Nick Butcher (from sophomore Noel Graydon) and senior Kyle Baker (unassisted) beat Yarmouth senior goalie Sean Bilodeau to make it 5-3.
“We thought that it would be close,” Tobiason said. “We knew Kennebunk came out to play and they did.”
That surge seemed to reawaken the Clippers, however, and they started peppering the Kennebunk goal. Late in the quarter, Stevens hit the post, Caldwell was denied, then senior Shane Minte shot just wide. Finally, with 1:17 to play in the stanza, Caldwell (from Stevens) scored and it was 6-3 Yarmouth.
The goal ended an uncharacteristic 15 minute, 11 second scoring drought.
Curry scored unassisted on the man-up early in the fourth, but Kennebunk answered as junior Chris Kain (from junior Lee Joseph) found the net. Just 41 seconds later, however, the Clippers went back on top by four, 8-4, as Ellis took a pass from Curry right in front and fired a shot into the cage. The Rams would get back within three, 8-5, when Graydon (from Baker) scored two-men up with 4:24 to play, but Bilodeau (13 saves) made a couple of key stops in the late going and Yarmouth went on to secure the title with an 8-5 victory, setting off a celebration that was a year in the making.
“It feels tremendous,” Stevens said. “It was a good game. We were prepared for everything we thought they were going to bring us. We knew that they were one of the best teams in the state. We knew they’d come out firing so we had to do the same thing. All the seniors took this seriously. This is definitely what we wanted.”
“It’s amazing,” Caldwell added. “Nothing feels better than to leave high school with the state championship. All the seniors are my best friends. The coaches are the best I’ve ever had. Last year, I was up all night before the state game. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This year, I got a good night’s sleep. The whole team was prepared. Kennebunk’s an amazing team. They played a great game against us. The seniors felt the pressure, but we put it on ourselves.”
Curry had nothing but kudos for his charges.
“The kids know what it’s like to get here and win and they know how it feels to get here and lose,” he said. “They know it’s special and fleeting. I don’t know that last year drove us as much as it focused us. We enter every year with the goal to win our last game. We’ve been in tough games. We haven’t crumbled. They know how to collect themselves and stay in the moment. They clearly are a talented group of athletes. Combine that with a strong work ethic and it’s a great recipe for success.”
Yarmouth is graduating 13 seniors. Six will play in college. Caldwell (Brown), Nigel Carr (Amherst), Mike Outwin (Dickinson), Sampson (Bates), Stevens (Endicott) and Tobiason (Bates) are just part of a special group who will be hard to replace.
Don’t think the Clippers can’t do it again, however.
“We want to be back here,” Curry said. “That’s our goal. We have a lot of good young kids who know what it takes and who want to step up.”
Yarmouth senior Shane Minte finds himself in the middle of five Kennebunk Rams during Saturday‘s Class B state final, but he still manages to get a shot on goal during the Clippers’ 8-5 victory.