Yarmouth boys survive Cape in another thriller

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Yarmouth senior Luke Groothoff (10) is congratulated by senior Max Coury (8) and junior Eric LaBrie after scoring a first half goal during the Clippers’ 2-1 win at Cape Elizabeth Saturday night. Yarmouth, the three-time defending Class B state champion, stayed undefeated with the victory.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

CAPE ELIZABETH—Yarmouth’s boys’ soccer team has passed every test this fall, but its two games against Cape Elizabeth have produced some anxious moments.

Three weeks ago, the host Clippers had to rally from a halftime deficit to prevail.

Saturday night at Hannaford Field, on the Capers’ Senior Night, Yarmouth got pushed again for 80 minutes, but demonstrating their championship heart, the Clippers did just enough to stay perfect.

In the 21st minute, Yarmouth’s dynamic senior tandem of Adam LaBrie and Luke Groothoff produced the game’s first goal, as LaBrie passed to Groothoff, who hit his shot for a 1-0 lead.

After Capers junior goalkeeper Sean Agrodnia kept it a one-goal contest with strong play later in the half, the hosts drew even in the second stanza.

With 32:21 left in regulation, the Clippers were called for a hand ball in the box, giving Cape Elizabeth a penalty kick and junior John O’Connor buried it, tying the contest.

Then, with overtime looming, Yarmouth went back on top in the 75th minute off a corner kick, as Groothoff launched the ball into the net.

The Clippers slammed the door from there and prevailed, 2-1.

Yarmouth improved to 13-0, won its 19th game in a row, extended its two-year unbeaten streak to 25 and in the process, dropped the Capers to 8-4-1.

“We’re both really competitive teams with a lot of spirit,” Groothoff said. “We have a lot of pride in our programs. The fans get into it. It’s a good, competitive atmosphere we don’t have too often.”

Eighty minute battle

Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth have long been among the state’s best teams and both squads have risen to the top of the Class B South standings this fall.

Yarmouth had no trouble with visiting Gray-New Gloucester in its opener, winning, 5-0. The Clippers then went to Greely and rallied for a 5-3 win. Yarmouth followed that up by blanking visiting Poland, 9-0, holding on for a 3-2 victory at York, blanking visiting Greely (5-0) and rolling at Poland (7-0). The Clippers had to rally to beat visiting Cape Elizabeth (2-1), then blanked visiting York (1-0), won at Freeport (6-1) and Gray-New Gloucester (3-0) and handled visiting North Yarmouth Academy and host Fryeburg Academy by 7-0 scores.

Cape Elizabeth, meanwhile, has been in a tough game virtually every time out.

After starting with a 1-0 home win over Freeport, the Capers fell at home to York, 2-1. Shutout home wins over Wells (4-0) and Fryeburg Academy (2-0) were followed by a scoreless home tie versus Greely. After losing, 2-1, at Yarmouth, Cape Elizabeth beat visiting Gray-New Gloucester (3-1). After a 2-0 setback at York, the Capers won at Freeport (3-0), Greely (2-1), Waynflete (2-0) and Gray-New Gloucester (2-0).

Saturday, on another pleasant evening (60-degrees at kickoff), the Capers sought their first win over Yarmouth since Sept. 2, 2011 (1-0 in Yarmouth) and their first at home over the Clippers since Oct. 4, 2008 (3-1), but Yarmouth found a way to prevail and improve to 14-0-1 against its rival in the past 15 meetings (see sidebar, below).

Cape Elizabeth was content playing a defensive style in the first half and it held the Clippers at bay until the 21st minute, when the visitors got the jump.

The goal was set up by the speedy and dangerous LaBrie, who drew the defense before passing ahead to Groothoff, who fired a shot past Agrodnia for a 1-0 lead with 19:04 to go in the half.

“We have a good connection,” Groothoff said. “(Eric’s) a great player and he knows how to find me. He can take on multiple defenders and he can also pass it.”

“LaBrie gets triple-teamed every time he touches the ball,” Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty said. “We scored the goal because he played the ball off to Luke. He had a huge impact on the game even though he didn’t score. He commands so much attention that it opens up chances for other kids.”

With 17:35 left, Yarmouth almost doubled its lead, as off a corner kick, senior Silas Chappell got his head on the ball, but it rang off the crossbar and was cleared.

With 12:09 remaining, Clippers senior Ben Norton crushed a low shot that Agrodnia had to dive to keep out. The rebound bounced out to junior Jack Jones, who headed a shot that Agrodnia had to tip over the crossbar for a corner kick, which resulted in another header, this one by sophomore Aidan Hickey, which went wide.

After Capers junior Calvin Stoughton had a last-second shot sail wide, the game went to the half with Yarmouth up by a goal.

The Clippers had a 5-0 edge in shots and an 8-1 advantage in corner kicks in the first 40 minutes. Only four saves from Agrodnia kept the contest close.

The action and intensity picked up in the second half.

After Yarmouth senior Max Coury missed just wide and a bid from senior Bennett Wheaton was saved by Agrodnia, Cape Elizabeth earned a free kick and sophomore Charlie Dall’s seemingly innocuous serve into the box wound up hitting a Yarmouth defender in the hand and by rule, the hosts were awarded a penalty kick.

O’Connor, the Capers’ most dangerous scorer, did the honors and his low rocket beat Clippers senior goalkeeper Cal Owen, who dove to his right, but couldn’t quite stop the ball, and just like that, the contest was deadlocked, 1-1.

“John is cool under pressure,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Ben Raymond. “He’s excited about those moments and trains hard for them.”

O’Connor then looked to give Cape Elizabeth the lead, but he couldn’t generate a good chance on three free kicks.

After Groothoff was off-target on a couple shots, the fog rolled in, adding additional drama to the proceedings.

With 15:35 to go, Owen came out to break up an O’Connor rush.

After Groothoff just missed on a low shot, the Capers transitioned to offense and freshman Archie McEvoy got off a shot that Owen had to dive to stop.

With 7:49 on the clock, it appeared Yarmouth was primed to take the lead, as LaBrie set up Coury for a one-timer that Agrodnia dove to save.

After Agrodnia dove again to rob LaBrie, the Clippers earned a corner kick, then another, followed by a third and third time proved to be the charm.

With 5:43 left, sophomore Jason Lainey served the ball into the middle of the box where out of nowhere, Groothoff not only got his foot on the ball, he crushed it past Agrodnia and into the net for a 2-1 lead.

“We knew we could get one back,” Groothoff said. “We’ve worked on a new corner kick play and it paid off. Max went for it and got pushed and missed it and it was right there for me. I had to assume it was mine and I struck it.”

“We want corner kicks,” Hagerty said. “We’ve tweaked some things. Even though we’re not the biggest team, we have technical servers and we got the ball where we wanted to. There was a lot of traffic, but it was a quality serve and a great goal. Luke proved today why he’s the best player in the state.”

“There was a big pileup and I’m not sure anyone even saw the ball,” Raymond said.

In the final minute, the Capers tried to force overtime, but long shot from freshman Nick Clifford was grabbed by Owen and Yarmouth was finally able to celebrate its victory.

“It’s always fun,” Hagerty said. “This was like a playoff game. They’re a tough team. They got momentum after the PK. You can’t give Cape chances like that. They’re dangerous and they’re not looking to out-shoot you, only to outscore you. We got on our heels a little bit, but we regrouped. I thought Agrodnia played a great game, especially in the first half.”

The Clippers finished with a 9-3 edge in shots and took 15 corner kicks to just two for Cape Elizabeth. Owen stopped two shots.

The Capers got seven saves from Agrodnia, but still fell short.

“I think we played really well in the second half tonight,” Raymond said. “We were much more defensive in the first half. They got through once, but guys in the back did a great job on LaBrie and in the midfield, we did a good job on Groothoff. We had good chances as well. We moved the ball better in the second half. We attacked well. The kids worked hard.”

Final test

Each team will bring the curtain down on its respective regular season Tuesday.

The Capers (third behind Yarmouth and York in the Class B South Heal Points standings at press time) go to Poland.

“Things are going fairly well,” Raymond said. “We’re still working on it. We’re moving in the right direction. We’ve played every game tough. We’ve been in them all. We’d like to be more consistent and possess a little bit more.

“I do think we’ll have to see (Yarmouth) three times. We’ll learn from what we did well. We did better tonight than when we played over there.”

The Clippers, who have the top seed in the region locked up, will host Wells in its finale. A win would give Yarmouth its first 14-0 regular season in program history (the Clippers went 13-0 in 1973).

“We’ve got a very talented group,” said Groothoff. “We have 30 players who can all play. We have to stay focused and make sure to have good, solid practices and keep pushing each other to play better.”

“We haven’t talked about going 14-0,” Hagerty said. “That would be nice, but we’re more concerned with the playoff seeds falling the right way. We want to play teams we haven’t played yet. We’re a hard team to match up against if you haven’t played us.

“We’re ready for a great run. The guys work really hard. Even the kids who aren’t playing a lot are really excited.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Yarmouth senior Ben Norton lines up a shot.

Yarmouth sophomore Aidan Hickey soars over Cape Elizabeth junior Alec Riggle to head the ball.

Cape Elizabeth junior John O’Connor runs past Yarmouth senior Luke Groothoff, left, and senior Bennett Wheaton.

Yarmouth junior Eric LaBrie races past Cape Elizabeth freshman Nick Clifford.

Cape Elizabeth senior David Hare shields the ball from Yarmouth senior Silas Chappell.

Yarmouth senior Luke Groothoff heads the ball away from Cape Elizabeth senior Oliver Moon. Groothoff had both goals in the victory.

Recent Cape Elizabeth-Yarmouth results

2017
@ Yarmouth 2 Cape Elizabeth 1

2016
@ Yarmouth 1 Cape Elizabeth 0
Yarmouth 3 @ Cape Elizabeth 2

2015
@ Yarmouth 4 Cape Elizabeth 0
Yarmouth 5 @ Cape Elizabeth 1 
Class B South quarterfinal
@ Yarmouth 2 Cape Elizabeth 0 

2014
@ Yarmouth 5 Cape Elizabeth 3
Yarmouth 2 @ Cape Elizabeth 1 

2013
Yarmouth 1 @ Cape Elizabeth 0 (OT)
@ Yarmouth 3 Cape Elizabeth 3 (tie)
Western B semifinals
@ Yarmouth 5 Cape Elizabeth 0

2012
@ Yarmouth 4 Cape Elizabeth 1
Yarmouth 2 @ Cape Elizabeth 1

2011
Cape Elizabeth 2 @ Yarmouth 1
Yarmouth 1 @ Cape Elizabeth 0

2010
@ Cape Elizabeth 1 Yarmouth 1 (tie)
@ Yarmouth 3 Cape Elizabeth 1

2009
@ Yarmouth 2 Cape Elizabeth 1
@ Cape Elizabeth 2 Yarmouth 2 (tie)

2008
@ Yarmouth 0 Cape Elizabeth 0 (tie)
@ Cape Elizabeth 3 Yarmouth 1

2007
@ Yarmouth 1 Cape Elizabeth 1 (tie)
@ Cape Elizabeth 3 Yarmouth 1

2006
@ Yarmouth 2 Cape Elizabeth 0
Yarmouth 2 @ Cape Elizabeth 0

2005
Yarmouth 1 @ Cape Elizabeth 0
@ Yarmouth 0 Cape Elizabeth 0 (tie)

2004
Yarmouth 1 @ Cape Elizabeth 0

2003
Cape Elizabeth 1 @ Yarmouth 0

2002
@ Cape Elizabeth 0 Yarmouth 0 (tie)

2001
@ Yarmouth 1 Cape Elizabeth 0
@ Cape Elizabeth 2 Yarmouth 1

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.