Yarmouth boys take first step toward another title

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Yarmouth senior Jack Jones and senior goalkeeper Aaron Belesca celebrate at the end of the Clippers’ 4-0 win over York in Tuesday’s rainy Class B South quarterfinal. Yarmouth will host Cape Elizabeth in the semifinals Saturday.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Press Herald photos.

More photos below.

YARMOUTH—If the Yarmouth boys’ soccer team goes on to win a big-school record fifth consecutive Class B state championship this fall, the Clippers will have earned it.

Yarmouth faces a daunting gauntlet to get where it wants to go, but the Clippers welcome the challenge and Tuesday evening, as the top-ranked team in the Class B South field, Yarmouth passed its first playoff test with flying colors.

Hosting No. 8 York, a traditional power that certainly isn’t your traditional No. 8 seed, the Clippers took a few minutes to get into gear, but once they did, they didn’t look back.

Yarmouth got the only goal it would need in the 31st minute, when junior Aidan Hickey scored out of a scrum on a corner kick.

With 3:36 left in the half, the prettiest goal of the night came off the foot of junior Liam Ireland, who finished a pass from senior Jack Romano.

The Clippers’ defense held the Wildcats’ offense at bay and with 19:03 left in regulation, senior standout Eric LaBrie, set up by Ireland, scored for a 3-0 advantage.

With 15:54 on the clock, sophomore Cam Merrill became the fourth different Yarmouth player to find the net and the Clippers went to a 4-0 victory.

Yarmouth won its 17th consecutive postseason game, extended its three-year unbeaten streak to 45 games, improved to 13-0-2, ended York’s season at 7-8-1 and in the process, advanced to its next huge test, a semifinal round showdown at home versus No. 4 Cape Elizabeth (8-4-3) Saturday at a time to be announced.

“Sometimes in the first game, the first opponent might not get your attention, but York’s good, so they got our attention,” said longtime Clippers coach Mike Hagerty.

The beat goes on

Yarmouth got pushed on several occasions this fall, but managed to navigate its schedule without a loss yet again (see sidebar, below, for links to previous stories). The Clippers’ 26-game win streak did end with a 1-1 home draw against Freeport and Yarmouth also settled for a 1-1 home tie with Class C South top seed Waynflete, but it won its other 12 games to extend its three-year unbeaten streak to 44 games and earn the top seed in Class B South yet again.

York, a regional finalist in 2017, went 6-7-1 in the regular season, but was competitive throughout. As the No. 8 seed, the Wildcats dispatched No. 9 Oak Hill, 6-1, in Friday’s preliminary round.

Yarmouth took both regular season meetings this fall, 4-1, at York in the opener Aug. 31 and 3-1 at home Sept. 26.

The teams had met 14 previous times in the playoffs, with the Clippers holding a 9-5 advantage (see sidebar, below). The most recent encounter was a thrilling regional final a year ago, which Yarmouth won, 2-1.

This time around, on a 47-degree evening, the Clippers scored twice in a dry first half and twice more with rain falling in the second.

Yarmouth got several early corner kicks, but couldn’t turn them into good scoring chances.

After Clippers junior goalkeeper Spencer King denied the first good chance of the game, a shot from York junior John Bychok, Yarmouth’s seventh corner saw sophomore Evan Van Lonkhuyzen’s serve deflected out, setting up an eighth.

Which would prove to be the charm.

The ball got played into the box and wasn’t cleared, giving Yarmouth a chance to pounce.

LaBrie’s initial shot was saved by Wildcats junior goalkeeper Gray Messersmith and senior Jack Jones tried to get to the rebound but couldn’t do so. Hickey could, however, and he sent the ball into the net for a 1-0 lead with 9:44 on the first half clock.

“We knew (York would) come hard and put us under pressure,” Hagerty said. “We didn’t have a decent shot on net until the goal.”

After scoring once, the Clippers pushed for a second and after Romano dribbled through three defenders before having a shot saved by Messersmith, Romano dished the ball to Ireland, who ripped a shot to Messersmith’s left and into the net for a 2-0 advantage with 3:36 remaining before halftime.

“It was really important to get a first goal and then we got confident and started moving the ball better and we really started to click,” said Ireland. “I saw a lot of defenders and I saw I had to curl it around them and go far post. It was a good shot. I was happy.”

“Our goal was to be more direct and put their backs under pressure,” Hagerty said. “For awhile, our forwards went two-against-four, then our midfield came through. Liam’s goal was a great example.”

Romano almost made it 3-0 with 2:12 left in the half, but his rocket rang off the crossbar.

“Jack did some great things tonight,” Hagerty said. “That’s his first game playing forward in a two-striker formation. He had two unbelievable hits in the first half. He did a great job playing where the team needed him.”

In the first half, Yarmouth had a 6-1 edge in shots on frame and an 8-0 advantage in corners, but four Messersmith saves kept the game competitive.

That would change in the second half, where despite the rain, the Clippers scored twice more.

After Messersmith saved shots by Jones, LaBrie and sophomore Ian LaBrie, the Clippers took a 3-0 lead with 19:03 to play, as Ireland got the ball to Eric LaBrie, who turned and one-timed a low blast with his right foot past Messersmith and just inside the near post.

“I was glad (Eric) was able to get that goal,” Ireland said. “They were double- and triple-teaming him all night and he showed what he can do.”

With 15:54 remaining, Yarmouth scored one final time, as Ian LaBrie set up Merrill with a through-ball for a blast that Messersmith couldn’t stop.

Down the stretch, Messersmith denied junior John Clinton and Jones and a blast by York senior Nick Rainforth sailed high.

The Clippers then closed out their 4-0 victory.

“I was a little worried having that much time off, but we had a really good response,” Ireland said. “We played fantastic.”

“The layover was great for us,” Hagerty said. “People worry about rust, but I don’t think these guys get enough practice. We played games with our JV and second teams. We replicated what we thought York would do. We did enough to stay fresh and ready.”

Yarmouth put 14 shots on frame to just two for York. The Clippers also had an 11-1 advantage in corner kicks. Senior Aaron Belesca and juniors Spencer King and Isaac Owen combined to make two saves in goal.

York got 10 saves from Messersmith, but its season came to a close.

“(Yarmouth’s) a really, really talented team,” said Wildcats coach Julie Johnson. “You can focus on one player and the others will get you. We knew it would be a battle. I’m super-proud how my kids hung with it. We’re young and thin with numbers, but I’m proud of the way we fought out there.

“The returning players can learn a lot from the way the seniors played tonight. This was a good experience. We’ll keep building.”

Beat a good team three times

Cape Elizabeth, which handled No. 5 Lincoln Academy, 5-0, in its quarterfinal, will be no picnic on Saturday. 

The Clippers beat the Capers twice this year by a goal, 2-1 at home Sept. 4 and 1-0 in Cape Elizabeth Sept. 29 and either game could have gone either way.

Yarmouth won both prior playoff meetings: 5-0 in the 2013 Western B semifinals and 2-0 in the 2015 Class B South quarterfinals.

In fact, the Clippers have won 12 straight over the Capers and are 16-0-1 in the teams’ last 17 meetings, suggesting something might be about to give.

But not if Yarmouth has something to say about it, as the Clippers seek to eclipse the big school record set by Scarborough from 1973-77 and Falmouth from 2000-04 and win an 18th postseason game in succession.

“We have to play our best and if we do, no one can stop us,” Ireland said. “We have to play two really good halves. We have to get up early.”

“The pressure for these kids is from themselves,” Hagerty said. “They expect to win, but we don’t emphasize it. We don’t relax against any opponent. I like the fact we play the best teams.

“Cape will be very difficult. Our goal is to generate more offense against them. In both games, we haven’t given them great opportunities. We need to capitalize on our chances. Everything they do revolves around (senior standout John) O’Connor, who is one of the best players in our conference. He makes them run. We think we have some places we can attack them and be successful.”

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

Yarmouth sophomore Ian LaBrie tries to get past York senior John Rodrigues.

Yarmouth junior Jason Lainey heads the ball away from York senior Nick Rainforth.

Yarmouth senior Eric LaBrie, junior Aidan Hickey and senior Jack Jones celebrate a goal.

Previous Yarmouth stories

Season Preview

Yarmouth 2 Cape Elizabeth 1

Yarmouth 4 Greely 1

Yarmouth 1 Cape Elizabeth 0

Yarmouth 1 Waynflete 1 (tie)

Previous York stories

Waynflete 3 York 0

Previous Yarmouth-York playoff results

2017 Class B South Final
Yarmouth 2 York 1

2012 Western B semifinals
Yarmouth 2 York 0

2010 Western B semifinals
Yarmouth 1 York 0

2005 Western B quarterfinals
Yarmouth 2 York 1 (2 OT)

2004 Western B quarterfinals
Yarmouth 3 York 0

1999 Western B semifinals
Yarmouth 3 York 2

1998 Western B Final
York 2 Yarmouth 1 (2 OT)

1997 Western B Final
Yarmouth 1 York 0

1996 Western B Final
York 3 Yarmouth 1

1993 Western B quarterfinals
York 1 Yarmouth 0

1992 Western B quarterfinals
York 1 Yarmouth 0

1989 Western B quarterfinals
Yarmouth 2 York 1 (OT)

1985 Western B semifinals
York 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.