CAPE ELIZABETH—This one lived up to billing.
Two of the best boys’ soccer teams in Class B (and all of the state) squared off at Hannaford Field Tuesday evening in a fast, physical and scintillating midseason contest with major Heal Points at stake.
Cape Elizabeth hosted a Yarmouth squad which has had its number in recent seasons and fell behind, 1-0, when Clippers junior Walter Conrad converted a superb 35-yard blast in the 25th minute.
The Capers roared right back three minutes later, tying the score on a rebound goal from senior Cole Caswell.
Action ratcheted up another notch in the second half and Yarmouth retook the lead, 2-1, when junior sparkplug Patrick Grant scored on a rebound.
Then, it was up to the Clippers defense to keep potent Cape Elizabeth at bay and they were able to do so, barely, holding on for the one-goal victory.
Yarmouth continued its recent domination over the Capers, improved to 6-1-1 and dropped the hosts to 4-3-1 in the process.
“It was a fabulous game,” said Clippers coach Mike Hagerty. “I thought the kids showed great character. It’s a little bit deflating when you score a goal and they come back to tie it, but I thought the kids played calm in a hard place to play against a very good team.”
Both teams came into the season highly touted and both have excelled in some games and struggled in others.
Cape Elizabeth won its first two: 2-1 at Freeport and 4-1 at home over York, but the Capers let leads of 2-0 and 3-2 slip away at Yarmouth in a 5-3 setback Sept. 12. After downing visiting Poland, 4-1, Cape Elizabeth settled for a 1-1 home tie versus Falmouth and fell at Greely, 2-1. Friday, the Capers got back in the win column with a 6-0 victory at Lake Region.
The Clippers won their opener, 7-0, at Poland, then fell at home to defending Class B champion Greely, 1-0. Yarmouth then enjoyed a 5-3 home victory over Cape Elizabeth, a 5-0 home blanking of Freeport, a 3-1 home win over York and a 7-0 romp at Kennebunk before letting a 2-0 lead slip away Saturday in a 2-2 home draw versus Waynflete.
Yarmouth has had the edge in the rivalry the past several seasons, going 6-0-1 in the last seven meetings (see sidebar, below), including the contest on Sept. 12. Last year, the Clippers won at Cape Elizabeth in overtime (1-0), rallied for a 3-3 tie at home, then erupted for four first half goals en route to a 5-0 victory in the Western B semifinals.
Tuesday, Yarmouth continued its hex over the Capers, but it took all 80 minutes to secure the victory.
It took nearly 10 minutes for the first good scoring chance, but Clippers senior speedster Adam LaBrie managed to get a shot off which Cape Elizabeth senior goalkeeper Andrew Kelly saved.
At the other end, Caswell headed the ball toward Capers senior Noah Haversat, but Clippers senior goalkeeper Alex Lyon got to it first.
Cape Elizabeth kept the pressure on and a blast from sophomore Connor Flaherty forced Lyon to dive to make a save.
After Yarmouth sophomore Henry Coolidge shot just high and Haversat set up sophomore Nicolai Sabatani for a shot which went just wide, Kelly robbed LaBrie after he took a pass from Coolidge and fired a shot.
Finally, with 15:18 to go in the first half, the Clippers broke the ice.
The play began courtesy Grant’s relentless. Grant shook a defender, crossed the ball to LaBrie in front and before he took a hit from a defender, LaBrie managed to touch the ball back to Conrad, who settled it, then launched a blast to right corner which Kelly couldn’t reach for a 1-0 lead.
“It started with Patty actually,” said Conrad, who is best known as a defender, but has seen ample minutes in the midfield and even as a forward at times this season. “He made a great cross to Adam, who laid it off wonderfully for me. I just took a touch and hit it and luckily it hit the net. It felt good when I hit it.”
“It was a beautiful shot,” Hagerty said. “We’ve been trying to get (Walter) more time at midfield because we know he can shoot. In practice, he’s consistent with that. What I like about Walter is that he can read the game. He can read space. A lot of kids would be too close or too far away for Adam’s pass to be effective. He had nice spacing and had time to take a touch. For Adam to see him there and take a hit was terrific.”
Undaunted, the Capers looked for the equalizer and got with 12:18 to go in the half, when senior Eddie Galvin fired a shot which deflected off a defender and sat free for Caswell to bang home.
“Our guys did a nice job coming back and fighting,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Ben Raymond. “We worked hard to get that goal.”
Prior to the half, Kelly saved a shot from Yarmouth junior Nick Kamra, Kelly saved a shot from Grant off a cross from sophomore Matt Dostie and at the other end, Capers junior J. Bottomley hit the crossbar and junior Matt Riggle sent the rebound just high.
In the first half, Cape Elizabeth enjoyed a 9-8 edge in shots, but the Clippers put five of theirs on frame, to just three from the Capers.
While Yarmouth would get more chances in the second half, only one goal would be scored in the entertaining 40 minutes.
Early in the half, the Clippers got a corner kick and senior Connor Lainey’s serve had to be punched away by Kelly.
At the other end, Cape Elizabeth senior Griffin Thoreck’s throw was deflected and came to Galvin, who shot just high. Haversat then headed a shot on goal, which forced Lyon to make the save.
“Haversat is as dangerous with the ball as anyone in our league,” said Hagerty. “He really makes me nervous. When they moved him up top in the second half, we tried to find the right matchup for him because he’s such a dangerous one-on-one player.”
After LaBrie shot wide and a Dostie cross bounced just over LaBrie’s head, Yarmouth got the tiebreaker.
With 26:13 to play, Conrad sent a corner kick into the box, where it skittered through the defense, pinballed around for a moment, then found the foot of Grant, who wouldn’t be denied, knocking home the shot for a 2-1 lead.
“The ball just sort of popped out to me,” Grant said. “I chested it down and was able to place it.”
“That was an interesting scrum goal,” Hagerty said. “I couldn’t believe it wasn’t cleared. It was nice to get a goal that was similar to one we gave up. Patrick can read angles and read space. What I like about him is that he just doesn’t stop. Every game, the kids who match up against him go two deep and they’re both tired. He plays very intelligently at that pace, which is rare for a high school kid.”
There was still a long way to go.
With 22:55 to play, Capers junior R.J. Sarka got his head on a Thoreck throw and Lyon had to make the save.
After Kelly preserved the 2-1 score by saving shots from Grant, Kamra and LaBrie, Cape Elizabeth returned to the attack.
With 11:45 remaining, Yarmouth senior Garrett Flanagan cleared a loose ball.
A minute later, junior Andrew Beatty did the same.
With 3:08 left, Haversat managed to cross the ball into the box, but it was cleared.
With 1:41 to go, Clippers junior Conor O’Donnell broke up Galvin’s serve to Sarka.
The Capers then earned a corner, but Haversat headed it high and that would prove to be their final chance.
Yarmouth managed to transition to offense and ran out the clock on its 2-1 victory.
“The game went by so slowly the last 26 minutes,” Grant said. “It was the slowest 26 minutes I’ve ever played. In the second half, we just calmed down and played to feet. We did the simple things well and it paid off.”
“They give us a good test every time, so I expected it would be a fight,” Conrad said. “I knew we’d have to play hard to win. They’ve got a strong forward line with Caswell and Sarka. They were a test for the defense. We packed it in tight and dropped five at the end of the game so they didn’t get many opportunities. Alex came up big when he needed to. That was awesome for us.”
“Coming here, we knew how physically strong Cape was,” Hagerty added. “They’re deadly in the air, dangerous on set pieces. We wanted to keep the ball on the ground as much as possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if (the Capers) don’t lose again the rest of the season. One of our assistant coaches said, ‘That’s a great win, but now we’ll probably have to play them a third time.'”
Yarmouth’s win was a true team effort.
“Andrew and (junior) Matt (Beatty) both played exceptionally well defensively,” Hagerty said. “John Lane didn’t play in the first half and got a chance. He’s a very good sophomore player. He did a good job. (Junior) Henry Becker gave us good minutes each half. Garrett Flanagan gets better every game. He and Conor O’Donnell were rocks. A lot of kids did really well.”
Yarmouth wound up outshooting Cape Elizabeth, 20-13 (12-5 on frame). Lyon made four saves.
The Capers had a 6-5 edge in corner kicks and got 10 saves from Kelly, but it wasn’t enough.
“Both teams played well at times and had chances,” Raymond said. “They were just better in the box than we were. That was the difference. They’re a quality team. They’re well coached. They’re organized. They work really hard the entire time, whether they’re up by one or down by one. In the second half, we weren’t able to sustain it in the box. We didn’t get tired, but we got a little out of shape and as time ran out, we did things we don’t normally do, like kick everything long. We didn’t have the possession we wanted at the end. When we did move the ball and move it side to side, we had great chances.”
There’s a pretty good chance the Capers and Clippers could square off once more in the playoffs, but they each face several stern tests before they can even think about the postseason.
Cape Elizabeth (currently fourth in the Western B Heal Points standings) goes to Kennebunk Thursday and visits undefeated Falmouth Tuesday of next week. Home games versus Greely and Fryeburg, a trip to York and a home tilt versus Kennebunk close the regular season schedule.
“Our group of kids is great,” Raymond said. “It’s nice being in Class B where there’s not the urgency to collect all the Heal Points like there was in Class A. If we keep winning, we’ll make the playoffs. We’re getting better. The top teams are pretty even. One bad bounce, one corner kick, tons of little things could change things. There’s a good chance we’ll see (Yarmouth) again. We’re continuing to improve. We’ll be that much hungrier after losing to them twice to get the best of them.”
As for Yarmouth, which is second to Greely in the Heals, it still has its share of heavy lifting to do, starting Saturday when the first of two Falmouth showdowns is contested, at Yarmouth. The Clippers then go to York Tuesday, host Kennebunk next Saturday, then close with games at Gray-New Gloucester, Greely and Falmouth.
“I think we’re coming together when we need to,” Conrad said. “I hope we can keep growing as a team. By the end of the season, we’re going to peak.”
“All in all, I can’t complain,” said Hagerty. “If you told me we’d be 6-1-1, having played Cape twice, I’d be very pleased. These guys really enjoy each other. They’re happy for each other. That makes them a good group. If we can get to 10 wins, we should be in the top three. That’s where I hope to stay. Top two would be nice.
“Falmouth’s a big challenge. They have good young players who are getting better every game. It will be a great rivalry game again. They have great kids. It will be fun. The edge is a little gone because we don’t play them in the playoffs, but not much.”
Yarmouth junior Matt Beatty heads the ball forward.
Yarmouth sophomore Henry Coolidge wins possession against Cape Elizabeth sophomore Nicolai Sabatini.
Cape Elizabeth senior Cole Caswell fights Yarmouth juniors Matt Beatty (4) and Nick Kamra for a loose ball.
Cape Elizabeth senior Eddie Galvin shields Yarmouth junior Matt Beatty.
Yarmouth junior Walter Conrad shadows dangerous Cape Elizabeth senior Noah Haversat.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Connor Thoreck tries to neutralize Yarmouth senior Adam LaBrie.
Yarmouth senior goalkeeper Alex Lyon sizes up a shot from Cape Elizabeth sophomore Connor Flaherty.
Cape Elizabeth freshman Oliver Moon boots the ball.
@ Yarmouth 5 Cape Elizabeth 3
Cape Elizabeth 2 @ Yarmouth 1
Yarmouth 1 @ Cape Elizabeth 0
Cape Elizabeth 1 Yarmouth 1 (tie)
@ Yarmouth 3 Cape Elizabeth 1
@ Yarmouth 2 Cape Elizabeth 1
@ Cape Elizabeth 2 Yarmouth 2 (tie)
@ Yarmouth 0 Cape Elizabeth 0 (tie)
@ Cape Elizabeth 3 Yarmouth 1
@ Yarmouth 1 Cape Elizabeth 1 (tie)
@ Cape Elizabeth 3 Yarmouth 1
@ Yarmouth 2 Cape Elizabeth 0
Yarmouth 2 @ Cape Elizabeth 0
Yarmouth 1 @ Cape Elizabeth 0
@ Yarmouth 0 Cape Elizabeth 0 (tie)
Yarmouth 1 @ Cape Elizabeth 0
Cape Elizabeth 1 @ Yarmouth 0
@ Cape Elizabeth 0 Yarmouth 0 (tie)
@ Yarmouth 1 Cape Elizabeth 0
@ Cape Elizabeth 2 Yarmouth 1
Yarmouth junior Walter Conrad (63) is congratulated by classmates Patrick Grant (10) and Conor O’Donnell after his sensational first half goal at Cape Elizabeth Tuesday night. The Capers would rally to tie, but Grant’s rebound goal in the second half gave the Clippers a 2-1 win.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.