YARMOUTH—Every championship contender wants to deliver a quick knockout blow.
Saturday evening, the Yarmouth boys’ soccer team demonstrated once again why they might be fitted for a crown very soon.
Hosting longtime rival Cape Elizabeth in the first ever playoff meeting between the teams, the top-ranked Clippers buried the fourth-ranked Capers by halftime of their Western Class B semifinal.
It took junior standout Adam LaBrie all of 123 seconds to give Yarmouth the only goal it would need. Senior David Clemmer made it 2-0 with a goal in the 19th minute and LaBrie kept the good times rolling with a highlight reel tally three minutes later. When senior Chandler Smith headed home a corner kick with 8:58 to go in the half, the Clippers had essentially ended the competitive phase of the contest.
One final tally, a penalty kick by senior Max Watson 113 seconds into the second half, served as a punctuation mark and Yarmouth went on to a 5-0 victory, as it improved to 13-0-3, ended Cape Elizabeth’s season at 6-6-4 and advanced to host No. 2 Greely (12-2-2) in the Western Class B Final, Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“You never expect this in a playoff game or in a game against Cape, especially after the first two games we played,” said longtime Clippers coach Mike Hagerty, who earned his 199th victory in his 17th season with the program. “The kids were zoned in. That was maybe the best first half we’ve played all year.”
Yarmouth, a regional finalist in 2012, navigated a daunting regular season schedule without a loss.
The Clippers opened 2013 with a 4-0 home win over Poland. After rallying for a 2-2 tie at Greely, they handled host Freeport, 5-1. A scoreless tie at York was followed by a 2-0 win at Kennebunk, a 3-0 victory at Waynflete and a palpitating 1-0 overtime victory at Cape Elizabeth. After beating visiting Falmouth, 1-0, Yarmouth had its way with visiting York, 4-1, then rallied to tie visiting Cape Elizabeth in a shootout, 3-3. The Clippers then went to Falmouth and earned a stunningly decisive 6-1 victory, held off visiting Kennebunk, 1-0, handled visiting Greely, 4-1, and closed the regular year with a 6-0 home win over Gray-New Gloucester.
After earning the top seed, Yarmouth went out and showed why it was the team to beat by dominating No. 8 Fryeburg, 7-0, in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.
Cape Elizabeth battled host York to a scoreless tie in the opener, then handled visiting Poland, 4-0, before settling for a 0-0 tie at Falmouth. After falling at home to Greely, 2-1, the Capers finally got their offense going with an 11-0 home win over Lake Region. After falling at home to Yarmouth, 1-0, in overtime, Cape Elizabeth dropped a 3-0 decision at Kennebunk and fell in the waning moments to visiting Falmouth, 1-0. After letting a 3-1 lead slip away in a 3-3 tie at Yarmouth, the Capers then tied visiting Kennebunk, 1-1, lost at Greely, 2-0, beat host Fryeburg and visiting York by 2-1 scores and closed with a 4-0 home win over Freeport to earn the No. 4 seed.
Wednesday, in the quarterfinals, Cape Elizabeth got its offense going early and cruised to a 5-0 win over No. 5 Lincoln Academy.
Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth have each won eight state championships, but prior to this autumn, the longtime rivals only met in the regular season, then took part in different classes for the playoffs.
That all changed this fall as the Capers dropped down to Class B and based on the two regular season meetings, Saturday’s semifinal figured to be tight throughout.
Before many of the fans settled into their seats, the Clippers were on top.
The Capers actually had the first good look, but Yarmouth junior goalkeeper Alex Lyon made a diving save (it proved to be his only one) and the rest of the night would belong to the hosts.
The first goal was set up by senior Ben Decker, who crossed the ball to LaBrie, who finished for a quick 1-0 lead.
“It was good to get momentum right off the bat and keep it all game,” LaBrie said. “It was a great cross from Ben. I lost it in the lights. I just tried to get my head on it.”
With 21:10 remaining in the first half, LaBrie fired a shot which was saved by Cape Elizabeth senior goalkeeper Austin Andrews, but the rebound came to Clemmer, who banged the loose ball home to make it 2-0.
“It was a rebound of a shot by Adam,” Clemmer said. “I was back post and finished it. It was an easy ball. If we keep coming out hard like this, we’ll be good for the rest of the playoffs.”
LaBrie then put on a show, taking a pass from senior Wyatt Jackson, flicking the ball to himself, then blasting a shot past Andrews for a 3-0 lead with 18:41 remaining in the half.
“Wyatt chipped it into me, I chipped it over a defender, spun around him, got my foot on it and it went in,” LaBrie said.
“That was one of the nicest goals I’ve seen in high school,” Hagerty said. “He flipped it to himself, spun around and hit a one-timer. That’s the best I’ve seen Adam play and he’s played well all year. He did a nice job with his finishing. Having (former Clippers standout) Eoin (Lynch) around has reinforced Adam’s focus on the finer things. Like making sure it’s on frame, knowing what to do before you hit the ball. All those little points Eoin honed perfectly, he’s passing on to Adam. Adam used to be really comfortable flying up and down on the outside. Now he’s comfortable int the middle with his back to the goal. Part of that is Wyatt drawing so much attention that quite often Adam gets more space.”
If that wasn’t enough, the Clippers earned a corner kick with 8:58 to go in the half and sophomore Walter Conrad’s serve found the head of Smith, who sent the ball past Andrews to make it 4-0.
“It wasn’t just the scoring, it’s what led up to the scoring that was really nice,” Hagerty said. “The kids have bought into the combination play and they play unselfishly. I’m really proud of them. The chemistry’s certainly there and that’s because of our seniors. To think our best player, David Murphy, has only two goals all season and we’re scoring at a clip that we haven’t seen in years, that means no one cares who scores. When your best player is that unselfish and calm, it’s contagious.”
Just 1:53 into the second half, Jackson got taken down in the box and a penalty kick was awarded. Watson did the honors and blasted the ball just inside the right post while Andrews dove in vain to his right.
“I feel like Max was the final piece for us,” Hagerty said. “When he got healthy, it felt like we were all in the right place again. He’s more offensive than people give him credit for. He’s really worked on his game.”
To its credit, Cape Elizabeth played hard until the end, as a header from senior Eli Breed went just wide, a rush by junior Eddie Galvin (who had two goals the last time the Capers played in Yarmouth) was broken up and a free kick from senior Omar Khalidi was off the mark.
Hagerty was able to play everyone on the roster in the waning moments and the Clippers went on to the 5-0 win.
“It was amazing how we played tonight,” LaBrie said. “Everyone had great one-two touch. We’re really confident right now.”
“I think (our success) starts with the hard work we did in the preseason,” Clemmer said. “The chemistry we have matters in the long run. I have a good group of guys to work with every day.”
Yarmouth finished with a 17-5 shots advantage (9-2 on frame) and had five corners to none for the Capers.
Cape Elizabeth got four saves from Andrews, but Saturday’s showing wasn’t how it wanted to bow out.
“They scored good goals,” said Capers coach Ben Raymond. “We didn’t give up soft goals. We just didn’t win enough balls in the midfield. We didn’t win enough second balls. We didn’t play very well. We picked the wrong day to not be playing well. They’re playing really well. They possessed the ball more than last time. They’re solid defensively.
“We played much better at the end of the year. It’s unfortunate to end this way. We played very well until this point. We improved tremendously. That’s the goal. Schedule-wise (being in Class B this year), it was exactly the same. It was nice to not have to stress out about Heal Points. With our record, we would have been 10th or 12th in Class A. Here, we were fourth and had a home playoff game. That was nice. Overall, the quality of play is pretty much the same.”
Cape Elizabeth will be affected by graduation, but will be on the short list of favorites again in 2014.
“We graduate a lot of seniors,” said Raymond. “Austin will be hard to replace in goal. We have a number of juniors who played well and were a big part of the team. We have a lot to look forward to. Who knows what’s coming up? My son’s grade, (assistant coach Charlie Carroll’s) son’s grade. That will be interesting.”
Yarmouth has only one hurdle remaining to reach the Class B state game, but that hurdle is a steep one in a Greely squad which had no trouble with Gray-New Gloucester in the quarterfinals before holding off York, 1-0, in its semifinal
The Clippers went 1-0-1 against the Rangers in the regular season. The teams have never played in the postseason.
Despite Yarmouth’s recent dominance, the Clippers expect a stern test Wednesday.
“We just have to keep it up in practice this week,” LaBrie said. “We have to work on moving the ball faster. They have some really good players.”
“Two more games, that’s all I’m thinking about,” Clemmer said. “It’s weird not playing Falmouth, but we’ll get used to this new taste of playing Greely in the playoffs.”
“Greely’s very good,” Hagerty added. “They’re fast on this turf. We’ll review our first two games and see where we want to attack and where we have our best matchups. It should be fun.”