Yarmouth edges Falmouth in latest installment of rivalry like no other

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YARMOUTH—Just when it seemed the Yarmouth-Falmouth boys’ soccer rivalry was losing a bit of its luster, the teams got together Saturday evening and reminded everyone what makes it so unique, so contentious and so memorable.

In the first of two meetings this autumn, the ancient rivals did battle in every sense of the word and it was clear early that goals would be at a premium.

While the host Clippers had an edge in shots and possession, they couldn’t convert some early chances and the game went to halftime scoreless.

The frustration continued into the second half until the 56th minute, when on a corner kick, senior Matthew Beatty, a back, who just happened to be in the right place at the right time, pounded home a loose ball for a 1-0 Yarmouth lead.

Then, it was up to the Clippers’ superb defense, which managed to hold Falmouth at bay until 2:41 remained, when the Yachtsmen came oh so close to tying things up.

Yarmouth sophomore goalkeeper Cal Owen made the save of his young life on senior Nigel Dunn’s free kick from just outside the box, diving to get a fingertip on the ball and sent it wide of the post and after Clippers senior back Conor O’Donnell cleared the ensuing corner kick, Yarmouth was able to run out the clock and hold on for a stirring 1-0 victory.

The Clippers avenged a loss to Falmouth from last year on their home field, improved to 8-1 and dropped the talented Yachtsmen to 6-2-1 in the process.

“It’s still as good as it gets,” said Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty, of the rivalry. “We’ve talked about this game for awhile. We know we only play them twice and we understand how good Falmouth is. They’re one of the best teams in Class A. They can put you under pressure quickly. It was a hard game. A little more physical than I thought it would be, but in a Falmouth-Yarmouth game, anything can happen.”

The main event

These two programs need no introduction, having played too many memorable games to count over the decades. In the 21st Century, each squad has enjoyed successful stretches versus the other, but for the most part, there hasn’t been much separation.

Entering Saturday’s contest, since the start of the 2001 season, Falmouth had 16 wins, Yarmouth 11 and six other meetings ended in ties (see sidebar, below), but since the start of the 2010 campaign, the Clippers had won eight of 11 games.

As expected, Falmouth and Yarmouth have been among the state’s best teams this fall.

The Yachtsmen rallied past host Gray-New Gloucester in the opener, 3-1, then beat visiting Kennebunk by the same score. After blanking visiting Greely, 2-0, Falmouth held off visiting Waynflete, 1-0, and won at home over Cape Elizabeth, 4-0. After finally meeting their match at York, 2-1, the Yachtsmen crushed visiting Poland, 13-0, and played host Greely to a scoreless tie.

The Clippers opened the 2015 season with a 9-0 home win over visiting Poland, then enjoyed a 2-0 victory at Greely. After a 4-0 home win over Cape Elizabeth, Yarmouth won at Freeport, 5-0, blanked visiting York, 3-0, and dominated visiting Kennebunk, 8-0, then finally met its match, losing, 2-1, at Waynflete. Tuesday, the Clippers got back on track with a 5-1 victory at Cape Elizabeth. 

Saturday, Yarmouth earned a narrow victory, one which didn’t come quickly or easily.

The Clippers had several chances in the game’s first 10 minutes, but couldn’t get the jump.

Just a minute, 50 seconds after the game’s beginning, senior Andrew Beatty blasted a free kick just wide of the goal.

In the fourth minute, junior Henry Coolidge sent a through ball to senior Chris Pidden, but Falmouth junior goalkeeper Jack Scribner beat him to it.

In the eighth minute, Andrew Beatty fired a shot just wide.

In the 10th minute, Pidden set up senior Patrick Grant for a one-touch shot which sailed just wide and seconds later, a blast by Coolidge was deflected right into the hands of Scribner.

“We had good chances early,” Hagerty said. “It would have been nice to get one.”

The hosts returned to the attack later in the half, but a corner kick was cleared and sophomore Luke Groothoff’s  serve to O’Donnell wound up in Scribner’s hands first and Scribner leaped to stop a Groothoff free kick. 

With 11:47 to go before halftime, Falmouth got its first good look, but junior Michael Sanzari fired a shot just wide.

At the other end, after a steal by freshman Eric LaBrie, Groothoff had a chance to finish, but he sent a left-footed bid just beyond the far post.

After Owen made a save on a long free kick from senior Nick Sanzari, Yachtsmen junior Jonah Spiegel headed a corner kick over the crossbar.

In the waning moments, Dostie was just off target with a shot and Grant shot high, sending the game to the break tied, 0-0.

Each team only put one shot on frame in the first half and both teams had one corner kick opportunity.

Not much changed in the second half, as the Clippers again got chances, but couldn’t convert.

Just three minutes in, Grant headed a corner kick just wide.

After another Yarmouth corner was cleared, Falmouth got a corner kick opportunity, only to see junior Jon Mullin head the ball just over the goal.

After Scribner saved a shot off the foot of Coolidge, the Clippers finally broke the ice.

The goal came with 24:38 to play and it came off a corner kick. Groothoff sent the ball in, it landed in the box, then suddenly appeared at the feet of Matthew Beatty, who seized his moment and buried the shot for a 1-0 lead.

“The ball just dropped in front of me and I put it in the goal,” Beatty said. “I wanted it. I was hungry.”

“I was really happy for Matt to get that goal,” said Hagerty. “It’s cool for a defender to make an impact offensively. At halftime, I thought we had another level of effort left in us, but in the first 10 minutes, they outworked us, then we woke up again.”

Yarmouth hoped to put the game away with a second goal, but LaBrie couldn’t quite reach Grant’s cross, Pidden sent a header high and a corner kick didn’t result in a shot.

With 17:32 to go, after a foul was called, pre-empting what might have been a one-on-one opportunity for the Yachtsmen, Nick Sanzari took a 40-yard free kick and sent it just over the crossbar.

With 8:56 left, Dunn shot just wide.

With 4:16 remaining, Dunn had a shot blocked.

Dunn got another chance 46 seconds later, but after stealing the ball, he shot high.

The game would essentially be decided with 2:41 to go, when Falmouth earned a free kick about 25-yards out. Prior to the kick, senior Jon Groothoff had to be tended to with a knee injury and the delay gave the Yachtsmen time to set up a play and gave Owen a lot of time to think about what he needed to do to keep the ball out of the net.

It would be Dunn doing the honors and he fired a perfectly placed shot, just around the defensive wall. The ball appeared ticketed for just inside the far post, but at the last second, Owen dove and managed to knock the ball out of harm’s way.

The save was breathtaking.

“As they were running up, I remembered what (goalie coach Dale) Wing had told me in practice that if it’s a kick on the right side, take a step left and I did and I think that was the difference,” Owen said. “My wall did a good job setting up and covering the net. I wans’t able to see until the last second, but one of my defenders actually got a shoulder on it, which made my job easier.”

“That was unbelievable,” said O’Donnell. “They sent a bunch of runners into the box. It was a bouncing ball low, around the wall, he saw it late, but got a hand on it to save the game.”

“That save really boosted our confidence,” Matthew Beatty said. “Having a keeper as good as he is makes our job easier.”

“Cal came up big when he had to,” Hagerty added. “We talked a lot before the game about defending set pieces and trusting the wall. They have guys who can hit a free kick really, really well. He was close enough to that side of the goal because he trusted his wall. That was a great save, not a good save. It was a great save. That was the play of the game.”

Even Falmouth coach Dave Halligan had to tip his cap.

“Their keeper made a great, game-saving save,” Halligan said. “That’s the way it goes.”

The Yachtsmen still had life, as they earned a corner kick, but the serve was headed away by O’Donnell.

“It was a corner the next play, so I knew we had to keep fighting,” Owen said. “Conor did a good job getting that corner out. My back line’s been so good this year. I trust them to do what they can. More than once during the game, they did more than what they should have.”

Falmouth didn’t manage another shot as Yarmouth held on for the 1-0 victory.

“It’s massive for us Heal Points-wise and morale-wise,” said O’Donnell. “There’s no one we want to beat as much as Falmouth. The atmosphere was incredible tonight. They came to play, we came to play. It was a fun game. I thought it would be more technical. Physically, they gave us all we could handle and I think we gave it back to them as well. We knew they played with three strikers who are all very good. They actually put Spiegel up top, but we made sure he didn’t get the ball in space.”

“As wonderful as that goal was and winning on a set piece, on a corner kick, like days of old, it was our back line tonight that really limited their chances,” Hagerty said. “I thought our backs communicated really well all night and took away the passing lanes Falmouth can kill you with. Those long diagonal passes are as dangerous as can be. Our midfield’s a little thin. Chris Pidden did a great job with a terrific effort up top. Defensively, as a team, we did a nice job.”

Yarmouth had a 3-2 edge in shots on frame. Owen made just two saves, but one will be in his personal highlight reel for a long time. The Clippers finished with eight corner kicks to three for Falmouth, which got two saves from Scribner.

“Scribner’s a little more mobile than (senior) Jesse (Melchiskey),” said Halligan, alluding to the Yachtsmen’s other keeper. “Against teams who play direct or in the air, Jesse will get to them. Yarmouth slots a lot of balls and you have to get off your line and (Scribner) did that tonight.”

Falmouth fell just short Saturday, but left with a lot to feel optimistic about.

“(Yarmouth) brings out the best in you,” Halligan said. “You make mistakes and have to pay. Both teams knew that. We were trying to keep it close and have a chance to win at the end. We did that, but they’re an excellent team. Last year, we had our way with them here. We knew that wouldn’t happen this year.

“We had too many balls up in the air in the middle. They’re strong in the middle. It’s like banging your head against the wall. We had to play to feet and play wide, but they forced us up the middle. It was a chess match.”

Encore upcoming

The ancient rivals will meet for the final time this fall Oct. 20 in Falmouth in the regular season finale, but both have several stern tests in the interim.

The Yachtsmen (second to Thornton Academy in the Class A South Heal Points standings) go to Cape Elizabeth Tuesday and host York Thursday. Falmouth then plays at Freeport and Kennebunk before hosting Yarmouth.

“We’ll compete,” Halligan said. “Anybody can beat anybody. We want to put it together by tournament time. Our scorers are young. You’d like to have that one scorer, but we don’t have that this year. We’re spreading it around. They’re good kids and they work hard.”

The Clippers (second to Maranacook in Class B South) go to York Tuesday and Kennebunk Thursday. After hosting Gray-New Gloucester, Yarmouth plays its home finale versus Greely, then closes at Falmouth.

The Clippers are hoping to leapfrog the Black Bears into the top spot in the region before all is said and done.

“This gives us confidence as a team,” Matthew Beatty said. “Kids will have to step up, but I think we’ll be fine.”

“We have to keep coming to practice every day and working as hard as we can and keep building our chemistry,” O’Donnell said.

“We have to keep doing what we’re doing,” Owen said. “Our midfield’s the best in the state by far. Our strikers are the same. They make the backs’ job easy and in turn, that makes my job easy, so we just have to keep playing our game.”

“I feel good,” Hagerty added. “Our depth will be tested yet again. We had three knee injuries tonight. Hopefully some kids will step up and play minutes they haven’t had to play much. The kids are playing good soccer.”

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

Falmouth senior Jack Engelberger heads the ball away from Yarmouth senior Jon Groothoff during the teams’ hard-fought showdown Saturday night. The Clippers got a goal with 24:38 to play and prevailed, 1-0, over their ancient rival.

Mike Strout photos.

Yarmouth sophomore Luke Groothoff protects the ball from flying Falmouth junior Grayson Cohen.

Yarmouth junior Henry Coolidge and Falmouth junior Jonah Speigel battle for the ball.

Falmouth junior goalkeeper Jack Scribner beats Yarmouth junior Matt Dostie to the ball.

Yarmouth junior John Lane boots the ball away from Falmouth junior Grayson Cohen.

Falmouth junior Jonah Spiegel finds himself in the middle of a Beatty sandwich, as he’s blanked by Yarmouth seniors Matthew Beatty (4) and Andrew Beatty. Matthew Beatty had the game’s lone goal.

Yarmouth senior Patrick Grant gets his head on the ball.

Sidebar Elements

Recent Yarmouth-Falmouth results

Falmouth 5 @ Yarmouth 2
Yarmouth 3 @ Falmouth 0

@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0
Yarmouth 6 @ Falmouth 1

@ Yarmouth 2 Falmouth 2 (tie)
Yarmouth 2 @ Falmouth 1 (2 OT)
Falmouth 2 @ Yarmouth 0 (Western B Final)

@ Yarmouth 2 Falmouth 1
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 0

@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0
Yarmouth 2 @ Falmouth 1
@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0 (OT) (Western Class B Final)

@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 1 (tie) 
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 1 (tie)
@ Falmouth 3 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B Final)

@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 1 (OT)
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0
Yarmouth 2 @ Falmouth 1 (Western Class B Final)

Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0
Yarmouth 1 @ Falmouth 0
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B semifinals)

@ Falmouth 0 Yarmouth 0 (tie)
Falmouth 3 @ Yarmouth 1 
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B semifinals)

Yarmouth 2 @ Falmouth 0
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0

@ Falmouth 0 Yarmouth 0 (tie)

Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0

@ Falmouth 4 Yarmouth 0
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B semifinals)

@ Yarmouth 2 Falmouth 2 (tie)
@ Falmouth 4 Yarmouth 0

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