YARMOUTH—A feeling of deja vu descended upon Yarmouth High School’s turf field complex 3 minutes, 37 seconds into Wednesday evening’s Western Class B boys’ soccer game between the top-ranked Clippers and No. 8 Fryeburg after the visitors grabbed an early lead.
The same thing happened a year ago and the Raiders went on to stun Yarmouth in the quarterfinals, ending the Clippers’ quest for another state championship.
While last year’s team wasn’t able to recover, this year’s squad used the early deficit as a wakeup call and did it ever come to life.
After several close calls, Yarmouth drew even midway through the first half on a rebound goal from junior Ben Decker.
The go-ahead tally came with 31:27 to play when Clippers junior David Clemmer scored his latest clutch goal.
Then, with 20:32 remaining, another Yarmouth junior, Wyatt Jackson, willed his way to a score and the Clippers went on from there to pass their initial 2012 playoff test, 3-1.
Yarmouth improved to 11-1-3, ended Fryeburg’s season at 7-6-3 and advanced to host fourth-ranked York (9-4-2) in the semifinals Saturday, at a time to be announced.
“Giving up the first goal we were worried, but we responded quickly and I think that was important,” said Clemmer. “After our first goal, I felt the momentum shifted toward us. We ramped it up.”
Yarmouth faced a lot of question marks entering the season, but the Clippers rose to the occasion time and again, beating Cape Elizabeth twice, tying and beating rival Falmouth and splitting with Western A power Greely. The loss to the Rangers was the lone blemish and Yarmouth also settled for ties against North Yarmouth Academy and Freeport as it held off Maranacook for the top seed in Western B.
Fryeburg got to the semifinals a year ago and came within a few minutes of upsetting eventual champion Falmouth before falling. This year, the Raiders struggled with the top teams in the league, but won enough games to earn the No. 8 seed before handling No. 9 Mountain Valley, 6-0, in the preliminary round.
The Clippers knew the Raiders would be no pushover. In addition to last year’s playoff result, Fryeburg took visiting Yarmouth to double overtime Oct. 9 before a goal from Clemmer gave the Clippers a 1-0 win.
Yarmouth entered with a 3-1 all-time playoff edge, having beaten the Raiders in the 1986 quarterfinals (3-1), 1998 quarters (8-0) and the 2008 quarterfinals (5-1), in addition to last year’s 1-0 setback.
Wednesday, it was 1-0 Fryeburg before many Cippers fans got settled, but it didn’t stay that way for long.
The visitors took advantage of a failed clear to go on top as a shot from senior Christian DeMiranda was blocked, but not sent out of harm’s way, allowing sophomore Nicolas Mauer to fire a shot past Yarmouth senior goalkeeper Andrew Fochler, who slipped on the play.
The Clippers could have gotten panicky, but with over 76 minutes to play, they remained poised and the game soon turned in their favor.
“It was a very good finish,” said Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty, of the goal. “What led up to the finish was a little sloppiness. Not a great clear. We’d practiced defending those exact things. It still came back to bite us and Andrew slipped too. It was a good finish. Mauer’s a good player. He was our biggest concern defensively coming in. It was another early goal, but our team this year doesn’t panic. Not to sound at all overconfident, I just thought, ‘Here we go again. Just play.'”
Yarmouth’s first good chance came in the ninth minute when sophomore Brendan Dioli, who was active all night, rushed into the box, but was denied at the last second by Raiders senior Topi Laakso.
Two minutes later, Clippers junior Max Watson shot just wide with his left foot.
In the 16th minute, Clemmer got the ball in the box and shot, but it was blocked. Two follow up attempts were also blocked and with 23:12 left in the half, a Dioli bid in the box was blocked as well, giving Fryeburg defenders four in a one-minute span.
Yarmouth kept pressuring, but a throw-in from junior David Murphy skittered through the box untouched and a header by Jackson off a Murphy throw was saved by Raiders senior goalkeeper Paul Dostie.
Then, with 20:14 left in the half, the hosts pulled even as Clemmer sent a shot on goal that was stopped, but not corralled by Dostie and Decker was there to clean up the rebound and make it a brand new game.
“It was a cross to the other side,” said Clemmer. “I put it on net and Decker was there for the rebound.”
“We’re one of those teams that when we settle in, we know we’ll score goals,” said Decker. “It’s just a matter of when. Maybe I should have been more worried, but I wasn’t. The (Fryeburg) goal did wake me up. It said they’re in the game and we had to flip the switch. We came together after that and got more done offensively. One of the most important things you can do as a soccer player if you want to score goals is finish your runs. David Clemmer is the best example of someone who can finish a run. When the ball went in the box, I knew I belonged at the back post. I made a run and got there. It’s always great when that happens.”
The Clippers almost took the lead 46 seconds later, but Clemmer couldn’t quite reach a great cross from sophomore Adam LaBrie. LaBrie then headed a pass from Murphy just wide.
With 3 seconds to go before halftime, LaBrie got another chance, but just missed the far post with his left foot.
Yarmouth kept the pressure on in the second half and was soon rewarded.
After a Watson cross with Dostie out of the picture was cleared and a Murphy high shot was denied by the leaping goalie, Clippers sophomore Ben Vigue made a nice run down the left side, then crossed the ball. It looked like a Fryeburg defender would clear it, but he only deflected the ball and in a fortunate turn of events, it would up on Clemmer’s foot. Clemmer had a great look at the goal and buried the shot to make it 2-1 Yarmouth with 31:27 remaining.
Clemmer, who’s also a talented hockey player, has had to play a bigger role after senior captain Thomas Sullivan’s season ended with a knee injury and has been up for the challenge.
“The thing about Clemmer is that he gets better every game,” said Decker. “He sees the field. He’s a smart player. I have no doubt he’ll keep coming through in the clutch. There’s no telling where he can go.”
“When Sully got hurt, David, after feeling badly for Tommy, his next sentence was, ‘It’s my turn to step up. I guess I’ll have to make something happen,'” Hagerty said. “That was his phrase. The thing with David is he’s such a deceiving player. His hockey helps him because he’s comfortable in tight spaces, holding on to the ball a,nd he’s craftier than people know. He’s scored big goals this year. He has a knack for finding a seam. He’s so fast and strong. I’m happy he scored a big goal in a big game.
Not content with a one-goal lead, the Clippers set out to put the win away.
The third goal came with 20:32 on the clock and it was largely due to the tenacity of Jackson, a gritty and imposing player who never gives up on a ball. On a Murphy throw in from the side, Dostie couldn’t handle the ball cleanly, so Jackson fought through two defenders and directed the loose ball past the goalie into the net to make it 3-1.
Fryeburg wasn’t able to manage a response and Yarmouth went on to the 3-1 win, passing the first of what it hopes will be four playoff tests.
“We used last year as motivation to help us beat them this year,” said Clemmer. “We do this for the seniors also. We couldn’t give up this game for them. It’s a new year, but we did remember last year.”
“You have to give Fryeburg credit, they’re a dangerous team,” said Decker. “We didn’t beat them until overtime in the regular season and they beat us last year. Last year was a letdown, this year is fun.”
“Our midfield has been so consistent and when we started playing the ball on the ground, we were fine,” Hagerty added. “Fryeburg’s athletic and we talked about the ball having to be the fastest working thing on the field tonight. We knew we had better depth. We knew if we used our depth on this field, (the Raiders would) eventually tire and they did in the second half. The other piece was we know they have a good goalie. We wanted to get the ball low in the box. We had to do that to beat that goalie.”
The Clippers had a 20-3 shots advantage (9-3 on frame). Yarmouth also had five corners to two for the Raiders. Dostie made five saves.
Yarmouth figures to get an even bigger challenge from York in the semifinals.
The Clippers manged to win two close regular season games (1-0 in York Sept. 13 and 2-1 at home exactly a month late).
The schools have a long playoff history, having met 12 previous times, dating back to 1985. Yarmouth has won seven of those games, including the past four. The most recent came two years ago in the semifinal round, a 1-0 Clippers’ triumph.
Yarmouth knows nothing will come easily Saturday, but it hopes to keep the good times rolling and extend the season a few more days.
“It’s only going to get harder as we go down the road,” Decker said. “It’ll be a matter of making sure we start off at the level we were when we scored today. It’s a matter of settling in with our team. We have the focus. We’ve been together. Every game we step into, we know it’s a challenge and we love that.”
“We could still talk more and do simple things like push the ball out wide and finish our shots,” Clemmer said. “The little things will make a big difference going forward.”
“We love getting close games,” Hagerty added. “We’re here to enjoy the fight. We have to have better starts. York’s dangerous offensively. I think we have to make use of our wide, fast field. They’re not used to that space. We beat York, I thought, with our depth last time. It could easily be a one-goal game either way. I expect it to be a one-goal game. I just hope someone wins it on a good goal and not a mistake.”
Yarmouth sophomore Adam LaBrie maintains possession.
Yarmouth junior Max Watson plays the ball away from a defender.
Yarmouth senior captain Drew Grout uses his checkerboard hairdo to head the ball away from a Fryeburg attacker.
Yarmouth junior Wyatt Jackson fights Fryeburg senior Topi Laakso for possession.
Yarmouth sophomore Brendan Dioli prepares to launch a shot.
Yarmouth senior goalkeeper Andrew Fochler soars to make a save. Fochler made a pair of saves in the win.
Yarmouth junior Chandler Smith pressures Fryeburg senior Alec Perry on a ball in the air.
Yarmouth senior Michael Smith races past fallen Freybrug senior Christian DeMiranda.
Yarmouth juniors Ben Decker (left) and David Murphy celebrate Decker’s tying goal midway through the first half of Wednesday’s Western B quarterfinal versus Fryeburg. The Clippers tacked on two more in the second half and advanced with a 3-1 win.
More photos below.