YARMOUTH—Entering Saturday afternoon’s game at Falmouth, the Yarmouth boys’ soccer team was riding high, boasting a 10-game unbeaten streak.
A little more than 48 hours later, the Clippers are wondering what happened.
After a 1-0 loss at the Yachtsmen, Yarmouth welcomed a very talented York squad in its regular season finale Monday night, but despite some good early opportunities and a stellar relief effort in goal from junior Andrew Fochler, it wasn’t enough to get back in the win column.
The Wildcats got a breakaway goal in the 45th minute and went on to complete a 1-0 win, as they improved to 11-1-2 and locked up the top seed, dropping the Clippers to 9-4-1 and third in the process.
“Even in the last two games, I think in three of the four halves, we’ve played pretty well,” said Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty. “Just like against Falmouth, if you make a mistake against a good team, they make you pay.”
Yarmouth won the 2010 Class B championship, but opened this season with 2-1 losses at home to Cape Elizabeth and at York before erupting on a 9-0-1 streak. The run ended with a 1-0 loss at Falmouth Saturday.
York has apparently broken the decade-long Falmouth-Yarmouth stranglehold on the region, winning 10 times and tying twice (both against Cape Elizabeth) in its first 13 games (the only loss came at Falmouth, 2-1).
The teams played a very close playoff game last fall, but the Clippers got a clutch goal from Luke Pierce and held on for a 1-0 semifinal round victory.
This time around, the Wildcats got the win, although Yarmouth had its chances early.
Prior to the game, the Clippers’ eight seniors were honored, along with their parents.
As the game began, in a nice touch, senior Josh Britten, who has missed the whole season with injury, ceremoniously kicked off before being replaced by sophomore David Murphy.
In the fifth minute, dangerous Yarmouth senior Ryan Maguire fired a shot that a York defender had to boot out of harm’s way.
In the 12th minute, York had its first good chance as senior Tyler Martin passed to junior Brian Mendoza, who shot just high in the box.
The Clippers were left immensely frustrated with 22:20 to play in the 40-minute first half when a long kick from senior Sam Torres found Murphy, who headed the ball on target. It appeared ticketed for the twine, but from nowhere, Wildcats sophomore Samuel Rickerich shot into the picture and headed it away.
While Yarmouth had four corner kicks in the early going, the field started to tilt toward York in the latter stage of the first half.
With 16:26 left, Fochler (who filled in for senior standout Chris Knaub, who sat out for precautionary reasons after taking a hard hit at Falmouth) broke up a long pass intended for York sophomore Mitchell Hickey. A minute later, senior Pierce Twohig passed to junior William Bennett up the right sideline, but Clippers sophomore Chandler Smith got back to break up the play.
With 14:22 remaining, Fochler made a diving stop on Twohig’s low shot. With 10:03 showing, the ball got past Fochler, but Torres was there to clear it aside. Just seconds later, on a York corner kick, the visitors had a couple chances, but couldn’t finish and the game went to the half 0-0.
“We had our chances in the first half,” Hagerty said. “We were on the doorstep a few times early. On one of our corner kicks, we had a ball on the back post. If we could have tucked one of those in, the complexity of the game changes.”
The Wildcats finally broke through early in the second half on a stunning turn of events.
Just after Fochler slid to break up senior Liam Langaas’ cross to Hickey, Yarmouth transitioned on offense. After York kicked the ball out of bounds, Murphy threw a ball from the right sideline toward the goal. It bounced and came to Langaas, who unleashed a powerful blast out of the York zone and past midfield, where junior Theodore Bullock was waiting alone behind the defense. Bullock took the pass in stride and raced in on Fochler. Fochler tried to come out and take away the angle, but Bullock tucked home the shot and the visitors were up, 1-0.
“Even on that goal, the guy had to finish the breakaway,” Hagerty said. “Andy, I thought played terrific tonight. He stepped in and played wonderfully. That goal wasn’t his fault. That’s the first time all year that we had two guys in front and we got caught. We had to shuffle some kids around. We just didn’t talk.”
The Clippers would have some chances to answer.
In the 52nd minute, Maguire got all of a 35-yard free kick, but it was right at York senior goalkeeper Nate Diffin. Three minutes later, a rush by Yarmouth sophomore Travis Hamre was broken up by Wildcats stellar senior sweeper Kyle Robinson. With 13:32 to go, Torres managed to get free for a left-footed shot, but Diffin made a relatively easy save. Then, with 9:35 remaining, Murphy’s feed to Torres was broken up by Robinson.
The Clippers got no more good looks and the regular season curtain came down with the 1-0 setback.
“York deserves the No. 1 seed,” Hagerty said. “They’re very good everywhere. It was an even a first half, more than we had in the first game. They’re still a little bit better than everybody, but I think we closed the gap. If we can get back to 100 percent, I just know we can play with anybody on the right night.”
Yarmouth’s regular season record is pretty amazing considering graduation losses, injury and a slow start this fall.
“I’m so proud of them, how they responded,” Hagerty said. “We’ve asked kids to do so many things out of their comfort zones and they didn’t blink. A lot of the kids did a nice job. If you told me after an 0-2 start, we’d be 9-4-1, I would have taken that.”
Yarmouth will open the playoffs Wednesday of next week at home, likely against a Morse squad it didn’t face this year.
While York and Falmouth have the top two seeds, don’t write off the defending champions just yet.
I do think we’ll keep the No. 3 seed,” Hagerty said. “I’m not sure we can be caught. It will mean a likely first round game with Morse. Then, likely a rematch with Falmouth and hopefully another chance at these guys. York’s the No. 1 team, but after York, it could be any one of five teams clumped behind them. Anyone can take advantage. It’s going to be an interesting playoffs.”