Yarmouth fights off York's upset bid, four-peat bid still alive

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Yarmouth sophomore Aidan Hickey jumps into the arms of senior goalkeeper Cal Owen as senior Silas Chappell, left, sophomore John D’Appolonia and junior Michael Guertier join in at the final horn of the Clippers’ 2-1 home win over York in Wednesday’s Class B South boys’ soccer final. Yarmouth will seek its fourth straight championship Saturday against either Washington Academy or Winslow.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

YARMOUTH—Shots weren’t falling, the opponent wasn’t buckling and Yarmouth’s undefeated, top-ranked boys’ soccer team found itself in the fight for its life Wednesday afternoon in the Class B South Final, but the Clippers, true to form, stayed confident, carefree and relied on their nonpareil talent to find a way to advance to yet another opportunity to win a Gold Ball.

Hosting second-ranked York in a compelling contest, Yarmouth was frustrated early by the Wildcats’ defense, senior goalkeeper Brett Smith and misfortune, but in the 20th minute, freshman Ian LaBrie set up his high-flying, high-scoring junior brother, Eric LaBrie, for the game’s first goal. 

York answered five minutes later on a free kick, as senior James Peter placed his bid perfectly into the net to make the score 1-1.

After the teams went back-and-forth early in the second half, Yarmouth took the lead with 29:13 to play, when unheralded senior Max Coury turned and finished in highlight reel fashion with his left foot.

The Clippers had several looks to add an insurance goal, but couldn’t do so. It wouldn’t matter, however, as Yarmouth’s under-appreciated defense and senior goalkeeper Cal Owen slammed the door and the Wildcats couldn’t pull even as the Clippers went on to a hard-fought 2-1 victory.

Yarmouth improved to 17-0, extended its two-season win streak to 22, its unbeaten streak to 29, ended York’s season at 14-3 and advanced to play in the Class B state final for the fourth year in a row, Saturday at 3 p.m. against either Washington Academy (13-2-1) or Winslow (14-3).

“I think we’ve been the two best teams in Class B down here all year,” longtime Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty said. “I was a fitting final. York’s a fabulous team. Great group of seniors. Classy coach and program. This is the game we wanted.”

Gut check

While Yarmouth has clearly been the team to beat this fall in Class B South, York has been a solid number two.

The Wildcats lost just twice in the regular season, 3-2 at home to Yarmouth Sept. 12 and 1-0 at the Clippers Sept. 26. York won every other game to go 12-2 and earn the second seed for the Class B South playoffs. The Wildcats then ousted No. 7 Leavitt, 7-0, in the quarterfinals and in Saturday’s semifinals, edged No. 3 Cape Elizabeth in penalty kicks after a scoreless 80 minutes of regulation and 30 more minutes of overtime to advance.

Yarmouth, meanwhile, managed to do something it had never been done in its proud history, win all 14 regular season games (by a composite 69-8 margin). As the top seed in Class B South, the Clippers blanked No. 8 Freeport, 3-0, in the quarterfinals, then dominated No. 4 Lincoln Academy, 8-0 in Saturday’s semifinal round (see sidebar, below, for previous game stories).

The teams had ample playoff history, meeting 13 previous times between 1985 and 2012 (see sidebar, below, for results) with Yarmouth taking eight, including a 2-0 victory in the 2012 Western B semifinals, the most recent encounter.

Wednesday, on a brisk (50-degree) afternoon, the Clippers had many frustrating near-misses, but scored enough to hold off perhaps the most talented squad they’ll face all year.

Yarmouth’s first chance came in the fourth minute, but Eric LaBrie’s shot in the box was blocked. Seconds later, senior Tahj Garvey’s shot was saved by Smith and LaBrie’s rebound attempt was blocked again.

In the fifth minute, off a corner kick, LaBrie got another chance, but he shot high.

After Coury missed just high and senior Bennett Wheaton’s bid was saved by Smith, the Clippers earned successive corner kicks and on the second, LaBrie’s header was snared by the keeper. 

York’s first chance came in the 10th minute, when a long free kick from Peter was headed out of harm’s way.

With 28:27 to go in the first half, senior Luke Groothoff set Garvey up for a great look, but his low shot was denied by a sprawling Smith.

In the 13th minute, cannon-footed senior Ben Norton sent a low, 30-yard rocket just wide of the post.

After Owen made his first save, off a free kick from Alex Nickerson in the 14th minute, the visitors earned a corner kick and Norton headed the ball away.

Peter had another free kick which Owen saved and Yarmouth transitioned back to offense, where it would finally strike to take the lead.

With 20:25 to go, after Garvey kept possession, Ian LaBrie fired a shot which deflected off a defender and took a fortuitous bounce to Eric LaBrie, who touched it past Smith and into the goal for a 1-0 lead.

The Clippers weren’t able to celebrate long, however, as with 15:30 to go before halftime, a foul gave the Wildcats a free kick just outside the box and Peter made the hosts pay, bending a shot around the wall and inside the near post to tie the score, 1-1.

“Even if the wall was off, it was still a great hit,” Owen said. “He put it around the wall and inside the post. No way I could get to it.”

“It certainly was a great free kick,” Hagerty said. “If (the wall) was a little further over, who knows? You can’t give good teams those opportunities. They had too many of them in close.”

Peter tried to put York ahead with 11 minutes on the clock, but his free kick was headed out by Groothoff.

After Garvey had a shot deflected wide and sophomore Jason Lainey’s blast forced Smith to leap and make the save, Coury just missed with his left foot (something he wouldn’t do again) and in the final minute, Eric LaBrie set up Groothoff for a great look, but Groothoff missed wide, sending the game to the break deadlocked at 1-1.

In the first half, Yarmouth had a 7-3 edge in shots and a 5-2 advantage in corner kicks, but Smith’s six saves kept the game even.

The action remained frenetic and the game remained taut the final 40 minutes, but the Clippers got one huge shot that extended their season.

The Wildcats started strong, as Nickerson got a good look in front only be denied by Owen. York then earned a corner kick, but had nothing to show for it.

Yarmouth then earned a corner, where junior Jack Jones headed the ball to Eric LaBrie, but LaBrie missed just wide.

With 33:46 to go, Smith saved a Coury bid.

The Wildcats then transitioned to offense and nearly went on top, but Nickerson’s rush was stopped at the last second by sophomore back Aidan Hickey, setting up a corner kick.

On the corner, York senior Daniel Thurlow fired a shot which forced Owen to dive and save. 

After Owen stopped a shot from Nickerson, the Clippers got back in the offensive zone and went back on top to stay.

With 29:13 left in regulation, a shot from Yarmouth senior Eric Loomis was deflected and wound up on the foot of Coury just inside the box. Coury then turned and without hesitating, fired with his left foot for a shot just inside the far post that Smith couldn’t reach and Yarmouth had a 2-1 advantage.

“I got the ball and I turned and I just shot,” said Coury. “I watched it go in. I was trying to go far corner. When I hit it, I wasn’t totally sure, but I saw there was more bend than I expected. It fell into place. It felt really, really good. I was glad to help the team.”

“That was a beautiful shot,” Hagerty said. “(Max) scored on a similar shot, same goal, same foot, against Scarborough this summer. He finds nice angles. I don’t think the goalie saw it until late. Max’s game is about movement and skill. He slotted it nicely. He’s often the one who gets hockey assists, the pass that led to the pass that leads to the goal. I’m glad he got (a goal) tonight.”

After Eric LaBrie just missed on a chance to extend the lead, York looked to answer as after a foul, Peter lined up another free kick just outside the box, but this time, his bid was blocked.

After Owen caught a long free kick off the foot of Nickerson, Garvey and Jones just missed for the hosts. 

With 18:40 left in regulation, off a corner, Groothoff nearly extended the lead, but Smith made a diving save.

The Wildcats tried again to draw even with 13:25 on the clock, but a long free kick from senior Ryan Thurlow was corralled by Owen. 

That proved to be their final shot.

Down the stretch, the Clippers were frustrated as Smith denied Groothoff with a diving save and Smith somehow got a finger-tip on a blast from Eric LaBrie, but their defense didn’t allow another York foray and at 5:38 p.m., Yarmouth celebrated its 2-1 victory and the regional championship.

“(The tying goal) was a bit of a slap in the face, but it’s a testament to our character that we turned right around, came out flying and closed out the game eventually,” Owen said.

“We expected a hard game and I think we were up to it,” Coury said. “They caught us off-guard a little bit with their speed, but we got it done. The first half was weird. We were discombobulated, but we got better in the second half. Knowing other teams want to beat us so badly gets us pumped. It’s an honor to be on a team this good.”

“Statistically speaking, the first two games combined, we were nearly dead-even in shots and corner kicks, even fouls, so we came in thinking we didn’t play our best the first two times and we knew were better than how we’d played,” Hagerty added. “Today, we came out strong. We out-shot them, 19-7, and it felt like it should have been more than 2-1. We had some great chances early, but credit to their goalie and their center-back, who’s probably the best back in the state. Their backs blocked a lot of shots. I’m psyched how we kept at it. You can get frustrated when you don’t score, but he kids bounced back wonderfully and showed their class.

“Our seniors weren’t going to allow this to be our last game. We’ve had 23 different goal-scorers this year. We’ve had so many kids step up. In a game with this many talented players on each team, if two or three have a bad game, you can get upset. Other guys stepped up today. We have great players, but the others played intelligent and had a nice complimentary game.”

Yarmouth had an 11-5 edge in shots on frame and took 11 corners to just four for York.

Owen made four pivotal saves and credited his defense for its work.

“It feels better when I’m involved more,” Owen said. “My backs are great. I have two sophomores (John D’Appolonia and Aidan Hickey) back there, which is astounding how good they are. (Senior) Silas Chappell has stepped up huge this year, being an integral part of our team.”

“Our back line played well in the run of play and Cal came up with some big saves,” Hagerty said. “He made himself big and did a very nice job. He saw more quality shots than he’s used to. Left back is the hardest position to play in high school soccer, but Aidan cleaned up.”

Smith made nine saves for the Wildcats.

One more for four

Yarmouth not only has the opportunity Saturday to join Scarborough (Class A, 1973-76) and Falmouth (Class B, 2000-03) as large school teams to win four state titles in a row, but the Clippers are gunning for their 12th championship, which would pass longtime rival Falmouth for the most in state history.

Yarmouth will either battle two-time defending Class C champion Washington Academy, which moved up to Class B this year, or will face Winslow for the second straight season. The Clippers rolled a year ago, 5-2.

Washington Academy and Winslow play in the Class B North Final Thursday.

Whichever squad it ultimately faces, Yarmouth is primed for the challenge.

“We have to keep playing like we did in the second half today,” Coury said. “We need to keep the other team in their own half and we need to keep firing on offense.”

“We have two more practices and we have to win one more game,” Owen said. “We have keep playing like we’ve been playing.”

“We want to focus on playing the best we can,” Hagerty added. “After Freeport, the kids were mopey, acting like we lost. I told them even if we lose in the playoffs, that doesn’t change that this was a wonderful season. I told them to just have fun again. They played free against Lincoln Academy and tonight, even though it was tied, we were flying and having fun.

“We don’t talk about going undefeated or winning four in a row. If we play our best, the winning will take care of itself. If we have fun, there’s no pressure and we’re fun to watch. We’ll do our thing Saturday. We’ve seen them both (teams) play. We’ll make adjustments if we need them. I’m more excited about having two more practices. This senior class we’ve known since they were three-years-old. It’s fun to get to hang out with them three more days.”

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

Yarmouth senior Luke Groothoff soars to keep the ball away from York senior Alex Nickerson.

Yarmouth sophomore Aidan Hickey delivers one of his powerful throw-ins.

Yarmouth junior Eric LaBrie (23) is congratulated after scoring the game’s first goal.

Yarmouth junior Jack Jones races up the field as York senior Brendan Webster gives chase.

Yarmouth senior Tahj Garvey’s rush is broken up by York senior Dinon Hughes.

Yarmouth junior Eric LaBrie fights York senior goalkeeper Brett Smith for the ball.

Yarmouth senior captain Luke Groothoff sends the ball forward.

York senior goalkeeper Brett Smith soars to make a save.

Previous Yarmouth stories

Season Preview

@ Yarmouth 5 Greely 0

@ Yarmouth 2 Cape Elizabeth 1

Yarmouth 2 @ Cape Elizabeth 1

Yarmouth 3 Freeport 0

Previous Yarmouth-York playoff results

2012 Western B semifinals
Yarmouth 2 York 0

2010 Western B semifinals
Yarmouth 1 York 0

2005 Western B quarterfinals
Yarmouth 2 York 1 (2 OT)

2004 Western B quarterfinals
Yarmouth 3 York 0

1999 Western B semifinals
Yarmouth 3 York 2

1998 Western B Final
York 2 Yarmouth 1 (2 OT)

1997 Western B Final
Yarmouth 1 York 0

1996 Western B Final
York 3 Yarmouth 1

1993 Western B quarterfinals
York 1 Yarmouth 0

1992 Western B quarterfinals
York 1 Yarmouth 0

1989 Western B quarterfinals
Yarmouth 2 York 1 (OT)

1988 Western B semifinals
Yarmouth 4 York 0

1985 Western B semifinals
York 2 Yarmouth 1

 

 

 

 

 

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