YARMOUTH—Two very different stories played out Monday evening at Yarmouth High School.
The host Clippers boys’ soccer team completed its second consecutive undefeated regular season and confirmed its status as the team to beat in Class B, while rival Greely, for the first time this century, simply played out the string.
Yarmouth broke a scoreless tie with three second half goals (freshman Chandler Smith, junior Pau Carnero Melero and senior Campbell Belisle-Haley did the honors), improving to 13-0-1 with a 3-0 win over the Rangers, who finished at 6-7-1.
“We had a good halftime speech,” said Belisle-Haley, one of the more formidable athletes in the state. “Coach got us riled up. The seniors had to take control. We came out with more intensity and passion in the second half.”
Yarmouth, the 2008 Class B champion, was a regional finalist a year ago and wasn’t expected to be quite this good this fall. The Clippers stole headlines from start to finish, however, and had the top seed and homefield advantage for the Western B playoffs locked up prior to game time.
Greely, a semifinalist in 2009, has been decimated by injuries and close losses this autumn and entered the game with no chance of extending its postseason streak to 11 years.
In the first meeting between the rivals, back on Sept. 20 in Cumberland, Yarmouth held on for a 4-3 win over the Rangers on junior Sam Torres’ goal midway through the second half.
This time around, the Clippers wouldn’t have to cling to a late lead.
Prior to the game, Yarmouth simultaneously hosted its Senior Night, as well as Breast Cancer Awareness Night, as players from both teams wore pink shoelaces and/or arm bands. The night was especially poignant seeing that Clippers assistant coach Dale Wing’s wife, Ellen, and senior Cotter Jackson’s mother, Julie, are breast cancer survivors.
While Greely had some good pressure early and held the hosts at bay, it couldn’t generate any great scoring chances.
Yarmouth junior Ryan Maguire then engaged in a one-on-one battle with Rangers sophomore goalkeeper Elijah Leverett.
With 26:57 remaining before halftime, Maguire took a through ball from Belisle-Haley and fired a shot that went just wide of the goal. Two minutes later, Maguire got free for a low shot, which Leverett snared. With 20:58 left in the half, Maguire fired a low shot with a little English on it, but again Leverett’s hands were true.
Late in the half, Clippers senior Luke Pierce sent a shot just wide and in the final seconds, Greely earned a corner kick which landed in the box and sat there for a moment precariously before being cleared.
The tenor of the game changed three minutes into the second half when Leverett was injured in a collision with Pierce. Jonah Normandeau replaced him.
With 27:28 to go, Yarmouth got the goal it needed. Torres played the ball in from the side, Pierce got his head on it and sent it to Smith, who fought his way around a defender before shooting the ball into the lower left corner of the goal for a 1-0 lead.
“I thought the game had a good flow to it until Elijah’s injury,” lamented Rangers coach Mike Andreasen. “It’s tough for Jonah to go in there cold. Once that happened and the first goal, our spirits seemed to be broken and it snowballed.”
Greely almost answered five minutes later, but senior Austin Spencer’s long blast was denied by Clippers junior goalkeeper Chris Knaub.
With 11:18 to play, the hosts got some breathing room when the dynamic Melero scored. He took a pass from Jackson and fired a rocket into the upper right corner.
With 6 minutes left, Belisle-Haley (from Melero) scored to account for the 3-0 final score.
“Tonight, two of the three goals were high quality goals,” said Hagerty. “Chandler had a great finish. Pau’s goal was spectacular. Both teams looked like they weren’t sure they wanted to be here in the first half. The second half was better.”
Yarmouth had a 10-3 edge in shots on frame and enjoyed six corner kicks to just two for the visitors. Knaub stopped three shots. Leverett and Normadeau combined for seven saves.
Better than expected
Even those closest to the Clippers had no idea that the team would be so dominant this autumn.
“We have a solid core group of guys, but I wasn’t sure who else would step up and contribute this year,” said Belisle-Haley. “People you didn’t expect stepped up.”
“It’s been a great couple of years,” Hagerty added. “In this conference, (going unbeaten in the regular season in back-to-back years) is really saying something. I’m really, really proud of the kids. They’re terrific to coach.
“Looking at our schedule, I thought if we could get into the top four seeds for the tournament we’d be doing well. I didn’t expect to be No. 1. Of course, we didn’t know Pau was coming. We knew how good players like Cotter Jackson were, but we didn’t know they’d step up as much as they did. Like everyone, we fought through injuries and moved kids around. We started freshmen. Ben Decker and Chandler Smith started some games. It’s been a different group. It’s very special. It says a lot for the program.”
Wait til’ next year
When all was said and done, 2010 just wasn’t Greely’s year.
“Years like this happen,” said Andreasen. “We weren’t able to overcome injuries. If we won one or two more games, we’d be in the playoffs and who knows. I think Class A is very open this year.”
The Rangers lose 10 seniors, but hope to rebound next fall.
“I think we play well enough defensively to make an impact next year,” Andreasen said. “We need to find goal scorers. I said to the underclassmen that this isn’t a very good feeling and what are we going to do about it? The league’s getting better.”
Yarmouth is seeking its second Class B championship in three years and its fourth since 2004. The Clippers will be idle until Wednesday of next week when they open at home in the quarterfinals.
“We need to work on our fitness over the next week,” said Belisle-Haley. “We’re at a good level right now, but we can get stronger. We need to fine-tune set pieces and make sure we’re running the right plays.”
“We’ll take a couple days off, but half of (the guys) will be in the weight room tomorrow,” added Hagerty. “We don’t scrimmage. We always seem to want that practice time. We’ll get together off the field a little bit and look forward to a week from Wednesday. At this point, I think we’ll be healthy and fit by the time the playoffs start. I’m optimistic.”‘
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org