Yarmouth holds on to edge SP in battle of unbeatens

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Yarmouth senior Joe Truesdale (2) is congratulated by sophomore Preston Jancovic (21) and sophomore Gavin Hamm after scoring a goal during the Clippers’ 8-7 home win over South Portland in Friday night’s battle of unbeatens.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Yarmouth 8 South Portland 7

SP- 2 1 1 3- 7
Y- 3 2 1 2- 8

First quarter
7:11 SP Mayone (Mehlhorn)
6:28 Y May (unassisted)
3:24 Y Hamm (unassisted)
1:27 SP Schifano (Fiorini)
2.4 Y Truesdale (Hamm)

Second quarter
11:31 SP Tierney (unassisted)
11:20 Y Corey (Jancovic)
4:37 Y Truesdale (Hamm)

Third quarter
8:16 Y Winkel (Corey)
41.9 SP Schifano (Mehlhorn)

Fourth quarter
5:15 Y Hamm (unassisted)
4:34 Y Chappell (Corey) (MAN-UP)
3:15 SP Mehlhorn (unassisted)
2:32 SP Fiorini (Mehlhorn)
39.9 SP Fiorini (Mehlhorn)

Goals:
SP- Fiorini, Schifano 2, Mayone, Mehlhorn, Tierney 1
Y- Hamm, Truesdale 2, Chappell, Corey, May, Winkel 1

Assists:
SP- Mehlhorn 4, Fiorini 1
Y- Corey, Hamm 2, Jancovic 1

Faceoffs:
SP- 9
Y- 9

Shots on cage
SP- 16
Y- 25

Saves:
SP (Watson) 17
Y (King) 9

YARMOUTH—Yarmouth’s boys’ lacrosse team is legitimate.

Championship-caliber legitimate.

A week-and-a-half after an eye-opening victory at defending Class B state champion Cape Elizabeth put them on the map, the Clippers continued their magical season Friday night when they played host to South Portland in a battle of unbeatens.

Yarmouth relied on its always-strong defense and timely offense to keep the good times rolling, but the Red Riots, who are a special team in their own right, fought the Clippers to final horn.

South Portland took the lead for the only time when sophomore Harrison Mayone scored early in the first period, but Yarmouth answered and took the lead on goals from senior Cooper May and sophomore Gavin Hamm.

Senior Aidan Schifano tied the score for the Red Riots, but just before the first quarter horn, Clippers senior Joe Truesdale tipped home a pass and the hosts had a 3-2 advantage.

South Portland pulled even with 11:31 to go in the first half, when senior Jack Tierney scored unassisted, but the Red Riots wouldn’t score again for nearly 23 minutes.

Yarmouth went on top for good 11 seconds later, when sophomore Anders Corey scored and Truesdale scored again for a 5-3 halftime advantage.

Justin Winkel added a goal for the Clippers with 8:16 to go in the third period before the Red Riots finally rediscovered their offense with 41 seconds remaining in the frame, when Schifano scored again.

Yarmouth continued to stymie South Portland and when Hamm and senior Silas Chappell added goals, it appeared as if victory was imminent, but the Red Riots had one final charge.

With 3:15 left, junior Cooper Mehlhorn scored unassisted.

Forty-three seconds later, Mehlhorn set up junior David Fiorini to make things interesting.

The tandem then hooked up again with 39.9 seconds showing, but that’s as close South Portland would get and a late turnover caused by Clippers senior defenseman Eric Loomis slammed the door on an 8-7 victory.

Hamm and Truesdale paced a balanced attack with two goals each and Yarmouth improved to 4-0, handing the Red Riots their first loss in five games in the process.

“I didn’t sense any panic,” said Clippers coach David Pearl. “When we hit adversity, we don’t get frustrated and we show determination. South Portland is a great team. They’re well-coached and disciplined. We worked hard with them in mind.” 

Top stories

South Portland and Yarmouth have both stolen headlines in the early phase of the 2018 season.

The Red Riots defeated host Deering (14-10) and Cheverus (14-12), then edged visiting Brunswick, the defending Class A champion, in an overtime thriller, 10-9, before dominating visiting Scarborough, 15-3, Wednesday.

The Clippers opened the season with an 8-4 win at Greely, then ended an eight-year, 20-game skid against Cape Elizabeth with a 7-6 victory before dominating visiting North Yarmouth Academy, 14-2, Tuesday.

While both teams are top contenders in the state, they had only met four previous times (see sidebar, below), with Yarmouth winning three, including an 8-7 overtime triumph three years ago in the most recent encounter.

Friday, in the fog, with an occasional light drizzle, the Clippers eked out another win by the same score, but this time, only 48 minutes were needed to do so.

South Portland struck first, when Mehlhorn fed Mayone with 7:11 to go in the opening stanza.

It took Yarmouth all of 43 seconds to answer, as May scored unassisted, and after killing off a Red Riots’ man-up opportunity, the Clippers took the lead for the first time on Hamm’s unassisted tally with 3:24 on the clock.

Schifano (set up by Fiorini) pulled South Portland even with 1:27 remaining in the first, but as time wound down, Hamm threw a pass in front, which glanced off Truesdale’s stick and past Red Riots junior goalie Quinn Watson for a 3-2 lead.

Just 29 seconds into the second quarter, Tierney beat Yarmouth sophomore Spencer King to tie the score, but South Portland wouldn’t score again for a long time.

With 11:20 to play in the first half, sophomore Preston Jancovic passed to Corey for a goal and the Clippers had the lead for good, 4-3.

Watson kept the deficit at one for awhile, denying bids from Hamm, Hamm again and May, but with 4:34 to go before the half, Hamm set up Truesdale for a goal and a 5-3 lead, which held into the break.

“We moved the ball around, attacked back-side and took shots at the right time,” said Truesdale.

The Red Riots’ frustrations would continue in the third period, as their few possessions resulted in turnovers.

With 8:16 on the clock, Corey set up Winkel for a goal and a 6-3 lead and after King denied a shot by Tierney, South Portland finally broke through with 41.9 seconds left in the quarter, as Mehlhorn passed to Schifano, who snapped a 22-minute, 50-second drought to pull the Red Riots within 6-4 heading for the fourth quarter.

Early in the final stanza, King denied shots by South Portland senior Charlie Cronin and Mehlhorn.

Hamm then made it 7-4 with an unassisted goal with 5:15 remaining.

After a penalty on Cronin, Corey set up Chappell for a man-up strike with 4:34 left and Yarmouth had a four-goal lead.

Then, the Red Riots awakened and resembled the offensive juggernaut they’ve been all spring.

With 3:15 on the clock, Mehlhorn beat King for an unassisted goal.

With 2:32 to play, Mehlhorn drew the defense and passed to Fiorini, who scored to make the score 8-6.

Clippers junior Griffin Primeau won the ensuing faceoff and Yarmouth ran the clock down under a minute before turning the ball over and at the other end, Mehlhorn again set up Fiorini on the doorstep for a goal with 39.9 seconds remaining, pulling South Portland within a single goal.

Out of a timeout, the Red Riots had a great chance to gain possession, but Cronin couldn’t pick up a ground ball and Clippers junior Michael Guertler came up with it instead.

Yarmouth couldn’t run out the clock, however, as it turned the ball over with 16.8 seconds showing.

South Portland had one last chance to get the ball up the field for a shot to tie the score, but a pass was intercepted by Loomis, who took off upfield to run out the clock and Yarmouth held on for an 8-7 victory.

“It was a stroke of luck there,” Loomis said. “I tracked the ball and was able to pick it off. I used my speed to get across the field. It felt good to run out the clock. We knew we had to push out on them because they’re so good. We have a hard-nosed mentality on defense.”

“They gave us a battle, a close game all the way to the end, but our defense is good.,” Truesdale said. “We call them smash-mouth. It’s hard practicing against them. They helped us win. We put in a lot of work at practice and we give our all at games.”

“Our ride helped hold them,” Pearl added. “We kept them out of transition. That was key to victory.” 

The Clippers had six different scorers, led by Hamm and Truesdale with two goals apiece. Chappell, Corey, May and Winkel each scored one goal.

Corey and Hamm also assisted on two goals, while Jancovic had one helper.

“We had team offense, which is what we preach,” Pearl said. “We want guys to trust each other. That’s something that is earned. They develop that from each other.”

King made nine saves.

Yarmouth finished with a 25-16 edge in shots on frame.

In addition to his players, Pearl made a point of crediting the work of his assistant coaches, former Clippers standouts Jon Miller and Sam Miller, for their role in the team’s success.

“I have to say that I have the best assistant coaches in the state,” Pearl said. “They bleed blue. It’s a long season. Their commitment and putting their heart-and-soul into this gives the team confidence.”

South Portland got two goals apiece from Fiorini and Schifano and one each from Mayone, Mehlhorn and Tierney.

Mehlhorn had four assists and Fiorini finished with one.

Watson’s 17 saves kept the Red Riots alive.

South Portland was ultimately done in by too many turnovers and its long scoring drought.

“It was a nice comeback, but Yarmouth’s good,” said Red Riots coach Tom Fiorini. “They move the ball well and their defense is tough. We didn’t really start playing until midway through the fourth quarter. Credit their defense. They had a great game plan and did a great job.”

Next up

South Portland hopes to avoid a losing streak when it goes to undefeated Falmouth Wednesday. Games against Kennebunk, Cape Elizabeth and Thornton Academy follow.

“It’s still early in the season,” Tom Fiorini said. “We’ve learned how to play from behind. Now we have a new lesson, learning how to play after a loss. I think we’ll bounce back. The guys never give up. They play hard for each other. We have a gauntlet, but I’ll take it. It’s fun.”

Yarmouth looks to keep its undefeated run going Tuesday at York. The Clippers then host Falmouth next Friday.

“It’s so much fun,” Loomis said. “We won’t look past anyone. We’ll take it game-by-game and leave it all on the field.”

“We can play with anybody if we show up and play our game,” said Truesdale. “It won’t be easy, but we can do it.”

“We have big games ahead of us and we’ll get back to work,” Pearl added. “I think the sky is the limit for this team. It won’t get easier. We’re on to York, then Falmouth, then Kennebunk. We have a lot of work ahead of us. When you’re having this much fun, getting a win like this is a really great way to build.”

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

South Portland senior Jack Tierney keeps close tabs on Yarmouth senior Justin Winkel.

South Portland junior Logan Doucette shoots in traffic as Yarmouth senior Eric Loomis, left, junior Jake Rogers and senior Sean Moore defend.

South Portland junior Cooper Mehlhorn tries to get past Yarmouth junior Jake Rogers.

Yarmouth senior Joe Truesdale shoots and scores as South Portland junior Eli Falconer defends.

Yarmouth sophomore Gavin Hamm bounces off of South Portland junior Cooper Mehlhorn.

Yarmouth sophomore Anders Corey shoots on South Portland junior goalie Quinn Watson, as juniors Shippen Savidge (34) and Eli Falconer defend.

Previous Yarmouth-South Portland results

2015
Yarmouth 7 @ South Portland 6 (OT)

2014
South Portland 10 @ Yarmouth 7 

2013
Yarmouth 15 @ South Portland 4

2012
@ Yarmouth 12 South Portland 2

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