CUMBERLAND—If Yarmouth’s returning players weren’t enough to ensure the Clippers would remain the favorite to repeat as Class B boys’ soccer champion this fall, the addition of a couple brothers from northern California, senior Jonathan Groothoff and sophomore Luke Groothoff, have made them even more formidable.
Tuesday afternoon, in a rematch of last year’s Western Class B Final, the Clippers made the short trip to Greely and absolutely dominated in territory and statistics, even if the score didn’t quite reflect it.
Yarmouth made itself comfortable in the Rangers’ zone, but couldn’t dent the scoreboard until the 32nd minute, when Jonathan Groothoff headed home a serve from Luke Groothoff for the only goal the Clippers would need.
Yarmouth dominated the second half as well and hit the post twice. The Clippers almost watched all their hard work go up in smoke, however, as with just under 10 minutes to go, Greely junior Hunter Graham appeared to have a golden opportunity to pull his team even, but Yarmouth sophomore goalkeeper Cal Owen made the one huge save he had to make.
With 2:16 to play, Luke Groothoff finally brought the curtain down with a well-placed shot off a free kick and the Clippers went on to a 2-0 victory.
Yarmouth extended its unbeaten streak in Cumberland to eight years, improved to 2-0 on the young season, dropped the Rangers to 1-1 and reminded everyone that it’s only going to get better.
“Greely’s never an easy game,” said longtime Clippers coach Mike Hagerty. “The seniors haven’t lost here in four years. We do make a big deal over the fact that we don’t want to come back here in the playoffs. The field’s in great shape today, but it won’t be in October. We’re more comfortable on our turf.”
Since Greely returned to Class B for the 2013 season, an already fierce rivalry between neighbors became a fight for the inside track to a Gold Ball.
That first year, Yarmouth appeared primed for a title, but the Rangers came to town and shocked the Clippers in the regional final, 2-1, en route to a championship.
Last season, Greely won at Yarmouth, 1-0, early in the season and the Clippers held on for a 1-0 win in Cumberland, before Yarmouth took the rubber match, 4-2, in the regional final en route to a state title.
The playoff win gave the Clippers a 15-10 advantage (with five ties) in the rivalry since the start of the 2001 campaign.
Entering this season, Yarmouth got an early Christmas present, when the Groothoffs arrived from northern California.
“My Dad retired and his Mom had a house on Chebeague Island,” said Jonathan Groothoff. “He inherited it. It’s a new adventure. My first weekend here was the Clam Festival. To be honest, when I first heard about playing soccer in Maine, I thought it was going to be long ball direct, but ‘Hags’ pushes a possession-oriented style, which we came from. It hasn’t taken much adapting.”
“The only thing I knew about Yarmouth is that they won states last year,” Luke Groothoff said.
Tuesday, each team took the pitch for a second countable game (Yarmouth blanked visiting Poland, 9-0, while Greely shut out host Fryeburg Academy, 4-0)
The Rangers were seeking their first home win over the Clippers since Oct. 10, 2007 (the teams tied in 2013), but Yarmouth won the first round of what figures to be a three-round bout.
Both teams were short-handed, as Greely was missing senior defensive standout Lucas Watt and Yarmouth was minus senior captain Walter Conrad (who injured his ankle in the preseason) and senior Noah Pellerin (who was involved in a scary accident last week).
“The game is a distraction and a relief,” Hagerty said. “It’s a saving grace. It’s an outlet. They’re conscious of Walter not being able to play. They’ve been very supportive.”
On a sizzling day (game time temperature was 87 degrees), the Clippers came out hot, but it took most of the first half to deliver the first goal.
Just 36 seconds in, Luke Groothoff set the tone, as he had a good look, but shot wide.
Jonathan Groothoff got his first chance in the second minute, on the attack after a turnover, but he also shot wide.
In the fourth minute, Luke Groothoff forced Greely sophomore goalkeeper Brandon George to make his first save.
Yarmouth kept the pressure on, as senior Patrick Grant had a shot from the side denied, Grant’s serve to senior Chris Pidden was snared by George first and a Pidden cross just eluded the foot of Grant.
In the 16th minute, the Clippers had their first corner kick, but junior Henry Coolidge’s shot was way wide.
Twenty minutes in, the game was halted for a couple minutes for an officials-mandated water break.
With 18:02 left before halftime, Grant got some room in the box, but shot high.
In the 28th minute, Greely’s best chance of the first half came when senior standout Jacob Nason earned a 30-yard free kick, but his shot was blocked. The ball did come to junior Dylan Fried, who put a shot on cage, but Yarmouth sophomore goalkeeper Cal Owen dropped to his knees to cradle the ball.
At the other end, Clippers sophomore Max Coury flicked a shot that appeared at first to be heading over the crossbar. George never saw it and it actually kissed the top of the crossbar before bouncing out of harm’s way.
Pidden then fired a shot which ricocheted off a defender, but George made the save.
After Jonathan Groothoff sent a rocket just off the mark, Grant fed freshman Eric LaBrie for a one-timer which George had to dive to save and Luke Groothoff sent a left-footed bid high, the visitors finally broke through.
With 8:07 left in the first half, junior Matthew Dostie won possession and passed ahead to Luke Groothoff. Groothoff then served the ball toward the far post where Jonathan Groothoff calmly waited, then headed it into the net for a 1-0 lead.
“With Luke, I know I can call for it and he’ll know where I’ll be,” Jonathan Groothoff said. “I took advantage of the space, he served a perfect ball and I just had to head it in and finish.”
“A couple times over the years I’ve played up with him and I’ve played with him two years of high school, so I know where he’ll be,” Luke Groothoff said.
Late in the half, the Clippers looked to double their lead, but Jonathan Groothoff shot wide, senior Henry Becker’s blast got through George’s hands to lead to a corner kick and on the corner, George punched away senior Andrew Beatty’s serve.
In the half, Yarmouth enjoyed an 5-1 shots advantage (many more shots just missed the mark) and took three corners to none for the Rangers.
The Clippers had ample opportunities to extend their lead in the second half, but again, it took awhile to do so.
Just 27 seconds in, Dostie sent a blast wide.
With 37:54 left in regulation, Dostie shot high.
Greely got its second shot with 36:37 to go, but junior Henry Melville was denied by Owen.
At the other end, Coury served the ball from the side and it got through George’s fingertips, but after Luke Groothoff got the ball with a good look up top, he didn’t get much on it and the shot trickled wide.
After Coolidge and Becker both shot wide, Rangers junior Hunter Graham appeared to have a breakaway and a good chance to tie the game, but three Yarmouth defenders converged and the Clippers were able to clear the ball.
After Dostie twice shot high, Luke Groothoff set up Grant for a good look, but George made the save. Coolidge then passed to Jonathan Groothoff, but his flick with the goalie out of position rolled just inches to the left of the far post.
After Grant shot wide, Luke Groothoff had a left-footer saved and then shot just high.
The chances continued as LaBrie shot wide, Coolidge hit the post and Dostie’s rebound was snared by George.
After George dove to save a Grant shot and senior defender Josh Coyle cleared the rebound off the line, George stopped bids from Jonathan Groothoff and Luke Groothoff (on a corner).
With 12:50 to play, Graham served the ball into the box, but Yarmouth senior Matthew Beatty headed it out of harm’s way.
With 9:55 remaining, Graham appeared to finally have the look he needed to tie things up, but Owen came out to block the shot and the Clippers cleared the rebound.
After Luke Groothoff hit the post with 7:57 to go, then hit the crossbar from 40-yards out with 3:26 showing, he finally got some satisfaction with 2:16 to go, converting a 25-yard free kick, putting the ball where George simply couldn’t reach it, providing some breathing room and a 2-0 lead.
“I honestly didn’t thank I’d make it,” Groothoff said. “We were really frustrated. We hit the post four or five times.”
“There was a time last year, when (Luke) was a freshman, that I’d take (the free kicks),” Jonathan Groothoff said. “Now, he says, ‘Are you going to make it?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ He said, ‘Well, I’ll make it.’
“You have to keep plugging away. We were breaking them down in the second half, but we had shots going off the post. We knew eventually if we attacked we’d get the second one.”
That slammed the door and Yarmouth prevailed, 2-0.
“We were getting good chances the whole game,” Hagerty said. “We did a better job in the second half pushing the pace. We knew if we kept pushing the pace with their injuries, we’d wear them down. It was a game where it was hard to get frustrated because were doing things right. We were making good runs, we put the ball on frame. We hit the post twice and barely missed one other. It could have easily been a different score.
“I’m really, really pleased with our patience. Their center-back, (senior Austin) Nowinski, is terrific. Their goalie made some nice low saves. What I’m hoping is that this translates on the turf to more goals.”
The Groothoff brothers accounted for both goals. Hagerty said that they’ve been a welcome addition and not just because of their soccer expertise.
The best thing about the Groothoffs is not what they do on the field,” said Hagerty. “It’s the type of kids they are. They’re gentlemen, they’re polite. They’re thoughtful kids. As good as they are, they don’t act. it. The first day of practice, all the kids have to run a sub-six-minute mile. Jon finished second or third, then ran back and cheered on the last place kids, my son being among them, and they all made it. He wanted to be a leader. They both fit in beautifully. We have kids on the bench who aren’t playing because they’re here, but we have a team-friendly culture.”
Yarmouth finished with an 18-4 shots advantage (on frame). The Clippers had all seven of the game’s corner kicks. Owen made four saves.
For Greely, George made 14 saves to prevent the final margin from being even more lopsided.
“It could have been worse,” said Rangers coach Mike Andreasen. “It’s not a typical Yarmouth team. They’re usually big, strong and outwork us. Today, they were small and outworked us. They’re a technical group. We were close at the end to tying it up. Brandon played really well in goal for us. On defense we played frantic. We had some chances, but we didn’t really test their goalie. They have a number of kids who are comfortable with the ball. We don’t have as many.”
The teams will battle again in the regular season’s penultimate game, Oct. 17, in Yarmouth, but both squads have a lot of challenges to navigate before they can even think about the other.
Greely is home again Thursday against another longtime rival and powerhouse, Falmouth.
“We’ll be better,” Andreasen said. “How much better remains to be seen. We have to get Lucas back. He’s our heart and soul.”
The Clippers play host to Cape Elizabeth, no easy task, Saturday.
“Our first game might be the last easy game we get to play,” Hagerty said. “But being able to play 18, 19 kids is a luxury and having the quality of player we have, we can bring so many players off the bench who are good enough to start. Not many teams can lose their best player and still be confident, but that’s how we feel.”
Yarmouth sophomore Luke Groothoff and Greely senior Austin Nowinski soar for the ball during the rivals’ showdown Tuesday. Groothoff had a goal and helped the Clippers to a 2-0 win.
Bruce Feeley photos.
Yarmouth junior Henry Coolidge and Greely sophomore Quinn Molloy battle for possession.
Yarmouth senior Nick Kamra possesses the ball.
Greely junior Dylan Fried finds some operating room.
Greely junior Will Pidgeon plays defense.
Yarmouth celebrates its second goal, which ices the win late in the second half.