SOUTH PORTLAND—Live by the overtime sword, die by the overtime sword.
Two days after surviving an scare at Thornton Academy, South Portland’s boys’ lacrosse team wasn’t as fortunate Friday evening at Martin Memorial Field as the Red Riots ran up against a squad determined to make a statement.
A team that is no stranger to success.
The proud and talented Yarmouth Clippers.
A year after beating the Clippers for the first time, in Yarmouth no less, prolific-scoring South Portland shot to a quick 2-0 lead, but the Clippers turned up their defense and possessed the ball for large swaths of time.
After pulling within a goal late in the first quarter, Yarmouth tied the score early in the second, then went ahead for the first time when sophomore Bill Jacobs scored his second goal in a little over a minute. The Red Riots drew even by halftime, but it was clear that the Clippers had come to play and planned to fight for 48 minutes.
Even it more time would ultimately be needed.
After South Portland went ahead, 4-3, on junior standout Jack Fiorini’s third goal midway through the third quarter, Yarmouth got goals from junior Matt Beatty and senior Joe Oliva to take the lead to the fourth.
There, just 19 seconds in, senior Kam Andrews tied the game for the Red Riots and with 11:03 to go in regulation, senior Lucas Michaud gave the hosts a 6-5 advantage.
That score held until time wound down, when a South Portland turnover gave the Clippers a final chance.
Out of a timeout, Yarmouth senior Tim Pietropaoli managed to beat Red Riots senior goalie extraordinaire T-Moe Hellier with a perfectly placed shot and it was on to overtime.
After both teams turned the ball over twice in the extra session, the Clippers earned a man-up situation and pounced, as Beatty found senior Will Garrett on the doorstep and Garrett brought the curtain down on the thriller with 1:53 to go in OT as Yarmouth prevailed 7-6.
The Clippers got goals from five different players, improved to 5-2 and handed South Portland its first loss in seven outings.
“These comebacks and the excitement of seeing of the team play to its potential are things you remember,” said Yarmouth coach David Pearl. “One of the reasons I love coaching this team is that I feel any time we step on the field, we can win. We felt coming here, what do we have to lose? We had an opportunity to do something great. Defeating a great, loaded, undefeated team. I think that helped with nerves. We talked about playing with confidence and we did.”
Prior to 2012, South Portland and Yarmouth never met in a countable contest.
The Clippers won the first two meetings between the schools (see sidebar, below), but the Red Riots broke through a year ago, scoring six times in the second period en route to a 10-7 victory in Yarmouth. South Portland went on to win its first ever Class A state championship, while the Clippers lost to Cape Elizabeth in the Class B Final for the second year in a row.
This spring, while the Clippers have stumbled twice, the Red Riots have been perfect.
Yarmouth opened with a 17-2 home win over York, then lost at Cape Elizabeth, 6-3. The Clippers then downed visiting Greely (11-6) and won at Lake Region (15-0), but lost at home to defending Eastern A champion Brunswick Saturday (14-8) before bouncing back Tuesday for a 14-3 home win over North Yarmouth Academy.
South Portland romped over Biddeford in its first outing, 21-3, then handled host Cheverus, 15-6. After dominating host Marshwood (23-1), visiting Westbrook (17-5) and host Kennebunk (19-4), the Red Riots finally got a stern test Wednesday in Saco, but senior Chris Mitchell’s overtime goal allowed them to escape Thornton Academy, 8-7.
Friday night, the Red Riots appeared early to be en route to another easy win, but Yarmouth roared back to set the stage for an instant classic.
Despite playing without senior star Andrew Whipple, South Portland got off to a fast start as Michaud won the opening faceoff and Mitchell scored an unassisted goal 83 seconds in.
With 10:19 left in the first period, Fiorini scored unassisted and it appeared the Red Riots were on their way, but the Clippers would answer.
After keeping South Portland off the board for nearly eight minutes, Beatty got Yarmouth on the board with an unassisted goal.
Late in the quarter, playing man-up, the Clippers looked to tie, but Beatty shot just wide.
Yarmouth then carried play for most of the second period.
The visitors pulled even 47 seconds in when, in transition, Beatty fed Jacobs for a goal which made it 2-2.
With 9:54 left before halftime, Jacobs struck again, beating Hellier unassisted, and the Clippers had their first lead, 3-2.
After Yarmouth senior goalie Connor Hoehle denied Mitchell, the Clippers got the ball and held onto it for several minutes, launching shot upon shot either in the general direction of the goal, or on target, but Hellier stood tall.
Then, with 2:22 remaining in the half, Fiorini scored unassisted to make it 3-3, snapping a 19 minute, 57 second drought.
That score held until halftime and despite owning a 17-2 shots advantage in the second period, Yarmouth wasn’t able to grab the lead.
“Our focus at halftime was not getting frustrated,” said Pearl. “We had high quality shots and could have scored six goals, but their keeper is very good. I have to give the guys credit, they weren’t frustrated and stuck with it.”
There was little separation in the second half either and not surprisingly, four quarters weren’t enough to decide a winner.
After Hellier robbed Oliva and Hoehle denied Michaud early in the second half, Hoehle continued to ensure the score remained tied, robbing Mitchell and senior Eben Babbidge.
The Red Riots finally broke through with 5:23 left in the third, when Babbidge set up Fiorini for a transition goal, but playing man-up, Garrett set up Beatty for a goal to tie the game, 4-4, with 1:49 remaining.
Then, with 56.6 seconds to go, Oliva scored to give the Clippers a 5-4 lead, which they carried into the fourth quarter.
There, South Portland drew even almost immediately, as Babbidge set up Andrews to make it 5-5 just 19 seconds in.
Then, with 11:03 to play, Michaud scored unassisted, but that would prove to be the Red Riots final tally.
It looked like it would hold up, as Hellier denied Oliva twice and sophomore Matt Dostie, Jacobs, Beatty and Garrett all sent potential game-tying shots just off target.
South Portland had a chance to run out the clock in the final minute, but they turned the ball over. Yarmouth got the ball into its offensive zone, then called timeout with 38.5 seconds remaining.
Jacobs got a look out of the timeout, but his shot bounced over the crossbar.
The Clippers retained possession and the ball came up top to Pietropaoli, who eluded a defender, then somehow managed to rocket a shot past Hellier to make it 6-6 with only 15 seconds to play.
“It was just a play we’ve practiced since spring break,”Pietropaoli said. “I ended up getting an (isolation) up top and I got a shot. I was trying to put it off-side hip. I noticed Bill Jacobs scored a couple goals there and I tried to capitalize on that.”
“Timmy stepped up,” said Pearl. “He’s been injured all season long. He didn’t practice all week, but he came out as a warrior today. I’m really proud of the offense. I’m glad they were successful. They showed what they had.”
“That shot he took to put the game in overtime, I don’t know many goalies who would have stopped that shot,” South Portland coach Tom Fiorini said.
The Red Riots won the ensuing faceoff, but Michaud had a shot blocked and it was on to overtime.
In boys’ lacrosse, teams play a four-minute “sudden victory” overtime and if no one scores, they keep playing until someone prevails.
It didn’t take long for this thriller to find its conclusion.
Yarmouth junior Ricky Tillotson won the faceoff to start OT and Pearl called timeout, but the Clippers turned the ball over.
South Portland wasn’t able to take advantage, however, giving the ball back. Yarmouth committed another turnover, but while the Red Riots were setting up for what they hoped would be the game-winner, Mitchell was called for stepping into the crease and the Clippers regained possession.
After Oliva had a shot deflected off target, South Portland was called offsides and Yarmouth earned a man-up opportunity for 30 seconds.
The Clippers only needed nine.
Once the whistle blew, Yarmouth quickly moved the ball around the perimeter, Beatty fed Garrett on the doorstep and Garrett fired a shot past a helpless Hellier to end it.
“Coach told us to stay true to our game,” Garrett said. “We came out with energy and momentum and that led us to winning the game. It’s whoever gets the first look, drawing them in and passing it off. Beatty passed it off. I was just there and I just took it.”
“We had momentum going into overtime, but I know momentum is very fickle,” Pearl said. “We had it, but they have great players. We didn’t change anything. We generated a lot of shots and we just needed to finish. The boys knew what to do. Will has shown courage. He’s worked so hard. We have a lot of intensity in practice and no one brings more intensity in practice than Will Garrett. The fact that he still had gas in the tank is a testament to how he approaches the game of lacrosse. I’m so proud of him.”
Yarmouth 7 South Portland 6.
“It felt great,” Garrett said. “It was truly a team effort. Everyone worked really hard out there and it just came together on that last man-up. We have so much faith and our coaches are always pushing us.”
“We spotted them two easy goals and talked about it and firmed things up the rest of the game,” Pearl said. “We’ve talked about resilience. We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores playing and a lot of players who are injured. I’m so proud of our hard work. We’ve said,’ Next man up.'”
The Clippers had a balanced attack, getting two goals apiece from Beatty and Jacobs and one each from Garrett, Oliva and Pietropaoli. Beatty finished with two assists, while Garrett had one. Hoehle made eight saves.
“Connor Hoehle has been the rock of this team,” said Pearl. “He has a quiet confidence. Most of their shots were in transition and Connor stood on his head and we fed off that.”
Yarmouth ousthot South Portland, 38-22 (18-14 on frame).
South Portland’s offense featured three goals from Fiorini and one each from Andrews, Michaud and Mitchell. Babbidge had two assists. Hellier finished with 11 saves. Michaud won 13 of 18 faceoffs.
“We had some great tests this week,” said Tom Fiorini. “If I was going to lose a game, this is the one I’d lose. They played a great game and we didn’t. We played a great first quarter and fourth quarter, but not the second and third. I won’t cry because we didn’t have Andrew. I will say our offense wasn’t in sync. At the end of the day, that was four or five points, but all the credit to Yarmouth. Their defense is tough. They played great man-to-man defense. They move their feet and come out and pressure. They made us turn the ball over. We didn’t move the ball on offense. We didn’t cut backdoor like I asked. We didn’t do what we needed to do. We got the ball in overtime, but didn’t even get a chance to go to the cage. We had unlucky breaks.”
South Portland (still first in the Western Class A Heal Points standings) likely won’t get another serious test until the finale June 2 at home versus rival Scarborough. In the meantime, the Red Riots host Deering, go to Portland and welcome Massabesic and Gould Academy.
“The season isn’t lost,” said Tom Fiorini. “At the end of the day, I hope this has the same effect the Scarborough loss had last year. We needed it. We fought through the TA game. We came from behind tonight. I think it will help us down the road. We’ll be fine. We want to be strong going into June. If we win out, we should get the number one seed. That’s what’s important.”
Yarmouth (third in Eastern B) faces another big road test Tuesday, when it goes to Falmouth. After hosting Waynflete, the Clippers go to Kennebunk, have a home showdown versus Cape Elizabeth and close at NYA.
“We just have to stay determined,” Pietropaoli said. “The coches will help us, but we have to have the inner drive to keep going. Cape and Falmouth will be tough games. We have to keep our stamina up. We have a short bench, so we need to focus and work on that.”
“This feels like we’re starting the season over,” said Garrett. “We can rewrite everything and win every game the rest of the season.”
“As a team, we can accomplish anything,” Pearl added. “We’re excited to go to Falmouth. We want to play the best teams in the state. We think we can run with them. I circled South Portland, I circled Yarmouth, I circled Cape. Look at our schedule, we play some of the best teams. I coach and the guys play for games like these.”
Yarmouth senior Joe Oliva launches a shot.
South Portland senior Chris Mitchell looks for a shot as Yarmouth junior Jack Vendan defends.
South Portland senior Lucas Michaud shoots over Yarmouth senior Luke Bray.
Yarmouth sophomore Bill Jacobs is chased by South Portland junior Nick Mezzanotte.
South Portland junior Jack Fiorini possesses the ball as Yarmouth senior Sam Rouda gives chase.
South Portland senior goalie T-Moe Hellier awaits a shot by Yarmouth sophomore Matt Dostie.
South Portland senior goalie T-Moe Hellier fights off Yarmouth senior Tim Pietropaoli for control of a loose ball.
@ Yarmouth 12 South Portland 2
Yarmouth senior Will Garrett (6), senior Tim Pietropaoli (24) and sophomore Bill Jacobs celebrate after Garrett’s overtime goal gives the Clippers a stirring 7-6 win at defending Class A champion South Portland Friday night.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
Y- 1 2 2 1 1- 7
SP- 2 1 1 2 0- 6
10:37 SP Mitchell (unassisted)
10:19 SP Fiorini (unassisted)
2:30 Y Beatty (unassisted)
11:13 Y Jacobs (Beatty)
9:54 Y Jacobs (unassisted)
2:22 SP Fiorini (unassisted)
5:23 SP Fiorini (Babbidge)
1:49 Y Beatty (Garrett) (MAN-UP)
56.6 Y J. Oliva (unassisted)
11:41 SP Andrews (Babbidge)
11:03 SP Michaud (unassisted)
15.0 Y Pietropaoli (unassisted)
1:53 Y Garrett (Beatty) (MAN-UP)
Y-Beatty, Jacobs 2, Garrett, Oliva, Pietropaoli 1
SP- Fiorini 3, Andrews, Michaud, Mitchell 1
Y-Beatty 2, Garrett 1
SP- Babbidge 2
Faceoffs (South Portland, 13-5)
Y- Tillotson 5 of 18
SP- Michaud 13 of18
Shots on cage
Y (Hoehle) 8
SP (Hellier) 11