PORTLAND—A year ago, Yarmouth’s boys’ soccer team, led by a storied senior class, saw its season end in abject despair.
Saturday morning at Deering High School, this Clippers edition finished the job which that group started.
In a Class B state final which unfortunately will be remembered more for a late-game melee, Yarmouth did just enough to vanquish Ellsworth and win the program’s ninth championship.
The Clippers, who began to working toward this day as soon as the horn sounded on last year’s agonizing 2-1 loss to Greely in the Western B Final, carried play most of the may, but only tickled the twine once.
That goal came in the 27th minute, when Yarmouth senior standout Adam LaBrie, the state’s premier player this autumn, found a rare bit of operating room and fired a shot which Eagles junior goalkeeper Nicholas Bagley couldn’t handle cleanly, allowing Clippers junior sparkplug Patrick Grant to bang home the rebound.
Yarmouth had ample opportunities to add to its lead, but couldn’t do so and Ellsworth had a couple good looks at a goal of its own, but the score remained 1-0 into the waning minutes, when the frustrated Eagles began taking shots at LaBrie and with 2:19 to go, play was halted for 10 minutes after a melee which saw four Ellsworth players given red cards and ejected.
The Clippers, playing 11-on-7, then put the finishing touches on the win and after three straight playoff disappointments, got to celebrate their return to the pinnacle with three of last year’s captains, David Murphy, Chandler Smith and Max Watson, front and center.
Yarmouth finished 14-2-2 and ended Ellsworth’s season at 16-1-1.
“I’ve never felt anything like this in my entire life,” said Grant. “I can’t really explain it. It’s really special. To be honest, right from the beginning, I knew we had the potential to be state champions, even if people were skeptical.”
The Clippers and Eagles had met before in the state game.
The first encounter came way back in 1989, when each squad produced two goals and Maine Principals Association rules at the time allowed the game to go into the books as a tie.
Fifteen years later, a late Justin Morrill goal gave Yarmouth a 1-0 win and in 2010, the Clippers scored early and often en route to a 5-0 victory.
Despite having some great teams in the intervening years, Yarmouth couldn’t return to states. After getting upset by Fryeburg Academy in the 2011 quarterfinals, the Clippers hosted the regional final in both 2012 and 2013, but after being blanked by Falmouth two years ago, last autumn, Yarmouth, just a couple weeks removed from a decisive home win over Greely in the regular season finale, was shocked by the Rangers, 2-1, on a late goal.
Graduation then hit the program hard and while LaBrie was a great place to start in building a championship team, there were doubts and the Clippers suffered some hiccups along the way.
After winning at Poland in the opener, 7-0, the 200th victory for coach Mike Hagerty with the program, Yarmouth whiffed on its opportunity to taste revenge when it lost at home to Greely, 1-0. The Clippers then rallied for a 5-3 home win over Cape Elizabeth, blanked visiting Freeport (5-0), handled visiting York (3-1) and rolled at Kennebunk (7-0), but on Sept. 27, at home, they let a 2-0 lead slip away in a 2-2 tie-which-felt-like-a-loss to Western C contender Waynflete. Yarmouth then eked out a 2-1 victory at Cape Elizabeth before suffering the low point of its season, a stunningly decisive 5-2 home loss to ancient rival Falmouth, in which the Yachtsmen seemingly converted every scoring chance.
With their season suddenly at a crossroads, the Clippers responded like champions.
Following a scoreless tie at York, Yarmouth rediscovered its form with a 1-0 home win at Kennebunk, then erupted for seven second half goals in an 8-1 win at Gray-New Gloucester. After finally getting the better of Greely, 1-0, in Cumberland, Yarmouth closed with a most emphatic 3-0 win in the rain at Falmouth, behind a LaBrie hat trick, to go 10-2-2 and earn the top seed in Western B.
The Clippers had no trouble with eighth-ranked Fryeburg Academy in the quarterfinals, prevailing, 7-0, but fourth-seeded Gray-New Gloucester pushed Yarmouth to the limit in the semifinals, sending the game to overtime before a LaBrie header spelled a 2-1 victory. Wednesday, in a regional final rematch versus No. 2 Greely, the Clippers left no doubt, getting three goals from LaBrie in a 4-2 victory which punched their state game ticket.
“We realized from the first Falmouth game that it isn’t just about shooting,” Hagerty said. “It often takes something more. Getting (senior captain) Ben Vigue back was key. Since the first Falmouth game, we outscored our opponents, 27-4, and we’ve played very good teams.”
Yarmouth came into Saturday’s game having won seven crowns outright, sharing another and losing just once in the ultimate game (see sidebar, below).
Ellsworth, meanwhile, went 13-0-1 in the regular season (tying only Foxcroft Academy), earned the top seed in Eastern B, then ousted Foxcroft Academy, Medomak Valley and Oceanside to win its 17th regional title.
Saturday, the Eagles were seeking their fourth outright championship (and fifth overall) and were trying to become the first Eastern B team to win the state title since they beat Marshwood, 2-0, in the 1993 state game.
Instead, Ellsworth became the 21st in a row to fall.
To a team that simply wouldn’t be denied.
The Clippers almost got the jump in the third minute, but a 30-yard blast off the foot of sophomore Matt Dostie sailed just high.
After Yarmouth’s defense showed its mettle when junior Walter Conrad broke up a rush from Ellsworth senior John Fendl, a LaBrie left-footed bender forced Bagley to make a diving save, a cross from Vigue toward LaBrie was snared by Bagley just in time and a blast from Conrad after stealing the ball and spinning around a defender went wide.
The Eagles had their chances too, as senior Conor Maguire had a rush broken up by Clippers senior captain Connor Lainey, senior Anthony Gardner shot just high after getting a good bounce in the box and three corner kicks were cleared away.
After Bagley saved a Lainey free kick, Yarmouth finally got the elusive goal.
It came, as so many have this fall, as a result of LaBrie’s individual brilliance. The standout got some room on the right side and as a defender close in, he shot at Bagley. While Bagley played the angle well, he wasn’t able to handle LaBrie’s blast cleanly and the ever-opportunistic Grant didn’t falter in his quest to play the hero, smacking home the rebound for a 1-0 lead.
“Adam took it down the right side and I just followed,” Grant said. “I knew he’d put it on net. I read it and cut in and tried to time it. I was there at the right time. The goalie bobbled it and I was able to put it in. It’s amazing. I’ve never played on a stage like this before.”
Rest assured, the Clippers were pretty fired up and not surprised that Grant was in the right place at the right time.
“I got off a good shot and Patty, like he has all year, was there for the rebound and put it in the back of the net,” LaBrie said.
“We knew Pat would play a big role in today’s game,” Vigue said. “He’s so quick. He got to the right spot.”
“Pat rediscovered his scoring touch at the right time,” Hagerty added. “His constant effort pays off. It’s the hallmark of what this team has done all season. We have midfielders and backs who work, work, work.”
At the time, a 1-0 final score appeared unlikely, but scoring was finished for the day.
Late in the half, Ellsworth senior captain Jack Weeks had a shot saved by Yarmouth senior goalkeeper Alex Lyon and on offense, the Clippers had a bid from sophomore Henry Coolidge saved by Bagley and shots from junior Nick Kamra and LaBrie go high.
The Clippers had a 9-2 shots advantage in the first 40 minutes, but five Bagley saves kept the Eagles alive.
Early in the second half, Yarmouth looked to deliver the dagger of a second goal, but a pair of corner kicks didn’t result in a shot and Kamra sent a one-timer high.
With 28:15 remaining, Ellsworth put the ball in the net, when Gardner scored off a free kick, but the goal was waved off for a foul in the box.
That was representative of a change in play in the second half, where the Eagles got more physical (with LaBrie especially) and with the game on the brink of getting out of hand, no cards were issued until it was too late.
As play continued, after Kamra sent a header just wide at one end, Lainey had to clear the ball from the box at the other.
The Clippers tried again for a second goal, but sophomore Bill Jacobs sent a header wide and Coolidge just missed with a shot.
Ellsworth returned to the attack, but junior Kyle Golding’s free kick sailed high, Conrad broke up a Maguire rush and sophomore Colby Clarke shot wide.
“We had to go up for every ball with the mentality that we were going to win that ball,” Conrad said. “They have dangerous plays and could put the ball in the net from our box, so we had to have the mentality to win every ball.”
The Clippers almost put it away with 8:58 to play, as Grant fed Coolidge, who passed to LaBrie on the left side. LaBrie had a sliver of room and unleashed a left-footed rocket, but the ball sailed just over the crossbar.
After Vigue cleared an Eagles corner kick, Weeks was able to put on a shot on frame which was deflected and forced Lyon to make a sprawling save with 5:33 to go.
A minute later, LaBrie took his final shot, a low blast of a free kick which Bagley bobbled before saving.
LaBrie, who suffered a bloody lip earlier in the half, continued to be manhandled and taunted, but he didn’t respond.
Then, with 2:19 left in regulation, after another hard foul, a red card was issued and instead of diffusing the situation, it only made matters worse as several other Eagles got involved and pushing and shoving ensued.
Coaches, administrators and security ultimately had to come on to the field to break things up and when the dust settled, Golding, Weeks and seniors Brady White and Jarred Whitney were all given red cards and sent off the field.
“I was out of the play,” Grant said. “I was trying to keep people back. It was all a blur. It was really crazy, but I’m glad we kept our composure.”
“I wasn’t expecting it to be this chippy,” LaBrie said. “I guess the game in the East is a little bit different. It would have been easy to retaliate, but that’s not the Yarmouth way. That’s not what we do. We made sure our heads stayed in the game. It worked.”
“There were some times we could have lost it, but I trust my teammates to stay composed,” Conrad said. “Coach instills character in every practice. It makes sense we showed it in this game.”
“I’m really proud of how the kids kept their composure and didn’t retaliate,” Hagerty added. “We’ve talked about mental toughness the whole playoffs, because we knew we’d have tight games. That mental toughness held well today.”
Playing with an unheard of four-man advantage, the Clippers could have retaliated by trying to produce another goal, but they were content to possess and pass the ball around.
Ellsworth got one final chance, but a pass up field was headed away by Yarmouth junior Matt Beatty and at 11:53 a.m., after four long years, the Clippers were champions again, 1-0.
“It feels amazing,” LaBrie said. “We had chances to get a couple more, but we did what we had to do. I believed the whole time we were a championship caliber team. We just had to put in hard work each and every day.”
“It feels awesome to be on a championship team,” Vigue said. “We won in middle school twice, but this is a lot sweeter. It’s good to do it with the same guys. We knew Ellsworth would be tough. They were physical and fast. We had to keep playing our game. We played our game the whole time, moving the ball. It’s been awesome. I couldn’t ask for better coaches. They’ve been so supportive. It’s been so much fun.”
“It’s an unreal feeling,” said Conrad. “I don’t know we got here, I’m just glad we’re here. We expected a game like this. We’d heard they were a very good, physical team and they didn’t disappoint. I think we got a run for our money, but we were able to sneak it out. There was so much tension trying to hang on. We had to trust that we’d come through. I believed from the beginning.”
“We played, I thought, an excellent first half, moving the ball,” Hagerty added. “We got out of that in the second half, but that’s to Ellsworth’s credit. They’re fast and athletic. We gave them one good chance in the first half and another late in the second. We didn’t click as well as we would’ve liked in the second half, but we maintained possession as much as possible. We didn’t do a great job in the final third, but we did well overall. I thought if we got an early goal, we’d get a second one. I didn’t predict a 1-0 score.
“This is a team that the whole town can be a proud of. This senior class was coached throughout (the Colts youth program) by Doug Hoehle and Jon Vigue and Alex Lyon’s Dad, Jim. They had a big part in setting the foundation. They won a lot as Colts and kept winning here, so this feels like a town and program win as much as any we’ve had here. It just feels good.”
Yarmouth enjoyed a 16-5 shots advantage (6-2 on frame). Lyon made a pair of saves, while Bagley made six. The Eagles finished with four corner kicks to three for the Clippers.
Most high school kids aren’t able to see beyond the moment, but this group of Clippers made it clear that the 2014 title was due in large part to those who made the 2013 team so great, even if they fell short of their ultimate goal.
“We’ve talked about last year a lot,” said LaBrie. “I talked to a lot of those guys yesterday and I told them I was playing for them. I felt badly for those guys last year and wanted to get this for them too.”
“Last year’s team was awesome,” Vigue said. “They were so close. It felt good to have them here watching us. They should have been here last year.”
“Chandler Smith (who bear hugged and joyfully lifted up several of his former teammates following the win), David Murphy and Max Watson were here today, helping us out,” Hagerty added. “They’re such good character kids. Special kids. They’re just as happy for this team as if they’d won it themselves. This year’s team absolutely had them in mind. The tone they set last year, the leadership they exhibited and the class they showed carried over.”
The title was Hagerty’s sixth with Yarmouth and this one was unique due to his strong connection to the school at which the contest was held.
“This was special because this is where I played as a player,” Hagerty said. “I grew up on Ludlow Street. This is where I first coached. We won Deering’s first (girls’) title. My high school coach, Bill Moses, was a mentor. One of the most important guys in my life. He wished us luck all week. If I ranked them, this would be right up near the top.”
While LaBrie wasn’t able to add to his single season program record 24 goals Saturday, his legacy as one of the special talents to wear a Clippers uniform is intact as he greatly influenced everyone he played with and for.
“Adam calms the game down,” Grant said. “He’s a leader with his action. He picks us up when we need him most.”
“Adam is awesome, the way he finishes,” Vigue said. “He’s just a freak of nature. He’s just ‘Adam LaBrie.’ It’s been fun to play with him. “
“Adam has gotten physically and mentally so much tougher,” Hagerty added. “He got stepped on, tripped and run over today. He’s 150 pounds and takes a beating every game. As wonderful as he is as a scorer, he just wants to win. People misread him sometimes because he’s so nice. He wants to win everything. He’s so competitive. He’s fearless out there. You want all your kids to play like that.”
LaBrie, not surprisingly, declined to focus on himself and praised his teammates.
“It was a little frustrating (not scoring today), but when you have teammates like I do, that’s all that matters,” he said. “Honestly, I wouldn’t have gotten any of the goals without them. I get the credit for scoring the goals, but the plays leading up to the goals is all them.”
Yarmouth has only gone back-to-back once in program history, 2004 and 2005, and while the loss of LaBrie, Lainey, Lyon and Vigue, as well as Nicholas Allen, Luke Bray, Garrett Flanagan, Nathaniel Gallagher and Connor Hoehle will be difficult to overcome, the 2015 Clippers have great building blocks in Beatty, Conrad, Coolidge, Grant and Kamra, along with junior defender Conor O’Donnell and several others and will be heard from again.
“We want to be back here next year,” Grant said. “We have a bunch of juniors, a few more sophomores coming up. We’ll be really solid again. We’re excited.”
“I sure hope we can do it again,” Conrad said. “That would be awesome. We’ll give it our best shot.”
“Our junior class played so very well this year,” Hagerty added. “We have a great group coming back and a terrific sub-varsity program. Our goal will be to get homefield advantage for as long as we can and see if we can make another run.”
Yarmouth junior Patrick Grant bangs home a rebound for the only goal of the game in the first half as Ellsworth junior goalkeeper Nicholas Bagley and senior Brady White watch in vain.
Yarmouth junior Matt Beatty and Ellsworth senior Anthony Gardner try to head the ball as Yarmouth junior Conor O’Donnell looks on.
Yarmouth senior Luke Bray collides with Ellsworth junior goalkeeper Nicholas Bagley.
Yarmouth junior Walter Conrad boots the ball up the field.
Yarmouth sophomore Henry Coolidge fires a shot.
Yarmouth sophomore Matt Dostie tries to dribble around Ellsworth senior Jarred Whitney.
Yarmouth junior Patrick Grant tries to get past Ellsworth senior Jarred Whitney.
Yarmouth junior Nick Kamra gets his head on the ball.
Ellsworth junior goalkeeper Nicholas Bagley prepares to make a save as Yarmouth senior Adam LaBrie closes in.
Yarmouth senior captain Connor Lainey dribbles the ball up the field.
Yarmouth junior Conor O’Donnell heads the ball out of harm’s way.
Yarmouth senior captain Ben Vigue fights past Ellsworth senior Brady White.
Yarmouth 5 Ellsworth 0
Yarmouth 1 Presque Isle 0
Yarmouth 3 Presque Isle 0
Yarmouth 1 Ellsworth 0
Yarmouth 2 MCI 1
Camden-Rockport 2 Yarmouth 1
Yarmouth 2 Ellsworth 2 (tie)
Yarmouth 2 Piscataquis 1
Yarmouth 3 Van Buren 1
Yarmouth senior goalkeeper Alex Lyon is mobbed by his teammates at the final horn of the Clippers’ 1-0 victory over Ellsworth in Saturday’s Class B Final. Yarmouth won its eighth outright and ninth total championship.
Mike Strout photos.
Yarmouth senior standout Adam LaBrie shows off the Gold Ball after the Clippers’ victory.
More photos below.