CUMBERLAND—The Falmouth boys’ soccer program has excelled like no other in the 21st Century and has won an abundance of games in many ways.
While most victories have come with ease, there are occasions where the Yachtsmen have had to get dramatic, but it’s probably fair to say that what transpired on a sunny, crisp Tuesday afternoon at Greely High School was a first.
After a slow start led to a 2-0 deficit at the hands of the rival Rangers, Falmouth crept back within a goal at halftime. The Yachtsmen were still trailing, 2-1, as time wound down, but in arguably the most exciting game-tying sequence in program history, senior standout J.P. White ran down a long, desperation lead pass from classmate Alex Gowen and beat Greely senior goalkeeper Elijah Leverett to tie the score with just 3.4 seconds to go in regulation.
Then, with only 43 seconds remaining in the second overtime, who other than Mr. Clutch himself, senior Grant Burfeind, put the finishing touch on the breathtaking rally when he scored from senior Luke Andrews to give Falmouth an improbable and scintillating 3-2 triumph.
The Yachtsmen had somehow snatched victory from certain defeat and in the process, improved to 4-0 on the young season, dropping the resurgent Rangers to 2-1.
“It’s definitely an awesome win,” said White. “Just coming back the way we did was awesome. We were confident we’d steal the game. We just kept fighting.”
Falmouth has won eight of the past 12 Class B state championships and Greely has managed to win a pair of Class A crowns over the past decade, making the teams’ twice-annual showdowns games to see.
The Yachstmen entered Tuesday’s contest having handled visiting Cape Elizabeth (1-0), visiting North Yarmouth Academy (8-0) and host Poland (7-0).
The Rangers entered 2-0, also pitching shutouts to date, 9-0 at home over Lake Region and 2-0 at Freeport Monday, in a makeup contest.
Falmouth has dominated the rivalry in recent seasons. Prior to Tuesday, dating back to 2011, the Yachtsmen had won 14 times to just three for the Rangers, with five games ending in draws. Last fall, the teams tied, 1-1, in the first meeting, then Greely triumphed, 1-0, its first home win over Falmouth since 2006.
Tuesday, in the lidlifter of a boy-girl doubleheader, the Rangers appeared en route to a second straight win over the Yachtsmen, but Falmouth reminded Greely and everyone on hand that they play 80 minutes for a reason.
The Rangers pressured early and in the first 20 minutes, had their way with the Yachtsmen.
Just 6 minutes, 8 seconds in, Greely got the jump as freshman Jacob Nason banged home a rebound off a corner kick. Senior Nicholas Shain got the play started and the corner bounced off junior Sam Porter, right to Nason, who fired past Falmouth junior goalkeeper Will D’Agostino.
Just 17 seconds later, the Rangers almost scored again, but junior Ted Hart couldn’t get much on a shot on a breakaway and D’Agostino made the save.
In the 10th minute, Nason got his head on another corner kick, but D’Agostino punched the ball away.
Then, with 27:13 to go before halftime, Greely doubled its lead as Nason waited for Shain’s corner kick and perfectly timed his jump before heading the ball past D’Agostino for a 2-0 advantage.
“I was surprised on the corners,” said Falmouth coach Dave Halligan. “That hasn’t been a problem. We’ll sort that out. The mistakes we made we can solve in practice. I’m not that concerned.”
Sophomore Mitchel Donovan lofted a shot just high in the 16th minute and five minutes later, Shain’s low shot forced D’Agostino to make a diving stop.
At that point, the game shifted and soon Falmouth began to pressure.
With 14:32 left before halftime, the Yachtsmen got a break and got back in it.
White passed ahead to senior Cooper Lycan, who beat Leverett to the ball. The goalie managed to deflect the ball, but sophomore Luke Velas got a foot on the rebound and despite the best effort of senior defender Nicholas Dunnett, the ball went into the net and suddenly, despite dominating play, the Rangers’ lead was down to 2-1.
Shain shot just wide in the 33rd minute and a low shot by Gowen, after Andrews danced past a couple defenders to set him up, was saved by Leverett in the 38th minute, keeping the game 2-1 at halftime.
The second half featured the hosts trying to hold on for dear life.
They almost did.
Falmouth’s first good chance to tie came with 35:25 left in regulation, when, on a corner kick, Lycan got the ball in the box, but his shot was blocked by Greely junior Sam Porter. Two minutes later, Leverett came out to break up a rush by Burfeind.
Burfeind had a great look in the 52nd minute after he took a pass from White, but his shot went just wide.
Five minutes later, Burfeind set up White, but his shot was denied.
In the 63rd minute, White crossed to Burfeind, who shot just high. A little over a minute later, Velas sent a rocket well over the crossbar.
With 3:11 to go, White took a free kick from the side of the goal, but Leverett managed to make a save.
Greely then transitioned to offense and threatened to run out the clock. In the final minute, the ball was in the Rangers’ offensive zone and as time wound down, a Greely defender only had to kick the ball in the air or out of bounds, but Lycan stole it and with nine seconds to go, fired the ball deep down the field where White waited.
White grabbed the pass and beat his defender. Leverett came out in an attempt to cut down the angle, but it didn’t matter, White fired a low shot that Leverett couldn’t save and with the clock showing a mere 3.4 seconds to go, Falmouth had finally drawn even.
“I kind of thought the game was over, but Alex Gowen just played a perfect ball over the top,” said White. “He put it between the defenders and it was one-on-one with the goalie. I was just trying to keep the ball down and keep it on frame. I knew there were about 10 seconds left. I figured I’d get it off. I’ve never scored that late before.”
“From last year, we know what it’s like to be in games like this,” Burfeind said. “As soon as I saw Alex play the ball over the top, I knew (J.P.) wouldn’t miss it and that we’d win the game in overtime. We knew we had all the momentum.”
“I was looking toward the bench (thinking it was over), then I saw J.P. streaking toward the ball and I was like, ‘No way,'” Andrews said.
“Everybody thought it was over,” Halligan added. “We tried to put one over the top and we did. J.P. is a veteran player who did what he had to. That’s what you expect from players like that.”
The visitors had all the momentum heading into the first five minute “sudden victory” overtime session and just 81 seconds in, a cross from Yachtsmen freshman Jesse Melchiskey appeared ticketed for Burfeind, but Leverett got to it first.
Then, with 3:12 to go in the first OT, Greely almost won it as junior Aidan Black played a ball to Nason in the box. For a split second, it appeared Nason had a look to end matters, but Andrews managed to get in front of him and blocked the bid.
“I just saw the ball get past our last defender and I was dead tired, but I was able to slide in there and impact the play,” Andrews said. “It was just a reaction.”
“Jacob’s got to understand how good he can be,” Andreasen said. “He’ll beat a defender, then give the ball up. Sometimes you have to be selfish. The last shot he had. He had a good look. He took too much time getting the shot off. I thought that was going to be the winner. He looked really good today. To have that kind of impact that early, I go back to Brian Hart. How many freshmen in their first couple games do that?”
A minute later, White sent a header just wide after a long throw landed in the box. With time winding down, a Black rush was broken up and it was on to the second five-minute OT.
Neither team did much until about 1:30 remained when Falmouth earned a corner kick. The winning play started innocuously enough as Burfeind played the corner long, but White ran it down and played it back out to Andrews, who collected himself, ran a few seconds off the clock, then sent a pass into the box where Burfeind (who scored the winning goal in both the Western Class B Final and Class B state final last fall) was waiting to bang it home.
“J.P. had the ball in the corner and he played it back to me,” Andrews said. “I saw a defender coming toward me. I made a quick move by him and just sent the ball far post and luckily, Grant was there to tap it in. He’s pretty clutch.”
“We got it back to Luke on the side,” Burfeind said. “He had plenty of time to play it in. We had those looks all game and finally got one in. I was just in the right place at the right time. I was gassed by the end. I’d been making runs and their goalie was stuffing me.”
“On other teams, (Luke would) be a primary scorer, but he sacrifices a little of his game for us,” Halligan said. “He does it so we have a good team.”
With 43.9 seconds frozen on the clock, the Yachtsmen had somehow come back from oblivion to triumph, 3-2.
“It’s like last year,” said Andrews. “We have a veteran team. We stick together in dire situations and get the job done. We maintained our composure. We seem to always find a way to win. We came out a little flat. We have to come out harder than we did. I think this propels us forward. One of our goals is to not lose this year. This gives us confidence.”
“Coming into this game, we knew (Greely) would probably be the best team we’ve played all season,” said Burfeind. “We came in a little flat. We battled back and escaped with a win. Their set pieces killed us. We learned that everyone needs to do their part.”
“It’s tough to come back against a good team when you’re down two, never mind one, but it showed the resiliency of our kids,” Halligan said. “We had 12 one-goal games last year with a young team. We know to play until the end. Greely will always be a battle. They did a great job early in the game, but we made adjustments. We started controlling play a little better, but you have to give them credit. It was a good game. In the first half, they were playing flat in the back. We were playing balls over the top that were going straight to the keeper. We needed to bend balls in behind. Once you bend them behind, it gave our players a chance. We did much better in the second half. We had to relax a little bit and let the game come to us instead of getting it all back at once.”
Needless to say, Greely was left stunned.
“It’s a tough one,” said Andreasen. “I can’t think of a loss off the top of my head that’s worse. Yarmouth tied us one year late, but we went to overtime and got a draw. Things just didn’t work out well for us. A kid took a tough touch. All he had to do was hold the ball. I wish Elijah had held his line a little longer. It’s high school sports. As tough as it is, it’s small in life. You have to come back tomorrow and give it your best shot.
“My big thing in overtime, regardless of them getting the last goal, was we may not win, but you want to make sure you don’t lose. We wanted to at least come out with a draw. I thought we were OK, but we had a bereakdown. We didn’t pull the defense out on the corner kick. The last two goals were breakdowns. I thought in the first half, we were the better team, but the problem was we scored too early. We gave up a fluky one before half and that gave them momentum. In the second half, I thought they were the better team and in overtime, they played like a team that was hungry.
“We feel we can play with anybody and we can. Playing with and beating teams like (Falmouth) are different things. We have to be able to close the deal. We didn’t get it done. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. We’ll get better for it. I thought in the first half we were the better team, then we got outscored, 3-0. Better teams don’t get outscored 3-0. Maybe 1-0.”
Greely hopes to get back on track Thursday when it hosts Poland. The Rangers go to York Saturday.
“We’re still learning,” Andreasen said. “Our goal is to go further than last year. We want to get back to challenge for the Western Maine Finals.”
Falmouth seeks its fifth straight win Tuesday of next week, at Freeport. The exhilaration of this victory will linger, but the Yachtsmen know they need to keep getting better.
“We need to work on set pieces, playing to feet and pressuring,” said Andrews.
“We’ll enjoy this one,” Halligan said. “We don’t play for a week. We need (practice).”
The Rangers go to the Yachtsmen for the rematch Oct. 13.
“We’ll play them again and it will be fun,” Andreasen said.
As fun as this one?
Falmouth senior Billy Mullin shields the ball from Greely junior Ted Hart.
Falmouth senior Cooper Lycan and Greely freshman Jacob Nason (left) and sophomore Mitchel Donovan all soar for the ball.
Falmouth senior Tom Wilberg goes up for the ball while being watched closesly by Greely sophomore Mitchel Donovan.
Falmouth senior Grant Burfiend battles Greely sophomore Sam Porter for possession.
Greely sophomore Mitchel Donovan makes a move on a defender.
Greely senior goalkeeper Elijah Leverett breaks up the rush of Falmouth senior Cooper Lycan.
Delirious teammates chase Falmouth senior Grant Burfeind (12) after Burfeind scored with 43 seconds left in overtime to end it.
Falmouth senior J.P. White is mobbed by his teammates after his improbable goal with 3.4 seconds remaining in regulation tied the game at Greely Tuesday afternoon. Even better for the Yachtsmen, they won it overtime, 3-2.
More photos below.
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