FALMOUTH—The state’s flagship program paid a visit to a team garnering a ton of buzz in a boys’ lacrosse battle Friday afternoon.

While two-time defending Class B state champion Yarmouth and the host Yachtsmen of Falmouth both had their moments in the first of two scheduled (and three possible) meetings this spring, in the end, the veteran, poised Clippers carried the day, holding Falmouth to just one goal in the game’s final 30 minutes, as they improved to 3-0 on the year with a 7-4 win, which dropped the Yachtsmen to 2-1.

Yarmouth got three goals apiece from seniors Evan Henry and Steven Petrovek, 15 saves from senior goalie Cam Woodworth and oustcored Falmouth 4-1 in the second half.

“It was a tough game on both sides,” said Woodworth, who reminded everyone on-hand why he’s the best big-game goalie in the state. “We picked up ground balls and did the dirty work and it worked out.”

“It was everything we thought it would be and I’m sure it was everything they thought it would be,” added Clippers coach Craig Curry. “It was just a great game.”

June intensity

Yarmouth has won seven straight regional titles and four state championships in six seasons. Last year, the Clippers did it in undefeated fashion. This spring, Yarmouth has kept the good times rolling as it handled North Yarmouth Academy (11-4) and York (17-3) in the early going.

Falmouth, meanwhile, emerged as a championship contender in 2009, reaching the Western B Final before losing to Cape Elizabeth. The Yachtsmen returned almost everyone this spring and immediately made a powerful statement with an 11-4 victory at the Capers. Falmouth then romped, 18-9, at Waynflete Tuesday to improve to 2-0.

Entering the game, the Yachtsmen were seeking their first-ever victory over the Clippers. A year ago, at Falmouth, Yarmouth crushed the Yachtsmen, 18-5.

This time around, the contest was much, much closer.

The hosts broke the scoring ice just 1 minute, 5 seconds into the game when senior Mike Kane scored unassisted. The Clippers tied the score midway through the opening period when Petrovek set up Henry for a goal. Then, 47 seconds later, Petrovek scored unassisted and it was 2-1 Yarmouth after one period.

Midway through the second quarter, Falmouth appeared primed to seize control, when in a 48-second span, junior Zach Alexander (from junior Nick Bachman) and Kane (from senior Kyle Lucas) beat Woodworth for a 3-2 advantage.

Little did the Yachtsmen know that their offensive production was just about exhausted.

The Clippers tied the game at 3-3 on an unassisted goal from Henry with 4:16 left in the half and the contest remained deadlocked at the break.

In the second half, Yarmouth’s poise, pride, superb defense and goalkeeping proved to be too much.

With 4:22 left in the third period, the Clippers went ahead to stay when Petrovek scored unassisted. With 1:04 to go in the quarter, Henry (from senior A.J. Oliver) beat Falmouth sophomore goalie Cam Bell (eight saves) and Yarmouth had a 5-3 advantage heading for the final stanza.

When Petrovek scored unassisted, a man down, with 9:25 to go, the Clippers had a 6-3 lead, but with 3:55 left, an unassisted goal from freshman Willy Sipperly ended a 26 minute, 7 second drought and drew the Yachtsmen back within two, 6-4.

Falmouth pushed to make it even closer, but a fastbreak shot by senior standout Dan Hanley was saved by Woodworth, a shot from sophomore Mitch Tapley went wide and the Yachtsmen then turned the ball over.

With 20 seconds to go, Yarmouth delivered the coup de grace when senior Mike Johnson scored, bringing the curtain down on the Clippers’ 23rd successive victory.

“Falmouth’s a great team and we respect them, but we played our game,” Petrovek said. “We played well on both sides of the ball. We had a couple halftime adjustments. We were able to put a few more in the net. Our defense stepped up. All of our seniors took it to them.”

“We graduated an All-American and another kid who should have been an All-American and they didn’t graduate anybody, so we knew we had our work cut out for us,” said Woodworth. “We played great on defense. We knew we had to play tight defense. We settled down after a rocky first quarter.”

“Both teams played well,” Curry added. “Obviously, both teams have room to improve and they will. (Falmouth’s) a very good team. They’re well coached. We didn’t have our way offensively. I think both defenses rose to the occasion. Cam made some outstanding saves, but there were some transition situations that our guys closed down and I was so impressed. I predicted Falmouth would be good three years ago. They’re very impressive. Our guys stayed calm. We knew it would be a dogfight. I know I have a tough team. I’m so excited to have a team of that nature. We might be missing some pieces we had in the past. Today, we just wanted it. It was awesome.”

Yarmouth got three goals each from Henry (who also had a game-high six ground balls) and Petrovek and one from Johnson. Oliver and Petrovek each had an assist for the Clippers, who outshot Falmouth, 35-19.

The Yachtsmen got two goals from Kane and one each from Alexander and Sipperly. Bachman and Lucas had assists.

While disappointed with the loss, Falmouth competed very well and reaffirmed its status as Yarmouth’s top contender.

“(Yarmouth) brought an intensity level today that we just didn’t have,” said Yachtsmen coach Mike LeBel. “The skill level was not the difference. The difference was that Yarmouth wanted it more than we did. They played harder. The intensity from their side was too much. We were back on our heels.

“What they do, their pressure defense, we haven’t practiced a lot. We haven’t practiced a lot of ground balls. The difference was their intensity and Cam. The kid made some incredible saves. Defensively, we played probably our best game. We weren’t patient enough on offense. We’re just not there yet, experience-wise. We have the talent to beat lesser teams, but when it comes to putting together an entire game, it just wasn’t there today.”

Falmouth returns to action Wednesday when it goes to another perennial power, NYA.

“These guys will come out fired up against NYA,” LeBel said. “The good thing about this is that it’s early enough in the season to fix. We have to work on ground balls, handling pressure and being patient. It’ll be different when we play again.”

That meeting will come May 21 in Yarmouth.

First, the Clippers have other business to attend to, most notably a home showdown with longtime rival Cape Elizabeth Monday night, in a state championship game rematch.

“I think we’re looking good,” Petrovek said. “We have the same core players and we have coach Curry with us. We have Cape Monday. We want to keep our home streak (which dates to 2002) going.”

“We have a different look on offense this year and we’re figuring it out,” Woodworth added. “We can go as far as any other team has gone. We have two tough ones in a row. We’re excited.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]