YARMOUTH—If next month’s state championship games are anywhere near as compelling as Friday night’s Falmouth at Yarmouth boys’ lacrosse showdown, fans of the sport will be in for a treat.

Amid a playoff atmosphere, the two-time defending Class B state champion Clippers managed to extend their win streak to 29 games and their mind-boggling home string to 70 consecutive victories by holding off the Yachtsmen, 8-6.

But this one didn’t come easily.

Yarmouth fell behind 3-0 less than six minutes in, then, after scoring six straight goals and holding Falmouth scoreless for nearly 33 minutes, the Clippers found themselves tied and on the ropes with time winding down, but a man-up goal from standout senior Steven Petrovek with 1:31 to play and an insurance tally from classmate Even Henry 37 seconds later allowed them to earn yet another victory, their ninth in a row this spring, which dropped the Yachtsmen to 7-2.

“We were lucky to come out with a win,” said Yarmouth’s senior goalie Cam Woodworth. “(Falmouth) made some good plays, then we adjusted defensively and settled down and made the plays we had to. We’re a veteran team. Our seniors and everyone have grown this season. We’re not uncomfortable being tied or playing down a goal.”

“I’m proud of our kids,” added Clippers coach Craig Curry. “We’ve been in these wars. We understand what it takes. They were trying to put a statement out and so were we. I think the statement is it will be a great game anytime we play them.”

Part two of three?

A year ago, these teams weren’t even close to being on equal ground. Last May, Yarmouth went to Falmouth and cruised, 18-5, en route to the championship (a 12-9 victory over Cape Elizabeth).

The Yachtsmen made great strides a year ago, however, reaching the regional final for the first time (before falling, 11-7, at Cape Elizabeth), and this year have risen to the occasion time and again.

Falmouth opened with a shockingly easy 11-4 triumph at the Capers, the Yachtsmen’s first victory ever over the state’s most storied program. After crushing host Waynflete, 18-9, Falmouth hosted Yarmouth on April 30 and hung tough for 48 minutes, but lost, 7-4. The Yachtsmen responded and won five straight, 12-9, at North Yarmouth Academy, 4-3, at home over Scarborough, 18-3, over visiting York, 10-7, at Brunswick and 9-7, at home over Cape Elizabeth Tuesday.

The Clippers, meanwhile, have been rarely tested to date. After opening with an 11-5 home win over North Yarmouth Academy, Yarmouth won at York (17-3) and Falmouth, held off visiting Cape Elizabeth, 8-6, dominated Brunswick, 13-6, and Waynflete, 14-2, enjoyed a 13-2 triumph at Cheverus, and won at NYA for the first time since 2005 with a decisive 19-1 triumph Tuesday.

The Yachtsmen entered Friday night’s game seeking their first ever win over the Clippers. They’re still searching, but came mighty close.

Falmouth got off to a sizzling start when, after sophomore Abyn Reaby-Gerwig won the opening faceoff, senior standout Dan Hanley took a pass from sophomore Mitch Tapley and beat Woodworth for a 1-0 lead.

Just over a minute later, senior Chris Janelle scored unassisted and with 6:34 to go in the opening quarter, Hanley scored an unassisted goal to make it 3-0 Yachtsmen.

“(Falmouth) won those first faceoffs and ground balls,” Petrovek said. “Their offense did a great job and they got three quick goals.”

“(Falmouth) had a lot of possessions and did some nice things on offense,” Curry said. “We were a little lethargic.”

Little did Falmouth know that it wouldn’t score again until well into the fourth quarter.

Momentum turned Yarmouth’s way on a fluke play 17 seconds later. The Yachtsmen appeared to have won the faceoff, but the ball was flicked back toward the Falmouth goal where Petrovek grabbed it and raced in alone on helpless Yachtsmen sophomore goalie Cam Bell, whom he beat to get his team on the board.

Just 41 seconds later, Petrovek scored unassisted again, this time after a pretty individual move. When Henry scored unassisted with 4:40 to play in the opening stanza, the Clippers had erased their early deficit and drew even, 3-3.

“That fluky first goal they got, I think threw us off a little bit,” said Falmouth coach Mike LeBel. “We were on a roll, but that gave them a little momentum. They fed off that and kept rolling and we couldn’t cover for a long while.”

Just 1 minute, 2 seconds into the second quarter, the hosts went ahead, 4-3, when senior Mike Johnson scored unassisted. With 4:31 to go before halftime, in transition, junior Matt Murphy set up classmate Kyle Groves for a goal and a 5-3 lead at the break.

In the first half, the Yachtsmen won six of nine faceoffs and 28 of 48 ground balls, but were outshot 20-11 and done in by 11 turnovers.

The third period was scoreless, but both teams had opportunities. Midway through, Hanley got a good look with his team playing man-up, but it was denied by Woodworth. With 3:20 left in the quarter, Henry’s shot hit the post. A minute later, Hanley got another good look in close, but Woodworth stymied him again.

When Henry scored unassisted 1 minute, 56 seconds into the final period, ending an 18 minute, 27 scoring drought, Yarmouth had a 6-3 lead and appeared on the verge of locking up the victory, but Falmouth embarked on another flurry to make things very interesting.

With 9:48 remaining, senior Kyle Lucas raced in off a faceoff win and beat Woodworth to end a 32 minute, 46 second drought and make it 6-4. Two minutes later, after junior Nick Bachman hit the post, Janelle set up sophomore Jack Cooleen for a goal which cut the deficit to one.

The Yachtsmen would tie the game with 5:28 to play in regulation. Just seconds after a Bachman bid was denied, freshman Will Sipperly grabbed a ground ball in front of the Yarmouth goal and beat Woodworth to make it 6-6.

But with the game on the line, the Clippers, as they always seem to do, managed to make the plays down the stretch.

Falmouth had a golden opportunity to take the lead when Yarmouth was called for an off-sides penalty with 3:30 to play, but the Clippers were able to kill it. A minute later, the Yachtsmen were flagged for a slash and Yarmouth would take advantage.

With 1:31 to go, Petrovek took a pass from senior Colby Shields and unleashed a rocket that Bell couldn’t stop. It tickled the twine and the Clippers had the lead for good, 7-6.

“It was a play to set me up and I was able to finish,” Petrovek said.

“There are certain kids on your team every year and he’s one of those kids you want to have the ball,” Curry said. “You want seniors to step up.”

“You just can’t get a penalty in a 6-6 game,” LeBel lamented. “You can’t go in the box with two minutes left and expect to come out on top. Something bad is going to happen. It was a very well-placed shot. The only place it could have gone in. At least it wasn’t a fluke shot. It was a good goal.”

After a faceoff win, Henry scored unassisted with 54.2 seconds remaining and that brought the curtain down on Yarmouth’s hard-fought 8-6 victory.

“We both came out firing, then both teams settled down,” Woodworth said. “Both defenses played well and both offenses got in a rut. It wasn’t the cleanest game. We’re comfortable here. We never doubted ourselves for a second. Everyone trusts each other.”

“That fourth quarter push was a little scary, but we were able to counter,” Petrovek said. “It helps being in state championship games and knowing that the other team will come back and that we have to live with it and counter.”

Petrovek and Henry each had three goals for the Clippers. Groves and Johnson added one apiece. Murphy and Shields both had assists. Woodworth made six saves.

Yarmouth wound up with a 39-22 edge in shots (16-12 in shots on goal) and won 37 ground balls. Sophomore Sam Torres led the way with seven, while Shields had six. The Clippers forced 20 turnovers and only gave the ball away 16 times.

“We were able to get our possessions and goals,” Petrovek said. “They locked off Evan Henry which threw us off a little bit. We were a little sloppy, but they played good team defense and their goalie had some key saves.”

“Our offense got possessions and we can control the ball as well as any team in the state,” Woodworth said. “Falmouth’s definitely a solid team. All the respect in the world to them.”

The Yachtsmen were led offensively by two goals from Hanley. Cooleen, Janelle, Lucas and Sipperly all scored once. Janelle and Tapley had assists, while Bell made eight saves. Sophomore Mike Ryan had a team-high seven ground balls. Bachman finished with six. Reaby-Gerwig won 10 of 17 faceoffs.

“Offensively, it could have been a little better,” LeBel said. “Defensively, you couldn’t ask for a better performance against that offense. I think (senior) Tom Caswell did the best job a defenseman has done on Petrovek, who is probably the best offensive player in the state of Maine this year. He’s not necessarily our best defender, but we thought he was the best defenseman on Petrovek, so we tried it out and he did alright.

“I think the key for us was playing good team defense. They had the ball a lot. We were on defense a lot. I think it was a combination of their pressure defense and we made some mental mistakes and threw the ball away when we didn’t have a ton of pressure on us.

“We went into this game very relaxed with no pressure. We treated it as a summer league game where we would experiment with some things and work different matchups. We learned quite a bit. We weren’t concerned with coming out with a win. It was awesome, a lot of fun. Someone has to lose. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, other than us winning. It was a great experience for the kids. We almost came out on top.”

The streak lives

Yarmouth hasn’t lost at home since May 24, 2002 (15-6 to Cape Elizabeth). Curry chose not to comment on the streak, but the players, especially the seniors, are well aware of the history and significance.

“We know about (the streak) and keep it hush-hush, but we definitely don’t like losing here,” Petrovek said.

The Clippers have one regular season home game remaining in 2010 and likely a pair of playoff games as well. After playing at Freeport Friday and going to Cape Elizabeth May 28, they close the regular season on Senior Night against visiting Greely, June 1.

Believe it or not, but Yarmouth still feels it has room to improve.

“We’re here to play the next game,” Curry said. “Cape will be a big one. I feel like we’re getting close. I feel really good about the players and where we’re going as a team. If we continue to improve, I feel we’ll separate (from the other teams in the league).”

Falmouth is back in action Tuesday, at home versus Wells. The Yachtsmen end the regular season Thursday of next week at home against Fryeburg.

Falmouth is oh so close to becoming the best team in the state.

“I think we have a lot of offensive potential,” LeBel said. “We just haven’t really clicked in the big games. We have to get everybody on the same page offensively. We’re finally starting to get everybody healthy. We need to find an offense that really works for the talent we have.”

Mark your calendar

If Falmouth and Yarmouth meet again this spring it will be June 19 in the Class B state final. While the Clippers appear to be a shoo-in to make it to Fitzpatrick Stadium, the Yachtsmen will have to find a way to beat Cape Elizabeth for a third time in the playoffs.

Falmouth and Yarmouth is the matchup that most want to see.

“We might see them again,” Woodworth said. “If we do, we’ll be ready and so will they.”

“They’ve come a long way the last couple years,” Petrovek said. “It would be fun to see them a third time.”

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

Yarmouth senior Colby Shields controls possession while Falmouth freshman Will Sipperly shadows him. The Clippers had a big edge in possession time and managed to survive.

Falmouth senior Tom Caswell played stellar defense on Yarmouth senior Steven Petrovek during Friday’s game.

Falmouth sophomore Jack Cooleen races upfield with Yarmouth senior Brodie Woodson in hot pursuit early in Friday’s contest.

Yarmouth senior goalie Cam Woodworth watches a shot go wide with Falmouth sophomore Mitch Tapley on the doorstep. Woodworth made six saves to help the Clippers stay perfect.

On a first quarter faceoff, Yarmouth sophomore Josh Britten battles for a loose ball, along with Falmouth sophomores Mike Ryan (4) and Abyn Reaby-Gerwig.

Falmouth sophomore Mike Ryan keeps a close eye on Yarmouth senior Mike Johnson Friday.

Falmouth junior Nick Bachman and Yarmouth senior Colby Shields square off during Friday’s battle between a pair of Class B title contenders.

Falmouth freshman Will Sipperly leaps into the arms of senior Chris Janelle after a Yachtsmen goal Friday. Falmouth grabbed an early 3-0 lead and rallied to tie the game at 6-6 in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t spring the upset, losing 8-6.

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Yarmouth senior standout Steven Petrovek (2) and his teammates celebrate yet another win Friday, 8-6, over visiting Falmouth in a thriller.

More photos below.

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