Yarmouth senior Michael Guertler and Cape Elizabeth senior Phil Tarling battle for the ball during the Clippers’ 1-0 victory Saturday afternoon.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

CAPE ELIZABETH—Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ soccer team has shown it can go toe-to-toe with Yarmouth, but when it comes to beating the four-time defending Class B state champion Clippers, the Capers aren’t quite there.


Saturday afternoon at Hannaford Field, Cape Elizabeth had its opportunities, but didn’t have the requisite good fortune necessary as the Clippers slipped out of town with a hard-fought victory, as they extended their unbeaten streak in the process.

A taut first half saw Capers senior Phil Tarling hit the post and Yarmouth fail to convert some chances as well as the teams went to the break scoreless.

The Clippers then scored the game’s lone goal with 30:36 on the clock, as a gorgeous passing sequence saw sophomore Cam Merrill finish.

Yarmouth’s defense and junior goalkeeper Spencer King, making his first varsity start, then did just enough, with a little good luck mixed in, to hold on.

With 11 minutes left, Cape Elizabeth senior standout John O’Connor hit the post with a shot, then had a golden opportunity to bury the rebound, but that bid hit the crossbar and the Clippers managed to run out the clock from there to prevail, 1-0.

Yarmouth improved to 9-0-1 on the season, made it 40 straight games without a loss, beat the Capers for the 12th consecutive time and dropped Cape Elizabeth to 4-2-3 in the process.

“Our goal this year is to have more fun,” said longtime Clippers coach Mike Hagerty. “The guys have done a good job realizing they should play their best. They’re very loose for a young, inexperienced team.”

Too close for comfort

The last five times the Capers and Clippers squared off, Yarmouth won by a goal, including 2-1 decisions in the last three encounters. On Sept. 4, the host Clippers fell behind, 1-0, when O’Connor scored just before the half, but in the second half, senior Eric LaBrie scored twice to allow Yarmouth to prevail.

That was part of the Clippers’ unbeaten start. Yarmouth preceded its win over Cape Elizabeth with a 4-1 victory at York and followed it with a 4-1 victory at Greely. After visiting Freeport played the Clippers to a 1-1 draw, ending Yarmouth’s 26-game win streak, Yarmouth bounced back to defeat host Wells (5-2) and Fryeburg Academy (7-0), visiting Lake Region (8-1), host Poland (6-0) and visiting York (3-1).

Cape Elizabeth started with a scoreless home draw against Greely, then lost at Yarmouth. After a scoreless home tie versus York, the Capers got in the win column, 4-0, at Fryeburg Academy. After downing visiting Wells, 6-1, Cape Elizabeth blanked host Gray-New Gloucester, 2-0, did the same to visiting Freeport and last Thursday, rallied to tie visiting Waynflete, 1-1.

Entering play Saturday, Yarmouth had beaten Cape Elizabeth in 11 straight meetings and was 15-0-1 against the Capers in the teams’ past 16 meetings (see sidebar below).

Cape Elizabeth sought its first win over the Clippers since Sept. 2, 2011 (2-1 in Yarmouth) and its first on its home turf over the Clippers since Oct. 4, 2008 (3-1), but Yarmouth spoiled the party again.

Each team would be frustrated in the first half.

The Capers had the first look, as off a deflection on a corner kick, the ball came to senior Nick Aceto, but he shot high in the third minute.

Cape Elizabeth earned another corner kick, but the Clippers cleared the ball from the box.

In the sixth minute, O’Connor took his first free kick, but again Yarmouth knocked the ball from harm’s way.

In the ninth minute, LaBrie got a chance, taking a pass from sophomore Evan Van Lonkhuyzen before breaking in on Capers senior goalkeeper Harry Baker, but LaBrie couldn’t get much on a shot with his left foot and Baker sprawled and made the save.

After LaBrie missed wide on another chance, the hosts earned another corner kick, which resulted in an O’Connor shot which was blocked.

In the 15th minute, Clippers junior Jason Lainey fired a low shot which Baker saved.

In the 19th minute, senior Jack Romano had a shot saved by Baker.

In the 21st minute, Cape Elizabeth junior Charlie Dall took a free kick from just inside the midfield mark and it was promising, but King watched it sail just over the crossbar.

After junior Liam Ireland missed wide for Yarmouth, sophomore Ian LaBrie was off target.

With 8:18 on the first half clock, the Clippers earned an indirect kick just outside the box and Lainey served it in front where junior Aidan Hickey got his head on the ball, but he sent it just over the bar.

With 2:45 remaining, Eric LaBrie got another look and again couldn’t make solid contact as Baker made the save.

With 1:32 to go, at the other end, Yarmouth couldn’t clear the ball and Tarling almost made the Clippers pay, but his blast hit the near post to keep the game scoreless heading to the break.

In the first half, Yarmouth had a 4-0 edge in shots on frame, but Baker saved them all and the Clippers just missed on a few other opportunities.

“We had some chances and I thought for sure we’d score,” Hagerty said. “Aidan had the header that he usually buries. Eric had some chances.” 

Yarmouth then took the lead early in the second half.

After senior Michael Guertler had a shot saved by Baker, senior Jack Jones shot high, Ian LaBrie had a shot blocked and Eric LaBrie had a shot saved, Yarmouth earned a free kick in the 50th minute and with 30:36 to go, after Van Lonkhuyzen passed the ball to Ireland, he got it back, then set up Merrill, who finished for a 1-0 lead.

“We stuck with our training,” Merrill said. “Hagerty works us like mules in practice. We’ve worked on that through-ball and we got the finish. The ball got passed to Evan and Evan put a perfect cross to me and I tucked it in.”

“We always want to play a quick restart because we have kids who are so technical,” said Van Lonkhuyzen. “We want to get the ball to their feet, if possible. I saw an opportunity to play it short and I got the ball back and (Cam) got a great goal.”

“That was nice,” Hagerty added. “I thought it was fabulous. We stressed in Thursday and Friday’s practice to move the ball. We’re not very big. (Junior) John Clinton and Liam Ireland each weigh about 120 pounds, so we can’t get physical and we have to move the ball. When we put passing strings together like we did to score that goal, we’re a very hard team to beat.”

“We did some things very well and it came down to one play in the middle of the game where we switched off for a half-second and they had a well-designed free kick and it was a beautiful goal they scored,” lamented Cape Elizabeth coach Ben Raymond. “We fell asleep in that situation. We had a lapse. It’s a lot to expect 80 minutes without a second of lack of focus, but they took advantage.”

The Capers then tried to answer, but junior Killian Lathrop missed wide, sophomore Gavin Simopoulos missed high, Yarmouth junior back John D’Appolonia broke up a rush by Tarling and King broke up a rush by sophomore Archie McEvoy in the box.

The Clippers then went for the kill, but Jones had a one-timer saved by Baker, Eric LaBrie’s shot was blocked and Ian LaBrie missed just high.

With 11 minutes left, O’Connor did everything but tie the score.

First O’Connor got the ball in the middle of the field, got a sliver of space and fired a low blast toward the near post. King dove to no avail, but the shot hit the post.

The ball came right back to O’Connor who shot again, but this time, he hit the crossbar.

“We were very fortunate, but a good goalie knows the frame is his friend,” Hagerty said. “O’Connor is so good he hit the frame twice. How did the ball come back to him?” 

With 8:09 left, sophomore Nick Clifford served the ball to Aceto in the box, but King got there first.

With 4:30 on the clock, O’Connor took a free kick from the side, but it was headed out of harm’s way by Ireland.

With 1:43 remaining, Cape Elizabeth had its last chance, but junior Jack Dresser sent the ball wide.

Yarmouth ran out the clock from there and celebrated a hard-earned 1-0 victory.

“Even in the 1-0 games, we act like it’s 0-0 and push really hard,” Merrill said.

“We stayed with the game plan and what we can control and stayed calm,” Van Lonkhuyzen said. “The really close games make us better. When we don’t get pushed, we don’t have reason to get better. In the first half, (O’Connor) got opportunities, but we put them down. (Sophomore) Will Dickinson did a good job man-marking him in the second half.”

“Evan had a great game and Aidan and D’App did well,” Hagerty added. “(Senior) Michael (Guertler). (Freshman) Steven Fulton did a good job in the first half, then we moved him to the midfield. I was really impressed with our back four and Spencer did a good job in his first varsity start. His composure showed. He did what he supposed to.”

Yarmouth out-shot Cape Elizabeth, 6-2, on frame. King saved both shots he faced.


The Capers, meanwhile, got five saves from Baker and had a 4-1 edge in corner kicks, but fortune didn’t smile on them when they needed it most.

“We’re two pretty even teams,” Raymond said. “We’re trying to create opportunities and as long as we do, we’ll have chances to win every single game. I thought the first half was even. I thought they played better at the start of the second half, but I thought we played better at the end of the second half.

“Each game is a new game no matter what. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been beaten or if you won, it has it’s own challenges. I hope we think about the moment and that each game is another opportunity. It’s a regular season game. It stinks to lose, but we’ll play another game.” 

Act III?

Speaking of which, Cape Elizabeth would love to see Yarmouth again in the playoffs, but that’s no sure thing.

The Capers (currently ranked third in the Class B South Heal Points standings) go to Lake Region Tuesday and visit York Thursday. After playing a makeup game at Greely Monday, Oct. 8, Cape Elizabeth visits Freeport Oct. 12 and closes at Poland Oct. 15.

“We’re trying to get better and this performance was better than our last performance against them and if all goes well, maybe we’ll see them again,” Raymond said. “We’d be excited to play them.”

Yarmouth (first in Class B South) has some big tests remaining as well, as Greely pays a visit Tuesday, the Clippers have to go to Freeport Friday, then after welcoming Gray-New Gloucester Oct. 9, Yarmouth finishes at home versus Class C South power Waynflete two nights later.

“We have to keep playing hard and keep our composure,” Merrill said. “We have to do it our way. The streak just adds to the fun and if we lose, we know it’s not the end of the world.”

“Freeport still only has one loss, but they have two ties, so that game Friday is big,” Hagerty said. “If we win or tie again, I don’t think anyone can catch us. I’d love for Cape and Freeport to go 2-3 and only have to play one of them (in the playoffs). Cape’s overdue (to beat us). Freeport too. They haven’t beaten us since I’ve been coaching here. 

“We still have to get better taking balls out of the air and passing out of the back and we will. We haven’t gotten a goal yet on a corner kick and that’s rare. Our set pieces haven’t been great and we have to tighten that up for the playoffs since those can win games.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Yarmouth junior goalkeeper Spencer King keeps his eye on the ball.

Yarmouth junior Liam Ireland and Cape Elizabeth senior Phil Tarling fight for possession.

Yarmouth junior Aidan Hickey has the ball glance off his hand as he defends Cape Elizabeth senior John O’Connor.

Yarmouth junior John D’Appolonia handles the ball.

Yarmouth senior Jack Jones and Cape Elizabeth senior John O’Connor meet in the air.

Cape Elizabeth sophomore Nick Clifford does whatever it takes to slow Yarmouth freshman Steven Fulton.

Cape Elizabeth senior John O’Connor heads the ball away from Yarmouth sophomore Will Dickinson.

Cape Elizabeth sophomore Nick Clifford fakes out Yarmouth senior Jack Romano.

Cape Elizabeth senior Calvin Stoughton gets past Yarmouth sophomore Evan Van Lonkhuysen.

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