FALMOUTH—The margin of error is so thin in Class A South boys’ soccer this fall that one well-placed ball, or one near-miss can make all the difference.

That was on display Tuesday evening in another showdown of top teams, as Falmouth hosted Portland in a hard-hitting regular season finale.

After having a goal waved off in the first minute, the Bulldogs went on top in the 34th, as senior Alex Millones scored on a well-placed free kick.

From there, Falmouth couldn’t convert some great chances and Portland’s defense and junior goalkeeper Henry Flynn slammed the door as the Bulldogs prevailed, 1-0.

Portland ended the regular season with a 10-3-1 record, moved up the Heal Points standings and in the process, handed the Yachtsmen their second loss in three games, dropping them to 11-2-1.

“It’s a huge win,” Millones said. “The last game of the season is always important and they were carrying a lot of Heal Points that we were able to take away tonight.”

Parity

Class A South boys’ soccer is deeper than ever before and both Falmouth and Portland entertain realistic title hopes this fall.

The Yachtsmen opened with wins at Sanford (1-0), at home over Massabesic (6-0) and at home over defending regional champion Gorham (2-1) before erasing a two-goal deficit and settling for a 2-2 draw at home versus Kennebunk. Falmouth’s winning ways then returned at Deering (3-0), at home versus Bonny Eagle (4-0), at Cheverus (2-1), at home over Windham (6-0), at Biddeford (8-0), at Thornton Academy (1-0) and at home over Scarborough (3-2). Last Friday, the Yachtsmen fell from the unbeaten ranks with a 1-0, double-overtime loss at South Portland, but Saturday, they bounced back and downed visiting Westbrook (3-1).

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, started with a 2-1 loss at Gorham in a regional final rematch, then blanked host Cheverus (3-0), beat visiting Windham (3-1), host Biddeford (7-1), visiting Thornton Academy (4-0) and host Westbrook (1-0). After a rough patch which saw losses to visiting Scarborough (2-1) and host South Portland (4-2), Portland blanked visiting Sanford (5-0), beat visiting Massabesic (7-1) and downed host Noble (6-1), to give longtime coach Rocco Frenzilli his 250th victory with the program. After a 5-0 home win over Kennebunk, the Bulldogs settled for a 1-1 home tie against Marshwood Friday.

Last year, the teams played to a scoreless draw in Portland. That was just the teams’ second all-time regular season meeting (Falmouth prevailed, 1-0, at home in 2017) and the Bulldogs have won two of three playoff encounters since 2013.

Tuesday, on Falmouth’s Senior Night, a windy and chilly, but dry 54-degree evening, Portland closed on a high note.

Just 37 seconds in, junior Anselmo Tela raced in down the right side and crossed the ball in front to sophomore Allen Bemdibe, who finished, but he was ruled off-sides and the goal was waved off.

The Yachtsmen’s first good chance came in the fifth minute, but junior Sam Gearan was denied by Flynn.

In the 13th minute, junior Gus Ford, who has come up big so often for Falmouth this fall, took a pass from Gearan and got behind the defense, but missed high with his shot.

After Flynn dove to rob Gearan and a Ford header found the football crossbar, the Bulldogs got the jump.

With 6:40 to play before halftime, after a Yachtsmen foul, Millones lined up a free kick from 25-yards out and he struck it perfectly, launching it past Falmouth senior goalkeeper Jackson Quinn and into the upper left corner of the goal for a 1-0 lead.

“I just wanted to take my time and stay composed,” Millones said. “I’ve been the set piece taker since freshman year. There are a lot of things running through my head. I aim for one spot. I’m not just kicking it as hard as I can. I had to see where the goalie was and place it. I know when I get a good strike on it.”

“Alex has taken a lot of those this year, but he saved his best for last,” said Frenzilli. “That was the one. A good strike.”

“That was a great ball,” Falmouth coach Dave Halligan said. “Millones is a quality player.”

Late in the half, Gearan missed wide in close and a long free kick from senior Noah Piers was denied by a sprawling Flynn.

The Yachtsmen had a 4-2 edge in shots on frame in the first half, but Flynn kept Portland in front.

The second half would see physical play and more Falmouth chances, but nothing changed.

After Bemdibe broke up a Ford rush, Ford missed wide, but ran down the loose ball and shot again before Flynn got back to make the save.

In the 59th minute, a Yachtsmen attacker was fouled in the box with no call made and seconds later, at midfield, Bulldogs’ junior Gabriel Panzo was injured in a collision. He’d be down for 10 minutes before play was resumed.

After Portland cleared a Falmouth corner kick, Bulldogs’ junior back Max Cheever blocked successive shots by Ford and junior Rion Dos Santos.

With 4:28 to play, Yachtsmen senior Josh LeFevre took a free kick from the side and the ball bounced right to Ford in front, but his bid was denied points blank by Flynn.

Falmouth got one final chance with 1:29 left, as Ford crossed the ball to Gearan, but Flynn made the save and Portland held on for the 1-0 victory.

“It’s a really competitive league this year,” Millones said. “A lot of good teams. Falmouth is always a tough game. You know when you come here, it’s going to be hard. You have to have a lot of strength when you defend a lead against a good team. I’m proud of how the guys played as a unit and Henry was big for us.”

“This game was circled on our calendar,” said Frenzilli. “We just came out here expecting what we got and I’m really proud of how the kids hung in there. Falmouth’s a very good team. We knew there would be no quit in them. We were on our heels at the end of the game, but we bent but didn’t break. We were fortunate to withstand it and Henry was fantastic.

“I’m incredibly happy with our season. The losses we had were against very good teams.”

Final shots on frame were even, 7-7. Flynn made seven saves.

Falmouth had a 2-1 edge in corner kicks and got six saves from Quinn, but fell just short.

“We had our best games at the end of the season against the best opponents and that will get us ready,” said Halligan. “It was hard-fought and physical and that’s how tournament games will be played. I’d rather lose now than lose the next one. We put pressure on. We didn’t get many chances and when we get them, we have to finish them. We had a number of open looks and either shot wide or over the top and their keeper made some great saves. Give him credit.”

Let the fun begin

Falmouth expects to be the No. 2 seed for the upcoming Class A South playoffs and will host a quarterfinal round playoff game next week. Kennebunk or Deering are possible foes.

“We’ll see if we can avoid the high highs and low lows,” Halligan said. “No one will care about this game in a week. We need some practice time. We’ve had four games in seven days. Were much better when we have time to train.”

Portland will likely be the No. 4 seed in Class A South and if so, will earn a bye into the quarterfinals next week. A showdown with South Portland might loom.

“I’m happy with our season,” said Millones. “We had new players at the start of the season and they had to adapt. We just have to keep improving. We’ve been building since the beginning and we’re not going to stop in the playoffs.”

“I feel really good,” said Frenzilli. “We’re playing good soccer now. The only thing that gets in our way sometimes is ourselves. If we play like we’re capable, we’ll be competitive with anybody and that’s what the tournament is all about.”

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

Comments are not available on this story.