Yarmouth senior Liam Ireland lines up a first half penalty kick while Freeport senior goalkeeper Gabe Wagner defends. Ireland converted and the Clippers prevailed, 2-0, to advance to the regional final.

YARMOUTH—Yellow cards were more plentiful than goals in Saturday night’s Class B South semifinal between top-ranked Yarmouth and No. 4 Freeport and that was a shame, considering the Clippers and Falcons are two of the state’s most talented teams.

While play stoppages were the biggest takeaway, there were moments of memorable soccer as well and Yarmouth made enough plays to advance to yet another regional final.

For nearly 30 minutes, the teams combined for just one shot on goal and it was clear there was nearly no separation between the rivals, but with 12:49 remaining in the first half, the Clippers got a break, as Freeport was called for a foul in the box and on the ensuing penalty kick, senior Liam Ireland scored for a 1-0 lead.

The Falcons would lose two players to red cards in a frustrating second half and as a result, couldn’t counter and with 7:26 to play, senior Alejandro Coury scored for Yarmouth and that was enough to complete a 2-0 victory.

The Clippers improved to 13-0-3, ended Freeport’s season at 9-4-3 and in the process, advanced to take on No. 2 Greely (10-2-4) in the Class B South Wednesday at 4 p.m., at Waterhouse Field in Biddeford.

“It was a terrific win and I’m really proud of my kids for keeping their composure,” said Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty, who has never lost to the Falcons in his 23 seasons with the Clippers.

Stifling

Yarmouth and Freeport have been on a collision course all season and were nearly even in their regular season meetings.

The Clippers started with a 3-1 home win over York, then blanked host Lake Region (7-0), host Cape Elizabeth in a playoff rematch (1-0), visiting Greely (4-0), host Freeport (1-0) and visiting North Yarmouth Academy, the defending Class D champion (8-0). After a 9-1 home win over Fryeburg Academy, Yarmouth blanked visiting Poland (7-0), host York (3-0) and visiting Cape Elizabeth (3-0). After settling for a 1-1 home tie against Freeport, the Clippers played host Greely to a 1-1 draw, then did the same thing at Gray-New Gloucester, before closing with a 3-0 win at defending Class C champion Waynflete.

Yarmouth had little trouble with No. 8 Gray-New Gloucester in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round, winning, 4-0.

Freeport, meanwhile, started with a 5-0 home win over Gray-New Gloucester, then settled for a 2-2 draw at Greely. After beating visiting Lake Region, 3-0, the Falcons fell at home to Yarmouth (1-0) and at York (1-0). After a 3-2 win at Cape Elizabeth, Freeport handled visiting Wells (6-1), host Traip Academy (2-0) and host Poland (5-1). After a 1-1 home draw versus Greely, the Falcons edged visiting York, 2-1. Freeport tied host Yarmouth, 1-1, then won at Fryeburg Academy, 3-2, before closing with a 4-0 home loss to Cape Elizabeth.

The Falcons got another shot at the Capers in the quarterfinals Wednesday and after letting a 2-0 lead slip away, won, 3-2, on senior Will Winter’s goal in the second overtime.

In the teams’ first meeting Sept. 17 in Freeport, Ireland had the lone goal.

In the rematch Oct. 10 in Yarmouth, senior Thomas Kuhn scored early for the Clippers, then Winter tied it for the Falcons with a penalty kick.

The teams had met six previous times in the playoffs, with Yarmouth holding a 5-1 edge. The most recent encounter came in the 2017 Class B South quarterfinals, a 3-0 Clippers’ victory.

Saturday, on a 44-degree evening, Yarmouth put the clamps on Freeport all over the field, but the most lingering memory will be the frequent play stoppages that marred a contest between two of the state’s most talented squads.

The tone was set four minutes in, when Falcons’ senior Jesse Bennell received a yellow card.

Four minutes later, Falcons’ senior Finn Sheehan got one as well.

Freeport senior goalkeeper Gabe Wagner dazzled from the get-go and in the game’s 10th minute, he denied Clippers’ junior Will Dickinson on the doorstep after Dickinson got to a throw from senior Aidan Hickey and fired a shot.

The Falcons’ first good offensive chance came in the 17th minute, as a long free kick from junior Cam Strong was on target, but was punched away by Yarmouth senior goalie Isaac Owen.

After Dickinson just missed on a header and Coury set up senior John Clinton for a header that went wide, the Clippers stayed on the offensive and broke the ice.

With 12:49 remaining in the half, off a corner kick, Freeport was called for a foul in the box and as a result, Yarmouth earned a penalty kick.

Ireland did the honors and went one-on-one versus Wagner, firing a shot to the goalie’s left that tickled the twine for a 1-0 lead.

“There’s a lot of pressure, but I wanted to take it,” said Ireland. “It was a great opportunity and I knew it was an important kick. We practice PKs a lot at the end of practice when we’re really tired, so we know in a game situation we’ll be ready for it. I just brought it back to practice and I was ready for it.”

“That was big,” Hagerty said. “The kids were asking who I wanted to take it and I said, ‘Whoever wants to take it’ and I looked up and Liam grabbed the ball. He’s been a fabulous leader all season. That turned the game because we knew we wouldn’t get many chances.”

The Clippers had looks to extend their lead before the break, but on a corner, Dickinson set up Ireland, who was robbed by Wagner, and off a cross from Coury, junior Will Nicholas was denied by the talented keeper as well.

“Gabe has been a tremendous asset for our team as a leader and as the best goalie in the conference, if not the state,” said Freeport coach Bob Strong. “He had a great night.”

“Gabe is a fabulous goalie,” Hagerty said. “We won’t see many goalies like him. He made some point-blank saves. He’s always been good in the air. He’s improved in his lateral movement and decision making. He’s a better goalie now than at the start of the season. I was really impressed with him.”

Yarmouth had a 4-0 edge in shots on frame in the first half, but hadn’t been able to build a comfortable lead.

The second goal would eventually come, but much happened in the interim.

Early in the second half, Coury sent a left-footed shot just high, an Ireland free kick was cleared by Falcons’ senior back Aidan Gallagher, a Hickey throw led to a Clinton shot that Wagner saved and an Ireland free kick was punched out by Wagner with a follow-up bid from senior Jason Lainey sailing wide.

Freeport tried to draw even with 23:50 left, but a promising shot from freshman Alex Graver was tipped over the crossbar by Owen and the ensuing corner kick was cleared by Yarmouth’s defense.

With 19:22 to play, Winter received a yellow card and Cam Strong got a yellow, then a second yellow, which resulted in a red card and an ejection.

The Clippers tried to take advantage, but junior Cam Merrill directed the ball just wide with Wagner out of the cage and a shot in the box by Lainey was denied.

Winter got an opportunity to take a free kick from 25 yards out with 13:20 to play, but he sent it wide and moments later, he got his second yellow card and was forced out of the game as well.

With 7:26 left in the contest, Yarmouth iced its victory, as Lainey got the ball ahead to Coury in the box and Coury, after a nice move on a defender, fired a low shot past Wagner.

“I got a great ball and I faked out a defender,” Coury said. “I didn’t have a great angle, so I cut back, then shot across the goalie. That really cemented the game.”

“That second goal was big, so we could breathe,” Hagerty said. “You’re always one long ball or one slip away from a tie game.”

Freeport couldn’t answer and the Clippers closed out their 2-0 victory.

“I think we knew what we had to do,” Ireland said. “We had to keep our heads the entire game and I think we did that.”

“Give Freeport credit,” Hagerty said. “They’re better than a typical four seed. They worked really hard. Jesse Bennell, Will Winter, (junior) Ethan Prescott, they’re as good as we have in our conference and they’re tough to play against.”

Yarmouth had a 7-1 edge in shots on frame, got one save from Owen and took six corner kicks to Freeport’s two.

The Clippers’ ability to complete fluster Freeport’s attack was a big part of the victory.

“I think we really put an emphasis on putting ball pressure on their backs, so they couldn’t find an open through-ball to their forwards,” Coury said. “We were able to do that and that allowed our backs to drop quicker.”

“I’m really, really impressed with our defense and our commitment to trying to read the game early and prevent stuff from happening,” Hagerty said. “The kids in the back read the game well and our three star offensive players, Alejandro and Liam and John Clinton, who don’t get enough credit defensively, did such a good job pressing the ball it made the game easy for our defense to read. As well as our back line played, it was all 11 guys doing their jobs and making the game predictable for each other.”

The Falcons got five saves from Wagner in his swan song, but all in all, it was a disappointing evening.

“It was a very frustrating night,” Bob Strong said. “We came into this game knowing the one thing we could control was our effort. The guys left it all on the field tonight and for that, I’m appreciative. The guys can walk off the field with their heads held high. The guys came a long way in a few months and I couldn’t be more proud.”

On to Greely

Yarmouth will take part in its 10th regional final in 12 seasons Wednesday.

The Clippers handled visiting Greely in the teams’ first meeting, 4-0, Sept. 14, then the teams settled for a 1-1 draw Oct. 12 in Cumberland.

Yarmouth and Greely have split six previous playoff meetings, with the Clippers’ 3-2 overtime win in the 2016 Class B South semifinals the most recent.

This one figures to be too close to call.

“Everyone was disappointed about last year (losing to Cape Elizabeth in the semifinals), so it’s good to be back and we’re going for that championship,” Coury said.

“We know it’s all on the line,” Ireland said. “We have a big senior class, a special senior class. We’ve worked hard and played together for a long time, so we’ll leave it all on the field to play harder and smarter than them and I think that’s what it’s going to take to beat them.”

“It’s nice to get back to the regional final,” Hagerty added. “This group deserved it. It’s a rightful regional final. Thankfully, we’ll be on turf. I’m impressed how Greely has developed. Aidan Melville’s a handful. Chris Theodores is fabulous. Silas Cunningham doesn’t get enough credit. (Greely coach) Mike Andreasen gets my vote for Coach of the Year.

“The good news is that the Greely kids and the Yarmouth kids are good friends and good competitors. Mike and I are good friends and that will be a really well-played, hard-fought, terrific game.

But it won’t be easy.”

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

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