FALMOUTH—The rivalry isn’t as fierce and all-encompassing as it once was, but when Falmouth and Yarmouth’s boys’ soccer teams take to the pitch, it’s still a can’t-miss affair.

Especially since no one who played in Saturday evening’s contest had ever faced the other team in a countable game.

Falmouth, the defending Class A state champion, needed just over four minutes to break through, as senior Gus Ford passed to senior Sam Gearan, who set up junior Mason Farr for a quick lead.

And surprisingly, that was it for offense.

Yarmouth, the reigning Class B champion, did have its chances, including a couple golden ones in the second half, but thanks in part to a heads-up play from Yachtsmen senior back Cole Fairfield, the Clippers could never get on the board and Falmouth held on for a 1-0 victory.

The Yachtsmen improved to 2-0 on the young season, dropped Yarmouth to 1-1 and earned a measure of bragging rights in the teams’ first countable encounter in four years.

“It was a good battle,” said longtime Falmouth coach Dave Halligan, who earned his 398th victory as the coach of his alma mater. “We got a break, maybe next time they do. I’d rather have games like this than games that aren’t close. We have a lot of respect for them and they have a lot of respect for us and they’re always hard-fought games when we play.”

A silver lining

No matter how you slice it, 2020 has been a difficult year, especially for high school athletes, who lost their spring sports season to COVID-19 and had to wait to begin an abbreviated, postseason-less fall season as the virus lingers.

In response, soccer this year is encouraging teams to play schools in close geographic proximity, regardless of conference affiliation, and as a result, some teams are playing each other for the first time ever, while other longtime rivals, who went their separate ways in regards to conference affiliation, can square off once again in countable games.

Falmouth and Yarmouth are in the latter camp and if you’ve paid attention to boys’ soccer over the past two decades, you’ll know that their rivalry needs no introduction.

Entering play Saturday night, since the start of the 2001 season through the 2016 campaign when they met for the last time before Falmouth joined the Southwestern Maine Activities Association, the Yachtsmen boasted 18 wins, Yarmouth had 13 and six other meetings ended in ties (see below).

Five of those encounters came in Western B Finals (Falmouth won three of them) and three others came in the semifinals (with the Yachtsmen winning all of those as well).

Through it all, some of the finest players in the state, many of whom went on to play in college, strutted their stuff on the big stage, in front of big crowds, while Halligan and Yarmouth’s Mike Hagerty, two of the finest coaches to ever stalk the soccer sidelines, matched wits.

It was drama and theater without peer.

And now, thankfully for the high school soccer world, for one year at least, the rivalry is back.

Falmouth, which went 15-2-1, shocking Lewiston, 5-2, to win the 2019 Class A state title, started its season Tuesday with an impressive 4-2 win at Portland.

Yarmouth, which posted a 15-0-3 mark a year ago, beating Caribou, 3-1, to win the Class B championship, started with a 7-0 victory over Mt. Ararat.

Saturday, on a chilly 55-degrees-and-plunging evening, which would produce rain showers by game’s end, the Yachtsmen started fast and that was enough to produce victory.

With 35:42 remaining in the first half, Falmouth, as it does better than anyone, turned a turnover into a quick strike goal the other way.

Ford got it started when he won the ball on the Yachtsmen’s side of midfield. Ford passed ahead to Gearan and with Farr racing full speed ahead of the defense, Gearan found him with a perfect pass. Clippers junior goalkeeper Cole Snyder came out of the goal, but didn’t get to Farr in time and Farr one-touched the ball past the keeper and just inside the right post for a 1-0 Falmouth lead.

“That first goal was really important,” Farr said. “I saw Gus have the ball and that Sam was going to get it because our philosophy is in-and-out, in-and-out. Sam got the ball and I made the run and his pass was perfect.”

“Every time you come here, you know that if you make a mistake (Falmouth will) make you pay,” said Hagerty. “They counter as well as anyone. We turned it over and they made us pay.”

The Yachtsmen had opportunities to double their lead, but on a corner kick, senior Rion Dos Santos’ serve came to Gearan, who shot high from right in front, Dos Santos missed twice and Charlie Adams had a shot saved by Snyder.

“(That first goal’s) what we practice, but we didn’t do it enough,” Halligan said. “Sometimes when you score a quick goal, you forget what you’re doing and revert to old ways. We actually had three or four good chances in the first half, then we started to press a bit, then sat back a bit.”

Yarmouth had its chances in the first half too, but senior Ian LaBrie shot high, senior Baden McLaughlin had a header saved by Falmouth senior goalkeeper Tanner Daniels, McLaughlin missed high, a rush by senior Cam Merrill was broken up by Fairfield and senior Will Cox’s header sailed just wide.

Each team had two shots on frame and took one corner kick in the first half, but the Yachtsmen had the lead.

Falmouth would cling to that lead throughout the second half, but closing out the Clippers wasn’t easy.

Just 46 seconds into the second half, junior Sawyer Flowerdew got an angle and ripped a low shot, but Daniels made the save.

With 32 minutes to go, senior Will Hunter set up Merrill for a great look, but he was robbed by a sprawling Daniels and the rebound was cleared.

With 24:02 on the clock, Hunter had a shot saved by Daniels.

The Yachtsmen nearly got that elusive second goal midway through the second half, but after Adams got behind the defense, his bid was saved by diving junior goalkeeper Zhi Cowles, who had entered the game at halftime.

Yarmouth then appeared to get the break it was waiting for with 13:52 left as the ball was played up the field and a defender whiffed on it, allowing Merrill to have a clean break on goal.

But Merrill didn’t account for Fairfield, who raced back and got to Merrill just in time to prevent him from getting enough on the shot and the play was broken up.

“I was thinking I wasn’t going to let him score,” Fairfield said. “No way I was going to let him score.”

“(Cole’s) a great player,” Halligan said. “He’s a big, strong center-back. He’ll be a great NESCAC player. He’s sort of a silent giant. He does it all on the field.”

Yarmouth had a couple more chances to force overtime, but a cross from senior Evan Van Lonkhuyzen was snared by a leaping Daniels and a corner kick didn’t result in a shot.

Falmouth ran out the clock from there and prevailed, 1-0.

“There’s a lot of history between us,” Fairfield said. “It used to be a big rivalry and it was fun to play them again. It’s tough to hold them off. We played really good team defense. Getting back was really important.”

“You learn a lot from these games,” Halligan said. “You can get away with things in some games, but not this game.”

The Yachtsmen took four corner kicks to the Clippers’ three and got five saves from Daniels.

Yarmouth had a 5-4 edge in shots on frame and got two saves from Cowles and one from Snyder, but couldn’t put the ball in the net.

“They took advantage of their chance and we didn’t,” Hagerty said. “Good for them. I’d like to think the second half was pretty even. We might have had even more chances, including a couple really good chances. I liked how we responded. We learn more from this game than playing a 5-0 game. We haven’t had to play that fast against any team in awhile. We adjusted pretty well. The kids who went in did a good job. Our backs, Evan and (senior) Will (Dickinson) played fabulously. Baden had one of the best games we’ve gotten out of him ever as a midfielder. Falmouth’s a really good team. Losing 1-0 to them is nothing to be ashamed of and we played them straight up.”

Let’s meet again

The teams play once more Oct. 20 in Yarmouth.

In the meantime, the Clippers hope to bounce back Wednesday at Cape Elizabeth. Saturday brings a visit from Greely.

“This is a young team relative to experience,” said Hagerty. “I’m not sure there’s a better team than Falmouth in the state and to play them straight-up with a lot of first-year varsity players, I can’t wait until next game. We’re thankful to play. We respect the heck out of Falmouth and can’t wait to play them again.”

Falmouth, meanwhile, faces a pair of old rivals next week, going to Greely Tuesday, then hosting Cape Elizabeth Saturday. The Yachtsmen haven’t played the Capers or Rangers in a countable game since 2016 either.

“Even though there’s not a state championship (this year), we want to win as many games as we can,” Farr said.

“These kids have played Yarmouth, Portland, Lewiston, Gorham, Scarborough and Kennebunk going back to last year and you get better by playing better teams,” Halligan said. “Hopefully this will pay off in the long run. We’re playing for pride and it’s nice to win too.”

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

2016
Falmouth 5 @ Yarmouth 3
@ Falmouth 5 Yarmouth 0

2015
@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0
Yarmouth 2 @ Falmouth 0

2014
Falmouth 5 @ Yarmouth 2
Yarmouth 3 @ Falmouth 0

2013
@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0
Yarmouth 6 @ Falmouth 1

2012
@ Yarmouth 2 Falmouth 2 (tie)
Yarmouth 2 @ Falmouth 1 (2 OT)
Falmouth 2 @ Yarmouth 0 (Western B Final)

2011
@ Yarmouth 2 Falmouth 1
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 0

2010
@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0
Yarmouth 2 @ Falmouth 1
@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 0 (OT) (Western Class B Final)

2009
@ Yarmouth 1 Falmouth 1 (tie) 
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 1 (tie)
@ Falmouth 3 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B Final)

2008
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 1 (OT)
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0
Yarmouth 2 @ Falmouth 1 (Western Class B Final)

2007
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0
Yarmouth 1 @ Falmouth 0
@ Falmouth 1 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B semifinals)

2006
@ Falmouth 0 Yarmouth 0 (tie)
Falmouth 3 @ Yarmouth 1
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B semifinals)

2005
Yarmouth 2 @ Falmouth 0
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0

2004
@ Falmouth 0 Yarmouth 0 (tie)

2003
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0

2002
@ Falmouth 4 Yarmouth 0
Falmouth 1 @ Yarmouth 0
@ Falmouth 2 Yarmouth 0 (Western Class B semifinals)

2001
@ Yarmouth 2 Falmouth 2 (tie)
@ Falmouth 4 Yarmouth 0

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