FREEPORT—Yarmouth’s boys’ soccer team took Freeport’s best shot Thursday evening at the Joan Benoit Samuelson Track and Field, but once again, the Clippers rose to the challenge.

In the teams’ first encounter since a contentious regional semifinal round playoff game a year ago, Yarmouth found itself on the defensive much of the evening, but never let the Falcons break through.

In the 23rd minute, the Clippers turned defense to instantaneous offense, as junior Reed Bouton made a long run, then set up senior Gabe Collins for a 1-0 lead.

From there, Yarmouth turned to junior goalkeeper Zhi Cowles and its smothering defense, led by senior captain Evan Van Lonkhuyzen, to slam the door and the Clippers did just that, stopping nine Freeport corner kicks, including one in the waning seconds, to close it out.

Yarmouth won its third game in a row, improved to 4-1 on the season and in the process, stayed perfect against the Falcons this century, dropping Freeport to 1-2.

“Fans or not, Freeport games are always interesting,” said longtime Clippers coach Mike Hagerty, who has never lost to the Falcons in his 24 years with Yarmouth. “We get their best effort every time. They worked really hard and they had a lot of chances on set pieces. They played direct and we got turned around too often. They played hard. Give them credit.”

Chasing the Clippers

While Yarmouth has won five of the past six Class B state titles, the one team to interrupt the Clippers’ reign was Freeport, in 2018, as Cape Elizabeth upset Yarmouth in the semifinals, then the Falcons edged the Capers in a memorable regional final.

Freeport hasn’t been able to beat Yarmouth this century, however (see below, for recent results), although the games have been very close since Bob Strong took over the Falcons’ program two years ago.

In 2018, Freeport played Yarmouth to a 1-1 tie in Yarmouth, ending the Clippers’ 26-game win streak, then Yarmouth edged the Falcons in Freeport, 2-1.

Last fall, Yarmouth won the first meeting, 1-0, at the Falcons, behind a goal from Liam Ireland, then the teams again played to a 1-1 draw in Yarmouth. They played again in the Class B South semifinals, which saw the Clippers prevail, 2-0, behind a penalty kick goal from Ireland and a late tally from Alejandro Coury.

This season, Yarmouth has largely continued its winning ways, opening with a 7-0 win over Mt. Ararat, then following a 1-0 setback at Falmouth, downing host Cape Elizabeth and visiting Greely by 4-0 margins.

Freeport, which has a lot of new faces this fall, started with a 6-2 home loss to Brunswick, then defeated visiting Mt. Ararat (4-1).

Thursday, on a windy evening that got progressively colder from the 59 degree reading at the start, the Falcons gave the Clippers a much tougher game than expected, but Yarmouth dug deep into its reservoir of championship heart to hold on.

Freeport put the first shot on frame in the ninth minute, but a header from junior Owen Howarth was snared by Cowles.

Junior Alek Gideon then took a shot from the side that Cowles also saved.

The Falcons earned a corner kick in the 23rd minute and it led to a goal, just not the way anyone imagined.

The ball was served in and easily cleared by Yarmouth senior Cam Merrill, who passed to Bouton, who raced up the left sideline, covering half the field, before turning and crossing to a racing Collins, who, with a defender draped all over him, one-touched the ball with his left foot past Freeport junior goalkeeper Colin Cronin for a 1-0 lead.

“I saw an opening and I kept running,” Collins said. “I knew (Reed) would cross it, so I cut in front of the defender and I tapped it in. I was just trying to get a foot on it and I made some nice contact. It’s great to get a goal.”

“We got a nice goal,” Hagerty said. “It was a great breakout. Reed had a nice ball. Good for Gabe for getting that one. They just got in the game. We need them to contribute like that off the bench. We like to go 15-, 16-deep whenever we can. They made the most of their minutes. I’m proud of them both.”

Late in the half, Van Lonkhuysen twice came up huge on defense, first heading away a Freeport corner kick, then breaking up a rush from sophomore Bobby Strong at the last moment to keep the Clippers on top at the break.

“Defense is a team effort,” said Van Lonkhysen. “We defend with every player on the field. We all take pride in that. It says a lot when someone like (senior) Will Cox, whose played forward most of high school, can come on to the defense and do a great job.”

The second half proved to be more of the same.

With 24:36 to play, off a Freeport corner kick, the ball deflected to Cowles, who made the save.

Yarmouth almost got some breathing room seven minutes later, but Merrill’s shot hit the near post.

Junior Aiden Kamm also had a shot saved by Cronin, while senior Will Hunter barely missed the mark with a shot.

The Falcons then battled hard for the equalizer the rest of the game.

After Van Lonkhuysen headed away a corner, sophomore Alex Gravier got behind the defense, but couldn’t quite reach a long serve.

With 7:49 to go, Gravier ripped a left-footed blast that Cowles tipped out for a corner kick, which was cleared.

After Gravier missed wide, Clippers senior Ian LaBrie was injured along the sideline and play stopped with 3:18 left.

Freeport earned one final corner kick with time winding down and came oh-so-close to pulling even, but Cowles twice punched the ball away and Yarmouth held on for the 1-0 victory.

“Corner kicks and dead balls are something we work on in practice a lot,” Van Lonkhuysen said. “We’re able to deal with them pretty easily because we know what to expect and I think we just trust our players to win the ball. The fans bring a different environment, but even without them, (Freeport’s) still our fiercest rival. It was really intense and we wanted to win.”

“We tell the kids that weird stuff happens on corners and you have to fight through it,” Hagerty said. “(Conceding) one goal in five games isn’t too bad after graduating most of our defense and our goalies. Evan’s so calm. It starts with him. Will Cox and Will Dickinson, two seniors we thought would play midfield-forward type positions for us, have gone back to defense to help out as well. That’s a big sacrifice for seniors, but they want to play wherever they’re asked.”

Each team put six shots on frame. Cowles made six saves for the Clippers.

“Zhi did a nice job catching those corner kicks in traffic,” said Hagerty.

Freeport got five saves from Cronin and took nine corner kicks to Yarmouth’s two, but fell just short.

“I was really proud of our effort,” Strong said. “I thought we played well enough to win tonight. It was frustrating, but the important thing is we’re earning the corners. They’ll come. Yarmouth was aggressive to get clearances. The last one, I thought we had a chance to knock it in. It’s just unfortunate (Yarmouth) had the one breakaway, but overall, I thought our defense was solid from front to back.”

Big games to come

Freeport is scheduled to play at Brunswick Saturday. The Falcons also have games remaining at Mt. Ararat, Greely and Yarmouth and at home versus Greely and Gray-New Gloucester.

“Coming into the season, we lost Ethan Prescott, who was probably going to be All-American this year, to prep school,” Strong said. “We certainly miss him, but it’s given other guys an opportunity. We’re a really young team. We only had one senior out there tonight. This shows a lot of promise for these guys. It’s a unique year. We want to give other guys a chance. We went 20 deep tonight and we want to gain experience. We’re playing to win, but we have an eye toward preparing for next year.”

The Clippers look to avenge their lone loss Tuesday when they welcome Falmouth.

“We just have to finish our shots this time,” said Collins.

“We look forward to it,” Hagerty said. “I think we found the right spot for some kids, so they’ll be more comfortable the first time. We know it will be a good game. Falmouth’s so dangerous.”

Yarmouth also has games remaining at home against North Yarmouth Academy, Freeport and Mt. Ararat and at Greely.

“Until the last game, we’ll go in thinking we can and should win,” said Van Lonkhuysen. “That’s the attitude we always have.”

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

Recent Yarmouth-Freeport results

2019
Yarmouth 1 @ Freeport 0
@ Yarmouth 1 Freeport 1 (tie)
Class B South semifinal
@ Yarmouth 2 Freeport 0

2018
@ Yarmouth 1 Freeport 1 (tie)
Yarmouth 2 @ Freeport 1

2017
Yarmouth 6 @ Freeport 1
Class B South quarterfinal
@ Yarmouth 3 Freeport 0

2016
@ Yarmouth 8 Freeport 0

2015
Yarmouth 5 @ Freeport 0

2014
@ Yarmouth 5 Freeport 0

2013
Yarmouth 5 @ Freeport 1

2012
@ Yarmouth 0 Freeport 0 (tie)

2011
@ Yarmouth 0 Freeport 0 (tie)

2010
Yarmouth 3 @ Freeport 0
@ Yarmouth 5 Freeport 0

2009
@ Yarmouth 1 Freeport 0

2008
@ Yarmouth 3 Freeport 0
Western B semifinal
@ Yarmouth 1 Freeport 0

2007
@ Freeport 1 Yarmouth 1 (tie)

2006
Yarmouth 1 @ Freeport 0

2005
@ Yarmouth 3 Freeport 1
Western B Final
@ Yarmouth 2 Freeport 0

2004
Yarmouth 3 @ Freeport 0
Western B semifinal
@ Yarmouth 3 Freeport 1

2003
@ Yarmouth 1 Freeport 1 (tie)

2001
@ Yarmouth 3 Freeport 2

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