BOX SCORE

Falmouth 9 Thornton Academy 8

TA- 3 1 2 2- 8
F- 3 1 4 1- 9

First quarter
9:41 TA Flynn (unassisted)
5:50 TA Flynn (unassisted)
5:18 TA Pelletier (unassisted)
4:18 F Kerr (Kaplan)
2:35 F Eng (Berry) (MAN-UP)
10.3 F Kaplan (unassisted)

Second quarter
4:19 TA Elliopulos (unassisted)
1:48 F Berry (Kaplan)

Third quarter
9:38 F Kerr (unassisted)
9:17 TA Elliopulos (unassisted)
8:23 F Berry (Kaplan)
4:00 F Kerr (Kaplan)
1:06 F Kerr (Kaplan) (MAN-DOWN)
25.0 TA St. John (LeBlanc)

Fourth quarter
11:45 TA Elliopulos (unassisted)
2:58 F Thomas (unassisted)
10.6 TA LeBlanc (unassisted)

Goals:
TA- Elliopulos 3, Flynn 2, LeBlanc, Pelletier, St. John 1
F- Kerr 4, Berry 2, Eng, Kaplan, Thomas 1

Assists:
TA- LeBlanc 1
F- Kaplan 5, Berry 1

Faceoffs (Thornton Academy, 11-10)
TA- DeLeo 11 of 20, Preston 0 of 1
F- Langdon 6 of 14, Boothby 3 of 5, Crowder 1 of 2

Ground balls:
TA- 34
F- 31

Turnovers:
TA- 27
F- 27

Shots:
TA- 28
F- 33

Shots on cage:
TA- 17
F- 19

Saves:
TA (Fournier) 10
F (Noyes) 9

FALMOUTH—Whether the teams are full of veterans or starting over with unproven talent, whether the game is in April, May or June and whether they play in Falmouth, Saco or at Fitzpatrick Stadium, when the Falmouth and Thornton Academy boys’ lacrosse teams get together, rest assured that a memorable contest is about to ensue.

And this one was worth the wait.

Tuesday afternoon, the Yachtsmen finally got another shot at a Golden Trojans squad which edged them in overtime in an epic 2019 state final and while they were able to earn a measure of revenge, the margin of separation between the teams remains razor thin and it took Falmouth all 2,880 seconds to emerge victorious.

Thornton Academy, featuring just one player who saw ample playing time in the state game two years ago, shot to a quick 3-0 lead, as junior Ronan Flynn scored twice and senior Caleb Pelletier also tickled the twine.

But the Yachtsmen, thanks to their three veterans, seniors Jonah Eng, Satchel Kaplan and Wyatt Kerr, got off the deck and answered.

Kerr scored to get the offense going and Eng and Kaplan added goals to pull Falmouth even by the end of the first period, 3-3.

Sophomore John Elliopulos put the Golden Trojans back on top in the second quarter, but senior Kazden Berry answered and the game went to halftime even at 4-4.

A Kerr rebound goal early in the second half gave the Yachtsmen their first lead, but Ellipulos tied things up seconds later.

Finally, with 8:23 to go in the third period, Falmouth went on top to stay, as Kaplan set up Berry for a goal and Kaplan assisted on consecutive Kerr goals for an 8-5 advantage.

Thornton Academy then crept back within two when junior Alex St. John scored with 25 seconds left in the frame and when Ellipulos scored again, 15 seconds into the fourth quarter, the Golden Trojans were only down by one.

But the Yachtsmen, behind a strong defensive effort and some timely saves from sophomore goalie Drew Noyes never let Thornton Academy catch up and with 2:58 left, junior Jay Thomas scored an insurance goal.

That goal loomed huge, as sophomore Ethan LeBlanc scored with 10 seconds to go.

The Golden Trojans won the ensuing faceoff, but couldn’t register a shot and Falmouth held on to prevail, 9-8.

Kerr scored four goals and Kaplan had five assists as the Yachtsmen improved to 3-0 on the season and in the process, they dropped Thornton Academy to 1-2.

“It feels great because I’ve had that (runner-up) medal in my bedroom for two years,” Kerr said. “This year’s team is completely different. It feels great to win with this group. We’ve really come together.”

A long time in coming

When Falmouth and Thornton Academy last squared off, June 15, 2019, the Golden Trojans were favored to beat the Yachtsmen in the Class A state final, just as they had in 2018 (14-12).

They did, but it sure wasn’t easy, as Falmouth made Thornton Academy battle for 48 minutes and then some before standout C.J. Labreck’s overtime goal gave the Golden Trojans an 8-7 victory and left the Yachtsmen heartbroken.

While the likes of  Thornton Academy’s Labreck, Thomas Levasseur, Ean Patry and Sam Edborg and Falmouth’s Tommy Fitzgerald, Riley Reed and Reilly Tucker, as well as many other key contributors from both squads, have graduated over the past two years, the Golden Trojans and Yachtsmen remain top contenders in Class A South.

Thornton Academy started its 2021 campaign with a 12-6 home win over South Portland, then lost at home to Scarborough, 8-6.

Falmouth, meanwhile, opened its season by defeating visiting Kennebunk (10-6) and Windham (10-7).

Tuesday, the Yachtsmen got pushed by the up-and-coming Golden Trojans, but managed to do just enough to hold on and earn a confidence-boosting victory.

After the teams traded some turnovers early on, Thornton Academy got the jump with 9:41 to go in the opening stanza, as Flynn pounced on a turnover, then raced in and beat Noyes.

After Golden Trojans senior goalie Seth Fournier robbed Kerr, Flynn scored again with 5:50 left in the quarter and 32 seconds later, Pelletier added an unassisted goal to make it 3-0.

“Those are the flashes we’re seeing,” said Thornton Academy coach Ryan Hersey. “We just have to become more consistent with that. I think the kids are excited to see that it’s working.”

Falmouth coach Dave Barton called timeout to settle his team down and it worked like a charm.

After Kerr hit the post, he got the ball back from Kaplan, spun around a defender and finished to break the ice with 4:18 remaining in the frame.

“(This game) was a little different than in practice,” Kerr said. “We had to change it up in our offensive set and then we found our stride.”

“We knew playing TA that they’d come out swinging early and they did,” Barton said. “We have a lot of young guys and it’s hard to replicate the speed and pressure you get from them in practice. Credit to TA, but I love our resolve. When things are stacked against us, that’s when the guys dig in. It’s such a fun group to work with.”

The Yachtsmen then had a man-up opportunity and took advantage, as Berry set up Eng for a shot that Fournier couldn’t stop with 2:35 on the clock.

Then, with 10 seconds to go, Kaplan attempted to pass in front to senior Gio Ciraulo, but his pass was low.

That was the bad news.

That good news for the hosts was that the errant pass also eluded Fournier and found its way into the net and the game was even, 3-3, heading for the second quarter.

There, both defenses came up huge and each team only scored once.

After Noyes robbed LeBlanc and Fournier made a nice stop on a bid from Berry, Falmouth went man-up again, but Fournier denied Kaplan to preserve the tie.

With 4:29 to go before halftime, Ellipulos scored for the first time, fighting through the defense before shooting past Noyes to put the Golden Trojans back in the lead.

Again, the Yachtsmen responded, as with 1:48 remaining, Kaplan found Berry for a goal which snapped a 10-minute, 22-second drought.

A late save by Noyes on a shot from Pelletier sent the game to the break deadlocked, 4-4.

First half statistics reflected the game’s competitiveness, as Falmouth won 6 of 10 faceoffs, Thornton Academy held a 13-12 edge in ground balls, each team committed a dozen turnovers and the Yachtsmen had a slim 17-15 shots advantage.

Falmouth would open up a lead in the third period, but couldn’t put the Golden Trojans away.

St. John threatened to put the visitors back on top off the second half faceoff, but his shot was saved by Noyes.

At the other end, Fournier denied Berry.

With 9:38 left in the quarter, the Yachtsmen went on top for the first time, when Fournier saved a shot by Thomas, but Kerr scooped up the rebound and buried it for a 5-4 lead.

It didn’t last, as 21 seconds later, Elliopulos scored his second goal to tie the game for the third and final time.

With 8:23 left in the third, Kaplan threaded a beautiful pass to Berry on the doorstep and Berry finished to put Falmouth ahead for good, 6-5.

Elliopulos nearly pulled Thornton Academy even 30 seconds later, but his shot hit the post.

Thornton Academy then went two men up, but the Yachtsmen’s defense rose to the occasion, forcing a turnover and not allowing the Golden Trojans a shot.

With 4 minutes to play in the quarter, Kaplan set up Kerr for a goal and a little breathing room and with 1:06 to go, playing man-down during a two-minute, locked-in penalty, Kaplan found Kerr again for an 8-5 lead.

“We just preached fundamentals (man-down),” said Barton. “We said defensively nothing easy inside. Those guys are just competitors. We got huge stops.”

With 25 seconds left in the quarter, St. John took a pass from LeBlanc and scored and 15 seconds later, Pelletier threatened to cut the deficit to one, but Noyes made the save and Falmouth clung to an 8-6 lead entering the fourth period.

It took the Golden Trojans all of 15 seconds to pull within one, as Elliopulos scored his final goal, unassisted.

Thornton Academy then had ample opportunity to draw even, but Noyes saved shots by Pelletier and Flynn.

With 3:13 left, Barton called timeout and 15 seconds later, the Yachtsmen got a critical insurance goal, as Thomas bounced a shot past Fournier to make it 9-7.

The Golden Trojans refused to buckle, however, as Fournier denied Kaplan and after Noyes made a save on a shot from Flynn, LeBlanc wouldn’t be stopped and he scored unassisted to make it 9-8.

But only 10.6 seconds remained.

Hersey called his final timeout and the Golden Trojans hoped to get possession, somehow score a goal and force overtime.

Thornton Academy got the possession, but couldn’t keep it and just before the horn Falmouth senior Jake Rand scooped up the ground ball.

At 6:42 p.m., the final horn sounded and at last, the Yachtsmen had solved their nemesis and they celebrated their 9-8 victory with vigor.

“We talked about if they won the faceoff, getting back and playing as a group and getting on their hands and forcing them to make a bad pass,” said Rand, who is playing varsity lacrosse for the first time this spring.  “I heard the horn and I felt so happy and proud. Not just winning it for us, but for last year’s team that didn’t even get to play and the team from two years ago. I wasn’t with the team two years ago, but seeing the looks on their faces and seeing how we prepared this week, it’s really fun to go out and get this win.”

“Some teams get you up for more and you can use it for energy, but we tried not to overthink it and just do what we do in practice and I think we did that,” said Kerr.

“We wanted to key on (Alex) and make sure we got pressure on the ball,” Barton added. “We didn’t want to allow a shot from the crease. Credit to (sophomores) Cyrus Boothby and Luke Crowder. We wanted to make sure they wouldn’t exit clean out of the faceoff and we got the ball on the ground.

“We talked all week about no big games, just the next game. It’s hard, I get it. We have a handful of guys left over from the 2019 team. As a competitor, you chomp at the bit to play a good team like this, but we talked about this being the only game we could win today. I love how this group competes. They have such a good attitude.”

Falmouth’s offense was paced by Kerr, who scored four goals. Berry added two goals, while Eng, Kaplan and Thomas all scored once.

Kaplan’s pinpoint passing was a huge reason for the Yachtsmen’s success and he wound up with five assists.

“Satchel and I have had chemistry since fifth grade,” Kerr said. “We always find each other. We don’t even think about anymore.”

“We use the term edge work,” Barton said. “Everyone practices two hours a day, but what are you doing outside that? It’s not uncommon to drive by here Sundays and see Wyatt and Satchel out here shooting. They’ve played together since they were young. We count on them to play huge roles for us. Some games mean a little bit more. Satchel is a captain. A leader on the field and in the locker room. It’s nice to see the guys who put in the most work get to show it on the big stage.”

Berry also had an assist.

Noyes made nine saves.

Senior Sam Gearan paced the Yachtsmen with seven ground balls, while Rand collected five.

“We just had to dig in and believe in each other and I believe in Drew and Cooper (Bush) and Ben Wentworth and Max (Hau), who’s out there with me,” Rand said. “We all came together and fought and went after every (ground ball).”

“Jake’s a freak,” Barton said. “We were prepped to have him last year. To come in as a senior new to the program and be the leader he has been, there aren’t many like him. He loves competition. He doesn’t let the outside noise get to him. He’s covered three of the best attackmen in the area in our three games and held them to pretty much nothing.”

Falmouth finished with a 33-28 edge in shots (19-17 on frame).

For Thornton Academy, Elliopulos scored three goals, Flynn had a pair and LeBlanc, Pelletier and St. John all added one.

LeBlanc also had an assist.

Fournier saved 10 shots.

The Golden Trojans, behind junior Nicholas DeLeo, won 11 of 21 faceoffs and had a 34-31 edge in ground balls (DeLeo had a game-high eight)

Each team committed 27 turnovers.

“It was a great game,” Hersey said. “I feel like we played a lot better here than we did Saturday (against Scarborough).

“We’ve got to be more consistent. We can’t throw the ball away as much as we did today. We have to take better care of it and make better passes. That’ll come. These guys are pretty raw, but it’s been a lot of fun. We’re not like the Capes and Falmouths who have a lot of kids who play year-round. We’re dependent on three-sport athletes and York County hasn’t had much in the way of sports the past year. That’s another factor.”

Rematch

The teams will meet again May 11 in Saco, but each has work to do first.

Thornton Academy is back in action Saturday at South Portland.

“We told the guys to keep their heads up,” Hersey said. “We’ve had similar teams, maybe not as young a this, but similar. Later in the year, we’ll be there. Come June we want to be hitting on all cylinders and playing hard. We’ll see (Falmouth) again in a couple weeks and we’ll see our growth.”

Falmouth is off until next Tuesday when it hosts resurgent Scarborough.

“We just took another step today as a team,” Kerr said. “We’re learning to trust each other more and more. That’s a great feeling. We’re just taking steps each game.”

“We need to clean up some things,” Rand said. “We need to keep talking on defense.”

“We set our sights on things a lot bigger than winning a game on April 27,” Barton added. “We’ve got a long way to go and the guys know that. It’s stick-work. That will come with time. Execution, clearing the ball more consistently and patience.”

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

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