As coach Dave Barton (right) smiles, Falmouth’s boys’ lacrosse team celebrates after Satchel Kaplan’s overtime goal produces a 9-8 win at Thornton Academy Tuesday. Hoffer photos

Falmouth 9 Thornton Academy 8 (OT)

F- 1 1 2 4 1- 9
TA- 3 2 1 2 0- 8

First quarter
9:22 TA Ellipulos (unassisted)
8:47 TA Flynn (Pelletier)
8:12 TA Flynn (unassisted)
1:47 F Eng (Gearan)

Second quarter
10:08 F Skillin-Lanou (Gearan)
8:42 TA Elliopulos (unassisted)
1:34 TA Pelletier (Flynn)

Third quarter
8:40 F Eng (unassisted)
6:57 F Thomas (unassisted)
6:12 TA Flynn (Pelletier)

Fourth quarter
11:31 F Kaplan (Thomas) (MAN-UP)
11:24 TA Elliopulos (St. John)
7:45 F Skillin-Lanou (Drummey)
6:18 F Kerr (Kaplan)
5:46 TA Flynn (unassisted)
4:04 F Kerr (Kaplan) (MAN-UP)

Overtime
25.7 F Kaplan (unassisted)

Goals:
F- Eng, Kaplan, Kerr, Skillin-Lanou 2, Thomas 1
TA- Flynn 4, Elliopulos 3, Pelletier 1

Assists:
F- Gearan, Kaplan 2, Drummey, Thomas 1
TA- Pelletier 2, Flynn, St. John 1

Faceoffs (Thornton Academy, 12-7)
F- Drummey 4 of 11, Kaplan 2 of 4, Langdon 0 of 3, Gearan 1 of 1
TA- Michaud 12 of 19

Ground balls:
F- 29
TA- 37

Turnovers:
F- 26
TA- 24

Shots:
F- 28
TA- 23

Shots on cage:
F-  21
TA- 21

Saves:
F (Noyes) 13
TA (Fournier) 12

SACO—Falmouth’s boys’ lacrosse team doesn’t always make life easy on itself, but when games are on the line, Falmouth simply does what it has to do to prevail.

Tuesday evening at Hill Stadium, Falmouth was staggered early by host Thornton Academy, which scored three quick goals.

Falmouth got one back late in the first quarter, when senior Jonah Eng scored, and pulled within a goal early in the second period when junior Rory Skillin-Lanou scored as well, but sophomore John Elliopulos and senior Caleb Pelletier answered for the hosts who seemingly were in control at halftime, up, 5-2.

As it turned out, Falmouth had the Golden Trojans right where it wanted them.

In the third quarter, goals from Eng and junior Jay Thomas pulled Falmouth within one, but when junior Ronan Flynn countered, Thornton Academy took a 6-4 lead to the fourth period.

But there, the Golden Trojans couldn’t avoid untimely penalties and Falmouth rallied.

After senior Satchel Kaplan scored two men up to pull his team within one, Thornton Academy got a goal from Elliopulos to go ahead by two again, but Skillin-Lanou pulled Falmouth within one again and with 6:18 to play, senior Wyatt Kerr, who had been held in check until that point, tied it.

A rebound goal from Flynn gave the Golden Trojans the lead one final time, but with 4:04 left in regulation, again two men up, Falmouth drew even, 8-8, when Kaplan set up Kerr.

The game would go to overtime and there, Kaplan played the hero, scoring unassisted with 25.7 seconds to go, and Falmouth had a dramatic 9-8 victory, as it improved to 6-0 on the season, dropping Thornton Academy, its recent nemesis, to 4-3 in the process.

“We have a lot to work on, but when we need it, we can fight,” Kaplan said. “That’s just our character. We tend to work amazing in situations like that. We really dug deep and focused on little things in the second half.”

Act two

Not only have Falmouth and Thornton Academy produced memorable Class A state finals in both 2018 and 2019, the teams’ first meeting of 2021 was a doozy as well. On April 27, Falmouth erased an early three-goal deficit and held off the visiting Golden Trojans, 9-8.

That was just part of Falmouth’s perfect start, which also included home wins over visiting Kennebunk (10-6), Windham (10-7), Scarborough (10-9, in overtime) and South Portland (14-2).

Thornton Academy, which had opened with a 12-6 win over South Portland, lost to Scarborough (8-6) before the loss at Falmouth, but since that setback, the Golden Trojans had turned it around, defeating South Portland (13-4), Kennebunk (12-2) and Windham (9-3).

Tuesday, on a breezy, cloudy, 60-degree day, Falmouth played its first away game of the season and its first of five straight on the road and overcame a tough start to sweep the season series with Thornton Academy.

The Golden Trojans set the tone early, as junior Cole Michaud won the opening faceoff and 33 seconds in, Elliopulos had a shot for the lead, but it was denied by Falmouth sophomore goalie Drew Noyes.

Elliopulos’ second shot would find the target, as he finished unassisted with 9:22 to go in the first quarter.

It took just 35 seconds for Thornton Academy to score again, as Michaud won the faceoff and Pelletier set up Flynn for his first goal and a 2-0 lead.

Thirty-four seconds after that, after another Michaud faceoff win, Flynn scored unassisted and Falmouth coach Dave Barton called timeout to settle his team down.

“We talked about not getting three (goals) back at once,” Barton said. “The guys dug in. I wish we didn’t need to come back, but (Thornton Academy) earned all three goals to start the game. Credit to them. They played really well tonight.”

The timeout worked, in large part because Noyes refused to let the Golden Trojans pull away.

Noyes first robbed Elliopulos, then he saved shots from sophomore Ethan LeBlanc and Flynn.

Finally, with 1:47 left in the first quarter, in transition, senior Sam Gearan found Eng and Eng finished to pull Falmouth within two goals, 3-1, after 12 minutes.

Falmouth senior Sam Gearan sends a Thornton Academy ball-handler flying during first half action.

Falmouth quickly drew closer in the second period, as Gearan got a second assist, setting up Skillin-Lanou, to make it a one-goal game with 10:08 left before halftime.

Falmouth couldn’t manage to grab the lead, however, as Thornton Academy countered with 8:42 to go, as Elliopulos scored for the second time, unassisted.

After seven scoreless minutes, the Golden Trojans struck again with 1:38 on the clock, as Flynn set up Pelletier for a goal and Thornton Academy held a 5-2 advantage at the break.

In the first half, the Golden Trojans enjoyed a 17-10 edge in shots, but seven Noyes saves kept Falmouth in the game.

Falmouth started strong in the second half, as after Gearan and Kaplan had shots saved by Thornton Academy senior Seth Fournier, Eng finished unassisted with 8:40 to go, snapping a 13-minute, 28-second drought, cutting the deficit to 5-3.

Then, after Noyes robbed Flynn at one end, Thomas scored unassisted with 6:57 to go and Falmouth only trailed by one.

But the Golden Trojans answered right back 45 seconds later, as Pelletier found Flynn for a 6-4 lead.

Fournier preserved the advantage by denying Skillin-Lanou and senior Gio Ciraulo and Thornton Academy took a two-goal lead to the fourth quarter.

But the Golden Trojans couldn’t hold it.

Thornton Academy started the final stanza at a disadvantage, as two penalties just before the third quarter horn sounded gave Falmouth a 6-on-4 advantage and after Kaplan hit the crossbar, Thomas set up Kaplan for a two men up goal with 11:31 remaining.

The Golden Trojans answered just seven seconds later, as Poulin won the faceoff to junior longstick standout Alex St. John, who passed to Elliopulos, who finished to restore the two-goal lead, 7-5.

Undaunted, Falmouth kept coming and after Fournier robbed Kaplan, Skillin-Lanou took a pass from senior Owen Drummey and finished with 7:45 to play.

Then, with 6:18 left, Kerr finally found some room, took a pass from Kaplan and scored to tie the game, 7-7.

“(Wyatt) moves in silence, I like to say,” said Kaplan. “He’s no doubt my favorite player on the team. He really shows up when it’s important. I’ve played with him since third grade. I’m always looking for him and he always shows up when it counts.”

Thornton Academy’s offense had one more response, as after a faceoff win, the Golden Trojans had a shot that Noyes saved, but Flynn pounced on the rebound and put it home for an 8-7 lead with 5:46 remaining.

But Thornton Academy would shoot itself the foot once more, giving Falmouth another 6-on-4 opportunity and with 4:04 to play, Kaplan set up Kerr for another two men up goal, tying the score again.

“Wyatt shoulders the load for us,” Barton said. “We’re without (Senior) Kaz (Berry), who played really well against them last time, and Wyatt does a lot of little things. He helps out in the clearing game and helps handle their pressure. Every goal we score, Wyatt helps in some way.”

Down the stretch in regulation, Noyes saved a shot by Pelletier and after a series of turnovers each way, junior Colby Bilodeau tried to win it for Thornton Academy in the final second, but his shot went wide and the contest went to overtime.

In the Maine high school boys’ lacrosse, teams play a four-minute, “sudden victory” session and if no one scores, it’s on to another.

It took nearly four minutes, but only one OT would be necessary.

Kaplan won the opening faceoff and collected the ball in the process.

“I was able to clear it and get the ball and that got me fired up for the ending,” Kaplan said.

Falmouth wouldn’t score, however, as it turned the ball over, but Thornton Academy gave it right back on a disputed offsides call.

With 2:57 left, Ciraulo tried to end it, but Fournier made the save.

Then, after Falmouth got the ball back, Kaplan took a shot from a tough angle to Fournier’s left with 1:48 remaining, but it was saved.

Kaplan scooped up the ground ball to keep possession and after Falmouth milked more than a minute off the clock, Kaplan drove on a defender again, found himself in nearly the same exact spot as before, shot again and this time, at 6:54 p.m., the ball found its target, tickling the twine for a 9-8 victory.

“I took the dodge and I saw the right side of the net open,” Kaplan said. “I got my hands free and decided to take the shot and it worked. I couldn’t really tell you what happened. I kind of went numb. I was just in the moment and it felt pretty good. I’ve had a sour taste in my mouth for two years from when they did something like that us to beat us (in the 2019 Class A state game). It feels pretty good. We worked hard. I think we deserved it. We’re the better team and we showed it.”

“Satchel would tell you this wasn’t his best game, but I told him before overtime that he’s taking the faceoff and getting a ground ball and as weird as it sounds, I’m more proud of him for winning the faceoff and getting the ground ball then scoring the goal because that was just icing on the cake,” Barton said. “I’m happy for him. He has so much resolve. We say, ‘Don’t settle for a good shot if you can get a great one,’ but I don’t know if we’d get a great one there.

“I love this group. They’re at their best when the stakes are the highest. The guys don’t make it easy. They’re giving me gray hairs at 31.”

Falmouth had a balanced attack, as Eng, Kaplan, Kerr and Skillin-Lanou all had two goals and Thomas added another.

Gearan and Kaplan each had two assists, while Drummey and Thomas finished with one apiece.

Noyes made 13 huge saves.

Ciraulo, Eng and sophomore Luke Crowder shared team-honors in ground balls with four.

Falmouth had a 28-23 shots advantage and overcame 26 turnovers.

“(Thornton Academy) completely dominated us in ground balls,” Barton said. “They played great defensively. They were all over us and Fournier had some big stops. Alex St. John was a beast in the middle of the field and their faceoff guy dominated us. We want to play to win every time we play, but we didn’t play our best tonight. Not even close.”

Thornton Academy got four goals from Flynn, three from Elliopulos and one from Pelletier.

Pelletier had two assists and Flynn and St. John both had one.

Michaud won 12 of 19 faceoffs.

Fournier made a dozen saves.

The Golden Trojans had a 37-29 advantage in ground balls (St. John had a game-high 12 and Flynn collected six), turned the ball over 24 times and took too many penalties to hold on.

“Penalties are going to kill us,” said Thornton Academy assistant coach Michael Hersey (head coach Ryan Hersey had to leave immediately after the game). “We told the boys that we had three good officials on the game and we had to stay out of the box. In 11 years of coaching, we already have more penalties than we’ve had in entire seasons. We just have to stay out of the box. Against a good team like that that can pass and catch and work the ball really well, we can’t allow them to be two men up that many times. We let them back in the game and they did a great job, like you’d expect a good team to do. They started adjusting to our offense. I think our younger kids played a little bit nervous.”

Act three?

The only way Falmouth and Thornton Academy would meet again would be at Fitzpatrick Stadium with a Class A state title on the line, June 19.

That isn’t outside the realm of possibility, but neither squad is even thinking playoffs yet, not to mention a championship.

The Golden Trojans are back in action Thursday with another tough test, at Scarborough, then undefeated, highly-touted Cape Elizabeth pays a visit Tuesday of next week.

“The good news is we’re still getting ready for playoff ball,” Hersey said. “Hopefully come June, we’ll be ready to go. It’s a fun group of kids to coach and we’re having a good time with them. It’ll be exciting.”

Falmouth is idle until next Tuesday, when it goes to Windham.

“We’re doing well,” Kaplan said. “We’re 6-0 right now, but I think we could have won every close game by a (a lot more). I think we’re up there with the best teams and I think we’re really showing it when it counts. We have to just focus on little things. We have a great group of guys. We all love each other. We have to try extra hard in practice.”

“We haven’t scratched the surface yet of what we can be,” Barton said. “Knowing the potential we have, I don’t think we’ve played our best game, but we battle every time.

“It’s a weird week. We’re off the rest of the week, then it’s packed with some big tests. We’ll take a couple days to focus on ourselves.”

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

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