YARMOUTH—Yarmouth’s boys’ soccer team is opening the 2021 season by running the gauntlet of its top competition in Class B South.

And through two games at least, the Clippers are more than living up their lofty preseason expectations.

Tuesday afternoon, Yarmouth, which won, 2-0, at Cape Elizabeth in last week’s opener, hosted rival Freeport in its first home contest and carried play most of the way en route to an impressive victory.

The Clippers got the only goal they would need in the 14th minute, as senior midfielder extraordinaire Steve Fulton headed home a corner kick serve from junior Truman Peters.

Yarmouth clung to a 1-0 lead at halftime, but quickly put it away in the second half, as senior Sutter Augur finished a feed from Fulton, Fulton added a second goal and senior Matt Robichaud tacked on one more for good measure as the Clippers went on to a 4-0 victory.

Three different players tickled the twine and Yarmouth allowed just two shots as it improved to 2-0 on the season and in the process, dropped the Falcons to 1-1.

“Teams want to play us and they want to play us at their best,” said longtime Clippers coach Mike Hagerty, who now has 299 victories in his 25 seasons with the program. “I’m excited to get everyone’s best game. That allows us to train with a different focus. I tell kids, wouldn’t you rather be expected to be great than to surprise people? Even in the preseason, we were getting everyone’s best games.”

The favorite. Again.

Since Falmouth left Class B for Class A after the 2012 season, the road to the championship has gone through Yarmouth, with the Clippers winning the hardware in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019.

After a 7-2-1 campaign in 2020, Yarmouth has all the ingredients for greatness again and the Clippers opened with a difficult and impressive victory at rival Cape Elizabeth last Thursday.

Freeport, meanwhile, is coming off a misleading 2-6-2 campaign, a year that saw the Falcons be very competitive but not have the results to show for it.

Freeport did win the 2018 regional title and got to the semifinals in 2019 before losing to Yarmouth. The Falcons opened their campaign last week with an encouraging 1-0 victory at York.

Last year, the squads met twice with the Clippers prevailing, 2-0, at home and 1-0 in Freeport.

Yarmouth hasn’t lost to the Falcons in Hagerty’s time as coach (dating to 1997), although the teams did settle for ties in both 2018 and 2019.

Tuesday, on a gorgeous late-summer afternoon (76-degrees at kickoff), the Clippers put on a show for the home fans.

Early on, Fulton sent a cross into the box that was cleared by a defender and sophomore Adam McLaughlin fired a long, low shot that Freeport senior goalkeeper Colin Cronin saved.

At the other end, the Falcons threatened, but senior Keigan Shea sent a one-timer just wide and senior Eli Andreson’s free kick went wide.

With 26:38 to go in the first half, a shot from Yarmouth senior Aiden Kamm was headed out by a Freeport defender, giving the Clippers a corner kick and they would capitalize.

Peters served the ball in with his left foot and Fulton soared and headed it into the goal for a 1-0 advantage.

“We’ve worked in practice on our dead ball plays,” Fulton said. “Everyone was in the right place and I found the ball. I just had to get my head on it.”

“That was a beautiful serve and finish,” Hagerty said. “Steve wins head-balls strong and calm. Adam and Truman serve as good a corner as we’ve had. In training, they’re consistent. It’s hard to serve a finishable ball. It’s a driven ball with just enough pace that you can time well and get something on.”

Freeport hoped to answer, but Yarmouth senior goalkeeper Zhi Cowles leaped to snare a long free kick from Andreson and after Cronin dove and tipped a shot from Clippers sophomore Justin Dawes off the post, Andreson threw the ball in and junior Alex Graver got his head on the ball, but it rolled just wide of the near post.

Late in the half, Cronin denied Kamm, Fulton missed just wide and Cronin dove to knock away a Kamm cross to keep the score 1-0 at the break.

While Yarmouth hadn’t put the game away in the first half, it did so in the second.

Just 24 seconds in, Cronin dove to knock away a cross from Peters.

“(Cronin) was spectacular today,” Hagerty said. “He’s the best goalie we’ve seen so far. He made some really good decisions, when to come off (his line) and when to stay home and he prevented us from scoring more goals.”

A minute later, Fulton set up Peters for a great look, but Peters sent his one-timer off the left post.

After senior Cole Synder, who replaced Cowles at halftime, denied Graver’s game-tying bid, Peters fired a shot on the run which sailed just high.

Then, with 34:06 to play, the Clippers got some breathing room, as Fulton set the ball ahead to Augur, who had to battle a defender for possession, but managed to do so, then ripped a shot past Cronin to make it 2-0.

“At halftime, we talked about switching fields and if we did, we knew we’d get them because they’d over-shift,” Augur said. “We talk about putting pressure on the ball. It ended up at my feet and I hit it in the goal. I’m kind of biased, but I think I just wanted it more. I took a glimpse at the top corner, but I don’t have the skill to hit a bouncing ball with a lot of accuracy, but it worked out.”

“At halftime, we felt like we should have more,” Hagerty said. “It felt like the second goal would be big. Sutter wanted it. He’s changed his body by spending time in the weight room. He’s more determined. He’s hit some beautiful balls. He’s got to be more confident turning and shooting. We want him to take more shots.”

Twenty seconds later, Augur almost got a second goal, but Cronin dove and made the save.

With 28:11 left, off a beautiful feed from sophomore Zach Turkel, Peters headed the ball on target, but it rang off the crossbar.

With Freeport unable to generate another shot on frame, the Clippers ended all doubt with a pair of late goals.

With 13:37 remaining, Fulton scored for the second time, taking a pass from Kamm, dribbling past a diving Cronin, then finishing to make it 3-0.

“Coach Hagerty always preaches that a third goal makes or breaks it,” said Fulton. “We knew the third goal was the key goal. My team put me in a really good spot to finish it. That was critical.”

“Steve plays clean and he’s the kind of kid more colleges should be recruiting,” Hagerty said. “He’s hopefully going to go to the Naval Academy and play. He’s risen to the occasion since he was a freshman. He does nothing but work. He gets triple-teamed and the cool thing is he doesn’t try to do too much. He draws two or three players and gets rid of the ball. We want to play through him whenever we can. Truman and Adam and (junior) Stevie Walsh are benefitting from all the attention Steve’s getting and Steve’s fine with that.”

With 5:08 remaining, after a Walsh free kick was knocked around, Robichaud pounced on it and finished.

Dawes had one more chance a minute later, but his bid was denied by Freeport sophomore back Ivan Lyons.

Yarmouth ran out the clock from there and prevailed, 4-0.

“It’s great to be back and have a postseason to look forward to this year,” Fulton said. “It’s fun working toward something. We know we’ll get everyone’s best game. We have to work hard in practice and in games and play our best. We approach every game we play to win. Starting the season strong coming off a great preseason is great. We’re excited to compete with the best teams.”

The Clippers out-shot the Falcons, 10-2, got one save apiece from Cowles and Snyder and had a 5-1 edge in corner kicks.

“Our defense is just fantastic,” Augur said. “They work really hard. They contribute a lot to the general camaraderie of the team. Eleven guys working together, it’s a lot of fun.”

“What I was really pleased about wasn’t just the four goals, but the 10 shots on frame,” said Hagerty. “Getting more than half our shots on frame has been an issue for us in past years. I’m pleased with how we’re moving the ball. We played 25 kids and it was good to get everyone some action. We haven’t dropped off when we bring players off the bench. The seniors don’t go in nervous, they want to prove themselves. They want to show me why they can play. We have great senior leadership and really unselfish kids who show up to work every day and they’re terrific to coach.”

Freeport got six saves from Cronin and hung tough into the second half, but couldn’t generate enough chances to make a difference.

“I think the difference was (Yarmouth’s) conditioning,” said Falcons assistant coach Ray Grogan, who was filling in for Bob Strong. “They’re a good team and they’re in better shape. They were still flying in the second half and we weren’t. We’ve got to get that improved. We had a couple decent chances, we have to capitalize on those.”

Long road ahead

Freeport plays its home opener Thursday against another Class B South power, Greely. The Falcons are then idle until next Tuesday, when they visit Lake Region.

“We’ll get there,” Grogan said. “We have to challenge more in the air, we have to tighten up some things defensively and we have to get some guys healthy.”

As for Yarmouth, it continues its gauntlet, as it travels to York Saturday, then hosts Greely Tuesday of next week.

“We can always improve our passing and our finishing in the final third,” Fulton said. “There’s a lot for us to work on the rest of the season.”

“We know York’s field is funny,” Hagerty said. “We’ll have to make some adjustments because we can’t play there like we do here. York’s a little bit young this year. We have to try to use our seniors and play our game and not get caught up in their bowling alley of a field.

“We’re off to a really good start, but I think we can still get a lot better. I haven’t found the right combinations on the field. I need to do a better job of finding kids a more consistent teammate to play off of. We’ll get there.”

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

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