CAPE ELIZABETH—It appears that Cape Elizabeth’s girls’ soccer team is mortal after all.

Thanks to an epic comeback by the team best equipped to knock the two-time reigning Class B champion Capers off their perch.

The Yarmouth Clippers.

Tuesday evening’s showdown at Hannaford began according to script, then veered off and wound up with a stunning plot twist conclusion.

One that makes everyone long for one more showdown between the rivals.

In the playoffs.

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The first half was a defensive affair and while Cape Elizabeth had the majority of possession, it couldn’t solve the Clippers’ defense, which spent an inordinate amount of time trying to limit the touches of Capers senior standout Maggie Cochran.

But with just 12 seconds to go, Cape Elizabeth got a break, as senior Emily Supple, a star in her own right, got the ball with some room and buried a shot for a momentum-turning 1-0 lead.

Then, 1o minutes into the second half, the Capers struck again, as freshman C.C.Duryee scored on a rebound and it appeared Cape Elizabeth was bound for its 33rd consecutive victory over three seasons.

But the contest would change in staggering fashion, as Yarmouth, the last team to beat the Capers, scored three times in 22 minutes to turn the game on its ear.

With 28:03 to play, after Cape Elizabeth failed to clear the ball, sophomore Aine Powers pounced on the opportunity and pulled the Clippers within a goal.

Five minutes later, off a 35-yard free kick, senior standout Katelyn D’Appolonia fired a perfect blast into the upper left corner of the goal and just like that, the contest was tied.

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Then, with 6:31 remaining, Powers sent a long pass ahead to junior Grace Lestage, who scored to complete the comeback and Yarmouth slammed the door from there and went on to a 3-2 victory.

The Clippers improved to 8-1-1 on the season, handed the Capers their first loss since Sept. 10, 2019, their first setback in 33 outings and dropped Cape Elizabeth to 9-1 in the process.

“It feels amazing to win here,” Lestage said. “It was a very intense match. We’re really fired up. It’s an exciting win for the whole team.”

Comeback Clippers

In 2018, Cape Elizabeth won all 18 games en route to the Class B state title. The next season, in the second game, the Capers lost at Yarmouth, 2-1. They hadn’t fallen since, capturing their final 16 contests (including the regular season rematch and the regional final versus the Clippers) en route to a repeat title in 2019, all seven games a year ago in a COVID-shortened, playoff-less campaign and every outing to date this fall, even though Cape Elizabeth coach Graham Forsyth suggested in the preseason that Yarmouth was the team to beat.

After opening with a 2-0 home win over the Clippers, Cape Elizabeth defeated visiting Wells, 3-1, blanked visiting Greely (3-0), host York (1-0), host Freeport (2-0) and visiting Waynflete (6-0) before conceding a goal in a 9-1 win at Lake Region. The Capers last week blanked host Poland (10-0) and visiting Fryeburg Academy (13-0).

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The Clippers started the year with a 2-0 setback against visiting Cape Elizabeth, then hit their stride with victories over host Freeport (5-2), at home over York (3-0), at Greely (2-1), at Poland (9-0), at home over Fryeburg Academy (6-0) and at home over Lake Region (7-0). Last week, Yarmouth settled for a 1-1 home tie against two-time reigning Class D champion North Yarmouth Academy, then blanked host Gray-New Gloucester, 3-0.

In the teams’ first meeting, Sept. 2, Supple scored both goals.

Tuesday, Supple scored again and again, the Capers posted two goals, but this time, the Clippers were up for the challenge and even without junior standout and leading scorer Ava Feeley, they managed to earn a potentially season-altering victory.

Cochran had the game’s first chance just two minutes in, when Supple crossed her the ball, but she shot just high.

In the fourth minute, Supple nearly put Cape Elizabeth ahead after a failed clear, but Yarmouth sophomore goalkeeper Regan Sullivan dove and denied the shot.

In the seventh minute, the Clippers took their first shot, as junior Macy Gilroy served a corner kick in to D’Appolonia, who headed it on frame, but into the arms of Capers senior goalkeeper Elise Branch.

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After Cochran missed just wide, Supple shot high and senior Caroline Gentile missed wide after a nice move.

After Sullivan saved a shot from Gentile, Yarmouth sophomore back Kadin Davoren broke up a Cochran rush and Gentile missed just wide with a long blast, it appeared the game would go to the half scoreless.

But in the blink of the eye and to the surprise of many (including one nameless sportswriter who tweeted a 0-0 halftime score too early), Cape Elizabeth won the ball and Supple found herself in space. Sullivan tried to come out and cut off the angle, but Supple beat her with a low shot to the goalie’s right and with just 12.6 seconds showing, the Capers had a 1-0 lead, which they took to the break.

“It definitely wasn’t ideal being down,” Higgins said. “We were hoping to get to the half 0-0, and make adjustments and then, they did what they do. When you give great teams like that a chance, they’ll take advantage. We lost our focus a little bit and we dove in and panicked at the end of the half and they punished us. That’s what good teams do.”

With the momentum, Cape Elizabeth didn’t let up when the second half began and after Supple missed just wide and Sullivan robbed Gentile, Gentile got the ball from Cochran and one-timed it in traffic. Sullivan made the initial save, but the rebound sat free and Duryee banged it home for a seemingly safe 2-0 advantage with 30:10 to go.

That could have finished off the Clippers, but instead, they rose off the deck with a vengeance and produced one of the more inspirational comebacks you’ll ever want to see.

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After Sullivan kept her team in the game by sprawling to deny a corner kick shot from sophomore Evelyn Agrodnia, Yarmouth played the ball up the field where it came to Branch, with Powers bearing down. Branch couldn’t handle the ball cleanly and suddenly, Powers found herself with the ball all alone, behind the keeper and after settling it, Powers scored with 28:03 to go to pull the Clippers with a goal and give them the momentum.

“I think that goal put us in the right mindset,” Lestage said.

“We made individual mistakes and we beat ourselves tonight,” Forsyth said. “That first (mistake) was crucial to get them right back in it. We didn’t react and we let one mistake domino effect into more mistakes.”

Exactly five minutes later, Yarmouth earned a free kick and D’Appolonia did the honors, striking a perfect, rising ball from 35-yards out which sailed over the outstretched arms of Branch and into the upper 90 to tie it, 2-2.

“If I’m being totally honest, I was trying to go back post, but it hit off my foot oddly, so I was kind of lucky,” D’Appolonia said. “I was thinking Elise would get to it, but she didn’t get a hand on it. It was definitely a little nerve-wracking. We held them until 12 seconds were left in the half and we felt good about that, but then they scored, so it took us down a little bit. Coach gave us a halftime speech and it brought us up and we came out even stronger in the second half. I knew there was a long way to go still. We’ve been down 2-0 before and we’ve come back to win, so we had to keep that mindset, keep going strong and play the whole time.”

“We’ve been in this situation multiple times, down two at Freeport and down one at NYA and there’s no quit in these kids and (Katelyn) won’t let us quit,” Higgins said. “She’s a special leader and the kids feed off her. They fought the whole way through. Aine made a great play, then we talked about earning free kicks. Katelyn did her best Sara D’Appolonia imitation. I’m glad she saved that shot for here.”

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The Clippers then pushed for the go-ahead goal, but D’Appolonia had a shot tipped away and a rush from sophomore Maya Hagerty was broken up.

At the other end, Supple and Agrodnia both had shots saved by Sullivan.

Then, with 6:31 remaining, Powers sent a nice ball ahead and Lestage and a defender chased after it. Each player had a shot at the ball, but Lestage won it, then had a breakaway against Branch. The keeper tried to come out and make a play, but Lestage fired a low shot past her and into the net for a 3-2 advantage.

“I thought I could get past the defender and I just went for it,” Lestage said. “I just took my shot and hoped that it would go in. I aimed for the bottom corner. It felt very good to score.”

“Grace made a great run across the face of that defender and slid in behind and was composed to finish,” Higgins said.

Down the stretch, the Capers tried to answer and force overtime, but they never got a great look and Yarmouth was able to celebrate its 3-2 triumph.

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“We just picked our heads up, worked together and did what we do best,” Lestage said.

“We believed we could come here and win,” said D’Appolonia. “Cape’s one of our biggest rivals. We wanted revenge for the (2019 regional final). We were hungry for that win and we didn’t get it at the beginning of the season, but it’s been eight games since then and we’ve grown a lot as a team and that paid off today.”

“The girls rallied and competed,” Higgins added. “There’s no quit in these girls. It’s a team effort. We had to make a couple tweaks and we did it. They earned it tonight. That was a really fun high school soccer game. All the kids, both sides, can hold their heads high. The people who were here saw a show.”

Sullivan made 11 critical saves and the defense kept Cochran from scoring.

“I was concerned with Maggie,” D’Appolonia said. “She’s probably the best player in the state. She always shows up with her best game. She connects with all the players on the field, which is really hard to defend, especially since she has such a good supporting cast. We just stayed connected on defense and shut her down.”

“You always know where Maggie is,” said Higgins. “She’s the engine that makes them go. We tried to have (junior) Neena (Panozzo) there. We tried to have some pace on the outside midfield on top of her and have Katelyn shade her way. That’s a lot of attention, but she deserves it. Our backs have been phenomenal and they continue to grow and evolve. It’s fun to watch them improve. We bent, but we didn’t break.”

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Wakeup call

Cape Elizabeth had a 13-4 shots advantage and a 5-3 edge in corner kicks, but was left searching for answers after coming up short on the scoreboard.

“I think we were the better team, but (Yarmouth) defended well and kept it tight in the first half,” Forsyth said. “I said to the girls at halftime, that they’re always dangerous on the break. A lapse in concentration killed us. I always say that the only team that can beat us is ourselves and in the second half, we beat ourselves.

“Credit to Yarmouth. They had a game plan which no one has worked against us. The plan is always to stop Maggie and stop Supple. It’s easier said than done and we have more than that, but their game plan worked. It was a good goal from ‘D’Apps.’ We couldn’t really do anything about that. The last goal, we were pushing up and got caught on the counterattack by a long ball.”

See you soon?

Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth appear on a playoff collision course, but both the Capers and Clippers have plenty of work to do in the meantime.

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Cape Elizabeth (ranked first in the Class B South Heal Points standings) looks to respond Friday at Greely. After playing at Gray-New Gloucester, the Capers finish at home against York and Freeport.

In the long run, Tuesday’s loss might be a blessing in disguise for the two-time reigning champions.

“We needed an attitude adjustment and the girls knew that,” Forsyth said. “We’ve talked about that for awhile. I told the girls if we wanted to win states, the best thing that could happen is a loss. We don’t like to lose. We haven’t lost much the past four years. It wasn’t a playoff game we lost, but a regular season game. That’s the positive we’re taking.

“Honestly, we just like have to play like we did for the first half the whole game if we play (Yarmouth) again. If we had a little more composure, we could have had more than one goal in the first half. The girls walk away believing we’re better than Yarmouth. They were the team at the start of the season I was worried about because they have a good coach and good players. They’re solid. It’s always tough, but for us to beat them again, we just can’t have lapses in concentration.”

Yarmouth (second in Class B South) is back in action Thursday at home versus surging Freeport. The Clippers then go to York, host Greely and visit Wells to end the regular season.

“We just want to continue with how we’ve done this year and keep working hard,” Lestage said.

“We’ll keep practicing hard and showing up and playing how we practice,” D’Appolonia said. “We have some tough games left and that will definitely keep us on our toes. We’re really excited for playoffs.”

“I think this gives us some confidence that we can compete with (Cape),” Higgins added. “A team that good, you have to believe you can compete with them. We know if we see them again, it will be a fight and we’ll have to be better.”

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

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