SCARBOROUGH—Talk about a game of inches.

Falmouth’s shot found the net, Scarborough’s best bids hit the post and that was the difference in a showdown of two evenly matched, extremely talented boys’ soccer teams Wednesday evening at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex.

With an abundance of Heal Points and playoff positioning hanging in the balance, the Red Storm and Navigators didn’t have many good chances to get on the board and the game remained scoreless deep into the second half.

With 13:50 to play, a long blast from Scarborough senior Nick Connolly got past Falmouth junior goalkeeper Justin Mayo but rang off the far post.

With 9:36 left, off a corner kick, the Navigators got a break, as a Red Storm defender headed the ball right to senior Mason Farr, who got just enough of it to send it past Red Storm junior keeper Nicholas Ouellette and into the net for a 1-0 lead.

Scarborough would have a great chance to answer with 2:23 to play, when junior standout Zander Haskell got a little bit a room and sent a shot past Mayo, but it also hit the post and that allowed Falmouth to go on to a 1-0 victory.

The Navigators improved to 10-1-1 with the win and in the process, handed the Red Storm their second straight loss and dropped them to 9-2 on the season.

“It was two good teams playing and the kids take a lot of pride on both sides,” said longtime Falmouth coach Dave Halligan. “These are the games you want going into the tournament. That’s the way the game should be. We both had some chances and we got one. We’ve been on the other side of bad luck this year.”

Two titans

Falmouth isn’t just the reigning Class A champion, the Navigators have a dozen state titles to their credit in all (nine in Class B and two in Class C).

Scarborough isn’t far behind, boasting 10 Gold Balls (nine in Class A, one in Class B), with the last coming in 2013.

One of those squads could be the last team standing this fall, as both have shown signs of being championship-caliber.

Falmouth opened by blanking visiting Sanford (6-0) and Massabesic (7-0), winning a close game at Gorham (2-1) and holding off visiting Kennebunk (1-0). After settling for a 1-1 home tie with Deering, the Navigators won at Bonny Eagle (4-1) and held off visiting Cheverus (5-3). Falmouth then suffered a loss for the first time, 2-1, in overtime, at Windham, before having its way with visiting Biddeford (10-0), visiting Thornton Academy (5-1) and host Westbrook (10-0).

The Red Storm started by blanking visiting Deering (2-0). Scarborough then won at Biddeford (11-1), at home over Thornton Academy (2-0), at Westbrook (9-0), at home over South Portland (1-0), at home over Portland in overtime (2-1), at Massabesic (9-0), at home over Noble (7-0) and at home over Kennebunk (3-0) before suffering a loss for the first time last Thursday at Marshwood, 2-1.

The teams didn’t meet a year ago during the COVID-shortened season. In 2019, Falmouth edged Scarborough in the regular season, 3-2, then beat the Red Storm again, 2-0, in the Class A South semifinals en route to the championship.

Wednesday, on a beautiful fall evening (64 degrees at kickoff), the Red Storm sought their first win over the Navigators since Falmouth joined the Southwestern Maine Activities Association in 2017, their first since a 3-0 win in the 2015 Western A semifinals and their first in the regular season over the Navigators this century, but it wasn’t to be.

Falmouth had the first chance, in the fifth minute, but senior Charlie Adams’ shot in the box was blocked.

In the eighth minute, Adams set up senior Andrew Christie for a one-timer which was saved by Ouellette.

After junior Mason Quiet sent a rocket high for the Navigators, Scarborough went on the attack, but Connolly sent a free kick wide and junior Ashton Blanchette fired a shot with his left foot which sailed just over the crossbar.

With just over 18 minutes to go before halftime, Farr forced Ouellette to dive and save his shot and a corner kick ensued which saw the ball come to Farr again, but he missed wide.

Late in the half, Adams had a promising shot blocked at one end, while at the other, Haskell fired a shot that Mayo had to dive to save and moments later, Haskell tried again, but Mayo stopped that shot as well.

“Zander’s one of the best players in the league,” Halligan said. “He’s someone who makes things happen. Down a goal, he’s the focus. Up a goal, he’s back there digging balls out. That’s what good players do.”

The game would go to the half tied, 0-0.

Each team would have chances in the second half.

Early in the half, Haskell had a pair of  looks, but the first deflected wide and the other was saved by Mayo.

Midway through, Farr nearly put his team ahead, but missed just high.

With 16:40 to go, after a foul, Haskell took a free kick for Scarborough from just outside the box, but Falmouth’s defensive wall blocked it.

Then, with 13:50 left, the Red Storm came oh-so-close to going ahead, as Connolly launched a shot from 35-yards out, which got over Mayo’s head, but rode up the far post and while Haskell and seniors Dylan Labonte and Jack Matthews tried to put home the rebound, Mayo and the Navigators defense didn’t allow it to happen.

“I thought we carried play in the second half,” said Red Storm coach Mark Diaz. “We had a lot of possession, but we didn’t get the bounces tonight and we have to live with that. A lot of times when (hitting the post) happens, kids ease up, but I had a couple kids right by the goal mouth and I was happy about that. I’ve never seen a ball roll up the post like that.”

After Haskell missed just wide, Falmouth went back on the attack and with just under 10 minutes to play in regulation, earned a corner kick.

Which led to the lone goal.

The ball was served in front where a defender headed it out, but it didn’t go far and came to Farr up top, who quickly settled the ball, then flicked it on target. Ouellette got a finger-tip on it, but couldn’t keep it from going under the crossbar for a 1-0 lead.

“I saw the ball come up and my first instinct was to keep my composure, so I touched it, then half-volleyed it and hoped for the best,” Farr said. “There were a lot of defenders there, but I got it through. It was a goal, that’s all that matters. Me and Andrew and Charlie had some chances earlier. We kept our heads up and knew (the goal) was coming.”

“Seniors come up big in big games,” said Halligan. “You don’t have to have a lot of seniors, but you have to have good ones and we have some good ones.”

After Christie nearly doubled the lead, but had his shot blocked at the last moment, Scarborough would have one more chance to pull even.

With 2:23 remaining, Haskell eluded a defender and had just a sliver of room and that’s all he needed to fire a low shot that beat Mayo, but the ball again bounced off the far post and junior Will Fallona’s rebound attempt was blocked before the loose ball was cleared from harm’s way.

“That’s the kind of night it was for us,” Diaz lamented. “I’m confident we’ll get the bounces when it matters.”

The Red Storm couldn’t generate another attack and when the horn sounded, the Navigators celebrated their 1-0 victory.

“This was really fun,” Farr said. “Playing Scarborough is a treat. We came out and played our hearts out. We had to play together and we did and we came out with a win. We haven’t been in Class A a long time, but winning the (2019 title) made them want to beat us and we weren’t going to let that happen.”

Falmouth got seven saves from Mayo and took five corner kicks to the Red Storm’s three.

Scarborough finished with a 7-4 shots advantage and got three saves from Ouellette, but fell painfully short.

“It was a great game,” Diaz said. “I’m really proud of the way my kids played. We did a lot of things right tonight, but we hit the post twice. Falmouth’s grinded and got the goal and they deserve credit.”

Too close to call

Scarborough (ranked second in the Class A South Heals at press time, but due to drop when this score is reported) has another huge test Saturday morning at Gorham. The Red Storm then close with games at Sanford Monday and at Cheverus Tuesday.

“We have to get better in certain areas,” Diaz said. “The league is really deep. I think there are six or seven teams that could wind up in a regional final and I’d like to think we’re one of them. We don’t care where we’re seeded or who we play. There will be a lot more close results like this. We’ll get better from this. I still like my group a lot. We’ve got to learn from this and we will.”

Falmouth, which was ranked fifth in Class A South prior to the game, but was primed to move up, plays its regular season home finale Saturday against South Portland, then goes to always-tough Portland for its finale Tuesday. The Navigators hope to finish as high as possible to have multiple playoff games at home.

“All we’ve been thinking about since the start of the season is getting as many wins as we can and getting homefield advantage,” Farr said. “We always dominate on our homefield. We want another state title and we’ll shoot for that.”

“We won’t get too hyped up and we’ll get ready for the next game,” Halligan said. “We’re getting better. We have to finish our chances against good teams. Getting homefield would be huge. There are some fields we don’t want to play on. If we take care of business, we’ll be in a spot to be successful.”

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

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