Northern: Playoff action at fever pitch as state games near – Press Herald

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Multiple teams closing in on the ultimate prize.
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What a week it was for postseason action in soccer, field hockey and football.
And even more excitement awaits this week, as state champions will be crowned in a couple of sports.
Falmouth, Freeport, North Yarmouth Academy and Yarmouth still had teams chasing titles at press time.
Here’s a recap:
Field hockey
Freeport’s Emily Groves controls the ball during Saturday’s semifinal round playoff win at Cape Elizabeth. Groves scored three times in the second half to help the Falcons to a 6-2 victory. Ben McCanna / Portland Press Herald
Freeport’s field hockey team has come of age ahead of schedule and will play for a regional championship Wednesday.

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The Falcons, seeded third in Class B South, eliminated No. 6 Lake Region, 3-0, last Tuesday in the quarterfinals. Emily Groves had two goals and Chloe White scored the other. Saturday, Freeport went to No. 2 Cape Elizabeth, a team that had beaten it twice in overtime in the regular season, but this time, it was all Falcons, 6-2, as they improved to 12-3-1. Groves had a second half hat trick, while Sophie Bradford, Liza Flower and Anna Maschino also rattled the cage and goalie Piper Williams made nine saves, including a crucial stop on a Capers’ penalty corner after time expired at the end of the first half.
“It felt really good to put it away,” Groves said. “I knew I was going to play a big role this year because Coach had said I would, but I never expected it to be this big.”
“I think we played with intensity,” said Williams. “We practiced with intensity the past couple days and we came here ready to win. The younger players bring a lot of energy. A bunch of different ages and personalities, but I feel like we’re a united team.”
“I don’t want to say I’m shocked, but I’m so happy because every time it got close, we scored another one for more of a cushion,” added Falcons coach Marcia Wood. “We had a couple really good practices and focused on every scenario and we were ready today.”
Freeport goes to Biddeford Wednesday afternoon to take on top-ranked York (15-1) in the regional final. The Falcons lost, 3-1, at the Wildcats back on Aug. 31 in the season opener, then they handed them their only loss, 1-0, Sept. 30 in Freeport. York has won all three prior playoff meetings, including a 1-0 decision in the 2018 Class B South Final, the most recent encounter.
“We know we can beat York, so we’ll go into that game with a lot of confidence,” said Groves, who scored the lone goal in the win over the Wildcats during the regular season.

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“We have to keep up the intensity,” Williams said. “If we keep up our will to win, I think we can do it.”
“I’m glad we got (to the regional final),” Wood added. “Win, lose or draw, we’ll get a medal. The girls will know what it feels like and what it takes. York’s a great team. We have to play like we did today. We have to trust each other, communicate and work together. It’s a great experience for these girls. I just want them to feel what it’s like to play (in the regional final).”
If the Falcons spring the upset, they’ll play in their first state final since 2000 Saturday at Messalonskee High School in Oakland versus either Lawrence (16-0) or Belfast (14-1-1). Freeport has no history with either possible foe.
Yarmouth, ranked fifth in Class B South, dropped a 1-0 decision at No. 4 Leavitt in last week’s quarterfinals to finish 8-7. Clippers goalie Quincy Schnee made 16 saves.
In Class A South, Falmouth, the No. 8 seed, which survived No. 9 Marshwood in penalty corners in the preliminary round, was ousted by top-ranked, undefeated, reigning state champion Cheverus, 9-0, in the quarterfinals last Thursday to finish 8-7-1.
Boys’ soccer

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Freeport’s Garrett Richeson and Yarmouth’s Justin Dawes battle for a header during the Clippers’ 5-1 win in last week’s Class B South quarterfinals. Derek Davis / Portland Press Herald
NYA and Yarmouth’s boys’ soccer teams were prepping for the their respective regional finals at press time.
The Clippers, the two-time reigning state champions, seeded third in Class B South, beat No. 6 Freeport with relative ease in the quarterfinals, 5-1, then held off No. 7 Fryeburg Academy, 1-0, in the semifinals to advance. Against the Falcons, Justine Dawes and Truman Peters scored in the first half, but Garrett Richeson scored to get Freeport back in the game late in the first half. Yarmouth put it away in the second half, as Zach Kelly, Jonny Fulton and Owen Redfield all found the net.
“We have a lot of pride,” Peters said. “We have a lot to live up to, but we go into every game giving up our best effort. We know we have a great supporting staff of coaches and teammates. We have confidence and heart.”
“I wanted a goal so badly,” said Fulton. “We have a great rivalry with Freeport, so it felt good to get some goals on them.”
“At halftime, Coach just told us to play with a sense of urgency and keep playing like we were down or tied,” said junior back Matt Gautreau, who marked Freeport standout Alex Graver all game.
“I’m thrilled to get through tonight,” longtime Clippers coach Mike Hagerty added. “Overall, I’m so pleased how the kids performed. We talked about the importance of the first five minutes of the second half and we came out and had three good chances. Sometimes missing those opportunities comes back to bite you, but our kids just work and do things right.”
Stevie Walsh scored early against the Raiders and Yarmouth dominated play, but couldn’t add to its lead.
The Clippers will take on top-ranked Cape Elizabeth (15-0-1) in the Class B South Final Wednesday at 4 p.m., in Lewiston (see pressherald.com/forecaster/forecaster-sports/ for game story). Yarmouth tied the visiting Capers, 1-1, Sept. 3, then lost at Cape Elizabeth, 3-0, Oct. 4. The Clippers are 3-1 all-time versus the Capers in the playoffs, with a hard-fought 2-1 victory in last year’s regional final the most recent.
If Yarmouth reaches the Class B state final for the seventh time in eight years, it will face either John Bapst (14-0-1), Winslow (15-0-1) or Mt. Desert Island (8-5-2) Saturday at a time to be announced at Hampden Academy.
“We have a lot to live up to as defending champs,” Fulton said. “It’s a tough road, but I think we have the heart to get there.”
Freeport’s loss at Yarmouth ended its season at 7-5-4.
“We just couldn’t clear balls today and they took advantage,” Falcons coach Bob Strong lamented. “We’ve struggled to score goals at times this season and tonight that was visible. We struggled to get opportunities, but we played really hard. A few bounces go a different way and this game is completely different. (Yarmouth’s) just a good team, but I feel like we’ve given them more trouble than any other team in the conference. At some point, the pendulum will swing.”
The Falcons have to part with a dozen seniors, including Graver, one of the state’s premier players, but they’ll be nipping at the Clippers’ heels again in 2023.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a player have such an impact on a program like Alex has,” Strong said. “Not just in his high school years, but when he moved here. Our junior class is really strong. I think they’ll remember this game and hopefully it will motivate them for next year.”
Greely, ranked eighth in Class B South, survived No. 9 Medomak Valley, 2-1, in overtime in the preliminary round, but in the quarterfinals, at top-ranked Cape Elizabeth, the Rangers were eliminated, 4-1, to finish 8-7-1. Ethan Njitoh scored for the final time in his high school career early in the contest, but the rest of the game belonged to the Capers, who scored three times in the second half to pull away.
In Class D South, NYA, the reigning regional champion, ranked fifth, enjoyed 2-0 upset wins at No. 4 Richmond in the quarterfinals and at top-seeded Greenville in the semifinals to advance. Against the Bobcats, Dalton St. Hilaire scored the first goal and an “own goal” put it away. In the semis, Jack Byrne and Cooper St. Hilaire scored the goals.
The Panthers took on No. 2 Islesboro (9-2) in the regional final Tuesday in Freeport. The only prior playoff meeting between the schools came in last year’s regional final, a 4-0 NYA victory.
If the Panthers return to the state game, they’ll meet either Bangor Christian (10-3-3) or Madawaska (14-2) Saturday at a time to be announced at Deering High School in Portland.
In Class A South, Falmouth, the No. 9 seed, survived No. 8 Kennebunk in penalty kicks in the preliminary round, but was ousted, 2-1, at top-ranked Scarborough in last Thursday’s quarterfinals to finish 8-6-2. Ben Pausman put the Navigators up early, but they fell just short of the upset.
“We came a long way and we’re pleased,” said longtime Falmouth coach Dave Halligan. “We didn’t win our last game, but we consider this a successful season. We had a tough stretch and we leaned on our seniors. We brought them together and said, ‘You can play for next year or you can show the younger guys what you do when you get knocked down, you get back up and work a little bit harder.’ I’m as proud of these guys as the guys who won the state championship in 2019 because these guys had it a little harder.”
While the Navigators were young this season and took their lumps, that should help them boast a better record and make a deeper run in 2023.
“Experience is something you can’t coach,” Halligan said. “You have to be here to understand it. The younger kids got a taste of it. They saw how hard you have to work to be successful.”
Girls’ soccer
NYA’s girls’ team was closing in on its fourth straight Class D title, while Yarmouth also had championship dreams entering the regional final round.

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The Panthers, ranked first in Class D South after a perfect regular season, defeated No. 8 St. Dom’s (8-1) in the quarterfinals and ousted No. 5 Temple Academy (15-0) in the semifinals. Against the Saints, NYA conceded an early goal then awakened and rolled behind four goals from senior standout Angel Huntsman and one apiece from Leah Dube, Ella Giguere, Emily Robbins and Hayden Wiendkowski. In the second victory, Huntsman led the way with three goals, while Dube, Anna Belleau and Charlotte Harper-Cunningham, usually the goalkeeper, added two goals each and Robbins, Wienckowski, Ella Giguere, Toree St. Hilaire, Sadie Swenson and Vy Tran also scored.
The Panthers (16-0) battled No. 2 Richmond (12-4) in the regional final Tuesday in Freeport. NYA twice blanked the Bobcats this fall, 8-0 at home Sept. 8 and 7-0 on the road Sept. 28. The Panthers have won all three prior playoff meetings, with a 5-0 win last year’s semifinals the most recent.
If NYA makes it to the state final again, it will face either Penobscot Valley (15-0-1) or Ashland (13-3) Saturday at a time to be announced at Deering High School in Portland.
In Class B South, Yarmouth, the No. 2 seed, advanced with 2-0 victories over both No. 10 Freeport in the quarterfinals and No. 11 Gray-New Gloucester in the semifinals last week. Ava Feeley scored both goals and goalkeeper Regan Sullivan made four saves, including one on a penalty kick, in the win over the Falcons. Against the Patriots, after a scoreless first half, Macy Gilroy and Feeley scored the goals and Sullivan saved two shots.
Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., the Clippers (13-3) face No. 5 York (8-5-4) in the regional final in Lewiston (see pressherald.com/forecaster/forecaster-sports/ for game story). Yarmouth won at York Sept. 10 (2-0) and held off the visiting Wildcats (1-0) Oct. 11. The Clippers are just 3-5 all-time in the postseason versus the Wildcats, with a 2-0 victory in the 2019 Class B South quarterfinals the most recent. York upset three-time reigning state champion Cape Elizabeth, 2-1, in the semifinals. The Capers had beaten Yarmouth twice this season.
If the Clippers move on to the state game for the first time in five years, they will face either Hermon (16-0) or Old Town (12-3-1) Saturday at a time to be announced at Hampden Academy. Yarmouth has never played either potential foe.

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Freeport’s loss at Yarmouth ended its season at 7-8-1. Lauren Roussel made five saves in defeat.
Greely, ranked fourth in Class B South, lost, 2-1, to visiting No. 5 York in last Tuesday’s quarterfinals to finish 8-5-2. After falling behind, 2-0, Molly Partridge scored to give the Rangers life, but they couldn’t produce the equalizer.
“We battled hard,” said Greely coach Rachel Williams. “I’m proud of the girls. I just wish we had a few more games together. We had great leadership this year. I’m really glad our senior leadership could give the freshmen exposure to the playoffs. I’m proud of how respectful the girls are on the field. That’s not always the case. They’re very positive and I’m glad the underclassmen got to see that.”
The Rangers return plenty of firepower and should be primed to make an even deeper run next fall.
“We’ll miss Allie Read in the back a lot,” Williams said. “She’s a powerhouse. Beyond that, we have strength coming up to fill the spots. We have freshmen who played full games this year. The future’s very bright.”
In Class A South, Falmouth, ranked seventh, beat No. 10 Bonny Eagle, 3-0, in the preliminary round, then was eliminated, 2-0 at No. 2 Gorham last Tuesday to wind up 9-7. Abigail Pausman made a dozen saves against the Rams.

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Football
On the gridiron, Yarmouth, the No. 2 seed in the eight-man, large school South division playoffs, advanced by virtue of a 46-0 home win over No. 3 Spruce Mountain in last Friday’s semifinals to improve to 7-1. The Clippers took a quarter to get going, then scored 28 unanswered points in the second period, on touchdown passes from Sam Bradford to Kai Sullivan and Spencer LaBrecque, a return of a blocked punt for a score by Rufus MacVane and an interception return for a TD from LaBrecque. Bradford added a touchdown run in the third quarter, then Bradford scored once more, as did Michael McGonagle in the fourth period to put it away.
Yarmouth is at top-ranked Mt. Ararat (7-1) in the regional final Friday. The Clippers lost, 38-14, at the Eagles in the regular season finale Oct. 21. The teams have no playoff history.
Falmouth, ranked fourth in Class B North, eliminated No. 5 Gardiner in the quarterfinal round last Friday, as the Navigators moved on to the semifinals for the first time since 2018. Falmouth shot to a 7-0 first quarter lead and extended it to 21-7 at the half. A Finn Caxton-Smith fourth period touchdown seemingly put it away, but the Tigers roared back with two late touchdowns before the Navigators held on to prevail. Caxton-Smith gained 120 yards and scored two TDs on 22 carries and completed 10-of-14 passes for 127 yards and another score, to Lucas Dilworth, who had four catches for 71 yards and a TD. Indi Backman ran the ball 22 times for 123 yards and led the defense with seven tackles.
Falmouth (6-3) next goes to top-ranked Cony (7-2) for the semifinals Friday. In the regular season finale Oct. 21, the Navigators couldn’t hold a late lead and lost a thriller in overtime, 35-28, in Augusta. The teams met just once before in the postseason, a 52-20 Mt. Ararat victory in the 2019 semifinals.
In Class D, Freeport wrapped up its regular season at 5-3 with a 27-14 victory at John Bapst Saturday afternoon. Jordan Knighton ran 15 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns. The Falcons will be the No. 2 seed for the state tournament and host No. 7 Oak Hill (2-6) in Friday’s quarterfinal round. The teams didn’t play in the regular season and have no playoff history.
“We’ve gone 3-3 in our last six games, alternating between wins and losses, so we need to break that trend on Friday and win two in a row for the first time since weeks one and two,” said Freeport coach Paul St. Pierre. “In order to do that, we need to clean up the turnovers and penalties on offense and tighten up on defense and not allow the other team to chew up the clock.
“As far as our overall chances, it feels like the last turn in a grueling horse race. To my left is Lisbon and to my right is Winthrop. Right behind us, ready to trip us up from behind, is Poland, John Bapst and Oak Hill. All of us are staring at Foxcroft Academy.
“As long as we execute on Friday and beat Oak Hill, we’re in for a battle in the homestretch where anything is possible. Whoever survives and advances to the finals is probably going to face a monster in Foxcroft. Then you need to play perfect and hope for a little bit of luck in order to beat them. First things first, we have to have a great week of practice and defeat an Oak Hill team that has talent and nothing to lose. Those teams can be dangerous. We cannot let the seedings and homefield advantage give us a false sense of security.”
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