SCARBOROUGH — The Eastern Maine champion Ellsworth Eagles knew the odds were against them when they took the field against the Falmouth Yachtsmen on Saturday.
The last time an Eastern Maine team won a state Class B soccer championship was in 1993, when Ellsworth downed Marshwood 2-0.
But no matter.
For 80 minutes, the Eagles gave everything they had as they battled the more highly skilled Yachtsmen up and down the artificial turf at Scarborough High School.
In the end, Falmouth took away its third state title in the past four years, besting the Eagles 3-0.
But the Ellsworth squad, which went undefeated through the regular season and the Eastern Maine playoffs, held the Yachtsmen scoreless through the first half and made them earn every goal.
In the game’s opening moments, the Eagles were a bit tentative.
“But they seemed to play into the game,” said veteran coach Brian Higgins, who has guided Ellsworth boys’ soccer for the past 36 years.
The Yachtsmen really had just one good scoring opportunity in the first half.
It came about six minutes into the game when junior midfielder Sam White lined the ball toward the goal from about 20 yards out.
Senior forward Gabe Hoffman-Johnson tried to redirect it past Ellsworth goalkeeper Thomas Sawyer but sent it just outside the far post to Sawyer’s left.
Ellsworth’s only first-half opportunity came with just under nine minutes to go when senior midfielder Zach Emeigh sent a long direct kick to senior Matt Duhaime, who was stationed a few yards in front of the goal.
But Duhaime’s header was right at Falmouth goalkeeper Ben Goffin, who gathered the ball to his chest.
Goose eggs remained on the scoreboard when the teams returned to the field for the second half.
But not for long.
Less than two minutes had elapsed when an Ellsworth defender miskicked the ball while trying to clear it away from the Scarborough goal.
The ball ended up on the foot of senior forward Alec Dunn who played it perfectly, sending a cross from the end line to Hoffman-Johnson, who headed it past Sawyer for his 28th goal of the season.
“When they got that goal, it got them going,” said Ellsworth coach Higgins.
“Their touches were so good, their spacing was so good that there was not much we could do.”
Even so, the Eagles made a strong bid to tie the game about six minutes later when Duhaime drilled a laser-like free kick toward the goal from about 18 yards out.
But once more, Goffin was in a perfect defensive position to make the stop.
It was Falmouth’s White, considered by many observers to be the most skilled player on the field, who notched the second goal for the Yachtsmen.
At the 26:16 mark, White took the ball at midfield, dribbled to the 18-yard line at the left side and gave Sawyer no chance as he lined a shot into the net at the far post.
Three minutes later, the Yachtsmen made it 3-0 when Sawyer blocked a shot by Ford Bohrman but deflected the ball to Dunn who pushed it into the open net.
Ellsworth closed out the season with a record of 16-1-1.
“You couldn’t have told me at the start of the season that they’d play this well,” said Higgins of this year’s Eagle squad. “But they’ve come on and come on.”