“We’ve been playing Gray now, since Andy (Higgins) has been a coach there, and just about, I think, 75 percent of the games or 80 percent of the games have been one- or two-goal games,” Yarmouth coach Mike Hagerty said. “Every single time.”

The Clippers (8-2) did their best to make it a blowout. They put 18 shots on target.

There was just the matter of getting the shots past Gray-NG goalie John Henry Villanueva.

Yarmouth found the back of the net early, less than seven minutes into the game. It took Villanueva being out of position to do so.

Tahj Garvey blasted a shot from just outside the box that went off Villanueva’s finger tips, then off the crossbar. Before he could get back up, Gibson Harnett put home the rebound and it was 1-0.

“Gibson, thank goodness he put some pace on it,” said Hagerty, who thought Villanueva would have made a second save if he had another second to try and stop it.

Four more shots came at Villanueva in the first half, and he stopped them all. He even snuffed out a pair of crosses less than a minute apart, which Hagerty said is the sign of a good goalie.

The Clippers finished the half by putting heavy pressure on the Patriots’ (6-4-1) defense, but couldn’t get a shot off before the whistle.

“We knew they were going to press us. And their pressure really dictated a lot of the game,” Higgins said. “It influenced what we were going to do and try to do. Their pressure causes bad touches. Start thinking about, bad touches, giving the ball away. At times it seems like they have 13 guys out there.”

Higgins said his defensive game plan was to keep Yarmouth from getting the ball wide and crossing it in. For the most part, the Patriots accomplished that. So in the second half, the Clippers started to find openings in the middle of the field, which was difficult to do against a packed-in Patriots defense.

Yet Yarmouth still was able to get shots at Villanueva, who stopped open shots in the box from Eric LaBrie, Henry Coolidge and Matt Dostie.

“I thought we had three one-on-one chances that I thought were sure goals,” Hagerty said, “and he stonewalled us.”

Villanueva was in position to make another such save, but Max Coury’s shot with 12 minutes to play glanced off a defender and out of the reach of the netminder.

“We let guys dribble through, and he saved us and saved us and saved us,” Higgins said. “He can only do that so long. That’s on us to step up and defend.

“It’s on me to prepare us better, to get us into positions where we can be on the attack more and not as defensive. That’s for me to figure out.”

The Clippers, who were on the attack so often that their defense was rarely pressured, did allow a couple chances by the Patriots.

Bryce Hayman had the lone one to go on frame, but Cal Owen scooped it up. Owen also squashed a cross from Nathan Brindley to Nick McCann. Otherwise, the Yarmouth defense squashed any attempt by the Patriots to get the ball into the box.

“I thought our backs were fabulous today,” said Hagerty, who was down two usual starters on defense.

The loss was the fourth in Gray-NG’s past five games, but Higgins was looking ahead after Tuesday’s defensive stand.

“This is a great tune-up for the postseason, to see these guys,” he said. “I got to make sure we’re better prepared, if we see these guys again down the road, and for the games we have to go.”

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.