CAPE ELIZABETH—Chop. Chop. Chop.
Just keep chopping away. Eventually enough well-placed hacks will fell any specie if you stay on task long enough.
For the last four seasons, coach Aaron Filieo and his Cape Elizabeth football team have done just that, swinging a mighty axe down on almost every team in pursuit of one so-far elusive goal.
And while no one is quite yet ready to exalt “timber,” never before have the Capers been this close to pushing over the only barrier left standing in the way of a chance to realize that ultimate moment of satisfaction.
In the last game of the 2009 regular season, the unbeaten Capers dealt a blow that no doubt shook tradition-rich Mountain Valley football to its foundation.
In Friday night’s coronation several years in production, Cape Elizabeth made it clear that times have changed in this previously one-sided rivalry, loudly announcing they have arrived and taken over as the official power source of the Campbell Conference.
Well known for its ability to put points on the board, Cape Elizabeth’s defensive unit was the real story of this game, rising up to make pulp of the Falcons’ attack, limiting the defending Class B state champion to just one first down before the half, six overall, and 86 yards of total offense in the game, before both team’s starters checked out to begin the fourth quarter.
It was indeed the “Hurricane” crew that sparked the Capers’ emphatic 34-0 shutout victory in the “House that Filieo built,” jam-packed Hannaford Field, to clinch home-field advantage throughout the regional playoffs as the top-seed in Western Class B.
Cape Elizabeth (9-0) will host No. 4 Wells (6-3) next weekend in the semifinals.
In one seriously impressive display of defense, the Capers came out flying to the football and put several bone-jarring hits on Mountain Valley players. Led by hard-hitting senior captain Tommy Foden at middle linebacker, junior linebacker Jack McDonald, seniors Lucas Morin and captain Brian Stephenson, the Capers seemed to be playing at an entirely different speed than the Falcons’ offense, flying to the ballcarrier and finishing with devastating authority.
“This has always been a respectful rivalry,” said Filieo. “We acknowledge the success Jim (Alyward) and Mountain Valley has had over the years. This is just one step for us. It’s a great step. We’re proud of our guys, but there is plenty of work to do. We still had two turnovers, but I’m happy with the way we responded. Like (Foden) said to me at halftime, ‘defense is so much fun.’ But that’s the attitude that this team has. We have kids that love playing football.”
Somewhere in the Western Maine mountains, in the pesky mill town of Rumford, there is a high school punter with one sore leg. The Falcons’ possession chart when the starters were in the game reads as follows (parental discretion is advised): punt, interception, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception, turnover on downs, punt. The Lions actually squeezed all that into 35 plays from scrimmage, not including the eight punts.
With the football on a cold and windy late October night, Cape Elizabeth senior quarterback Ezra Wolfinger padded his league-leading totals with 218 yards passing and three touchdowns, each score coming on almost magical connections with acrobatic senior receiver Finn Melanson.
Wolfinger, also the quarterback of the secondary on defense, added to his fine night on offense with a pair of interceptions, one that quickly redeemed his own lost fumble and preserved a 20-0 halftime lead for Cape Elizabeth.
“This was the best case scenario,” said Wolfinger. “We wanted to come out and establish ourselves early. We wanted to make a statement that we are the best team in Class B West. Mountain Valley is a great team, they have great coaching, and we have a lot of respect for them. But this was finally our year. This was our game.”
Meanwhile, Foden cemented his name in any conversation that involves the words Fitzpatrick and Trophy, rushing 21 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns, all while playing a ferocious brand of linebacker that most Falcons would just soon forget.
The Capers made a concerted effort to play physical and establish the run to start the game.
Foden rushed 16 times for 75 yards and both of his touchdowns before the break, punching in the Capers first score on an 8-yard burst with 3:03 left in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead after senior Matt Donovan added a successful point-after kick.
Mountain Valley went three-and-out and Wolfinger and Melanson connected on a beautiful throw-and-catch for a long touchdown pass on first down for the Capers’ second score in under two minutes during the first quarter.
After taking over at their own 42-yard line, Wolfinger found Melanson on a deep out to the home sideline for a 58-yard touchdown and a 13-0 lead after a missed PAT try. Melanson, the league’s leading receiver in all major categories, caught five balls for 161 yards and three touchdowns.
The Falcons sandwiched two punts around the Capers first punt of the game, setting Foden up for the second of his league-leading 20 touchdowns. Cape Elizabeth’s eight-play, 54-yard scoring drive ended with Foden ripping through the gut of the Lions defense as would-be-tacklers bounced off him in every direction.
After being dragged down for a loss on the previous play by what he considered an illegal horse-collar tackle, Foden ran over just about every defender on the field, leaving safety Matt Duka sitting on his behind at the 10 in a dejected state holding only Foden’s right Nike while he went 16-yards for a 20-0 lead with time winding down in the first half.
Cape Elizabeth came back from intermission and quickly wasted the Falcons’ halftime speech, opening with a six-play, 54-yard scoring drive capped by a 30-yard Wolfinger to Melanson touchdown for a 27-0 lead with 9:11 remaining in the third quarter.
“Tonight we lived up to the identity that we have created for ourselves,” said Foden. “The offensive line did a great job up front and a lot of the credit has to go to them. Young teams go to half and think they have already won the game. But we knew that we had the ball after the half and the coaches did a great job of preparing us to come out and bury them.”
In a brief display of life, Mountain Valley (7-2) sort of answered, putting together its only sustained drive of the contest, marching 66 yards on 11 plays before the Capers defense tripped up Duka on fourth-and-goal from the 4 just inches from the end zone to force a turnover on downs.
The Capers next drive, the final one of the night for all regulars, cleared out the bleachers and set in motion a long, thought-provoking bus ride for the Falcons.
Cape Elizabeth methodically went 99 yards on 13 plays on a scoring drive that took just under six minutes to complete. Foden and senior fullback Kyle Piscopo took turns blasting the Capers out of danger with their backs to the goal line, and Melanson went up and pulled down another incredible touchdown grab over a defender at the right-front pylon with 11:22 left in the game to bail out Wolfinger on the run to his right from pressure. Melanson’s leaping grab kicked off a junior varsity ending with Cape Elizabeth now in full control leading 34-0.
Cape Elizabeth has posted a 3-0 record against this year’s playoff crop, torching York on the road 41-12 in the second game of the season, and handling Wells at home, 40-0, in Week Six.
The Capers undefeated record marks the second time in three seasons that Filieo has finished unblemished.
His only other win over Mountain Valley closed out a perfect 2007 regular season. But the Falcons returned to Cape Elizabeth two weeks later and repaid the favor, capturing the regional championship behind league MVP Justin Staires.
Since the 2006 season, Filieo has posted a remarkable 37-5 record, with all five losses coming at the hands of Mountain Valley, three times in regional championship game. Cape Elizabeth finished 2006 at 9-2 but got blasted in mill town in the regional title game, went 10-1 in 2007, and once again slipped and fell in the regional championship to Mountain Valley to finish 2008 at 9-2.
All signs are pointing to 2009 having a very different conclusion.
Senior Kyle Piscopo barreled over a defender for a big gainer.
Foden showed he could be a menace on defense as well, slamming a Mountain Valley runner to the turf while senior teammate Lucas Morin looked on.
Senior Tommy Foden had little trouble evading a pesky tackler during one of his big gains Friday night. Foden rushed for 100 yards in the victory.
Senior Steve Homa (37) and junior Jack McDonald (53) teamed up to make life miserable for a Mountain Valley running back Friday night. The defending Class B state champion Falcons could do virtually nothing with the ball.