A rare daytime test for the top-ranked Cape Elizabeth football team proved no different than any other.
In what amounted to nothing more than a well-dressed rehearsal starring the league’s most electrifying player, unstoppable senior Tommy Foden, the Capers rather casually dismissed the fourth-ranked Wells Warriors, cruising to a 35-14 victory in a Western Class B semifinal round showdown Saturday at sun-splashed Hannaford Field.
On a splendid afternoon for football, “Touchdown Tommy” cut-up some serious carpet, scoring three times on a pair of short runs to go with a back-breaking 90-yard kickoff return that answered a Wells score and helped the Capers build a 35-6 halftime advantage.
Foden, Cape Elizabeth’s all-time leading scorer with a mind-boggling 75 career touchdowns to date, including 26 already this season, traded in his star-decaled helmet for a pom-pom topped winter cap and took in the entire second half like any paying customer.
He was not alone for very long. Cape Elizabeth coach Aaron Filieo pulled the plug on senior quarterback Ezra Wolfinger and his arsenal of skilled offensive weapons with a full eight minutes left to play in the third quarter, as the Capers improved to 10-0 for the second time in three seasons.
“Wells has a great program,” said Filieo. “They have kids with a lot of pride. We knew they had nothing to lose and would come out and play with heart. I thought we responded well. This team has a certain sense of maturity and patience.”
Get this party started
Cape Elizabeth came out strong early. Foden caused and recovered a Wells fumble at the 18, and four plays later powered in off-tackle from the 3.
Senior all-purpose back Brenden Shields added a touchdown, sweeping in from 5-yards out for a 14-0 first quarter lead.
Foden capped a nine-play, 47-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown on the toss-play to begin the second quarter, patiently drifting left for a 21-0 lead behind a convoy of blockers in the Capers’ “Cow” package led by senior linemen James Martin.
Foden accounted for every positive yard on the drive, rushing five times for 43 and catching one ball for 9.
“We have a great coaching staff here,” said Martin, a two-way starter on the line. “They prepare us well. We’re just going to continue to do our thing, stay focused, come out and get after it again next week.”
Wells did have a couple fleeting moments of joy in the first half. First, the Warriors recovered Cape Elizabeth senior Max Pulsifer’s fumble and took over at their own 20. Lined up in a three-back set, Wells drew a hankie for illegal motion and was backed up to the 15. In the same formation, Warriors’ quarterback Paul McDonough slipped the football to Michael Moates-Carpenter on his left, and watched as he pinballed 10 yards deep into the Capers secondary and emerged alone for an 85-yard touchdown that closed the gap to 21-6 with 5:17 left in the second quarter after a failed two-point conversion.
Before Moates-Carpenter’s high-stepping long touchdown, Wells had managed just five yards from scrimmage and had yet to pick up a first down.
But Foden, also the Capers’ all-time leader in punt-return touchdowns and yardage, did his thing once again, fielding the ensuing kickoff at the 10, picking up one final block from senior Finn Melanson and racing down the home sideline to the end zone for a 28-6 lead.
Anyone better than Ezra?
Another key element to the Capers’ attack is the dynamic between Wolfinger and Melanson, which has been upping the Pepto-Bismol consumption of opposing Campbell Conference coaches for the past two seasons.
Leading Wells 28-6 with 1:39 remaining before intermission, Wolfinger led a hurry-up Cape Elizabeth scoring drive that effectively ended the Warriors’ season in a flash.
With an easy cool, Wolfinger plays a polished brand of quarterback in complete command of the Capers’ offense. In five plays, he shredded the Warriors’ secondary for all 68 yards on the drive through the air including another “Finn-Tastic” connection for a 25-yard touchdown.
Wolfinger threw for 140 yards on 9-for-13 passing in the game, including 4-for-5 on this scoring drive, which should have ended perfect one play earlier when another strike was dropped in the end zone.
Wolfinger hit senior halfback Kyle Piscopo for 15 yards out near midfield, connected with Melanson for the first time on a quick out for 9, then scrambled left and threw across his body to a wide-open Foden down to the Wells 25. His next pass was right on the money, but dropped. No problem, on the next, Wolfinger went back to his happy place, firing a rocket on the dead run toward the Wells sideline that was gloved at its spiraling apex by a leaping Melanson in the back left corner of the end zone with 1:07 left in the half.
“We understand that when the playoffs start every team has a clean slate,” said Wolfinger. “Wells was going to come out here and do everything they could to win. Luckily we have Tommy Foden. He was able to carry us today when other things weren’t working. Right now it’s just one game at a time.”
Moates-Carpenter added a 3-yard touchdown plunge and McDonough ran in the conversion late in the fourth quarter for the 35-14 final.
Guess who’s back?
Here we go again. For the fourth consecutive year, Western B football supremacy will be decided by Cape Elizabeth and Mountain Valley (8-2).
The third-ranked Falcons avenged a regular season home loss to No. 2 York with a 14-10 win on the road in the other semifinal Friday.
Defending state champion Mountain Valley has won all three prior meetings in the regional championship game. Cape Elizabeth will host Version 4.0 on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.,
Mountain Valley won the first title bout 47-6 at home in 2006, and then again last year (25-19) in the ominous shadow of the mill towering high above Hosmer Field.
In-between, Cape Elizabeth piled up 10 straight wins, including its first ever over Mountain Valley to finish undefeated in the well documented 2007 campaign, the debut season of Hannaford Field. But the Falcons returned two weeks later and toed the line in a defensive slugfest to capture the region again, 10-0.
“We love playing Mountain Valley,” said Filieo. “We respect that
program immensely. But as far as preparation goes, nothing changes. We
try to come out each week and take care of our own business. We like
that we just played them so it’s still fresh in our minds. It’s nice
not to have to go way up to Rumford, plus all of the other advantages
that come with being home.”
“There’s absolutely a sense of urgency for us,” said Foden. “But right now we just have to stay focused. We definitely wanted to play Mountain Valley. We wouldn’t want it any other way. Last year when we lost up there I said we’re never coming back.”
Once again, another high-profile regional title game is on-tap between two communities that have somehow forged a unique understanding of each other in recent years. In a sport known far more for the contentious nature that divides winners from losers, Cape Elizabeth and Mountain Valley, seemingly worlds apart, found common ground through the eyes of youth on a pitch of grass and, even more in the game of life.
As perhaps destiny ordained, tony Cape Elizabeth braces itself once again for a caravan of Rumford loyalists to descend in from the high mountains of Maine.
Except when the curtain goes up Saturday, for the very first time, the Falcons will take the field as clear-cut underdogs in a rivalry that’s been highly one-sided since back when this all began. And while these are not your older brother’s Falcons, guess what, same goes for this edition of Cape Elizabeth football.
Things do change, and this year it’s hard to find a strand of evidence suggesting history may repeat itself. It seems the Filieo-led journey of converting a first-year club team to a perennial power seems nearly complete. Powered by Foden, the Capers sit on the very brink of accomplishing what has always seemed inevitable since Filieo grabbed the big whistle six-years ago.
From humble beginnings out back on Gull Crest Field, a simple clearing in a forgotten patch of marsh, the Capers appear ready to snatch the torch from the Falcons’ steely grip and continue on their relentless quest for gold.
For Cape Elizabeth, kickoff could never come fast enough.