YORK — Any doubt that the Cape Elizabeth football team has what it takes to excel in 2009 went out the window in the wake of a dominant showing last Friday night on the home field of one of the Capers fiercest rivals.
Cape Elizabeth shot to a 21-0 lead at the York Wildcats, saw the hosts score two quick touchdowns late in the first half to get back into it, then put the game away in the second half as it improved to 2-0 on the season with a 41-12 triumph.
Senior Tommy Foden continued to shine, scoring four times, twice on the ground, once after a pass reception and once on a punt return. Senior quarterback Ezra Wolfinger came to life in the second half, throwing for three scores and the Capers passed the first of two serious tests they’ll face this fall.
“We didn’t really know what to expect from them, but we came out and traded some blows,” Wolfinger said. “In the second half, we stepped on the gas pedal. We’re confident in our abilities. I think we were a little overconfident in the first half. We came out in the second half, settled down and took care of business.”
No love lost
On the way to becoming a top contender in Western Class B, Cape Elizabeth has butted heads with York and has gotten the best of the Wildcats. In each of the past three seasons, the Capers downed York in the regular season, then did the same in the postseason. The Capers took a six-game win streak against York (their last loss to the Wildcats was 16-8 on Sept. 17, 2005) into Friday night’s game and promptly made it clear that No. 7 was imminent.
The hosts got the ball first, but went three-and-out. Cape Elizabeth did nothing with the ball on its first possession, but its defense rose to the occasion again, holding York senior Jared Prugar to a single yard on third-and-two, forcing a second punt.
That’s when Foden took center stage.
The dynamic senior, who has been a huge thorn in the Wildcats’ side, took the kick at his 40 and outraced the pursuit down the right sideline before breaking the plane for a quick lead. Senior Matt Donovan added the extra point and with 5:27 to go in the first period, the Capers were ahead to stay, 7-0.
Cape Elizabeth’s special teams weren’t done. York again went three-and-out and the next punt was blocked by sophomore Derek Roberts, setting the Capers up at the Wildcats 15.
“Special teams is just as important as offense and defense,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Aaron Filieo. “We had to do something on special teams. We haven’t in awhile. It was good to make some plays.”
Two plays later, Cape Elizabeth doubled its lead when Foden scored on a 15-yard TD run, racing untouched into the end zone. Donovan’s extra point gave the Capers a 14-0 lead after one period.
Foden struck again midway through the second, this time scoring on a 43-yard dash, cutting up the middle, breaking a tackle then racing for the right pylon. Just before he got there, however, he was stripped of the ball, but he managed to wrestle it away from a scrum in the end zone to complete the TD run. Donovan’s point-after gave the visitors a 21-0 lead with 6:22 to play in the first half and appeared to bring the competitive phase of the game to a close.
Not so fast.
The York offense finally awakened on its next series, marching 54 yards in nine plays. Prugar and junior Brad Stephens combined to rush for 41 yards, with Prugar capping the drive with a 1-yard plunge. The extra point failed, but with 2:34 to play in the half, the Wildcats were back within 15, 21-6.
Cape Elizabeth junior Leandre Some fumbled the ensuing kickoff and York recovered. The Wildcats then made things interesting when junior quarterback Chris Cole found Prugar for a 30-yard TD strike on fourth-and-12 with 1:17 to go. The two-point conversion was no good, but suddenly York was in the game at halftime, down just 21-12.
“I wasn’t too worried,” Filieo said. “We were still up by two scores and I felt we could still put points on the board.”
Salting it away
The Capers took over with a critical possession to start the second half and proved their mettle with an impressive drive.
Foden and senior Brendan Shields picked up a couple first downs before Wolfinger began to heat up, hitting senior Finn Melanson for 31 yards, setting up a first-and-goal at the York 5. After two plays netted just 2 yards and a false start penalty backed Cape Elizabeth to the 8, Wolfinger threw a screen to Foden and Foden did the rest, outracing the defense to the left pylon to restore order. The point-after was blocked, but it was 27-12 with 7:49 to go in the third.
“I was hurting the team more than I was helping them in the first half,” Wolfinger said. “I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off. In the second half, I settled down. We picked them apart from there.”
York drove into Capers territory on its first second-half series, but Cape Elizabeth’s defense stiffened and forced a loss of downs.
The Capers then drove 60 yards on seven plays to take their biggest lead of the night. After a pass interference penalty, Foden ran three times for 10 yards and Shields gained 4. Wolfinger then found Melanson for 19 yards and a first down. On the next play, the dangerous tandem combined again, this time for a 12-yard score with Melanson outleaping a defender to haul in the TD reception. The extra point made it 34-12 with 1:29 left in the third.
“We’ve got so many weapons,” said Wolfinger. “When we have everything rolling, we’re unstoppable. Finn’s the best target in the state. He’s unbelievable.”
“(Ezra) was off in the first half,” Filieo added. “I was really proud of how he responded in the second half.”
Cape Elizabeth got the ball back with 9:35 to play and ended all suspense with a 65-yard drive. This time, the Capers moved the ball largely through the air (much to the chagrin of York coach Randy Small, who expressed his displeasure to Filieo after the contest).
A leaping, highlight-reel 25-yard catch by Melanson got it started. After Wolfinger found junior Joe Doane for 13-yards, he hit Melanson for 2 and Doane for 5 more, setting up a third-and-five at the Wildcats 20. Wolfinger then threw a quick hitter to Doane at the line of scrimmage. Doane broke left and outran the defense to the end zone. Donovan’s extra point hit the left upright and dropped back on the field, but somehow was called good by the officials, bringing down the curtain on an impressive 41-12 Capers’ victory.
“It took us awhile,” Filieo said. “We had to scramble a little bit. It was a good test. We knew they’d be physical. We got banged up a little more than we wanted to. We can use this to jettison us into the next games.”
Cape Elizabeth mustered 350 yards on offense. Foden had 132 yards rushing and two TDs on 14 carries. He also caught two passes for 17 yards and a score.
“It’s nice to take a play off and watch Tommy run down the field,” Wolfinger said.
“If there’s a better player in the state, I want to know who it is,” added Filieo. “He does it all.”
Wolfinger wound up 13-of-18, good for 193 yards and the three scores. Melanson had seven catches for 119 yards and a TD. Doane caught four balls for 57 yards and a TD.
The Capers turned the ball over twice and forced York to give it up on one occasion. Cape Elizabeth had five penalties for 35 yards. York was flagged six times for 40 yards. Junior Kyle Danielson and senior Brian Stephenson recorded sacks for the Capers defense. Sophomore Tim Stack had an interception on the final play of the game.
Cape Elizabeth finally gets a chance to play at home Saturday night when it welcomes Fryeburg. The Capers then go to Falmouth. It’s possible the team won’t get another stern test until defending Class B champion Mountain Valley pays a visit on Oct. 30. While Cape Elizabeth has broken out of the gate in style, it knows it still has a lot of work to do between now and then.
“We have a lot of kinks to work out,” Wolfinger said. “Right now, we’re rolling. We’re getting the ‘W’s’ and that’s all that matters.”
“We have to get healthy,” added Filieo. “We have some things we need to work on defensively. Offensively, we have to finish games. We’ll get better.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org