The high school football regular season is halfway done and all three local teams are firmly in the playoff mix.
Cape Elizabeth and South Portland both enjoyed impressive home wins last Friday night and improved to 3-1 on the year, as the Capers completely dominated Falmouth, 28-6, and the Red Riots beat previously unbeaten Massabesic by the surprisingly-easy score of 38-7.
Scarborough wasn’t as fortunate, dropping to 2-2 with a 34-20 home loss to previously unbeaten Bonny Eagle.
Cape Elizabeth entered the 2011 season viewed in most quarters as a team a shade below favorites Mountain Valley (the defending Class B state champion) and Wells, but at the midway point, have suddenly emerged as a team everyone will have to take seriously.
The Capers bounced back from a Week One loss at Wells (a game they led in the fourth quarter before falling, 14-6), then downed York (28-17) and Lake Region (33-0). Friday, Cape Elizabeth hosted a 3-0 Falmouth squad that appeared unstoppable, but as has been the case in every prior Capers-Yachtsmen meeting, Cape Elizabeth found a way to prevail.
Falmouth actually took a 6-0 lead on a TD pass just 25 seconds in, but the Capers soon took over, rolling out a three-headed rushing attack of seniors Donald Clark, Derek Roberts and 300-plus-pound behemoth Andrew Lavallee. The hosts held the ball for almost 20 minutes of the first half, but consistently shot themselves in the foot with penalties and an untimely fumble, and still trailed 6-0 late in the first half.
Finally, with 47.9 seconds to go, junior quarterback Connor Maguire hit Roberts for a 13-yard TD pass and Cape Elizabeth was ahead to stay.
The Capers’ domination was even more pronounced in the second half as they took the opening kickoff and chewed up 7 minutes, 33 seconds before going up 14-6 on a 10-yard TD run from Roberts. After a Falmouth punt, Cape Elizabeth ate up over four minutes and took a 21-6 lead when Maguire found senior Ned Melanson for a 28-yard score. After a turnover, the Capers delivered the haymaker, eating up over five minutes before Clark scored on a 4-yard run to account for the 28-6 final score.
The final stats were truly mindboggling.
Cape Elizabeth rushed 63 times for 365 yards. The Capers ran 72 plays to 23 for Falmouth. They had a 351-182 edge in total yardage and most jawdropping of all, controlled the football for 40 minutes, 7 seconds, to just 7:15 for the Yachtsmen.
“I saw a game like that back when we lost to Mountain Valley in the Western Maine Final (in 2007),” said Cape Elizabeth coach Aaron Filieo. “I’ve seen that game before, but we were on the other side this time. (Falmouth’s) fast, so the plan was to keep their offense off the field. I was worried about that because we’ve been undisciplined with penalties. I told these guys, if we keep moving forward, I think we’ll maintain possession. I was just glad our guys could come back and do what they did.”
Individually, Lavallee was the lead runner, gaining 137 yards on 23 attempts.
“We definitely had a chip on our shoulder,” said Lavallee, a 300-pound-plus bruiser who single-handedly wore down the Yachtsmen defense. “We wanted to come out and prove what we could.”
“(The guys) were a little peeved coming in,” Filieo said. “After last year, these guys expect to be underdogs, but they don’t believe they’re underdogs. After the Wells game, they believe they can beat anybody. Falmouth will be there in the playoffs. They’re a good team. We just executed really well tonight, except the penalties.”
Roberts wound up with 115 yards and a TD on 18 rushes. He also caught a TD pass from 13 yards out. Clark ran 20 times for 106 yards and a score. Maguire only completed two of his seven pass attempts, but both went for TDs, for a total of 41 yards. Melanson had one reception for 28 yards and a score.
The only fly in the ointment on this night for Cape Elizabeth was its 11 penalties for 77 yards, which short-circuited at least two scoring drives.
“We have to eliminate the mistakes,” Filieo said. “It’s going to kill us when we get down into playoffs. That’s the last thing you want to do.”
Cape Elizabeth is now flying high at 3-1 and will go to 1-3 Westbrook Saturday. The teams have never met.
“A lot of people underestimate Cape,” Roberts said. “They think because we’re Cape, we can’t play football. We come out every game, do our thing and play football.”
“I’m pretty pleased,” Filieo said. “I love the kids. They work hard. We have good chemistry, but we’re undisciplined. We have good skill, but we make mental mistakes. We’re getting better.”
South Portland, meanwhile, has also dazzled in recent weeks. After giving up 42 second half points in a season-opening 59-21 loss at defending Class A state champion Cheverus, the Red Riots beat visiting Thornton Academy (20-16) and Sanford (42-34). Friday, they welcomed an undefeated Massabesic squad for another test and they passed with flying colors.
A short TD run from senior quarterback Michael Salvatore put South Portland up, 7-0. After the Mustangs tied the score, running back Joey DiBiase gave his team the lead for good with a TD run. In the second period, DiBiase scored on a TD run and Salvatore found senior Logan Gaddar for a touchdown pass and a 27-7 advantage. Senior Brendan Horton (who also kicked three extra points) returned a fumble nearly the length of the field and DiBiase added another TD to make the final score an emphatic, 39-7.
“I was excited that we came out and physically got after them and played better defensively,” said Red Riots coach Steve Stinson. “We like to get after teams early. Some of these 18-year-old kids are getting more playing time and feeling better about themselves. They’re figuring out that they’re as good as anyone out there.”
South Portland hopes to extend its win streak to four Friday when it goes to 0-4 Noble. Last year, the Red Riots downed the visiting Knights, 32-6.
This team doesn’t appear to be vulnerable to a letdown.
“With this group, our message is to put a wall around the city of South Portland and just deal with us,” said Stinson. “We just worry about blocking and tackling. Our goal Friday is to take a step toward being better. We have a great opportunity with this team. We’re getting better every day.”
Scarborough, which won two of its first three, downing visiting Windham and Biddeford and losing at Sanford, entered Friday’s game against 0-3 Bonny Eagle in a precarious position.
Not only did the Red Storm have to play without standout senior Scott Thibeault, who’s out with a back injury, but Scarborough also had to deal with a talented and proud foe desperate for a win.
The Red Storm did take a 7-0 lead after one quarter thanks to a long TD pass from junior Dillon Russo to senior Conor McCann. The Scots then took over with 20 unanswered points in the second period to go up, 20-7, at the break. Bonny Eagle pushed its lead to 34-7 before Scarborough attempted to rally with TD runs from seniors Alex LeClair and Matt Brown, but it wasn’t enough as the Red Storm fell to 2-2 with the 34-20 setback.
Saturday, Scarborough has the daunting task of going to Cheverus (4-0). The Stags edged the Red Storm, 21-14, in last year’s regional semifinals. The teams haven’t met in the regular season since Sept. 24, 2004 (a 34-13 win for Scarborough).
It took virtually the whole Falmouth defense to slow Cape Elizabeth senior Andrew Lavallee Friday evening. Lavallee, along with Donald Clark and Derek Roberts, all rushed for over 100 yards in the Capers’ emphatic 28-6 victory.
Cape Elizabeth junior quarterback Connor Maguire tosses a pass over a Falmouth lineman.
Cape Elizabeth senior Derek Roberts puts the finishing touches on Friday’s win with a fourth quarter interception.