If Cape Elizabeth’s football team reaches its ultimate goal of playing for a state championship Nov. 21 in Orono, the events of last Friday night in Turner will go a long way toward getting the Capers there.
Playing at defending Class C champion Leavitt, Cape Elizabeth embarked on a 48-minute-plus roller-coaster ride before somehow pulling out a 35-34 overtime victory.
The story wasn’t as happy for other local teams, as Scarborough lost at home to Sanford, 29-14, while South Portland was humbled at powerhouse Thornton Academy, 47-6.
Last fall, Cape Elizabeth played Leavitt tough, falling at home in the season opener, 26-7, then losing at the Hornets in the semifinals, 21-9.
This time around, the Capers did even better.
A short touchdown run from Christian Lavallee gave Cape Elizabeth an early lead, but Leavitt came back to tie the score, 7-7, at halftime.
After the Hornets went up, 14-7, early in the second half, they drove for what appeared to be another score, but a low snap led to a rushed throw and Noah Wolfinger stepped in front of it and went the distance. Ben Ekedahl’s extra point tied the game.
“He played out of his mind,” Capers coach Aaron Filieo said, of Wolfinger. “Noah is a tremendous leader, tremendous football player, tremendous kid. He just loves the game of football and loves his team.”
Leavitt retook the lead, 20-14, heading for the fourth period, but Wolfinger scored from a yard out to put Cape Elizabeth ahead, 21-20.
The Capers then had a chance to run out the clock, but couldn’t do so and the Hornets blocked the ensuing punt, setting up a touchdown and two-point conversion for a 28-21 lead inside of the final minute.
The fun was just beginning.
Wolfinger saved the day by throwing a miraculous, 61-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Ben Ekedahl with eight seconds left in regulation. Ekedahl added the PAT and that tied the game, 28-28, and forced overtime.
Wolfinger shook off his favorite target, Ethan Murphy, on the TD pass.
“I looked over at Murph, and he gets a lot of respect because he’s a great receiver in this league,” Wolfinger said. “We have a great new guy, a sophomore who nobody knows about, but I guess they know about him now. He made an incredible catch. We work on a stumble drill every day in practice and to see it pay off when he brought it to the house, that switched the pendulum in our favor.”
Ekedahl nearly tripped after catching the ball, but when he gained his balance he was two steps behind the secondary.
“There was a lineman on me, so I knew he was probably going to throw to me,” Ekedahl said. “It was an unbelievable pass. We thought it was over, but we never gave up.”
Cape Elizabeth got the ball first in OT and Wolfinger hit Justin Guerette for a TD. Ekedahl’s PAT made it 35-28 and gave Leavitt one chance to answer. The Hornets did so and went for the two-point conversion and the win. They appeared to get it, but the Hornets were flagged for an illegal block in the back.
Leavitt tried again and Wolfinger picked off a conversion pass attempt and the Capers had a hard-earned, scintillating 35-34 triumph.
“Wow. Wow,” said Wolfinger, who completed 7-of-18 passes for 136 yards. “I don’t think there’s a team I respect more than the Leavitt Hornets. My brother (Ezra) played them in the (2009 Class B) state final and wasn’t able to do it. They were a great team. They’ve got a great team right now. Coming up here, being able to win with last year’s playoff loss and being able to win it for the seniors who graduated last year, there’s no words to express it.”
“I played in one game like this, Biddeford-South Portland (the 1992 Western A Final won by the Red Riots, 41-36), but that’s about it,” Filieo said. “This was pretty good. It had the sloppiness of an opening game, but it also showed the character, talent and drive of both programs.”
Cape Elizabeth will need to come back to earth as dangerous Poland pays a visit Friday. The Knights are viewed as a darkhorse this fall and opened with a 42-0 win over Lake Region. Last year, the Capers won, 31-0, at Poland.
Scarborough was a playoff team in 2013, but has a lot of holes to fill this autumn, something Sanford took advantage of in the opener. The Red Storm fell behind, 13-0, before getting on the board on a touchdown pass from Jack Hughes to Milani Hicks. The Spartans stretched their lead to 21-7 at halftime and 29-7 before Brandon Watkins scored on a short run to account for the 29-14 final score.
Scarborough hopes to get in the win column Friday when it goes to 1-0 Bangor. Last year, the Red Storm handled the visiting Rams, 34-7.
South Portland is also in a rebuilding mode and opening against a team like Thornton Academy was far from an ideal assignment. The Golden Trojans struck for 14 first quarter points and extended their lead to 28-0 at halftime. After Hayden Owen scored on a 97-yard run to get the Red Riots on the board, Thornton Academy tacked on 13 points in the third period and added another TD in the fourth to prevail, 47-6.
The Red Riots play their home opener Friday night, but it gets no easier as defending Class A champion Bonny Eagle (1-0) comes to town. Last fall, South Portland lost at the Scots, 46-21.
Sun Journal staff writer Kalle Oakes contributed to this story
Cape Elizabeth’s Ethan Murphy, left, and Noah Wolfinger try to corral Leavitt quarterback quarterback Levi Craig during the teams’ overtime instant classic last Friday night. The Capers rallied late to force OT, then held on in the extra session for a statement-making 35-34 triumph.