CAPE ELIZABETH—It was a throwback-style struggle reminiscent of the brutally physical football games between upstart Cape Elizabeth and tradition-rich York in the black-and-blue earlier days of the program, as in Saturday afternoons, offsite in the marsh and mud at Gull Crest Field.
Friday night, the new-generation Capers slugged it out on the turf and in the lights at a packed and loud Hannaford Field against those same old York Wildcats to earn a 21-0 victory on the strength of a fast, hard-hitting defense in the flow for the defending Western B champs in the home opener.
Cape Elizabeth’s revamped, explosive defense gets its fuel from speed and pure athleticism on the edges and a pair of top inside linebackers that play tough against the run. The Capers’ electric pass rush forced an interception on the Wildcats first attempt of the game that led to a score and a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. It didn’t get much better for a York offense that managed just over 30 yards of total offense before the half.
Coach Aaron Filieo’s new-look Hurricane defense set up the second touchdown with under a minute left to go in the second quarter when it turned the ball over to the offense with another short field to navigate at the 33 and watched as they punched it in to take a 14-0 advantage at the break.
The statistical limelight will shine on the skill players but once again the story of the Cape Elizabeth defensive front is a very Lavallee one. Version 3.0, junior Andrew Lavallee, moves with more ease and closes with more speed at 6-foot-2, 300 pounds, and could be the most disruptive of the three brothers to play for the Capers on the defensive side of the ball.
Lavallee batted down four passes at the line of scrimmage against York, had a couple of sacks and put a few more big hits on Wes Werner, the Wildcats new starting quarterback with senior Chris Cole lost for the year to injury. Lavallee also freed up senior defensive ends Kyle Danielson and Connor McAleney to run wild off the edges in pursuit of the ball carrier or to knock Werner around when he looked to stand in and throw.
The tall, lean and quick pair at end changes the entire look of Cape Elizabeth’s defense with Danielson and McAleney flying around making plays in a more college-style scheme. McAleney shined bright against York, with three sacks, several quarterback pressures, plus another sack on the punter for a big loss early in the game.
“They didn’t seem ready for us on the line,” said Danielson. “We’re a different team than we were last year. I think York didn’t expect us to be as fast as we are off the ball on defense. We had some speed last year but this team has more quickness.”
The Cape Elizabeth rush collapsed on Werner on his first attempt of the contest and forced him to badly underthrow his target down the home sideline. Junior Derek Roberts, the Capers cornerback on defense and first-year quarterback on offense, came back to make the interception at the York 33 to set up the game’s first score with 6:21 left in the first quarter.
On the offensive side of the ball, Cape Elizabeth uses one of its two standout linebackers as its featured back. Senior Jack Barber hammered in the first of his two-yard touchdown runs in the game to take the 7-0 lead. Returning noticeably lighter and more agile, Barber rushed 22 times for 88 yards, including powering in the game’s final score with 2:39 left in the fourth quarter.
“We lost a lot in the backfield to graduation and I knew I had to come back with more speed,” Barber said. “That’s all we worked on this summer. I lost about 20 pounds and feel a lot faster. The offensive line did a great job run blocking out there. York is a great football team and we’re happy to get the win.”
In the run game for York (0-2) the same concept held true. The Wildcats do have a nice stable of tailbacks with home run potential, but they found it tough going against Cape Elizabeth. York was in the process of deciding on how best to avoid Lavallee when they got a smarting reminder about the Capers inside linebacker corps. The two captain Jacks, as in McDonald and Barber, hit for keeps and put several punishing licks on York ball carriers between the tackles. McDonald had a few jolting hits on the Wildcats, one that led to a fumble he recovered with 8:56 left in the second quarter. Cape Elizabeth was unable to capitalize this time on the scoreboard, but senior Patrick Tyler’s punt did pin the Wildcats back inside the 5-yard line and led to the Capers second score.
The Wildcats picked up six yards on three running plays and were forced to kick it away from inside the 10 with 2:00 left in the half. The punt sailed a mile high but only 20 yards downfield and sent the Capers offense back out with a first down at the Wildcats’ 29. Three plays later, Roberts connected with McAleney scraping opposite just inside the end zone from the 8-yard line for a Cape Elizabeth touchdown. Tyler drilled the second of his three point-after kicks and the Capers took a 14-0 lead at the break.
But this is when things started to change. The Wildcats went to the ground and featured senior Brad Stephens, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last year as the second option, senior Brad Radke and yes of course, another Prugar. Sophomore Aaron Prugar enters the mix one year after his brother Jared was named conference MVP at tailback for York. The Prugars are the Wildcats’ version of the Lavallee trilogy, Zach Prugar was in the middle of all those early battles in 2004 and 2005.
The Wildcats opened the second half with their longest drive of the game. Werner engineered a nine-play, four-minute march that moved York across midfield to the Cape Elizabeth 31 before stalling. After having no luck early, the Wildcats sustained drives and ran twice as many plays as the Capers in the second half. York took 42 snaps from the line of scrimmage in the final two quarters to just 22 for the home team.
But it wouldn’t be enough to overcome the defending regional champs. Cape Elizabeth came up with the big plays when it counted and preserved the shutout with a last minute goal line stand. Lavallee brought the game to a fitting end when he batted down Werner’s last attempt on fourth down as the clock ticked down to zero.
“There were no surprises out there tonight,” said Filieo. “This was just two teams gutting it out. It reminded me of when I used to play for (coach John) Wolfgram. We have a young offense that just needs to get some more experience. There’s enough time for us to figure out ways to score. Until then, the defense should be able to keep us in a lot of games and we’ll force turnovers like we did tonight to get the ball in good spots to score. What we like is that we really didn’t play that well tonight and still came away with a win against a good football team from York.”
Cape Elizabeth will be expected to win easily on the road Saturday against Fryeburg Academy and will return home on Friday night, Sept. 24, to host Falmouth in what should be a battle of unbeatens.
Cape Elizabeth junior Austin Shields goes high to make a tackle of a York ballcarrier Friday night. The Capers improved to 2-0 on the season with their second successive shutout, 21-0.
More photos below.
Cape Elizabeth junior Derek Roberts fends off a York tackler. Roberts, in his first year as starting quarterback, helped the Capers pull out another win.
Cape Elizabeth sophomore Connor Maguire looks for running room Friday.