CAPE ELIZABETH—Something as trifling as an early deficit didn’t faze the Cape Elizabeth football team.
Hosting new-to-Class-B Marshwood in a Saturday Night Special at Hannaford Field, the Capers, without several injured players, found themselves down early, 7-6, after the Hawks scored on a kickoff return, but Cape Elizabeth closed the half on a 27-0 run and went on to its fifth successive win, 40-15.
Capers junior quarterback Connor Maguire threw for three scores, senior Bill Brooks caught a long touchdown pass and returned the second half kickoff to paydirt and Cape Elizabeth’s defense put forth its usual stellar effort as the Capers improved to 5-1, dropping Marshwood to 1-5 in the process.
“We don’t pass the ball much, but when we do, we try to keep it as effective as possible and tonight it worked out pretty well,” said Maguire, who only completed three passes, but they were all for touchdowns. “Obviously, it was a team effort. Our receivers did a good job getting open tonight. I was happy I could put the ball in their hands and let them run.”
Cape Elizabeth went 6-4 and was ousted in the 2010 semifinals, but has returned to the upper echelon of Western Class B this autumn.
After battling Wells, the team which appears to be the regional favorite at this stage, down to the wire in a 14-6 road loss in the opener, the Capers downed visiting York (28-17), host Lake Region (33-0), visiting Falmouth (28-6, in a statement win) and host Westbrook (in a much-closer-than-expected 14-13 decision) last week.
Marshwood was 2-6 in Class A a year ago and joined Westbrook in moving to Class B this season. The Hawks opened with losses at York (26-0) and home to defending Class B champion Mountain Valley (34-16) and at Falmouth (33-14) before getting off the schneid with a 51-14 home triumph over Lake Region. Last week, Marshwood fell at home to Wells, 35-0.
The Hawks have a storied history, being named co-Class C champions eight times in nine years in the 1970s, taking the Class C title outright in 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1986, winning Class B in 1988 and Class A the following year.
While it appears it’ll take Marshwood some time to return to top contender status in its new classification, the Capers found out Saturday night, in the first ever meeting between the schools, that the Hawks can be mighty dangerous.
The contest began as expected as the Cape Elizabeth defense forced a three-and-out and the Capers’ offense began at the Marshwood 40 after a short punt.
Cape Elizabeth then replicated the ground-oriented, clock-chewing dominance that led to the win over Falmouth by taking seven plays and almost four minutes to drive for the lead.
Senior bruiser Andrew Lavallee got things started with a 9-yard run. Classmate Donald Clark then ran for 7. After a 13-yard Lavallee burst, Clark rushed got the ball down to the Hawks’ 3 with three rushes, but the hosts faced a fourth down and two.
The ball went to Lavallee, and he dove up the middle, into the end zone and the Capers were on top. Lavallee’s extra point was no good, but Cape Elizabeth appeared in control.
That semblance of control disappeared in all of about a dozen seconds as Marshwood junior Reggie Muchemore took the ensuing kickoff at his 6 and blew up the middle untouched before easily outracing the pursuit all the way to paydirt for a stunning 94-yard return. Senior Ryan Tobey added the point-after and just like that, the Hawks had a 7-6 advantage.
If that wasn’t surprising enough, Marshwood then successfully pulled off an on-sides kick and recovered just shy of midfield.
Suddenly, the onus was on the Capers’ defense to turn momentum and that under-appreciated unit rose to the occasion. After Muchemore ran for 12-yards and a first down at Cape Elizabeth 39, three ensuing runs went for a total of negative-1 yards and on fourth-and-11 from the 40, senior quarterback Troy Pappas’ pass was incomplete, turning the ball over on downs.
The Capers took over at the 40 with 3:41 to go in the opening stanza and instead of embarking on a time consuming drive, took just three plays and 20 seconds to go back on top for good.
After Clark ran for 3 yards and Maguire threw incomplete, Maguire dropped pick and threw a quick slant to Roberts, who barely snared the ball before a defender could take it the other way. With the ball secured, Roberts was able to run the rest of the way untouched and complete a 57-yard scoring pass play for a 12-7 lead. Cape Elizabeth then employed a little trickery as it faked the extra point and Roberts (the holder) ran it in to make it 14-7.
“(The defensive stand) certainly helped us and gave us a boost,” said Capers coach Aaron Filieo. “After (Marshwood) scored the touchdown on the kickoff and got the on-side kick, the offense wanted to get on the field. After the (loss of downs), the offense was excited. (The Hawks) do have some players, some good athletes. It was the same thing we were worried about going up against Westbrook. You just don’t know. They did some different things offensively than what we’re used to in the Campbell Conference. We tried to prepare our guys and I thought the guys responded. When it comes down to it, you just play football. It doesn’t matter who it is.”
The Capers got the ball back late in the first period and drove as far as the Hawks’ 20 before their drive stalled.
Marshwood then got very generous, allowing the hosts to break it open.
On their first play, the exchange was fumbled and Cape Elizabeth recovered at the Hawks’ 22. Three plays later, on third-and-15 from the 27, Clark took the handoff, broke a tackle and beat the defense to the right pylon for a touchdown run.
“The kickoff return was a big momentum shift, but we came out and did what we do best, running the ball,” said Maguire. “Running the ball’s fine with me as long as we keep getting yardage. I was a little bit worried. It was in the back of my mind that it could have been a trap game.”
Lavallee missed the extra point wide right, but the Capers had a 20-7 lead.
Marshwood’s next possession featured Muchemore suffering an injury (he wouldn’t return) on the first play and ended with a punt and Cape Elizabeth needed just one play to score again.
From the Hawks’ 45, Maguire dropped back and lofted a perfect pass into the arms of Brooks, who was wide open behind the secondary. He waltzed into the end zone and even though junior Cam Wilson’s extra point attempt hit the right upright, the advantage was 26-7.
“It’s fun,” said Brooks. “I’ve been second or third string tailback and playing tight end. It’s nice to have a chance to run the ball every now and then. We run up the middle a lot. We threw some play action in and I was wide open.”
When the visitors fumbled the ball away again on the ensuing kickoff, the Capers went for the kill and drove 24 yards in four plays, as Lavallee ran for 2 and Clark gained 5 and 11 yards on the ground before Maguire found Roberts on a quick hitter for a 6-yard score with 3:16 left in the half.
“Connor threw a couple touchdowns against Falmouth too,” said Filieo. “I believe you have to have offensive balance and throw the ball. I definitely think the turnovers helped. It’s a boost for the offense and tough on their defense. Turnovers are a big part of winning and losing and success in football. It certainly helped with field position as well. That’s a huge, huge factor.”
Finally, Cape Elizabeth converted an extra point, as Wilson’s boot was right down the middle and the Capers were firmly in control, up, 33-7.
The Hawks would turn the ball over one more time before the break, but Cape Elizabeth was content to run out the clock and take its 26-point advantage into the locker room.
In the first 24 minutes, the Capers had a whopping 243-25 edge in total offense and took advantage of three turnovers.
Marshwood kicked off to start the second half and again attempted to catch Cape Elizabeth off guard with an on-sides kick, but this time it backfired as Brooks grabbed the bouncing ball at the Capers’ 48 and instead of falling to ground, noticed a big hole and took off. He didn’t stop until he crossed the goal line to complete the 52-yard scoring play.
“I’m really happy for (Bill),” Filieo said. “He works very hard. He does a lot for us. He hasn’t had a chance to make big plays. I’m really proud of him and happy he came out tonight and did some things. He’s in a good place right now as far as his playing ability.”
“We did expect an on-sides kick,” said Brooks. “We worked on it in practice yesterday. I said if they kick it to me, I’m not going to fall on it. I’m going to see what I can do with it. If I got tackled, I got tackled.”
He didn’t and Wilson’s extra point gave the Capers a 40-7 bulge just nine seconds into the third quarter.
The rest of the game would see a steady diet of rushes from Cape Elizabeth, as sophomore Nick Moulton and freshman Christian Lavallee had multiple carries.
Marshwood’s offense would finally get in the end zone with a Capers’-like 15-play, 86-yard drive that ate up over 10 minutes, spanning the third and fourth quarters. Pappas did the honors, scoring on a 16-yard run. Pappas then passed to sophomore Cameron Roll for the two-point conversion.
That would be it for scoring and Cape Elizabeth slammed the door on its 40-15 victory.
“The guys don’t play too emotionally high or get nervous or scared,” Filieo said. “We’ll play anyone at anytime and play our best.”
The Capers wound up with 293 yards off offense. Clark gained 77 yards on 11 carries with a TD. Andrew Lavallee had eight carries for 36 yards and a score. Moulton picked up 37 yards on his seven rushes. Christian Lavallee gained 10 yards on three attempts. Maguire’s three completions (all touchdowns) on six attempts went for 108 yards. Roberts had two of the receptions, good for 63 yards. Brooks (45 yards) had the other.
Marshwood’s offense picked up in the second half and it wound up with 161 yards. Pappas rushed 14 times for 64 yards and the TD. Muchemore had 25 yards on four rushes before leaving with injury. Roll rushed twice for 27 yards. Junior Dan Lizotte had eight carries for 41 yards.
The Hawks didn’t complete a single pass.
Marshwood finishes its season with a home game against Spruce Mountain next week and a visit to Westbrook.
Cape Elizabeth, meanwhile, still has its sights set on a possible second place finish if it wins out. After going to Fryeburg Saturday, the Capers have a home showdown with the defending champions from Rumford in the finale Oct. 21. They’d love to see Wells one more time as well.
“When we come out and play our football, there aren’t many teams that can beat us,” Maguire said. “We’ll be ready for Mountain Valley. We have a couple injured guys who will be ready by then. We’ll do what we do, keep working hard. It’ll be a great game. We didn’t (beat Wells), which stung, but we came out and played a good game. Next time, I feel like we’ll be ready for them. I don’t know necessarily if it’s that much different this year. We just have guys who are really, really passionate. We know we kind of slipped last year, but this year, we’re picking it back up again. We want to make it to the Gold Ball game and we want to win.”
“We’re doing great,” Brooks said. “We’re trying to rest up the injured players. It’s nice to know the younger players can step up and play with us and that they’ve got our backs.”
“We have to get healthy,” Filieo added. “That’s always our thing. We’re getting there. With injuries you find guys to step up and get experience. Mountain Valley’s going to be a tough test for us. I think Wells is playing well. It should be a fun, interesting postseason.”
M- 7 0 0 8- 15
CE- 14 19 7 0- 40
CE- A. Lavallee 3 run (kick failed)
M- Muchemore 94 kickoff return (Tobey kick)
CE- Roberts 57 pass from Maguire (Roberts rush)
CE- Clark 27 run (kick failed)
CE- Brooks 45 pass from Maguire (kick failed)
CE- Roberts 6 pass from Maguire (Wilson kick)
CE- Brooks 52 kickoff return (Wilson kick)
M- Pappas 16 run (Roll rush)