RUMFORD—Those who say history doesn’t repeat itself ought to join the Cape Elizabeth football team in Rumford in the month of November.
Friday evening, amid the chill from the elements and opposing fans, the Capers met the defending Class B state champion Mountain Valley Falcons and for the fourth time since 2006 saw their season come to an end in the shadow of the smokestacks.
In a Western B semifinal, Cape Elizabeth fought valiantly and had its chances, but ultimately went down to a 13-0 defeat, ending its season at 7-3, while the Falcons improved to 9-1 and will have an opportunity to avenge their lone loss next Saturday when they go Wells for the regional final.
The Capers fell behind late in the first period after a special teams breakdown led to a returned punt for a score and late in the first half, Mountain Valley embarked on a long TD drive, but the Cape Elizabeth defense held the fort from there and kept hope alive and the Capers had a couple good chances to score in the second half before being ultimately turned away by the staunch Falcons’ defense and that was all she wrote.
“It’s always a great effort with these guys. Always,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Aaron Filieo. “We couldn’t score. We had a great drive and had a couple times where we sniffed, but we couldn’t finish. We made too many mistakes. It wasn’t for a lack of effort or trying. We certainly left everything on the field which at the end of the day is what we ask for.”
Since joining Class B in 2005, Cape Elizabeth has measured itself by how competitive it was against Mountain Valley, which has long been the measuring stick for excellence in the region.
The Capers lost the first meeting with the Falcons, 36-23, at home in 2005, but by the following season were in the playoffs and went to Rumford for the regional final, only to fall, 47-6. The next year, Cape Elizabeth beat Mountain Valley for the first time, 16-14, in the regular season finale, but in the regional final two weeks later, the Capers couldn’t win on their home field and dropped a tough 10-0 decision. In 2008, Cape Elizabeth got back to the regional final, but had to go to the Falcons and dropped a close 25-19 decision.
The Capers finally broke through in 2009, downing visiting Mountain Valley, 34-0, in the regular season finale, then rallying past the Falcons in the regional final, 23-13. Cape Elizabeth would lose the Class B state championship game, 35-21, to Leavitt.
The Falcons won the state title a year ago, but didn’t have to go through the Capers, who were ousted by Wells in the semifinals.
Cape Elizabeth impressed this fall. The Capers led in the fourth period, but lost at preseason favorite Wells, 14-6, in the opener. Cape Elizabeth then rattled off victories over visiting York (28-17), host Lake Region (33-0), visiting Falmouth (28-6), host Westbrook (14-13), visiting Marshwood (40-15) and host Fryeburg (29-6) before ending the regular season with a 20-14 home loss to Mountain Valley.
As the No. 3 seed, the Capers welcomed No. 6 Greely in last week’s quarterfinals and prevailed, 21-9, to advance.
Mountain Valley entered this season being advertised as a weaker version than the juggernauts of the past, but other than a loss at Wells in week six, the Falcons passed every test (outscoring the opposition by an average of 25 points) and earned the No. 2 seed. In the quarterfinals, Mountain Valley dominated No. 7 Spruce Mountain, 48-0.
Friday, the Falcons did what they had to do ito deny the Capers once more.
Cape Elizabeth won the opening coin toss, but deferred possession to the second half.
Mountain Valley took the kickoff and quickly moved down the field when senior quarterback Zach Radcliffe found junior Jacob Theriault for 25 yards on third-and-9. Four plays later, on fourth-and-2 from the Capers’ 36, senior Izaak Mills rushed for three to keep the drive alive. A pass interference penalty (which wasn’t very popular with the Cape Elizabeth coaching staff) put the ball at the 19, but the Falcons’ hopes of grabbing the early lead disappeared when a 19-yard Radcliffe to Theriault touchdown pass was negated by a hold. A false start penalty pushed the hosts back even further and on second-and-26 from the 35, Radcliffe threw a pass into the left flat that was tipped and wound up intercepted by Capers junior Connor Maguire.
Cape Elizabeth’s offensive game plan was to run as much as possible behind its behemoth 300-pound senior running back Andrew Lavallee and his first touch resulted in a 12-yard gain. Senior Derek Roberts ran for 15 on the next play, but the gain was nullified by an illegal block in the back. That call caused the drive to stall and the Capers punted the ball back to the Falcons.
On the second play of the ensuing Mountain Valley drive, Falcons senior Kyle Duguay gained four yards, but did not get up after being tackled. The game was delayed 10 minutes and Duguay was taken off the field on a stretcher.
Rallying around Duguay, Mountain Valley quickly moved into scoring position again when Radcliffe found Mills for a 22-yard reception, but on the next play, junior Matthew Hosie fumbled and Lavallee recovered.
The Cape Elizabeth defense had more than done its job to that point, but the offense stalled and Maguire was sacked by senior Nathan Nichols and junior Santos Rodriguez on third-and-7, forcing a punt.
Then, from the Capers’ perspective, disaster struck.
Somehow, Mills was able to rush in untouched and block the punt. He tried to pick up the ball inside the 10, but wasn’t able to grab it. Senior Taylor Carey swooped in to grab the loose pigskin at the 2 and fell into the end zone for the game’s first score.
“Nobody touched me,” Mills said. “Someone missed their assignment. I timed it and went in untouched. It all worked out. Taylor stole my touchdown, but I get the assist.”
“It’s simple,” Filieo said. “It comes down to execution and mistakes and we made more than they did at key times. Special teams always factor into big games and they had a big special teams play. The guy that was supposed to block that gap moved and thought it was going to be illegal motion and a dead play. The guy came flying in and he never even saw him. You can’t account for or practice those types of plays. It’s just one of those things.”
Filieo felt Mountain Valley’s resolve in the face of adversity helped turn the tide.
“I thought that if it was any other team, (the injury) would have been in our favor, but those kids respond differently,” Filieo said. “I thought it helped them. They rallied around and played tougher after it, I thought. That’s a credit to them and the type of kids they are.”
Mills added the extra point and with 1:36 to play in the opening quarter, Mountain Valley had a 7-0 advantage.
As the first period gave way to the second (the Falcons had a 64-8 edge in offense in the first 12 minutes), Cape Elizabeth had to punt and Mountain Valley started at its 29. An illegal motion penalty immediately backed the Falcons up and they went three-and-out and had to give the ball back.
The Capers began at their 34 and moved into Mountain Valley territory for the first time when Lavallee ran for 16 yards to the 45, but the next three plays only gained three yards and again, Cape Elizabeth kicked the ball back to the Falcons.
The hosts took possession at their 15 with 8:22 left in the half and embarked on a 17 play, 85 yard drive that chewed up 7 minutes, 3 seconds and ended with another TD.
An 11-yard scamper by Mills got things started. Hosie then picked up 13. Mills and Hosie alternated four carries that resulted in 22 more yards to the Capers’ 38. After Radcliffe hit junior Colin Merrill for 10 yards, Hosie ran for nine yards and Mills four, forcing Filieo to call timeout to allow his defense to regroup.
It worked for one play at least as Mills was held for no gain, but on second-and-10, Hosie broke free for nine yards. After Mills gained the first down, setting up first-and-goal at the 5, Merrill ran for a yard and Mills was held for no gain, setting up third-and-goal at the 4. Just when it looked as if Cape Elizabeth might be able to hold, Radcliffe dropped back to pass, double clutched, then threw to Theriault in the right corner of the end zone for a little breathing room. Mills missed the extra point wide left, but with just 1:19 remaining in the half, the Falcons had a 13-0 lead and the visitors could do nothing to cut into that deficit prior to the break.
In the first half, Mountain Valley produced 152 yards of offense to just 48 for the Capers.
Cape Elizabeth’s offense would be much more productive in the second half, but could never find the end zone.
The visitors’ first drive of the third quarter would end in utter frustration and disappointment.
Starting at their 30, the Capers embarked on a 17-play march that ate up 8:12, but ultimately led to no points.
Lavallee carried on the first five snaps, gaining 17 yards. Roberts then ran for nine and 13, setting up a first down at the Falcons’ 31. Lavallee ran for six and Roberts five more for another first down at the 20. Four plays later, facing fourth-and-2 at the 12 and with everyone on hand knowing where the ball would go, Lavallee found a hole and bulled forward for three yards and a first-and-goal at the 9. After a one-yard pickup by Roberts, Maguire threw incomplete. Lavallee ran for three yards to the 5, but on fourth down, Cape Elizabeth was backed up five yards by a false start and a Roberts pass on fourth down was intercepted by Mountain Valley senior Isaac Roberts just in front of the goal line. Roberts returned the pick 51 yards to the Capers’ 48 and the threat had been extinguished.
“We just didn’t execute on the tight end play,” Filieo lamented. “That was there. We got a penalty. We had the right play called that we haven’t run all year. We were waiting to use it and we got a false start. We had to go with a different play we weren’t as comfortable with. On fourth down, (Connor) chucked it up hoping one of our guys could make a play.”
“They were driving down on us, feeding us Lavallee, Lavallee, Lavallee,” said Mills. “Luckly we stopped them. Isaac’s interception was awesome.”
The Falcons went three-and-out and Cape Elizabeth began its next drive at the 15. A 20-yard pass from Maguire to Roberts gave the visitors some breathing room and on the first play of the final stanza, Maguire threw a quick hitter to senior Bill Brooks, who rumbled down the center of the field to the Mountain Valley 47, a gain of 25 yards. Four plays later, Lavallee ran for five on fourth-and-3 to set up a first down at the 35, but after an incomplete pass, a hold negated a 13-yard Roberts run and pushed the Capers back to the 41. Maguire then threw three straight incomplete passes and the Falcons got the ball back on downs, having held once more.
With 9:16 to play, Mountain Valley once again milked the clock, rushing 10 straight times and benefiting from facemask and offsides penalties to move deep into Cape Elizabeth territory before turning the ball over on downs at the 14.
By then, the Capers had just 3:09 left to work with.
On first down, Maguire threw to senior Donald Clark for seven yards, but the quarterback was hurt on the play and Roberts had to finish the game under center. After Lavallee picked up the first down with a four-yard rush, Roberts threw consecutive incompletions. Roberts then tried a quarterback draw, but lost two yards and on fourth-and-12, Roberts threw one more incomplete pass, giving the ball back to the Falcons on down.
After Radcliffe took a knee on three straight snaps, the game was in the books.
“I had a really good feeling about tonight,” Filieo said. “We had our chances, but we just didn’t capitalize.”
For Mountain Valley, Mills stepped up big in Duguay’s stead and gained 81 yards on 20 carries. He also caught a pass for 22 yards and got a postgame kiss on the forehead from Falcons’ coach Jim Aylward for his effort.
“Kyle’s a huge part of our team, but we are a team and other players have to step up when a player goes down,” Mills said. “That’s Mountain Valley football. We have kids who can fill in. That’s why we’re so successful. We don’t back down due to player injury, we just keep going hard at it. We’re not one-dimensional. That’s how we’re coached.”
Hosie rushed for 42 yards on six attempts. Radcliffe finished 4-of-9 for 61 yards, with a TD and an interception. Thibeault caught two balls for 29 yards and a score. Merrill had one reception for 10.
The Falcons, who had 193 yards of offense, gave the ball away twice and were penalized five times for 38 yards.
Mountain Valley goes to 10-0 Wells for a rematch of last year’s regional final, which the Falcons won. The host Warriors beat Mountain Valley, 28-12, on Oct. 7.
“We’re playing well right now,” Mills said. “We have to keep it going. We have a tough game next week. Hopefully we can keep ‘0’ on the scoreboard. That would help us out.”
Lavallee finished his stellar Capers’ career by rushing 22 times for 94 yards.
“(Andrew) was fighting,” said Filieo, who spent several minutes in the postgame consoling his senior leaders. “He was really working hard to bring the team into the end zone.”
Clark gained 19 yards on five rushes and had one reception for seven. Roberts was held to 26 yards on 11 rushes, caught one pass for 20 yards and was 0-for-3 throwing the football. Before leaving with injury, Maguire completed 3-of-11 pass attempts for 52 yards and an interception. Brooks had one reception for 25 yards.
Cape Elizabeth was hindered by seven penalties which went for 75 yards, one turnover and the blocked punt. The Capers finished with 159 yards of offense.
While disappointed with the result, Cape Elizabeth was very pleased with its season.
“I think all the kids really played resilient,” Filieo said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the team. We had a little bit of a down year last year. These guys came into the season with high expectations. Not just wins and losses, but to sort of bring the team back to that cohesiveness and brotherhood and the great junior and senior leadership did it. Losing isn’t good and we won’t pretend it is, but what (the guys) need to do is step and back and look what they did because it was outstanding.”
CE- 0 0 0 0- 0
MV- 7 6 0 0- 13
MV- Carey 2 blocked punt return (Mills kick)
MV- Theriault 4 pass from Radcliffe (kick failed)