Yarmouth football one win from gold; Bucksport awaits in Class C state final
The Yarmouth football team got its sternest test of the season Saturday afternoon, but found a way to survive and advance.
The top-ranked and defending state champion Clippers bent but never broke defensively against No. 2 Traip and rose to the occasion time and again with big stops and turnovers forced. Yarmouth's high powered offense was held well below its average, but found the end zone twice and the Clippers improved to 11-0, made it 23 wins in a row overall and advanced to the Class C Final Saturday at 2:30 p.m., versus Bucksport by virtue of a 14-0 win over the Rangers.
"It was a tremendous team effort," said Yarmouth coach Jim Hartman. "I'm so happy for the boys."
Finding a way
Since dropping 19 of their first 20 games as a varsity program, Yarmouth has been as dominant as any team in the state, in any class, ripping off 31 victories in their last 32 outings.
The Clippers overcame an 0-2 start in 2009 with eight straight wins before falling at Dirigo in the regional final.
Yarmouth hasn't lost since, winning all 12 games in 2010, including the state final, over Stearns, and rolled to eight more victories this regular season (with only one decided by less than 20 points). The Clippers scored an average of 41 points and allowed less than six.
As the top seed in Western C, Yarmouth advanced to the regional final with wins over No. 8 Oak Hill in the quarterfinals (45-6) and fourth-ranked Lisbon (38-0).
Traip, which not long ago suffered through a 51-game losing streak, went 6-2 in the regular season and advanced by virtue of a 34-0 quarterfinal round victory over Dirigo and a 21-0 triumph over Maranacook in the semis.
On Sept. 17, the Clippers won at Traip, 27-7.
This time, the Rangers came to Yarmouth playing as if they had nothing to lose and made it inside the Clippers' 20 three times in the first half.
But Yarmouth's defense didn't budge and made big plays to frustrate the visitors. Senior Ben Weinrich forced two fumbles, one recovered by senior Bryce Snyder, the other by senior Bart Gallagher. Gallagher also had an interception.
"We played very well on defense," Hartman said. "(Traip) spreads you out and isolates the linebacker. It took a team effort to stop them. (Senior) Anders (Overhaug) and Ben and (senior) Jacob French were outstanding. Anders was all over the place. He had 17 tackles. Ben had 13 tackles and forced two fumbles. Bart had the interception and recovered a fumble. Bryce recovered a fumble. Our defensive backfield had a strong game. The seniors really came through."
The Clippers took a 7-0 lead late in the first period when Overhaug (105 yards) scored on a 7-yard run, moments after junior Caleb Uhl (175 yards) raced 62 yards to set it up.
Neither team scored in the second quarter.
In the second half, Yarmouth got some breathing room as Uhl scored on a run from the 5. A 14-0 lead had to feel like 44-0 the way the defense was playing and the Rangers were held in check from there as the Clippers moved on.
"It was a tough matchup for us," Hartman said. "We had terrible field position and committed some stupid errors. We only had five drives, where we usually have eight or nine. Caleb and Anders had tremendous days running the ball. We didn't throw a lot, but we didn't need to."
Gold Ball Saturday
Yarmouth travels to Fitzpatrick Stadium Saturday looking for its second Class C championship in a row. After dominating Stearns (34-6) a year ago, the Clippers figure to get a much tougher test from Bucksport (11-0).
The Golden Bucks won their eight regular season games by an average score of 35-7. Bucksport earned the top seed in Eastern C and advanced by virtue of wins over Mattanawcook (47-0), Foxcroft Academy (21-12) and Orono (25-14).
The Golden Bucks were named Class C co-champions in 1971 and 1973, lost to Orono, 12-0, in the 1980 state final, downed Old Town, 28-7, to win it all in 1983, got back to the state game in 2001, but lost, 41-21, to Boothbay, then won a Gold Ball in 2004 (42-20 over Jay).
Bucksport and Yarmouth have no history on the gridiron. The Clippers know that a repeat title won't come easily.
"As a coach, you're always really, really nervous," said Hartman. "Can the guys step up one more time? We'll find out. Bucksport a very good team. Their strength is their defense and their passing game. It's an interesting matchup. They look like Oak Hill size-wise. They're not as big as Traip, but they're still big. They're excellent on defense like Lisbon.
"We're confident with what we have. The guys have responded well for three years. They've been here before and know how to prepare. We won't panic. We'll see if it works out for us. The pressure at times is overbearing for me, but it doesn't bother the kids much."