Capers control clock, Yachtsmen in stunning win
CAPE ELIZABETH—The final statistics defied belief.
In a 48-minute high school football game, one team controlled the ball for over 40 of them, ran over three times as many plays as its opponent and gained 365 yards on the ground in the process.
How better to prevent a prolific offense from doing any damage.
In a Western Class B showdown at Hannaford Field, the host Cape Elizabeth Capers reminded everyone involved with the sport why they remain a top contender, dominating highly touted Falmouth nearly from start to finish en route to an emphatic 28-6 victory.
Cape Elizabeth produced three 100-yard rushers in seniors Donald Clark, Andrew Lavallee and Derek Roberts, took the lead for good just before halftime and never gave the Yachtsmen a sliver of life in the second half as the Capers improved to 3-1 and returned to their rightful place among the upper echelon of the region, while dropping Falmouth to 3-1.
"We definitely had a chip on our shoulder," said Lavallee, a 300-pound-plus bruiser who single-handedly wore down the Yachtsmen defense. "We wanted to come out and prove what we could."
While defending Class B state champion Mountain Valley and last year's regional finalist Wells were viewed as the favorites entering the 2011 campaign, Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth felt they were also in the mix and have impressed in the early going.
The Capers, who went 6-4 a year ago before losing to Wells in the Western B semifinals, almost upset the host Warriors in the season opener before falling, 14-6. Cape Elizabeth then made a statement with a 28-17 home win over York and rolled last week at Lake Region, 33-0.
The Yachtsmen also finished 6-4 in 2010, losing to Mountain Valley in the semis. This fall, Falmouth dominated visiting Gray-New Gloucester from start to finish in the opener, 65-0, overcame a sluggish start with a 33-7 win at Spruce Mountain, then, last week, rallied from a halftime deficit for a 33-14 home victory over Marshwood.
Historically, Cape Elizabeth had a big edge on Falmouth. Entering Friday's game, the Capers had taken all six prior meetings between the varsity programs. The first five came by a composite 136-8 margin, but last year's loss was much more painful for the Yachtsmen, who couldn't hold a 21-7 halftime lead and saw the host Capers rally for a 24-21 win.
The last time Falmouth beat Cape Elizabeth on the gridiron was Oct. 18, 2002 (a 28-15 decision when both teams still played in the Developmental League). Friday, the Yachtsmen came to Hannaford Field primed to end that drought, but they soon discovered they couldn't score if they didn't have the ball and the Capers continued their dominance.
The visitors couldn't have asked for a more auspicious beginning as they won the opening coin toss, elected to receive the ball and promptly scored for a 6-0 lead. After senior quarterback Matt Kingry found classmate Ryan MacDonald for 14 yards on the first play, he aired out it out to junior Alex Derhagopian, who got free behind the Cape Elizabeth secondary and hauled in a 44-yard scoring pass to put Falmouth on the board just 25 seconds in.
"(The Yachtsmen scored first) last year and we came out and pounded the rock and wore them out and kept going," said Roberts. "We were 2-1, they were 3-0. They put some good shows on, but we come to play every game."
Sophomore Joe Goodrich's extra point was no good, but it appeared the Yachtsmen were on their way to a big night.
Instead, the Capers had everything under control, even though they'd regularly shoot themselves in the foot in the first half.
The tone was set on Cape Elizabeth's first drive. The hosts marched from their 38 to Falmouth's 14 before being backed up by a holding penalty and ultimately turning the ball over on downs. The Capers ran 10 plays, chewing up 6 minutes, 14 seconds, but despite six Clark rushes for 24 yards and three more from Lavallee for 27, they had nothing to show for it.
The Yachtsmen got the ball back at their 21 with 5:16 to play in the opening stanza, hoping to build on their lead. Kingry ran for 16 yards on first down and Derhagopian picked up five, but after junior Will Sipperly ran for 10 yards to the Cape Elizabeth 48, he fumbled and the Capers recovered.
Again, Cape Elizabeth marched into Falmouth territory, running out the first period clock in the process. Lavallee ran four times for 23 yards, but after Roberts appeared to run for 18 yards and a first-and-goal at the 7, a hold moved the ball back to the 33.
In the first quarter, the Capers held the ball for 10 minutes, 34 seconds and ran 18 plays to just five for the Yachtsmen. Still, they trailed, 6-0.
Cape Elizabeth's frustrations grew ever more acute in the second period.
On the first play, junior quarterback Connor Maguire found Roberts for a 17-yard pass play, but it was negated by a block in the back. On the next snap, Maguire hit Roberts for an apparent 31-yard TD, but a Caper lineman moved before the play and the false start penalty moved the ball to the 36. After a four-yard run from Clark, Maguire threw incomplete and the hosts had to punt.
Senior Matt Ross did a nice job pinning Falmouth at its 12 and the strong special teams play paid off immediately when Kingry was intercepted on the next play.
Cape Elizabeth, with 10:17 to play in the first half, was in a golden position to take the lead, starting at the Yachtsmen 13, but after Clark rushed twice and a Falmouth chop block penalty moved the ball to the 2, Lavallee had trouble taking the handoff, fumbled and Kingry recovered in the end zone for a touchback for Falmouth, which had dodged yet another bullet.
The Yachtsmen offense got some breathing room when Kingry ran for 44 yards down the left sideline, but after Derhagopian was thrown for a six-yard loss on a reverse, back-to-back incomplete passes forced a punt.
The Capers began their final drive of the first half from their 22 with 7:09 remaining. This time, they'd complete it in style and went ahead to stay.
Naturally, a holding call forced the hosts back initially, all the way to their 10, but soon the running game resumed. On third-and-9 from the 23, Roberts rambled for 20 and a first down. On third-and-3 from midfield, Roberts gained eight more to put the ball at Falmouth's 42. Roberts then took the ball on four successive snaps, gaining 23 yards. Lavallee ran for six to the 13 and after a Cape Elizabeth timeout, Maguire executed a perfect play action, dropped back and found Roberts all alone for a 13-yard touchdown pass and at last, the Capers were on the board.
Ross booted the extra point and Cape Elizabeth was on top, 7-6.
With 47.9 seconds to go, the visitors had time to answer before halftime, but after Kingry threw to Sipperly for 28 yards and senior Jack Cooleen for 12 more, he was intercepted by Roberts and after taking a knee to run out the clock, the Capers took their lead to intermission.
While the Yachtsmen had a 156-150 lead in first half yardage, they only ran 14 plays. Cape Elizabeth, conversely, ran off 36 plays and had the football for almost 20 of the 24 first half minutes.
Nothing changed in the second half, with the exception of the Capers' ability to finish drives and put the game away.
Cape Elizabeth got the ball first in the third period and after a 14-play, 74-yard, 7:33 drive extended its lead.
Lavallee got five carries for 30 yards, Clark ran once for eight and Maguire threw two incomplete passes.
Roberts did the rest, rushing six times for 44 yards, capping the march with a 10-yard TD scamper with 4:21 left in the quarter. Ross' extra point made it 14-6, which probably felt like 44-6 to Falmouth, which couldn't get off the field defensively and couldn't get the ball in the hands of its potent offense.
The Yachtsmen finally got the ball for the first and only time in the third quarter, starting from their 28, but only ran three plays. Sipperly was thrown for a two-yard loss on first down. After Kingry found Cooleen for 10 yards, Sipperly gained just one on a rush and on fourth-and-1 from the 37, Falmouth coach John Fitzsimmons decided to punt the ball the away.
The next time the Yachtsmen would see it, they'd be down by 15.
Cape Elizabeth's next drive began at its 41 with 2:30 remaining in the third. Four straight Clark rushes moved the ball to Falmouth's 33 and the teams switched sides of the field (in the third quarter, the Capers had 100 yards to the Yachtsmen's 9 and controlled the ball for 10:03).
Three plays into the final stanza, Maguire found a wide-open Melanson behind the secondary for a 28-yard score and Ross' extra point made it 21-6 with 10:23 left.
"(Connor's) coming along," Capers coach Aaron Filieo said. "He had nice poise today. He had good control of the offense. He's turning into the quarterback we thought he'd be. He slid to the right and saw Ned open. It was good pocket presence."
That drive was a relatively short seven plays and "only" chewed up 4:07.
Falmouth senior Michael Ryan received the ensuing kickoff at the 10 and attempted to run, but he was ruled to have his knee down when he got possession and the Yachtsmen were backed up. A penalty gave Falmouth a first down and Sipperly ran for another, putting the ball at the 44. Kingry then found MacDonald for 26-yards to the Cape Elizabeth 30, but Kingry was sacked on the next play, fumbled and the opportunistic Capers recovered.
With 9:01 to go, Cape Elizabeth took over at midfield and embarked on a backbreaking drive which ended the competitive phase of the contest.
Clark had runs of 12- and 5-yards. Lavallee then ran twice for 14. The big guy kept running downhill for 9-, 7- and 4-yards to put the ball at the Yachtsmen 4 and Clark did the rest, punctuating the nine-play, 5:11 drive with a 4-yard scoring run with 3:50 remaining. Ross' extra point made it 28-6.
"We just pound the rock," Lavallee said. "It's old-fashioned football, it's what we do. We have a big line and run between the tackles. I don't like to be flashy to the outside, I just like to get yards. The line did a fantastic job. I'm proud of those guys. I'm pleased they came together like that."
On the first play of its ensuing series, Falmouth ran its final play of the night when Kingry was intercepted by Roberts.
"We didn't underestimate them, we just showed up and did what we do best, play football," Roberts said. "We covered Cooleen and shut down the rest of their receivers and tried to contain their quarterback as much as possible. The D line did a tremendous job. We dropped back and covered the guys. It's a big boost. We knew coming in that we were confident we'd hold our ground.We practiced everything all week. We knew what they'd come out to do. We adjusted to it and just shut them down."
The hosts ran out the final 3:36 and made the 28-6 decision official.
"On defense, we manned up on them and it seemed to work," Lavallee said. "This is huge for us. It's a big statement. We had a lot of penalties and it could have been even bigger, but that's OK. We get better every single week. It showed this week. They wore down. We do a lot of conditioning on our team. It's a big part of football. We like to get after it every play."
"(The guys) were a little peeved coming in," Filieo said. "After last year, these guys expect to be underdogs, but they don't believe they're underdogs. After the Wells game, they believe they can beat anybody. Falmouth will be there in the playoffs. They're a good team. We just executed really well tonight, except the penalties."
The final stats were truly mindboggling.
Cape Elizabeth rushed 63 times for 365 yards. The Capers ran 72 plays to 23 for Falmouth. They had a 351-182 edge in total yardage and most jawdropping of all, controlled the football for 40 minutes, 7 seconds, to just 7:15 for the Yachtsmen.
"I saw a game like that back when we lost to Mountain Valley in the Western Maine Final (in 2007)," said Filieo. "I've seen that game before, but we were on the other side this time. (Falmouth's) fast, so the plan was to keep their offense off the field. I was worried about that because we've been undisciplined with penalties. I told these guys, if we keep moving forward, I think we'll maintain possession. I was just glad our guys could come back and do what they did.
"I told the guys at halftime, I've never coached a team that dominated two teams at the half. We did. We dominated Falmouth and ourselves. I said, 'Congratulations, you just beat two teams in the first half. Now, let's go out in the second half and beat one team.' We did. It's great. I'm a former lineman, so I like that. We did a good job executing the play action pass."
Individually, Lavallee was the lead runner, gaining 137 yards on 23 attempts.
"(Andrew) has not let me forget about the Wells playoff game last year," said Filieo. "We had a fourth down on our first drive and I ran our senior fullback and it was one yard and he couldn't get it. He hasn't let me forget it. He's a great athlete. He has great feet. We have depth and enough guys who work hard. (Junior) Tom Harrington goes in for Andrew. It's because Tom has worked hard, coming in as a backup, that Andrew can play fullback. It's a team effort. He worked hard in the weight room and wanted to play. Because he's in a good position, we can put Andrew in at fullback. He still has to clean some things up."
Roberts wound up with 115 yards and a TD on 18 rushes. He also caught a TD pass from 13 yards out. Clark ran 20 times for 106 yards and a score. Maguire only completed two of his seven pass attempts, but both went for TDs, for a total of 41 yards. Melanson had one reception for 28 yards and a score.
The only fly in the ointment on this night for Cape Elizabeth was its 11 penalties for 77 yards, which short-circuited at least two scoring drives.
"We have to eliminate the mistakes," Filieo said. "It's going to kill us when we get down into playoffs. That's the last thing you want to do."
Falmouth had eight possessions and only one was productive, the first. After that, the Yachtsmen twice punted, twice fumbled the ball away and three other drives ended with Kingry interceptions.
Kingry actually had more success on the ground than in the air, gaining 70 yards on four rushes, while completing 6-of-10 passes for 134 yards with one TD, but he had three picks. Sipperly had five rushes for 23 yards and a reception for 28. Derhagopian rushed twice and lost a yard. He also had the 44-yard TD catch. MacDonald finished with two catches for 40 yards and Cooleen was relatively held in check with just two receptions for 22 yards. Falmouth was only penalized twice for 16 yards.
"We wanted to attack them right away, which we did, but first of all, let me congratulate (Cape Elizabeth)," said Fitzsimmons. "I thought they did a terrific job controlling the game. They kept us off the field. We have nice weapons on the field, but they controlled it. Andrew had quite a day against us. Give them credit. Their ability to pound it was there. They put it to us. We have a very good team, but you can't be on defense for three quarters of a game and come out with a 'W.' I told the coaches before the game started that they'd try to run us to death and we didn't have the answer we needed. It was the ability of their line to control our line. The backs weren't touched until they were two yards past the line of scrimmage."
Falmouth has no choice but to quickly shake off this loss. At 3-1, the Yachtsmen remain in the heart of the playoff hunt. Their schedule gets much easier in the short term as they go to winless Lake Region Friday, then host Fryeburg and go to winless Westbrook before closing at home against surprising rival Greely.
"The good news is it's early in the season and we'll learn from this," said Fitzsimmons. "We'll bounce back and break down film Sunday. We'll get better after watching this. We'll learn what we need to improve on."
Cape Elizabeth is now flying high at 3-1 and will go to Westbrook next Saturday. After hosting Marshwood, the Capers visit Fryeburg, then close the regular season against rival Mountain Valley, in what figures to be another delicious chapter between the powers.
"A lot of people underestimate Cape," Roberts said. "They think because we're Cape, we can't play football. We come out every game, do our thing and play football."
"I'm pretty pleased," Filieo said. "I love the kids. They work hard. We have good chemistry, but we're undisciplined. We have good skill, but we make mental mistakes. We're getting better. I have to simplify things for these guys."