Yarmouth pounds the 'Hounds, 34-6
YARMOUTH—Perhaps the Yarmouth football team won't get a test after all.
The Clippers, the defending Class C state champions, winners by an average of 43-4 in their first four outings this fall, hosted recent rival Lisbon Friday night in a contest expected by most to be down to the wire.
After all, a year ago, the Greyhounds twice had Yarmouth on the ropes before suffering two-point losses, including a thriller in the Western Class C Final.
This time around, it wasn't even close.
The Clippers got a 61-yard TD scamper from senior standout Anders Overhaug on the first play of the game and never looked back as Overhaug rushed for three more scores and caught another TD from sophomore Brady Neujahr and Yarmouth matched another prolific offensive production with a stellar effort with its underappreciated defense in a 34-6 victory.
The Clippers made it 17 straight wins, 25 in their last 26 outings and improved to 5-0 on the 2011 season, handing Lisbon its first setback in five games this autumn.
"We practiced hard all week," said Overhaug. "We came out and did our best and it was better than them, I guess."
Yarmouth won just once in its first 18 varsity games, but has been one of the state's premier programs since.
The Clippers reached the regional final in 2009 before losing to eventual state titlist Dirigo. A year ago, Yarmouth didn't stumble once, but was seriously tested at Lisbon in a 16-14 regular season victory, which wasn't decided until a 28-yard field goal from kicker Bryce Snyder with just 14.9 seconds remaining.
The teams squared off again in November in a memorable regional final. In that one, the Greyhounds appeared in control, going up, 12-0 in the second period and 12-7 at halftime, but the Clippers battled back and won, 14-12, thanks to a 65-yard Neujahr TD run with just over four minutes to go. Yarmouth then dominated Stearns, 34-6, to win its first ever championship.
Despite losing some standouts to graduation, the Clippers haven't missed a beat in 2011, easily downing host Old Orchard Beach (41-0) and visiting Oak Hill (51-7), holding off a challenge from host Traip (27-7) and blanking visiting Sacopee Valley (54-0).
Lisbon rallied for a 24-14 win at Oak Hill to start the year, then knocked off visiting Old Orchard Beach (34-10), host Boothbay (21-0) and visiting Freeport (28-14).
The Greyhounds were eager for another crack at the champions, but it became clear that Yarmouth wasn't about to be stopped or even slowed on Friday night in a game featured on both a radio broadcast and television simulcast (the rebroadcast can be heard at mainesportsnetwork.com).
"It's a great atmosphere," said Jim Hartman, the only varsity coach the Clippers program has known. "Who'd have thought a few years ago you'd have so many people here? TV was here, radio was here. It's great."
Lisbon won the opening coin toss, but elected to defer possession to the second half, giving Yarmouth first dibs on offense.
The Clippers took over at their 39 and 15 seconds into the game had a 7-0 lead after Overhaug bolted up the middle and didn't stop until he found paydirt from 61-yards out and Snyder added the extra point.
"It was great blocking by the offensive line," said Overhaug. "They opened the hole and I was gone."
"That was huge," said junior Caleb Uhl. "It gave us a lot of momentum. Even though it was the first play of the game, it was the turning point."
The Greyounds picked up a pair of first downs on their initial drive, but stalled in Yarmouth territory and turned the ball over when junior quarterback Ryan Riordan (making his first start behind center since returning from injury) was intercepted by Clippers senior Bart Gallagher.
"I think we're undervalued in pass defense," Gallagher said. "Our coverage was great tonight. I was in the right spot at the right time twice, but it could have been anyone else. Our defensive line was awesome, wreaking havoc in the backfield. Every single pass was short because of them. We didn't know they'd throw a lot. We knew a good team was coming at us. We were hard hitting too and we came out on top. We have great leaders on this team and great coaches. It inspires us to go hard."
Starting at its 26, Yarmouth embarked on a longer scoring drive, taking seven plays and 2 minutes, 7 seconds to march 74 yards to double its lead.
Bruising junior runner Nik Pelletier broke free for 28 yards and on the next play, Overhaug ran 22 yards to the Lisbon 19. After Neujahr scampered for nine yards, Pelletier picked up two for a first-and-goal at the 8. Neujahr got the Clippers close, running to the 1 and Overhaug did the rest, scoring from there. Snyder's extra point gave Yarmouth a 14-0 advantage with 4:27 still to play in the opening stanza.
After the Greyhounds went three-and-out, the Clippers offense finally stalled, punting the ball away. As the first period (which ended with Yarmouth holding a 140-49 edge in offense) gave way to the second, Lisbon picked up 30 yards on a gorgeous diving catch from sophomore Quincy Thompson. Two plays later, senior Zack Splude scored on a 2-yard TD run and the Greyhounds were on the board. Splude's point-after was blocked, but it appeared Lisbon had momentum, down just 14-6.
When the Clippers' next drive stalled at the Greyhounds' 22, the visitors had a chance to climb even closer, but on third-and-10, Riordan's pass was intercepted by Gallagher, who returned it to the Lisbon 28. After a 15-yard facemask penalty was tacked on, Yarmouth was in business.
Two plays later, Overhaug scored again, this time on an 8-yard run. Snyder's extra point gave the Clippers a 21-6 lead with 5:05 to go before halftime.
The Greyhounds looked to draw closer before halftime and had a pair of opportunities, but squandered them.
First, after moving to midfield, a holding penalty forced a punt. The Lisbon defense then forced a fumble and Riordan recovered at the Yarmouth 34 with just under two minutes to go.
If the Greyhounds scored a touchdown, they'd be very much in the game, would have a wave of momentum and could conceivably have pulled even when they got the ball first in the second half, but that wouldn't be the case.
In fact, just the opposite happened.
Lisbon drove to the Clippers 20, but out of nowhere Yarmouth senior Ben Weinrich, once again a defensive force, sacked Riordan, forced a fumble and recovered the loose pigskin at the Clippers' 27.
Only 43 seconds remained, but 73 yards was no obstacle for this high powered attack. First, Neujahr found senior Dennis Erving for 31 yards down the left sideline for a first down at the Greyhounds' 42. After three straight incomplete passes, Uhl broke free for 35 yards and a first-and-goal at the 7 with 12.7 seconds showing. Then, Overhaug took centerstage one more time.
After Neujahr rolled right, he waited and threw to Overhaug, who fell backwards into the end zone with just 2.9 seconds to go.
"We had to hold back on Brady last year, but this week, I knew I had to unleash him a little bit," Hartman said. "He came to play tonight."
Snyder's point-after was no good, clanking off the left upright, but Yarmouth took a commanding 27-6 advantage to the locker room.
In the first 24 minutes, the Clippers outgained the Greyhounds, 272 yards to 86 and forced three turnovers, while giving the ball away once.
Any Lisbon comeback hopes were quickly dashed in the third period.
After the visitors went three-and-out on their initial possession, Yarmouth drove 75 yards on seven plays, eating up 3:01, to account for the game's final score.
Steady runs of 4-yards from Overhaug, 6 and 4 from Pelletier and 2 from Uhl, set the stage for a 37-yard Neujahr to Shields-Auble aerial hookup to the Greyhounds' 23. Pelletier gained 5 yards on the ground, then Overhaug beat the defense to the right pylon for an 18-yard score with 7:09 left. Snyder kicked the extra point and the Clippers were up, 34-6.
After another Lisbon punt, Yarmouth drove again, but a fumble ended the threat.
In the fourth quarter, the Greyounds punted twice, the Clippers once and Yarmouth fumbled the ball away to end its final drive. Lisbon got across midfield one final time, but time expired and the Clippers celebrated their impressive 28-point win.
"We knew Lisbon would be a great team and we'd needed to be fired up and ready to go," said Uhl. "We know it's going to be a great game every time we play them. We've always had a lot of depth. We work really hard in practice. We prepare all week. It's great to have the fan support. That keeps us going."
"I think the game was closer than the score says," Overhaug said. "I was expecting a closer game."
"(Lisbon's) a very young football team, but very good," Hartman added. "I think sooner or later, they'll beat us, but not tonight. I'm really proud of this team. It was an intense week. We're really hurt."
For the game, Yarmouth managed 461 yards of offense, while Lisbon produced just 144.
Individually, Overhaug led the way with 176 yards and four TDs on 13 carries. He also had a 7-yard TD reception.
"He's a monster," Hartman said, of Overhaug. "I don't think there's anyone better in the state."
Uhl had a breakout performance, gaining 107 yards on 10 carries. Pelletier bulled his way to 87 yards on 13 attempts. Neujahr rushed twice for 16 yards. Mix in seven more yards from Erving and sophomore Matt Woodbury and the Clippers produced 393 yards on the ground.
"We have a bunch of speed in the backfield," said Overhaug. "Nik's nice and big. Caleb is so quick. It's a great combination."
"Lisbon does certain things and we threw a new offense in tonight to confuse them," Hartman said. "I don't think they expected Caleb and he was all over the place. Caleb's runs were backbreakers. Nik had power. Then you give it to the stud and he's in the end zone."
Neujahr passed nine times, completing just three, but they went for 74 yards and a score. Shields-Auble had a catch for 36 yards and Erving one for 31.
For Lisbon, Splude rushed 10 times for 58 yards (50 of which came in the second half) and scored his team's lone touchdown. Riordan struggled through the air, going just 4-of-14 for 53 yards with two interceptions. Sophomore Jordan Torres had seven rushes for 24 yards and also produced some nice kickoff returns.
All in all, however, the Greyhounds never hit their stride, thanks to Yarmouth's defensive effort.
"We stress defense," Hartman said. "Our offense looks pretty, but we stress that defense and special teams win championships. Our kids are just great athletes. You can't minimize the defense of Ben Weinrich. He leads us in tackles every game from the nose guard. He consumes blockers. (Senior Keith) McDonald had a great night and (sophomore) Tommy Lord was huge. We turned them loose and had a very good night. We have some great kids here. They have good attitudes."
Three to go
While Lisbon closes the regular season with games at home against Sacopee Valley and Traip and a trip to Winthrop, Yarmouth is at Boothbay next week, before playing its final home game versus first-year Telstar and closing at Freeport.
The Clippers know they still have a lot of work to do.
"I think we've got to keep practicing really hard," said Uhl. "Obviously, staying healthy is a big thing. We have to keep the intensity up."
"We have to focus on the next game," Overhaug said. "Every game's important. We have to win the rest of them. We don't have a very big roster. We have a lot of injuries right now. If we lose one or two people, we can barely field a team. We have to be smart."
"We have to continue to develop the passing game," Hartman added. "We have to unleash Brady. He has a great arm, but he's only a sophomore. He gets nervous and doesn't see things develop. We have to continue to hone our defense. We have to keep the kids healthy and keep developing fundamentals. We don't mention win streaks or the other team, just fundamentals and getting better. Traip's equal to us. They're a tough football team. I have yet to see Winslow. Maranacook, I don't think anyone can overlook. There are good teams out there.
"Boothbay is playing really good defense. They have an outstanding line. They run our offense. If we don't stay disciplined, it could be a long night for us. We have to get our act together and get ready for that."