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Clippers are champions again

Sports

Clippers are champions again

PORTLAND—The powerhouse Yarmouth football program has another championship banner to hang.

A year after breaking through far sooner than anyone expected, the Clippers repeated as Class C champions Saturday afternoon at Fitzpatrick Stadium, downing Bucksport in surprisingly easy fashion, 41-14, in the state final.

Yarmouth got six touchdowns from dynamic senior Anders Overhaug, forced three turnovers and blocked a punt as it finished the 2011 season 12-0, extended its win streak to 24 games and ended the Golden Bucks' campaign at 11-1.

"It's awesome," said Overhaug. "Really amazing. I never imagined six touchdowns. I'm super pleased with the team. We did a great job."

Better and better

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.

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, 34-6 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.

Yarmouth easily downed host Old Orchard Beach (41-0) and visiting Oak Hill (51-7), held off a challenge from host Traip (27-7), blanked visiting Sacopee Valley (54-0), rolled over visiting Lisbon (34-6), rallied for a closer than expected 24-14 win at Boothbay and closed with easy victories at home over Telstar (47-6) and at Freeport (50-6).

As the top seed in Western C, the Clippers had no trouble with No. 8 Oak Hill in the quarterfinals (45-6) or fourth-ranked Lisbon in the semis (38-0), but the regional final versus Traip last week was a tussle. Yarmouth's opportunistic defense proved to be the difference, however, forcing three red zone turnovers, and the Clippers advanced to their second state game, 14-0.

As for Bucksport, the Golden Bucks won their eight regular season games by an average score of 35-7. The first victim was host Washington Academy (57-12). Bucksport then defeated visiting Calais (52-0), visiting Orono (35-14), host Mt. View (16-2), host John Bapst (21-7), visiting Mattanawcook Academy (35-6), host Foxcroft Academy (22-8) and visiting Hermon (44-6).

The Golden Bucks 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).

Bucksport was 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).

This time around, Yarmouth was the team celebrating at the end.

Again.

The tone was set immediately by the Clippers' defense and special teams.

Bucksport won the opening coin toss and elected to receive. Three plays gained a mere yard, however, and the Golden Bucks were forced to punt.

Enter sophomore Nathaniel Shields-Auble.

Shields-Auble broke through the line and blocked the kick of Bucksport senior punter (and quarterback) Mike Cummings and Yarmouth began its first series at the Golden Bucks' 25.

It took just one play to find the end zone.

Overhaug took a handoff and had a huge hole. All he had to do was keep his balance and he easily completed a 25-yard touchdown run that broke the ice just 1 minute, 31 seconds in.

"The blockers got the outside edge," Overhaug said. "I just had to beat one or two people and I was in the end zone."

Senior Bryce Snyder's extra point was blocked, but the Clippers were ahead to stay, 6-0.

Bucksport managed a first down on its next series, on a 15-yard pass play from Cummings to senior Jonathan Geagan, but on the next snap, the ball came loose and Yarmouth senior captain Ben Weinrich fell on it at the Golden Bucks' 27.

This time, the Clippers needed two plays to score.

After sophomore Matt Woodbury gained 7 on first down, Overhaug took a handoff and ran up the gut straight to the end zone for a 20-yard score. Instead of going for an extra point, senior captain and holder Dennis Erving perfectly executed a fake, throwing to Woodbury for the two-point conversion and a 14-0 advantage.

Bucksport got a first down on the first play of its next series as senior bruiser Shawn Smith rumbled for 14 yards, but the Clippers stiffened from there and forced a punt.

After a 14-yard return from Erving, Yarmouth again began in Golden Bucks' territory and they would drive 43 yards in 11 plays, chewing up 4:39 to take a commanding lead.

Overhaug, Woodbury, junior Caleb Uhl and sophomore quarterback Brady Neujahr took turns running the ball and the Clippers marched to the 2 before facing a fourth down. Neujahr then dropped back, looked primed to run, then threw to a sliding Overhaug in the end zone for a 2-yard scoring pass.

"What a play by Brady," Yarmouth coach Jim Hartman said. "We don't throw a lot. Somehow he found Anders. I don't know how. It was pick your poison. That was Brady's choice. Pass or run.

"We score a lot of points. Most of it comes off special teams or our defense. We always have a short field. Dennis did a great job returning punts."

Snyder kicked the extra point and with 1:58 to go in the first quarter, Yarmouth had a 21-0 lead.

"At first we were surprised at how things turned out," Weinrich said. "We started beating on them. We kept charging forward and our drives got better and better and we kept scoring."

The Bucksport offense finally got going as the first period gave way to the second.

Starting at their 35 after the kickoff went out of bounds, the Golden Bucks marched 65 yards on 15 plays, using up 5:29 to seemingly get back in the game.

Big plays were a 4-yard rush from Smith on fourth-and-inches, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Clippers and a run by Smith to the 1 to set up first-and-goal. Smith capped the drive with a 1-yard plunge with 8:29 to play in the half and sophomore Josh Gray added the extra point to make it 21-7.

But any momentum the Golden Bucks appeared to have would disappear in seven seconds.

Overhaug took the ensuing kickoff at the 8 and took off for the races. He blew through the coverage and outraced the pursuit to the end zone and Yarmouth had delivered a knockout blow.

"I bobbled (the ball) a little bit, but I picked it up," said Overhaug. "There was a nice seam going straight ahead, then I cut across because I saw they were pursuing to the right more and it was wide open."

"That just broke their hearts," Hartman said. "They were pumped and that really hurt them. We spend a lot of time on special teams. It was perfect timing. It was a key play for us. They weren't going to stop him. He's a great kid."

Snyder's extra point made it 28-7 with 8:09 to play in the first half.

After Bucksport went three-and-out, the Clippers took over at their 29 with 6:35 to play before the half. It took only seven plays and 1:54 to score again.

Woodbury ran three straight times for a total of 24 yards. A 14-yard run by Uhl put the ball at the Golden Bucks' 30. After an incomplete pass, Overhaug did the rest, taking a pitch to the left, cutting back, then racing to paydirt for a 30-yard score. Snyder's point after was blocked, but Yarmouth was ahead 34-7 at the half.

The Clippers got the ball first in the second half and got good field position after recovering an on-sides kick, but the drive stalled at the Bucksport 20.

After the Golden Bucks went three-and-out (Gray had to replace Cummings at quarterback after Cummings left with an injured hand), Yarmouth began at the Bucksport 39 after a short punt and drove for another score.

It took 10 plays to traverse the 39 yards. With 2:47 to go in the quarter, Overhaug barreled in from the 1 and Snyder's extra point made it 41-7.

The Golden Bucks scored the game's final points when Gray broke free for a 55-yard TD run with 2:50 to play. Gray added the point-after to cut the deficit to 41-14.

Yarmouth gave the ball back on a fumble, but Bucksport ran out of time and the Clippers were able to celebrate the 41-14 win.

"We've played so hard the past two years," Weinrich said. "Everyone's so excited. Our team deserves it and (the coaches) deserve it. They're the best coaches I've ever had. I've been to other camps and teams and the coaches don't compare to ours. Without them, we wouldn't get here. We practice so hard and so well. We weren't as surprised or scared as we were last year. We were used to it. We were excited. We wanted to make it feel like last year, but without the stress and fear. We kept our calm and composure. It turned out great. If I don't play in college, I want Yarmouth to be my last team and my last memory in football."

"I didn't think we'd have this much success," said Overhaug. "We only had one win freshman year. That was tough. I'm so happy to be here. When we went to the Western Maine Final my sophomore year, that was a good inkling we could play football."

"This is a big win for us, when you sit down (senior Carter) Dorsett and (senior Jon) Held for injuries and (senior Eric) Deerwester and (sophomore Zach) Messina are also out," Hartman added. "These kids never whined or complained. They picked themselves up and kept on going. It's a tremendous tribute to these guys. They have so much heart. They're quiet, but at gametime, they're amazing. We have studs. We're not doing this with plow horses."

While Yarmouth only had a 264-242 edge in total yardage, the Clippers consistently took advantage of good field position and won the turnover battle, 3-1.

Individually, Overhaug gained 112 yards and scored four TDs on 11 carries. He also caught a 2-yard scoring pass and had the 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

"Anders is incredible," Woodbury said. "He's a great leader. He's an inspiration to us all."

"Anders has worked the hardest out of any of us," Weinrich said. "He's one of the best team members I'll ever know. I'm happy he gets to end this way, but I'm sad I'll lose him as a teammate."

"I'd hate to see a running back better than Anders," Hartman added. "He's still screaming for the ball at the end. He was on a mission today. We've watched it all season. He came through."

Woodbury had a breakout game, carrying 14 times for 68 yards.

"I knew everyone was keying on Anders and Caleb, of course," Woodbury said. "I was expecting some running, but not this much. We played hard. The line's incredible. (Sophomore) Tommy Lord, (senior) Keith (McDonald), everyone does their thing. I was definitely expecting a close game, but we were all pumped up and ready to go."

"Woodbury definitely stepped up," said Overhaug. "He did great. He's going to be a big force next year. His off-tackle plays got good yards and got drives going."

Uhl added 46 yards on 13 carries and had one reception for 6 yards.

"We have three kids in the backfield who can run 4-6, 4-7 (seconds in the 40)," Hartman said. "The line's been great. We've rushed for almost 10,000 yards the past two years."

Freshman Joe Oliva rushed twice for negative-2 yards at the end of the game and sophomore Rhys Eddy had two carries for 1 yard. Neujahr rushed for 44 yards on nine tries and was 3-of-8 passing for 34 yards and a TD. Shields-Auble had the other reception for 26 yards.

Yarmouth took seven penalties for 77 yards.

For Bucksport, which was only penalized twice for 21 yards, Smith ran for 77 yards and a TD on 19 carries, but didn't dominate the way he so often does.

"We were a little worried about their passing offense and we knew (Smith) is a beast," said Overhaug. "We give up a lot of yardage, but when it counts, we get turnovers."

"We tried to fill the holes and get in as soon as possible in the line," said Weinrich. "That created room for the linebackers to make tackles. Good pass rushing allowed the D backs to stop them on the receiving end of the field."

"We had six players out, so we started five sophomores and three were linebackers," Hartman said. "They stepped up after getting run all over (by Traip) last week. They stuffed Smith more than once at the beginning of the game. I don't think he's been hit that way. It took the life out of Bucksport."

Cummings rushed for 45 yards on six attempts and completed 5-of-13 passes for 36 yards before going out with injury. Gray ran for 59 yards and a TD on four attempts. He was 1-for-1 passing for 0 yards and caught a pass for 2 yards. Stewart caught two balls for 16 yards. Geagan had one catch for 15 yards. Senior Chris Powell had two receptions for 3 yards and rushed four times for 12.

Repeat?

Yarmouth will likely be the favorite again in 2012. Even though Erving, Overhaug, Snyder, Weinrich and other key contributors to the program like Deerwester, Dorsett, Jacob French, Bart Gallagher and McDonald will depart, the core of Neujahr, Shields-Auble, Uhl and Woodbury return.

There are plenty of athletes on the roster, there will be an infusion of new talent and expect the hunger for another championship to remain.

"I hope they keep winning and keep the tradition going," said Weinrich.

"I can't wait until next season," Woodbury said. "We'll still be strong."

"We've got a program here," Hartman said. "We started three sophomores on the line tonight. That's amazing. We're returning three of those (running) backs. The future still looks good here. Hopefully we can continue it and keep growing football in Yarmouth and keep marching on."

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth sophomore quarterback Brady Neujahr drops back and throws a pass. Neujahr only threw eight times, but the Clippers got the job done with their running game.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Sophomore Matt Woodbury had a breakout game for the Clippers, rushing for 68 yards on 14 carries.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth senior Anders Overhaug breaks free for one of his four rushing touchdowns. He also caught a TD pass and had a backbreaking 92-yard kickoff return for a score.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth senior Keith McDonald makes a tackle on Bucksport's bruising senior running back Shawn Smith.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Senior Anders Overhaug follows a parade of blockers.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth junior Caleb Uhl falls forward for extra yardage.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

The new champions gather around their prize following Saturday's triumph.