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Clippers' magic continues: Yarmouth edges OOB 34-28 in OT, advances to Western C Final

Sports

Clippers' magic continues: Yarmouth edges OOB 34-28 in OT, advances to Western C Final

OLD ORCHARD BEACH—The team that won just one of its first 20 varsity games is heading for the Western Class C Final.

Courtesy of an instant classic.

On the heels of last week's instant classic.

Friday night at Regina Field, the Cinderella Yarmouth Clippers, winners of seven straight (including an epic 35-28 decision at Livermore Falls last weekend in the first round of the playoffs), fumbled on two of their first four offensive snaps and dug a 14-0 hole, but 21 straight points turned things around and put them on the brink of victory. Then, late in the fourth quarter, the host Old Orchard Beach Seagulls tied the game with a touchdown and a two-point conversion and had complete momentum heading into overtime after Yarmouth missed a field goal in the waning seconds, but the Clippers dug deep and found a way to advance, getting a touchdown from senior Eric Estabrook followed by a clutch defensive stand to beat the Seagulls 34-28 in a Western C semifinal.

Yarmouth will meet either Dirigo or Winthrop next weekend.

Somehow, some way, the Clippers play on.

"It was great," said Estabrook. "It was as exciting, if not more than last game.
Especially with the overtime. Two games in a row we've gone right down
to the wire against two great teams."

"I don't think I can take this much more," said Clippers coach Jim Hartman. "I'm so thankful they let me coach this group of athletes. We talked to
the kids about stepping up, being leaders and making the plays. The
last two weeks, they've done it and stepped up. Eric just willed us to
victory tonight. Just fantastic."

Good times roll

In 2007, when this year's seniors were sophomores, they got a rough introduction to varsity football, going 0-9 while being outscored 442-49. Last season, the Clippers beat Madison for their first win, but finished 1-8, getting outscored 266-144.

Entering 2009, Yarmouth felt it had the personnel to contend for a playoff berth, but after falling 28-12 at Old Orchard Beach in the opener, then blowing a late lead and losing 26-23 at home to Oak Hill, it looked like the Clippers were doomed for another long season.

My, how things have changed.

A 56-8 romp at Traip got it started. A stroll over Sacopee (56-0) was followed by a statement-making 48-26 home victory over talented Lisbon. Yarmouth then closed the year by drubbing Boothbay (64-13), Madison (64-6) and Freeport (56-6) to go 6-2 and earn the No. 7 seed in the region.

Then, just to remind everyone that they're not a fluke, the Clippers edged host No. 2 Livermore Falls in a seesaw 35-28 affair last week in the quarterfinals to set up a return trip to No. 3 Old Orchard.

In the early going Friday night, Yarmouth was its worst enemy as the Clippers developed fumbilitis in the early going.

On its first play from scrimmage, Yarmouth gave the ball up after senior David Dietz gained 19 yards. Seagulls senior Dean Perrone hopped on the loose football at the Clippers' 42 and six plays later, the hosts were in the lead.

Perrone (also Old Orchard's quarterback) hooked up with senior Evan Bujnowski for 23 yards to set up a first-and-goal at the 7. Two plays later, Bujnowski did the honors, beating the defense to the left pylon for a 6-yard scoring run. Perrone and Bujnowski hooked up on a scoring pass on the two-point conversion and just 2 minutes, 58 seconds in, the Seagulls were up 8-0.

On the third play of Yarmouth's next possession, senior Brodie Woodson gained 11 yards on a reception, but fumbled at the end of the run and Perrone was again there to fall on the loose pigskin.

"We didn't fumble all year," Hartman said. "You have to learn from that experience and
try not to do too much. Both of them were trying to make the big play."

Old Orchard then drove 67 yards in 10 plays to extend its lead. Perrone and senior Zach Gordon hooked up for 33 yards on third-and-14. Two plays later, on second-and-18, senior John Regis rambled 21 yards to move the chains. An 11-yard Perrone-to-Gordon pass play moved the ball to the 4 and two plays later, Perrone capped the drive with a 4-yard run to the right pylon. The two-point conversion failed, but the Seagulls were in control, up 14-0.

The Clippers held on to the ball on their next series and drove for their first score. A 20 yard run from Estabrook got the fun started. Two plays after Dietz gained 13, Estabrook kept the ball himself and ran 14 yards for a TD with 1:28 to go in the opening period. Estabrook added the point-after and Yarmouth was back in the game, down 14-7.

As the first period gave way to the second, the hosts moved from their 30 down the field and capped a 70 yard drive on their 14th play, a 3-yard run by bruising senior Brandon Ouellette. The two-point conversion was no good, but the Seagulls were again up by two scores, 20-7.

Yarmouth turned the ball over on downs on its next series and was in real jeopardy, but after Old Orchard gained a first down, a personal foul penalty on the hosts moved the ball back and the Clippers defense forced a punt.

Starting at its 18 with 2:11 left in the half, Yarmouth could have played it safe and gone into the half down 20-7, but when you have the weapons the Clippers possess, conservative play is rarely an option.

After Estabrook found junior Asa Arden for 12 yards, the quarterback kept it himself, breaking a pair of tackles to get out of trouble along the left sideline, before reversing fields and racing all the way to the Old Orchard 4. Two plays later, Estabrook finished the drive with a 3-yard TD run and Yarmouth was back in the game at halftime, down just 20-14.

Both teams moved the ball well in the first 24 minutes. The Seagulls had 187 yards of offense to 186 for the Clippers. The two Yarmouth turnovers were the difference.

Old Orchard continued to apply pressure as the third period began. The Seagulls drove from their 23 to the Clippers 7, eating up 4 minutes and 15 seconds, but on fourth-and-10, Ouellette was stopped just shy of the first down marker after a reception.

With a chance to take the lead for the first time, Yarmouth couldn't move the ball and was forced to punt, but the defense then turned the momentum when senior Spencer Dorsett sacked Perrone on third-and-15, forcing a fumble which senior Phil Lowe recovered at the Old Orchard 32. 

Six plays later, the Clippers had the lead. Dietz would do the honors, scoring on a 5-yard run with 1:35 to go in the third period. Estabrook's extra point made it 21-20 Yarmouth.

After moving into Clippers territory on a pass play and a facemask penalty, the Seagulls' drive stalled when Estabrook, who became omnipresent as the night progressed, broke up a fourth down pass.

Yarmouth had a chance to extend its tenuous lead, but after Estabrook picked up a first down on a 13-yard run, the drive stalled and the Clippers had to punt.

Enter the defense again.

Old Orchard appeared to be driving for the go-ahead score, moving from its 6 into Yarmouth territory after Perrone found Bujnowski for 40 yards, but on third-and-5, Perrone's pass was intercepted by Woodson and the Clippers took over on their 38.

"I feel like (the Seagulls) got tired," Woodson said. "We stepped it up. We didn't let up as many
big passes. We stuffed them up the middle and limited what we let them
have."

"We were constantly changing things," Hartman added. "We weren't handling them well. Our
two outside ends were trying to get upfield too quick and make the big
play. In the second half, we got better. They found our least
experienced safety, so we put Eric on (Gordon) and that shut down that part
of the game."

Six plays later, Yarmouth was in the end zone again. This time, runs of 11 yards by Woodson, 18 and 16 from Dietz and 12 from junior Nate Pingitore set the stage for a 1-yard TD burst by Woodson. Estabrook's extra point made it 28-20 Clippers with just 4:04 to play.

When Woodson intercepted Perrone again with 3:27 to go, Yarmouth only needed a first down or two to clinch the win, but the Old Orchard defense held and the Clippers had to punt the ball away.

Starting at their 34 with 3:06 remaining, the Seagulls embarked on one final impressive drive. First, Perrone found Ouellette for 23 yards on fourth-and-3 to move the ball to the Yarmouth 36. Two plays later, Perrone threw up a prayer down the left sideline and Bujnowski outleaped a defender, came down with the ball, then outran the pursuit to complete a 36 yard scoring play.

Old Orchard still needed the two-point conversion to tie and Perrone got it. Rolling right, he lofted a pass that Ouellette snared and with 1:59 left, the game was even, 28-28.

The Clippers then drove for what they thought was the win.

Runs of 7, 26 and 7 yards by Dietz moved the ball to the 22. Woodson then gained 12 yards and Estabrook spiked the ball with 45.1 seconds to go. After Woodson was stopped for no gain, Yarmouth took timeout with 12.7 seconds left. Estabrook, who pounded extra points through the goalposts all night, then had his chance to win it with a 27-yard field goal, but he didn't make good contact and the ball may have been partially blocked. It fluttered wide right and it was on to overtime.

The Seagulls appeared to have all the momentum, but the Clippers weren't to be denied.

In Maine high school football overtime, each team gets one possession and runs up to four plays starting at the opponent's 10 yards line.

Yarmouth got the first opportunity and took immediate advantage. After Dietz burst for 6 yards on first down, Estabrook kept it himself, crossed the plane, fumbled, but was ruled to have scored a touchdown. A two-point conversion pass was batted down and Yarmouth clung to a 34-28 lead.

Old Orchard then took its turn. On first down, a Perrone pass looked like a sure game-ending interception, but Arden couldn't corral it and the Seagulls still had life. On second down, Perrone found Gordon in the end zone, but the receiver came down with the ball out of bounds. Incomplete. On third down, Bujnowski, cutting over the middle, couldn't hold on to Perrone's throw and it all came down to fourth down.

Game on the line.

Dropping back to pass, Perrone couldn't find an open receiver, so he rolled right, which is right where sophomore Ben Weinrich wanted him. Perrone backpedaled and soon found himself overcome by Weinrich, with some help from Dorsett, for a sack and that's how the game ended.

The Clippers and their fans rushed the field in jubilation and Yarmouth had its second playoff victory in as many weeks (and as many tries), 34-28.

"I didn't know how it would go in overtime," Estabrook said. "The momentum was on their side, but I
had faith in our team. I knew if we put our minds to it, we could do
it. The offense had worked all game. We stepped it up on defense when we had to.

"Since the beginning of the year when we started in the weight room,
our goal for this year was states. The first two games were
demoralizing. The Oak Hill game fired us up. I think it was just the heart of the football team. Everyone started
to step it up and do their job. Not try to be the hero, but to make
plays."

"It's exciting," said Woodson. "I definitely enjoy this much more than blowouts. It's absolutely amazing. We always talked about this since seventh grade. Our coach, Chris
Pingitore, told us senior year we'd have a chance. I definitely did not
expect this after going 0-2 to start the season. We played our hearts
out all season and we made it."

"Old Orchard is a hellacious football team," Hartman added. "I can't believe we beat them. These kids motivate themselves. You don't have to say things to them.
Estabrook's phenomenal. He reached down and won this game for us
tonight. I felt so bad for him after missing the kick, but it worked
out for him. (Ben's) barely played all year. He's a great pass rusher. What a big play for a sophomore.

"At 0-2 I was questioning if we had the right football players and if I
was the right coach. I totally questioned myself. They just took off.
They were so (angry) after the Oak Hill game and haven't stopped."

Statistically, the contest was as even as the scoreboard read most of the night.

Old Orchard (which had its six-game win streak snapped and wound up 7-3) finished with 396 yards of offense. Individually, Perrone completed 17-of-39 passes for 305 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran for 62 yards and a score on 13 carries. Bujnowski caught 3 balls for 99 yards and a TD and rushed five times for 16 yards and a score. Ouellette had six catches for 96 yards (and 22 yards and a TD on 10 rushes). Gordon caught four balls for 81 yards.

The Clippers (8-2), who had 384 yards of offense, were led by Estabrook, who ran for 120 yards and two TDs and threw for 40 yards on 4-of-9 passing. Dietz rushed for 141 yards and a score on 16 attempts. Pingitore finished with 31 yards on 10 carries. Woodson had 33 yards on nine tries.

Yarmouth's two fumbles wound up a footnote as the Clippers forced three pivotal second half turnovers.

"We had a little problem with the first ball," Estabrook said. "We switched the ball and it seemed to make all the difference."

"We fixed our mistakes," Woodson said. "We knew we couldn't go anywhere if we didn't hold on to the ball."

Next act

Next up for Yarmouth is either preseason favorite Dirigo or Winthrop in the Western C Final (those teams play their semifinal Saturday). Once again, the Clippers will be a decided underdog, but anyone betting against this magical team at this point of the season better think twice.

"Next week will be tough," Hartman said. "We have to do a much better job pass defending. (Dirigo's) quarterback can throw the ball. Our work is cut out for us."

"We're going to bring it," Woodson said. 

"We have two more in us," Estabrook added. "Dirigo is a very talented team with a lot of
speed. It should be a great matchup. A great game. We'll keep the
intensity going."

You can bet the Clippers will. And if they do, perhaps another instant classic is in store.

 

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net

Photo: Jason Veilleux
Yarmouth sophomore Ben Weinrich brought the curtain down (as well as Old Orchard Beach's senior quarterback Dean Parrone) with this sack to end it in overtime.

Photo: Jason Veilleux
Yarmouth head coach Jim Hartman (right), defensive coordinator Greg Woodson and the upstart Clippers were nothing but smiles following their improbable victory. Yarmouth will play at either Dirigo or Winthrop in the Western C Final next weekend.