YORK—After two lopsided victories, the Falmouth football team got a chance to measure itself against a traditional power Friday evening, when the Yachtsmen traveled south to York.
Falmouth began the game as if it was en route to another impressive performance, but ultimately, the Yachtsmen shot themselves in the foot time after time after time and that would seal their doom.
After a touchdown was called back due to a penalty on its opening drive, Falmouth never could take the lead and eventually, the Wildcats’ potent rushing attack, led by bruising junior Cullen McCarty, hit its stride.
After a scoreless first period, the hosts went ahead for good just two plays into the second when senior quarterback Cole Merritt scored on a short run.
McCarty then stretched the lead, scoring on TD runs of 3- and 74-yards and just like that, York had opened up a 20-0 advantage.
The Yachtsmen appeared to turn the tide late in the half, when, after recovering a fumble in Wildcats’ territory, they got on the board courtesy a short run from senior quarterback Noah Nelson.
Coming into the second half, Falmouth looked to ride that momentum, but York broke its spirit with a 10-play, 68-yard drive, capped by another touchdown run from McCarty and the lead was 27-6.
The Wildcats added a field goal and even though Yachtsmen junior George Gilbert returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards to paydirt, Falmouth could get no closer.
York tacked on one more TD in the fourth quarter and slammed the door on an impressive 37-14 victory.
The Wildcats got 236 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries from McCarthy, improved to 3-0 and dropped the Yachtsmen, who had 103 yards of penalties, to 2-1.
“First of all, York played a great game,” Falmouth coach John Fitzsimmons said. “They ran the ball well. We proved we could move the ball and play with them, but we let our emotions get in the way. We had untimely penalties and errors. I thought the penalties threw the guys out of their composure and we paid a price for it.”
Falmouth’s 49-0 win at Gorham on opening night and its 55-14 romp over Morse last week in its first home test were impressive feats, but the Yachtsmen knew that York was another level of competition, a team they hadn’t done very well against over the years.
York had won eight of the nine prior meetings (see sidebar, below), including last fall (34-0 at Falmouth). The Yachtsmen’s lone triumph came in 2010, a 34-25 decision at York.
The Wildcats beat visiting Westbrook in their opener, 31-14, then eked out a 14-12 decision at defending Western B champion Kennebunk last weekend.
Friday, Falmouth felt it was ready to take the next step, but York remained a thorn in the Yachtsmen’s side.
Falmouth got the ball first and after the opening kickoff went out of bounds, took over at its 35. A 32-yard pass from Nelson to junior Connor Aube on a rollout moved the ball into Wildcats’ territory. An Aube 10-yard run produced a first down and after York jumped offsides, Aube gained five yards to set up a second-and-inches from the 5. Aube then took a handoff and bulled into the end zone to seemingly produce an early statement and give the Yachtsmen the lead, but an illegal blocking penalty not only negated the score, but moved Falmouth back to the 19.
Nelson gained two yards and Aube ran for six, but on fourth-and-6 from the 11, a Nelson pass fell incomplete and the visitors had missed a golden opportunity to strike first.
McCarty hinted at his big night to come by picking up a first down with a 14-yard scamper on York’s first possession, but the Yachtsmen defense rose up and forced a punt.
Falmouth went three-and-out on its second possession and senior punter Jared DeWolfe avoided disaster by somehow snaring a high snap and getting off a good kick which appeared to pin the Wildcats at their 20.
Instead, an unsportsmalike conduct penalty on the Yachtsmen set York up at its 35 and the hosts would embark on a drive which spanned the remainder of the first period and carried into the second.
A drive which put the Wildcats on top for good.
A three-yard McCarty run picked up a first down. Merritt then threw a dying quail down the field which senior Mark MacGlashing was able to come down with for a 20-yard pickup.
On the penultimate play of the opening stanza, Merritt ran for six yards and a first down at Falmouth’s 22.
On the first play of the new quarter, senior Jack Neary bounced off two tacklers and wasn’t brought down until he reached the 1. On the next play, Merritt kept the ball and crossed the plane to get York on the board.
Sophomore Trevor LaBonte missed the extra point, but with 11:33 to play in the first half, the Wildcats had a 6-0 lead.
York had traversed 65 yards in 10 plays, eating up 4 minutes, 17 seconds in the process.
Another Falmouth three-and-out put the ball back in the Wildcats’ hands and again they enjoyed a lengthy drive, marching 37 yards on eight plays, using up 4:26.
Again, Merritt completed a key pass, this time a 12-yard slant on third-and-10 to senior Jordan Pidgeon. McCarty then ran for 11 yards.
The Yachtsmen were on the verge of holding when York faced a fourth-and-3 from the 7, but a Falmouth player jumped offsides, giving the Wildcats an automatic first down at the 3.
On the next play, McCarty scored his first touchdown and LaBonte added the point after for a 13-0 advantage with 5 minutes to play before halftime.
Another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty short-circuited the next Yachtsmen drive and another punt was the result.
Again, York took advantage, but instead of a long, time consuming drive, it took just one play, as McCarty took a handoff, busted up the gut, ran free and beat the pursuit to the end zone to cap a 74-yard scoring run with 3:26 remaining in the half. LaBonte’s PAT made it 20-0 Wildcats.
Falmouth finally got the offense going again on its next drive, as Nelson and Gilbert hooked up on a 59-yard catch and run. Nelson rolled right before hitting Gilbert in stride and Gilbert made several defenders miss before he was finally brought down.
The Yachtsmen were on the verge of breaking the ice, but could only gain eight yards on their next three plays and on fourth-and-2 from the 13, Aube only picked up a yard and Falmouth turned the ball over on downs.
With time winding down in the half, the visitors finally got a break, as Neary was hit by junior Matt Edmonds, fumbled and sophomore Brandon Martin fell on the loose pigskin at the York 20 with 45.7 seconds to go.
Nelson hit junior Austin Wheeler, who did a nice job cradling a low pass, for 15 yards on first down.
Then, with just 20.6 seconds remaining, Nelson kept the ball, broke a tackle and found paydirt to get the Yachtsmen on the scoreboard. DeWolfe missed the extra point wide right, but Falmouth trailed just 20-6.
The Yachtsmen almost struck again before halftime, as their ensuing kickoff was deliberately ricocheted off a Wildcat and recovered at midfield. Nelson found Wheeler to the 30, allowing for one final Hail Mary into the end zone, but the pass fell incomplete and the halftime score was 20-6.
York only had a 200-179 edge in first half yardage, but McCarty’s 125 yards and two scores on 13 rushes combined with five penalties for 63 yards put Falmouth behind the eight ball.
The Yachtsmen came into the second half primed to build on how they ended the first, but McCarty had other ideas.
With his line opening huge holes, McCarty ran for five yards on first down, then gained 10-, 11-, nine and four yards. Neary handled the ball once for four yards before McCarty ran twice more for 10. Merritt scampered to the 4, where McCarty (fittingly) capped the drive with a touchdown burst. LaBonte added the PAT and with 7:50 to play in the third quarter, the Wildcats had their biggest lead, 27-6.
The drive used up 4:06, took up 10 plays and traveresed 68 yards.
“That (drive) was probably the big turning point in the game,” Fitzsimmons said. “At the end of the half, we felt like we were right back in it, but our effort stalled right there.”
Aube ran for 13 yards and a first down on Falmouth’s first offensive play of the second half, but after the next three plays gained just eight yards, Nelson threw incomplete, giving the ball back to York on downs.
The Wildcats, despite two fumbled exchanges and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, moved from the Yachtsmen 45 to the 8 before the drive stalled. LaBonte then came on and drilled a 25-yard field goal for a 30-6 lead with 1:04 to go in the period.
York used up 4:41 in a nine-play, 37-yard march.
Falmouth responded immediately, as Gilbert took the ensuing kickoff at his 9 and after Aube sprung him with a textbook block, Gilbert weaved through the York special teams and didn’t stop until he crossed the goal line. Aube ran in the two-point conversion and with 47.4 seconds remaining in the frame, the Yachtsmen showed a little life, down, 30-14.
The Wildcats then drove for a backbreaking score.
The march chewed up 87 yards on 11 plays in 4:32.
York actually started at its 13 thanks to not one, but two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, but it didn’t matter, as the running of McCarty matriculated the ball down the field.
Falmouth returned the penalty favor when it was flagged for a facemask and an unsportsmanlike conduct foul on the same play.
That moved the ball to the Yachtsmen 25 and four plays later, Neary scored on an 8-yard run. LaBonte added the PAT and the Wildcats were up, 37-14, with 8:10 to go.
A Neary sack ended the next Falmouth drive and York got the ball at midfield with 7:03 remaining.
The Wildcats didn’t score again, but chewed up almost six minutes before giving the ball back on downs.
Nelson was then intercepted by senior Keelan Hynes and that allowed Merritt to take a knee and end it.
“We hadn’t been tested,” Fitzsimmons said. “We haven’t met a team of that caliber. I thought we came out strong, but we let them get the best of us. We came down here with the full expectation of winning. Not to compete. We believed we could win and they beat us.”
Falmouth mustered 200 yards of offense, but only 21 came after halftime.
Nelson’s final numbers read 9-of-20 passing, good for 161 yards with an interception and no TDs. He ran twice for 7 yards and a score.
Aube finished with 50 yards on 10 carries. He also caught a pass for 32 yards.
Wheeler was the top receiver, grabbing five balls for 62 yards. Gilbert had two receptions for 63.
The Yachtsmen committed eight penalties for a whopping 103 yards.
McCarty was close to unstoppable at times for the Wildcats, gaining 236 yards with three TDs on 33 carries. Neary carried 16 times, good for 68 yards and a touchdown. He also had a sack on defense. Merritt had 45 yards on seven rushing attempts. He threw eight times, completing six, good for 65 yards.
York, which wound up with 412 yards of offense, tallied nine penalties, good for 90 yards, but the Wildcats were able to overcome.
York looks to win its third in a row when it makes the long trip to Farmington next weekend to face Mt. Blue.
Falmouth, meanwhile, is home for its next two games, as it plays Oceanside, then Westbrook. The Yachtsmen also have tests at Fryeburg and Greely and a home tilt versus Mt. Ararat remaining.
This team will look to quickly move past the disappointment of Friday night.
“The kids will learn and we’ll be back and we expect to meet (York) again,” Fitzsimmons said. “I’m confident we’ll bounce back. We’re too good of a team for that not to happen.”
Falmouth junior Connor Aube picks up some yardage.
Falmouth junior Drew Chamberlain prepares to make a tackle.
York senior Alex Gutierrez rushes an extra point attempt by Falmouth senior Jared DeWolfe.
Falmouth junior George Gilbert looks for a pass interference call after a pass is broken up in the end zone.
Falmouth senior Aidan Murphy tries to haul in a pass as York senior Jordan Pidgeon breaks it up.
Falmouth junior Austin Wheeler looks for running room after making a reception.
Falmouth junior Nicholas Wissemann carries the ball and looks for a hole.
York 34 @ Falmouth 0
Falmouth 34 @ York 25
York 27 @ Falmouth 6
@ York 19 Falmouth 0
York 28 @ Falmouth 14
York 42 Falmouth 20 (game played at Scarborough)
@ York 27 Falmouth 6
York 44 @ Falmouth 7
@ York 32 Falmouth 7
Falmouth senior quarterback Noah Nelson breaks a tackle and scores a touchdown late in the first half of the Yachtsmen’s contest at York Friday night. Falmouth suffered its first loss this fall, 37-14, to the Wildcats.
Mike Strout photos
More photos below.
F- 0 6 8 0- 14
Y- 0 20 10 7- 37
Y- Merritt 1 run (kick failed)
Y- McCarty 3 run (LaBonte kick)
Y- McCarty 74 run (LaBonte kick)
F- Nelson 5 run (kick failed)
Y- McCarty 4 run (LaBonte kick)
Y- LaBonte 25 FG
F- Gilbert 91 kickoff return (Aube rush)
Y- Neary 8 run (LaBonte kick)