Falmouth rallies to stun Greely, force coin toss

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

CUMBERLAND—Nine games won’t be enough to clear up the Western Class B playoff field.

That’s because Friday evening, the Falmouth Yachtsmen capped a valiant performance with a 15-14 come-from-behind win at Greely in the regular season finale, leaving both teams at 6-3.

Falmouth, Greely and Cape Elizabeth all have the same record after nine games and are tied the Crabtree Points standings with only two playoff spots available. As a result, there will be a three-way coin toss, likely on Saturday, to determine which of the three squads is the odd team out and which two will make next weekend’s semifinals and their seeds.

Friday, the Yachtsmen took the lead on an early touchdown pass and made it hold up until early in the final period when the Rangers scored two TDs in just over three minutes to seemingly take control. However, with just 2:12 to go, after an untimely Greely interception, Falmouth got a touchdown run from senior Zach Alexander and with its placekicker injured and unavailable, a two-point conversion pass from Alexander to junior Jack Cooleen to win the “Battle of Route 9” for the third consecutive season.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Alexander. “A lot of the guys came into the game putting everything into it, but we weren’t sure if we could come out on top. I think it was all mental. It was about getting 0ur confidence back up after tough losses.”

Not done yet

The rivals entered the 2010 season with vastly different expectations.

Falmouth, 5-4 a year ago, was pegged as a playoff probable and won its first three contests by a composite 125-39 score, but a 24-21 loss at Cape Elizabeth (in a game the Yachtsmen led almost the whole way) started a three losses in four games skid. The Yachtsmen got back on track last week, holding off visiting Poland, 25-22.

Greely, meanwhile, wasn’t highly touted anywhere, perhaps outside its locker room, after going 2-7 a year ago (despite a 2-0 start). After making a statement with a close (21-14) loss at perennial power Wells in the opener, the Rangers rattled off four straight victories. Even a 13-0 setback at undefeated Mountain Valley was encouraging. Greely then upset visiting defending regional champion Cape Elizabeth, 21-14, in double overtime, and rolled, 43-8, at Fryeburg.

Falmouth and Greely have been meeting yearly since both programs were still in the Developmental League. The first varsity showdown came in 2003 (a 7-0 triumph for the Rangers). Heading into Friday’s contest, Greely held a 4-3 edge, but the Yachtsmen had won three of the past four, including a 25-7 home decision a year ago.

Friday, another dramatic chapter was added to the rivalry.

Early on, it was clear Falmouth would have success moving the ball through the air, while the hosts would have to grind it out on offense.

The Yachtsmen had possession first and gained a first down on a 26-yard pass from Alexander to senior David Goodrich, but the Greely defense stiffened and forced a punt. The Rangers went three-and-out on their first series and punted the ball back to Falmouth, which drove 65 yards in seven plays in just over four minutes to take the lead.

Alexander sandwiched completions to Goodrich (13 yards) and Cooleen (16) around his 20-yard run. After a sack pushed the Yachtsmen back four yards, Alexander found Goodrich for 13 (on a ball that was deflected). After a false start penalty, Falmouth faced fourth-and-6 at the Rangers’ 17, but Alexander rolled to his left and threw to Cooleen in the left corner of the end zone, where the tall receiver hauled in the touchdown. Goodrich’s extra point made it 7-0 with 4:18 to go in the opening quarter.

Greely only mustered 14 yards of offense in the first period and a mere 41 in the second, but showed signs of moving the ball late in the half.

In the third quarter, the Rangers would begin to turn the tide.

The hosts got the ball to start the second half and on their fourth play appeared to pull even when junior quarterback Mike Leeman raced down the field for a 66-yard TD, but a holding call brought the ball all the way back to the Greely 24 and the Rangers soon had to punt.

Falmouth’s first second half possession was short-circuited by Rangers senior Jack Fellows’ sack and after a punt, the hosts took over at their 19 with 6:43 to play in the third.

Greely would then embark on a drive that ate up the remainder of the period.

It was nothing flashy, but the Rangers ground out yardage behind Leeman, senior Alex Parenteau, senior Ethan Wyman and sophomore Svenn Jacobson. A 23-yard scamper from Jacobson (on which Falmouth sophomore Will Sipperly made a touchdown-saving ankle tackle) got Greely close. Jacobson ran for six yards, then Leeman for two as the third quarter came to an end.

Two plays into the fourth, the Rangers pulled even as Wyman capped a 16-play, 7 minute, 20 second drive by bulling in from a yard out. Wyman added the extra point and with 11:14 to go, it was a brand new ballgame.

“That long drive was disheartening,” said Falmouth coach John Fitzsimmons. “I think that the Greely team is just sensational.”

Momentum continued to shift on the next Yachtsmen series. After junior Ryan MacDonald picked up a first down on a 21-yard run, Falmouth was forced to punt and Goodrich’s kick (he was hurt on the play) was blocked by Greely senior Mike Burgess. Wyman chased it down at the Falmouth 6 and the hosts were in business.

It only took one play for the Rangers to take the lead as Leeman did the honors, scoring on a 6-yard run with 8:08 remaining. Wyman’s extra point made it 14-7 Greely.

A Parenteau sack pushed the Yachtsmen back on their next series and they had to punt. The Rangers took over at their 36 with 6:05 to go with an opportunity to milk the clock, but after Parenteau was thrown for a six-yard loss by Alexander, then gained three, setting up third-and-13, Leeman threw wild while under pressure and Falmouth junior Matt Kingry came up with a game-turning interception at the Yachtsmen 45 with 4:35 to play.

“We made a bad play,” said Greely coach David Higgins. “It’s that simple. That’s my responsibility. It’s all my fault.”

Falmouth then drove for the winning score.

On first down, Alexander found Cooleen for the first time since the first quarter, for 17 yards. After senior Caleb King sacked Alexander for a two-yard loss on the net play, Alexander hit junior Aaron Rogers for 18 yards and a first down. Burgess then registered yet another Greely sack, setting the Yachtsmen back 11 yards. After Alexander threw incomplete on second down, the visitors were flagged for illegal motion, setting up third-and-26 at the 38. Undaunted, Alexander floated a pass downfield. A Rangers defender appeared to have a bead on it, but jumped to early and MacDonald cradled the ball in his belly as he fell to the ground at the 6.

“I think we got too settled in and we weren’t as fired up as we came into the game,” said Alexander. “Not everybody did their jobs and I wasn’t throwing good balls. Ryan MacDonald had a great game. He had some big conversions for us.”

Alexander did the rest, racing in for the 6-yard score with 2:12 to play.

With Goodrich unavailable for the extra point, Falmouth rolled the dice and went for two.

Alexander rolled right and hit Cooleen and just like that, the Yachtsmen were back on top, 15-14.

“It wasn’t strategic,” said Alexander. “Our kicker couldn’t kick so we had to go for two.”

“We had no choice,” added Fitzsimmons. “We don’t have a backup kicker. We went for two and let the chips fall.”

The Rangers still had time to rally and drove from their 38 into Falmouth territory behind a 10-yard run from sophomore John Guardina with 1:28 to go. After Parenteau gained five yards and Leeman four, Higgins called timeout with 44.6 seconds showing. Guardina then rambled for nine and a first down at the Yachtsmen 32. Parenteau picked up four yards on his next carry, but was stuffed for no gain and Leeman suffered the same fate with time winding down. A false start penalty pushed the hosts back and before they could run another play, the horn sounded and Falmouth had locked up its inspirational victory.

“It was a great comeback by our players,” said Fitzsimmons. “All the hard work came together. I’ve been hoping all season for this team to pull together as a unit and tonight, it happened. We played their hearts out when we had to have it. I don’t think people understand we’ve had significant injuries this year. We’re playing with our fourth center. It’s been that kind of season for us, but I’m thrilled for the boys tonight.”

Greely left the field shellshocked.

“I wouldn’t say it’s devastating,” said Higgins. “It’s a loss. We’ve done a lot of great things during the season. Are we disappointed? Absolutely.”

Alexander finished 11-for-23 for 190 yards and a TD. He also rushed eight times for 36 yards and a score.

“Zach played a man-sized game tonight,” said Fitzsimmons. “He threw some great balls and had some good runs. He took some licks. In the end, he didn’t quit. He carried a lot of the team on his shoulders.”

Coolen caught five passes for 82 yards and a TD. MacDonald had two grabs for 38 yards (and rushed four times for 51), Goodrich three catches for 52 and Rogers one for 18. Senior Caleb Bowden returned from injury and rushed four times, but lost six yards.

Falmouth managed 201 yards of offense and avoided committing turnovers, while forcing two.

“We had some nice runs, some nice passing,” said Fitzsimmons said. “The defense set us up at the right time.”

For Greely, Leeman rushed 15 times for 53 yards with a TD. Wyman gained 22 yards on seven carries with a score. Jacobson gained 59 yards on 10 rushes. Parenteau had 30 yards on 13 attempts. The Rangers had five sacks, but two turnovers proved fatal.

Heads or tails?

According to Falmouth athletic director Todd Livingston, the coaches of Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth and Greely, along with a representative from the Campbell Conference, will meet (likely Saturday) to toss a coin and decide three teams’ fate and determine who joins top-ranked Mountain Valley (9-0) and No. 2 Wells (8-1) in next weekend’s semifinals.

“It’s out of our hands,” said Higgins. “We’ll hope for the best.”

“We feel good about our chances,” Alexander said. “We have a two-thirds chance to make it. If we don’t, we know we put everything on the line. I feel like we’re a brand new team. We know what we can do.”

“Now we’ll see where the coin toss takes us,” Fitzsimmons said. “We’ll get together and all three flip and it’ll be the odd team out. Maybe luck is with us. I’m thrilled that we put ourselves in the position to be in the playoffs.”

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

Falmouth sophomore Alex Derhagopian sends Greely sophomore John Giardina flying on a fourth quarter run.

Greely sophomore Svenn Jacobson looks to make a play on Falmouth junior Ryan MacDonald. MacDonald had a clutch reception late in the fourth quarter which set up the winning score.

Falmouth junior Matt Kingry gives chase as Greely junior quarterback Mike Leeman takes off downfield.

Greely junior quarterback Mike Leeman fights for yardage while Falmouth senior Caleb Bowden attempts to bring him down.

Falmouth senior Zach Alexander makes a futile stab at tackling Greely sophomore Svenn Jacobson.

Sidebar Elements


With Falmouth senior Caleb Bowden (43) leading the way, senior quarterback Zach Alexander drags Greely senior Ethan Wyman into the end zone for a touchdown with just over two minutes to play Friday night. Alexander would add a two-point conversion pass to junior Jack Cooleen and the Yachtsmen rallied for a stunning 15-14 victory.

More photos below.

CUMBERLAND-

The rivals entered the 2010 season with vastly different expectations.

Falmouth, 5-4 a year ago, was pegged as a playoff hopeful and won its first three contests by a composite 125-39 score, but a 24-21 loss at Cape Elizabeth (in a game the Yachtsmen led almost the whole way) started a three losses in four games skid. The Yachtsmen got back on track last week, holding off visiting Poland, 25-22.

Greely, meanwhile, wasn’t highly touted anywhere, perhaps outside its locker room, after going 2-7 a year ago (after a 2-0 start). After making a statement with a close (21-14) loss at perennial power Wells in the opener, the Rangers rattled off four straight victories. Even a 13-0 setback at undefeated Mountain Valley was encouraging. Greely then upset visiting defending regional champion Cape Elizabeth, 21-14, in double overtime, and rolled, 43-8, at Fryeburg.

Falmouth and Greely have been meeting yearly since both programs were still in the Developmental League. The first varsity showdown came in 2003 (a 7-0 triumph for the Rangers). Heading into Friday’s contest, Greely held a 4-3 edge, but the Yachtsmen had won three of the past four, including a 25-7 home decision a year ago.

Friday,

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

F- 7 0 0 8- 15
G- 0 0 0 14- 14

First quarter
F- Cooleen 17 pass from Alexander (Goodrich kick)

Second quarter
No scoring

Third quarter
No scoring

Fourth quarter
G- Wyman 1 run (Wyman kick)
G- Leeman 1 run (Wyman kick)
F- Alexander 6 run (Cooleen pass from Alexander)

0
Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.