Early returns were positive for Forecaster Country football teams.
While second-year Freeport showed dramatic improvement in its close home loss to defending Class C state champion Dirigo (please see story), Falmouth and Yarmouth brought up the curtain with victories, while Greely gave one of the Western B favorites a scare.
The Yachtsmen went to York and earned one of the biggest victories in program history (and perhaps the most important to date on the road), 34-25, over a Wildcats squad that, along with Falmouth, is on the short list of teams to beat in Western B.
The Rangers of Greely might just be in the discussion as well before the season is up if Week 1 was any indication, as they battled Wells to the end in a 21-14 setback.
The Clippers reached the Western C Final a year ago and have made it clear they intend to go just as far, if not deeper in 2010, after drubbing visiting Old Orchard Beach, 60-7.
Falmouth was a playoff team in 2008 and fell just short a year ago with a 5-4 mark. This year’s team feels it can go all the way and certainly turned heads in the opener.
The teams traded TDs in the first half. After York went up 7-0, the Yachtsmen answered on a 1-yard TD run from senior Caleb Bowden (15 carries, 76 yards and a score). The two-point conversion run failed. York made it 13-6 with a score early in the second period, but just before halftime, sophomore Will Sipperly scored on a 5-yard run and senior David Goodrich tied the score at 13-13 with an extra point.
Falmouth got the jump in the third when senior quarterback Zach Alexander (10-of-16 for 184 yards and two scores) found junior wide receiver Jack Cooleen (eight catches for 114 yards and two TDs) for 6- and 24-yard scores, sandwiched around a York TD, to make it 27-19 heading for the final stanza.
There, Alexander (76 rushing yards on 13 carries) gave his team some breathing room with a 65-yard scamper and, while the Yachtsmen surrendered one more score, the defense held tough the rest of the way en route to a 34-25 victory.
“This was the biggest win in our history,” said Falmouth coach John Fitzsimmons. “It was a great game to show our team has character. We made some early mistakes and bounced back and proved we can play with one the best teams in the league.
“We played the entire second half without Caleb. He was experiencing cramping, which prevented him from playing. Zach showed terrific poise and stepped up at critical moments. Jack made a statement that he is one of the best receivers in the state.
“The game was won on the line. Led by (seniors) Jack Horton and Andrew Edwards. The unsung hero of the night was (junior) Ryan MacDonald. It was his blocking that helped open up holes and defensively he was all over the field making tackles. He also blocked (an extra point). (Junior) Matt Kingry had a terrific game at free safety. He had a big interception in the second half that led to a score. Andrew Kowlasky knocked down two screen passes.”
The Yachtsmen seek to go 2-0 for just the second time ever (2008 was the other) when they host Fryeburg Friday. Because the new Falmouth field is not yet completed, the game will be played on Deering High’s turf, with a 7:30 p.m. start time. The Raiders won their opener, 36-6, over Gray-New Gloucester. Last year, the Yachtsmen downed Fryeburg, 22-0.
Greely won just twice in 2009 and failed to make the playoffs, but coming into the new season, the Rangers were adamant that they’re vastly improved. Friday at Wells, they showed why.
After a scoreless first period, the Warriors took a short-lived 6-0 lead before Greely went on top on a 4-yard TD run by sophomore Svenn Jacobson and an extra point from senior Ethan Wyman. The Rangers led at the half, but Wells went back on top, 14-7, after the third quarter.
Early in the fourth, Greely tied the game on a 1-yard run from senior Justin Moore and a Wyman extra point, but the Warriors struck last, scoring on a TD pass with about four minutes to play. The Rangers couldn’t answer as they fell to 0-1 with the 21-14 setback.
“We played really well, but we were disappointed not to win,” said Greely coach David Higgins. “We couldn’t defend the pass. That’s how they beat us. We outran them significantly. We scored twice in the red zone, which is a big difference from last year. We were just four or five plays short.”
The Rangers look to get in the win column Saturday at 1:30 p.m., when they go to Poland (a 25-0 home loser to defending regional champion Cape Elizabeth in its opener). Last year, Greely downed the Knights, 26-7.
“Poland’s a good team with good, strong players,” said Higgins. “They run the triple option too. There won’t be any surprises. It’s another road game. We just have to go up there any play football.”
Better than last year?
Yarmouth stole headlines in 2009, winning its final six regular season games to qualify for the playoffs for the first time before upsetting higher seeded Livermore Falls and Old Orchard Beach en route to the regional final where the Clippers lost to eventual state champion Dirigo.
After losing several key contributors to graduation, some might have expected Yarmouth to come back to the pack, but if one game is any indication, the Clippers might be even stronger than they were last autumn.
Hosting Old Orchard Beach in the opener Friday, Yarmouth scored early and often and left no doubt.
Junior Anders Overhaug got the party started with a short TD run. Freshman quarterback Brady Neujahr then found senior Shane Ryan for a 40-yard score and a 13-0 lead. The Seagulls answered on a long TD pass before the end of the first period, but by halftime, the Clippers led 40-7, thanks to second quarter scores from Neujahr (a 1-yard run), senior Nate Pingitore (a 14-yard run), sophomore Caleb Uhl (on an interception return) and Neujahr again (on a short scamper).
In the second half, Overhaug, Pingitore and junior Bryce Snyder all scored on runs to account for the 60-7 final score.
“The kids certainly played well,” said Yarmouth coach Jim Hartman. “It’s a good start for us. (OOB) had a new quarterback and a lot of starters either hurt or ineligible. Defensively, I was really proud of the guys. They had the one long play, then only had 33 yards after that. Offensively, we ran for 413 yards. It was a good, balanced attack. Our special teams were pretty good. We had good starting position all night. We’re very mature. We’re playing harder with more confidence. It’s a good group of kids.”
The Clippers aim for a first-ever 2-0 start Saturday at 1:30 p.m., at Oak Hill, a team that was a preseason favorite before losing, 28-0, at Lisbon in its opener. A year ago, Yarmouth had the Raiders beat, but couldn’t hold a lead at home, falling, 26-23. The Clippers haven’t lost a regular season game since.
“We’ll have our hands full up there,” Hartman said. “They’re big and fast and strong. They have Hall of Fame coaches. We handed them a victory last year, so I have plenty of ammo to keep the kids into it.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org