Forecaster Country will be well represented in the high school football regional final weekend.
Falmouth, the top seed, in Class B South, continued its season of dominance with a surprisingly easy 32-0 win over No. 5 Westbrook in Friday’s semifinals, which allowed the Yachtsmen to make history by reaching the regional final for the first time, where they will host No. 3 Marshwood, the defending state champion, Saturday afternoon.
Yarmouth, the top seed in Class C South, also won with ease Friday, downing No. 4 Fryeburg Academy, 54-12, to advance to a compelling regional final showdown versus third-ranked Wells Saturday afternoon.
As for Greely, which has stolen headlines for two weeks running, it finally met its match last weekend, as the seventh-ranked Rangers lost, 34-12, at Marshwood in the Class B South semifinals.
Falmouth has fielded some talented teams over the years and reached the semifinals a year ago, but this fall, the Yachtsmen have taken it to a new level.
To the regional final.
For the first time.
Falmouth went 7-1 in the regular season, losing only its finale, at rival Greely, then, as the top seed in Class B South, dominated eighth-ranked Morse in the quarterfinals, 57-13.
Friday, fifth-ranked Westbrook came to town for the semifinals and many expected a tight game. Instead, the Yachtsmen made another powerful statement, romping to a 32-0 victory.
In the first period, Jack Bryant hit Brock Welch for a 26-yard touchdown pass and Sean Bryant caught a two-point conversion pass from Jack Bryant for an 8-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Coleman Allen had a 2-yard TD run and standout Connor Aube broke off a 72-yard touchdown scamper and Jack Bryant completed a pair of two-point conversion passes for a commanding 24-0 advantage at the half.
After a scoreless third period, Falmouth put the finishing touches on its victory as Aube scored on an 18 yard touchdown run and Bryant completed one more conversion pass to account for the 32-0 final score.
Aube had 132 yards and two TDs on 13 carries. Bryant completed 10 of 13 passes for 103 yards.
“I couldn’t be prouder as a coach,” said Falmouth coach John Fitzsimmons. “They played with the intensity we were hoping for. We just stepped up our game. We were very focused on Westbrook. We knew they were a good team. We had a very good scheme and when our line wants to dominate a game, they can.”
The 9-1 Yachtsmen will appear in and host a regional final for the first time Saturday at 12:30 p.m., when 8-2 Marshwood pays a visit. Falmouth’s biggest win of the regular season came Oct. 16 in South Berwick when it rallied for an epic 22-20 overtime victory. Two years ago in the quarterfinals, the Hawks drubbed the Yachtsmen, 57-0.
“Every game now we’re making history,” Fitzsimmons said. “We’ve never won nine games. We’ve never made or hosted the final. This group is excited to set a new standard. Being in Falmouth from the program’s beginning, it feels great to see the program come of age. I think we’re ascendant.
“The kids are very focused on Marshwood. They understand what’s in front of them. It won’t be easy. Marshwood is playing very well. We can do things that are challenging for them, but they’ll be prepared. They have one of the best coaches (Alex Rotsko) in the state. If we’ve done our jobs as coaches, we’ll have the guys in a position to win. We have the athletes to give them a very good game. We’ll be at home and we know we can beat them.”
If Falmouth makes it to the Class B state final for the first time, it would battle either Brunswick (8-1) or Brewer (9-1) Saturday, Nov. 21 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
The prospect of Yarmouth and Wells meeting for the Class C South title has been on the minds of most since the preseason.
The Clippers did their part without a blemish, as they went 8-0 in the regular season, then, as the top seed, dominated No. 8 Mountain Valley, 50-15, in the quarterfinals and had their way with No. 4 Fryeburg Academy, 54-12, in Friday’s semifinals.
In that one, Yarmouth raced to a 20-0 first quarter lead, as Jack Snyder and Lucas Uhl had touchdown runs and John Thoma threw a TD pass to Snyder. Another Uhl TD run made it 26-0 and after the Raiders got on the board, long touchdown runs from Uhl and Snyder and another Thoma-to-Snyder TD pass made it 47-6 at halftime. After Fryeburg Academy got a third quarter touchdown, a third Thoma-to-Snyder scoring pass accounted for the final score.
“We felt good going into the game,” said Clippers coach Jason Veilleux. “We felt the game plan we used in week four was very successful, so we didn’t change too much for our playoff game. We knew we would have a speed advantage on them, so we looked to take advantage of that on offense and defense. Overall, we were pleased with our performance and got out of the game healthy which is important for us.”
The Clippers advanced to their first regional final since they went back-to-back as state champs in 2010 and 2011. Yarmouth eked out a 16-15 home win over Wells (8-2) Oct. 2. The teams have no playoff history.
“The Wells game will be a battle, just like it is every time we play them,” Veilleux said. “They’re a very good team in all three phases of the game, especially on defense. Their defense is stout and aggressive and will present some challenges for us, but our kids will be ready. They know the importance of this game. If we can limit turnovers and mental errors and get good field position, we have a shot at getting back to Fitzpatrick Stadium. Last time we played Wells, we turned the ball over a few times, but our defense and special teams kept us in the game and we were able to make the big play when we had to which is a credit to the heart of our players. I have no concern that we haven’t had a close game in awhile. I fully expect our kids to step up their play just like they have all year.”
If the Clippers manage to advance to the Class C state game for the third time, they would battle either defending state champion Winslow (9-0), Veilleux’s alma mater, or Old Town (9-0) Saturday, Nov. 21, at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
Greely rose from the ranks of afterthought to headline-stealers as the season progressed.
The Rangers were severely compromised in the preseason, when senior quarterback Matt Pisini went down for the season with a knee injury. Greely started 0-3, losing by an average of 23 points, but slowly came together, winning four of its final five (although the Rangers did have to forfeit a victory at Mt. Ararat after it was learned they used an ineligible player).
Greely had to win its season finale, at home versus rival Falmouth, which was undefeated, but managed to do so, 16-6, to reach the playoffs. Then, in the Class B South quarterfinals, the Rangers went to Turner and shocked perennial powerhouse Leavitt, 34-26.
Friday, midnight finally struck for Cinderella in the semifinals at defending Class B champion Marshwood.
The Hawks, who won the regular season meeting, 49-12, took a 13-0 lead, but Greely bounced back and cut the deficit to 13-6 at halftime when standout Sam Peck scored on a short run. The game was essentially lost in the third quarter, when the Rangers fumbled on their first play, Marshwood recovered and scored the first of two consecutive touchdowns to open things up. The Hawks added one more score before Greely quarterback Nick Gauvin scored on a TD run to account for the 34-12 final score.
“It came down to us making way too many mistakes and they took advantage,” said Rangers coach David Higgins. “We played well in the first half, but on our first snap of the second half, we fumbled and you could almost see the pixie dust go away. They scored and that was pretty much it. That was too much to overcome. We didn’t play the perfect game that we needed.”
Greely’s season ended with a misleading record of 4-6 and what a ride it was.
“The journey was really fun,” Higgins said. “It was fun to see the guys step up. The kids made the most of what they had. It was a great turnaround. We’re proud of what we accomplished. We weren’t the biggest team in numbers or in size, but we played with a lot of heart. The guys gave their all. As a coach, that’s all you want. We overachieved and exceeded expectations. They should be proud of themselves.”
Graduation, as always takes its toll, but expect the Rangers to contend again in 2016.
“We’ll have some holes to fill,” Higgins said. “We have some juniors who did a good job this year that we’ll need to step up for us. The freshmen will come along. In theory, we have another big freshman class coming in. We’ll be young, but we’ll be competitive.”