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Now the fun really begins.
For the first time, all four Forecaster country football teams will take part in the postseason.
If this weekend’s Western B playoffs come anywhere close to providing the excitement on display last Friday night in Falmouth, they’ll be unforgettable.
In the annual “Battle of Route 9,” Falmouth hosted Greely with homefield advantage (and more importantly, pride) on the line and as is usually the case in this rivalry, it came down to the very end.
Entering the game, the teams had split the eight all-time meetings as varsity programs, but Falmouth had taken three straight. Last year, the Yachtsmen scored in the waning seconds to not only beat the Rangers, 15-14, but they also necessitated a three-way coin toss for the final two playoff spots. Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth got in, while Greely went home.
This time, Rangers shot to a 10-0 lead after one period behind a TD run from junior Svenn Jacobson and a field goal from junior Pat Finnegan. When junior quarterback Drew Hodge hooked up with classmate Nick Maynard for a TD pass, Greely was up 16-0, but the Yachtsmen battled back to 16-14 at the half behind a short TD run from senior quarterback Matt Kingry (followed by a Kingry to junior Alex DerHagopian two-point conversion pass) and a Kingry to senior Jack Cooleen TD pass.
“We were down at the half and Matt said we weren’t going to lose,” said Falmouth coach John Fitzsimmons. “The look in his eye was one of focus. I give him tremendous credit.”
Greely regained control on a 90-yard TD run from senior Mike Leeman. After sophomore Joe Goodrich kicked a field goal to make it 23-17 after three periods, the Rangers went up 30-17 on a short TD run from Leeman early in the fourth.
Then, the Yachtsmen made their move.
First, Kingry hit senior Ryan MacDonald for a 75-yard TD pass and Falmouth was within six.
“MacDonald was hit by four or five people along the way,” Fitzsimmons said. “He refused to go down. He got blocks and weaved in and out down the sidelines. That was the turning point. When we were down 30-24, it had the feel of last year.”
Greely had to punt, but Leeman kicked the ball 71 yards and the Yachtsmen took over at their 11. Then, Kingry (8 for 15, 247 yards, 3 TDs) found senior Aaron Rogers for an 89-yard strike and when Goodrich added the extra point, Falmouth was on top to stay, 31-30.
“There was sensational blocking,” Fitzsimmons said. “Matt put the ball right on the money and with a defender hanging on Aaron. Goodrich came through in the biggest of ways. He made all four PATs and a field goal.”
Greely began at its 45, but Kingry intercepted Hodge. After the Rangers’ defense held, Greely took over at its 46 with 5.2 seconds left, time for one final play. This time, Hodge was intercepted by junior Will Sipperly and the Yachtsmen had survived and improved to 6-2.
“They had us on our heels, but my team just dug deep and refused to lose,” Fitzsimmons said. “It was magical to watch it unfold. Five of the last six years, the winner’s been decided by two points or less. Most of it was just plain pride. We didn’t quit and believed we could come back. Our seniors had four wins against Greely.”
For the Rangers (5-3), it was an agonizing case of deja vu.
“The kids were disappointed, but we do get to play another day,” said Greely coach David Higgins. “It was a fun game to be a part of. It was a great game. We came out and played great and led all the way until the end. Near the end, we showed a little of our inexperience and they took advantage. Falmouth has some good athletes on the outside. Their quarterback’s a special kid. We matched up well. We just didn’t execute on a couple of plays.
“These kids have exceeded my expectations. They work hard. A number of kids have stepped up. I’m absolutely thrilled with the season we’ve had.”
Greely dropped to sixth and will take part in its first playoff game since 2006. The Rangers visit No. 3 Cape Elizabeth (6-2) Friday at 7 p.m. The teams didn’t play this year, but did meet in the preseason (a 21-14 victory for the Capers). Last year, Greely beat Cape Elizabeth in double overtime, 21-14. The rivals have never squared off in the playoffs.
“We look forward to playing Cape,” Higgins said. “We’re excited to be in the playoffs. They’re big and physical. Our guys will have to come with their helmets strapped on and their mouthpieces in. We’ve been physical this year too. We’re going in expecting to win.”
Falmouth earned the No. 4 seed and will host resurgent No. 5 Westbrook (4-4) in the quarterfinals Friday at 7 p.m. On Oct. 15, the Blue Blazes upset the visiting Yachtsmen, 28-25. The teams have no playoff history.
It could be another down-to-the-wire barnburner.
“It will be our first home playoff game ever,” Fitzsimmons said. “We’ve looked at film. We know we can put up points. Can we stop them on defense? That’s the key. They’re coming in with confidence. It’s a little extra special for us to face one of the teams that beat us. It’ll be a tough game, but we feel confident.”
The other local rivalry game took place Saturday afternoon in Freeport, where the playoff-bound Falcons hosted defending Class C state champion Yarmouth for the first time in the three-year history of the “Battle of the Bay” rivalry.
This game was nowhere near as close as the one in Falmouth as the Clippers raced to a 23-0 first quarter lead as junior Caleb Uhl had two TD runs and senior Anders Overhaug had one. After the hosts got on the board on a long TD pass from junior quarterback James Purdy to senior Luke LaMagna, Yarmouth went up 29-6 at the half after Overhaug scored on a long TD run.
In the third quarter, Uhl (3 carries, 117 yards, 3 TDs) and Overhaug (8-236-3) had two more TD runs and an long scoring run from senior Dennis Erving in the fourth brought the curtain down on the Clippers’ 50-6 triumph.
Yarmouth’s defense was paced by senior Ben Weinrich (who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player) and sophomore Matt Woodbury. Offensively, the Clippers rushed for 475 yards and seven touchdowns on 31 carries.
“We just ran the ran the ball extremely well,” said Clippers coach Jim Hartman. “They couldn’t handle our speed. Freeport is a heck of a team. They have a great line. We just caught them on the edges. Going undefeated in back-to-back seasons is tough. To stay focused and not to get cocky. It’s a great accomplishment for the kids and everyone in Yarmouth.”
“We got there a half-second too late,” lamented Freeport coach Rob Grover. “They’re so fast. Even their line. I think that team could compete with some of the Class A teams. We hoped to keep them under 30 and they were at 29 by halftime. We had a couple drives and didn’t get it done. We had over 200 yards rushing and James threw for over 100 yards. We moved the ball. I’m very proud of how hard the kids have worked this year. We’ve grown every year. It’s fun to be a part of it.”
Freeport wound up 5-3 and sixth in Western C. The Falcons go to No. 3 Maranacook (7-1) Friday night for the quarterfinals in their first ever postseason appearance. The teams did not play this fall.
“It’s exciting to make the playoffs,” Grover said. “It’s a whole new world for us. Maranacook is very similar to Traip. Very physical. Big up front. We have our work cut out.”
Yarmouth finished 8-0 and has now won 20 straight games. The top seed for the second year in a row, the Clippers host No. 8 Oak Hill (3-5) Friday at 7 p.m. in the quarterfinals. On Sept. 9, Yarmouth dominated the visiting Raiders, 51-7. The Clippers eliminated Oak Hill in last year’s semifinals, 28-7.
“Injuries aren’t going to help us, but everyone’s going through it,” Hartman said. “I expect a tremendous effort from Oak Hill. They’ll be out for revenge. They were adapting to a new offense the first time. I think that held them up. They have it down now. We can’t look by them if we want to make it to next week.”
The joyous Falmouth football team raises the Battle of Route 9 trophy to the heavens after its stirring 31-30 come from behind home win over rival Greely Friday night.