FREEPORT—The Freeport High football team has come so far, so fast that it now has to guard against overconfidence.
After an inspirational and program-turning Opening Night win at Dirigo, the Falcons hosted Sacopee Valley Saturday afternoon and found themselves down to the Hawks, 12-7, early in the second quarter.
Befitting the contender it is, however, Freeport rose off the deck and answered, reaching 2-0 for the first time ever with a 47-18 triumph.
The Falcons took the lead on a short TD run from junior Dan Burke, then added three more touchdowns in succession to put the game away.
Freeport moved the ball on the ground behind Burke and seniors Jared Knighton and Luke Lamagna, while junior quarterback James Purdy worked with seniors Chris Farley and Kaleb Farmer to demonstrate that this offense is anything but one-faceted. The Falcons’ defense ultimately minimized that damage of Sacopee’s bruising senior runner Ken Corvin and slammed the door.
Look out Class C: Freeport has arrived.
“I think we were a little flat coming out, but we came around in the second half and put the game away,” said Falcons coach Rob Grover.
Coaches can talk until they’re blue in the face about staying on task and avoiding overinflated egos, but in the wake of an historic victory (last week’s 21-20 win at Dirigo came just two years after the Falcons lost, 76-6, at Dirigo in their first varsity game), it isn’t easy for high school kids (or players at any level) not to puff out their chests a bit and perhaps underestimate an opponent that was still seeking its first varsity win in its third season.
While Freeport struggled with Corvin in the early going Saturday, it answered the bell and impressed en route to victory.
The Falcons got the football first and turned their first home possession into a touchdown, driving 68 yards on eight plays in almost three minutes. Lamagna got things started with a 19-yard scamper into Hawks’ territory. Three plays later, Lamagna broke free for 16 yards to the 20. After Purdy found Burke for 4 yards to the 16, Lamagna raced to the 5, setting up a first-and-goal. Purdy then rolled to his left and found senior Kaleb Farmer open in the end zone. Farmer added the point after and it was 7-0 Freeport.
To its credit, Sacopee Valley bounced right back behind Corvin and senior Chris Rowley. On the first play from scrimmage, Corvin erupted for 18 yards to the Falcons’ 37. An 11-yard Rowley scamper picked up another first down. On fourth-and-3 from the 17, Corvin pushed the pile just enough to pick up the first down and four plays later, Corvin again converted a fourth down, gaining three yards to the 2. Corvin was stopped just short of the end zone on his next carry, but with 2:03 to play in the opening stanza, Corvin bulled in for a 1-yard score, capping a 13-play, 55-yard drive which ate up nearly seven minutes. A fake on the extra point went for naught, but the Hawks were back within a point, 7-6.
Late in the first, Freeport gave the ball up on downs and as the second period began, Sacopee Valley moved into Falcons’ territory. The hosts would stiffen, however, and on fourth-and-9 from the 17, quarterback Zach Barrows was thrown for a loss.
But Freeport immediately gave the ball back on a fumble and the Hawks took over just inside the 10. After Corvin gained four yards on first down, he scored from the 5 on his next carry and the visitors had an improbable lead. A two-point conversion resulted in an incomplete pass, but Sacopee Valley was on top, 12-7.
“(Sacopee) came out hard,” Grover said. “We didn’t see Corvin on film, but we’ve played him for three years. He’s a good player. They have some good players. They really played us tough.”
The Falcons wouldn’t stay down for long, marching 57 yards on five plays in 2:03 to take the lead for good. Knighton set the tone with runs of 13- and 11-yards (pushing the pile back seven yards on the second carry). After Lamagna picked up 21 to the 12, Knighton moved the ball to the 4 with an eight-yard pickup. Burke then capped the drive with a 4-yard TD run and after being pushed back by an illegal formation penalty, Purdy ran in the two-point conversion for a 15-12 advantage with 3:37 to play before halftime.
Freeport’s defense then stepped up, forcing a three-and-out and the offense got the ball back at its 30 with 1:53 showing.
That was more than enough time to score again.
Knighton ran for 19 yards, but the hosts soon faced a fourth-and-6 at their 47. After a timeout, Purdy dropped back and lofted a pass to a wide open Farley streaking down the right sideline. Farley completed the 53-yard scoring play with 46.5 seconds to go and even though Farmer’s extra point was no good, the Falcons had a 21-12 lead at halftime, enjoying a 196-112 edge in yardage.
In the second half, Freeport would open things up.
The defense set the tone for forcing a second straight three-and-out.
“The first quarter was alright, then they broke through, so in the second half, we had to stop them and we shut them down from there,” said Lamagna.
“The defense stepped up,” Grover added. “We made an adjustment. We were overpenetrating and went to the 4-3. The kids adjusted well.”
The Falcons weren’t able to answer, having to punt, but Purdy unleashed a 56-yard gem, pinning the Hawks at their 4. Sacopee Valley soon had to punt again.
Freeport began at its 41, but three plays lost six yards.
Then, the Falcons got a gift as Purdy’s punt was fumbled by Rowley and Burke recovered at midfield.
The offense then got into gear, scoring in four plays as Lamagna had runs of 6- and 34-yards, Burke picked up a yard, then Purdy rolled to his right and threw to Farley in the right corner of the end zone for a 9-yard score. Farmer’s extra point made it 28-12 with 1:28 left in the third.
Early in the fourth, Freeport began at its 22 and it took all of one play and 13 seconds to strike again.
Lamagna took the ball, broke free up the middle untouched, cut to his right, then outraced the pursuit for a 78-yard TD.
“I started out a little rough and then I had to get with it in the second half,” said Lamagna. “I had to make myself confident and I turned it on. I had some big holes thanks to big blocks.”
“Luke is explosive,” Grover added. “When he gets the open field, boy, he can turn it on.”
Farmer’s extra point gave the hosts a 35-12 advantage with 10:34 to play.
After another Sacopee Valley three-and-out, the Falcons marched 90 yards on nine plays in 3:01 to put it away.
A 30-yard scamper by Knighton got things started. Lamagna’s 26-yard run put the ball at the 1 and Purdy finished things off with a 1-yard run. Farmer’s extra point was blocked, but Freeport’s lead had been extended to 41-12.
The Hawks would embark on one final 68-yard, eight-play scoring drive, which ate up 4 minutes, 10 seconds. Corvin capped it with his third TD of the day, from 10-yards out. Corvin’s extra point was blocked.
That figured to do it for the scoring, but on the ensuing kickoff, a squib kick, the ball bounced all the way back to Lamagna at the 24 and he raced upfield, broke through the Sacopee Valley special teams and didn’t stop until he’d scored on a 76-yard kickoff return.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” said Lamagna. “The ball rolled through everybody and I just kind of picked it up. I saw a hole and I just hit it.”
The two-point conversion was no good, but the Falcons had put the finishing touches on their 47-18 triumph.
The players were happy with the victory and felt they learned a lesson in the process.
“I think we came in maybe a little too overconfident and it showed, but once we got into it and got down to business, we took care of the win,” said Purdy.
“We know we have to listen to the coaching staff so we don’t get overconfident and maybe a little bit cocky since we won our first game against a team we got crushed by,” Lamagna said.
Offensive stars were many.
Lamagna finished with 155 yards and a TD on 14 rushes. He also had the long kickoff return for a second score. Knighton (who turned momentum with his long runs late in the first period with his team down) had 90 yards on 10 rushes. Burke finished with 37 yards and a score on eight attempts.
Purdy only completed four passes in nine attempts, but three went for scores. His completions went for 71 yards. He also had the scoring run. Farley had two receptions for 62 yards and two scores. Farmer caught a pass for 5 yards and a TD. Burke had a reception for 4 yards.
“In the offseason, we did a lot of 7-on-7 work with different schools,” said Purdy, of his team’s expanded passing attack. “It’s good to have the passing so we don’t always have to run. It’s a good option to go to. We have good receivers who can catch the ball.”
“Passing allows us to be more versatile,” added Grover. “As a coach, I have to use it better than I’ve been doing. When you throw the ball, three things happen and two are bad, but we’ll need passing against some teams down the stretch.”
For Sacopee Valley, Corvin wound up with 160 yards and three scores on 29 carries, but his effectiveness was limited in the second half.
“We had to keep our heads and stay focused,” said Lamagna. “He’s a tank. You have to hit him low. If you hit him high, you get run over.”
Rowley had 112 yards on 19 attempts.
Freeport finished with a 425-269 advantage in yardage.
The Falcons won’t rest on their laurels. Their schedule suggests they’ll have an opportunity to win just about every time out. While a big game looms Sept. 23 at Lisbon, Freeport first hosts first-year Telstar and won’t be caught looking ahead.
“We’ll prepare all week,” said Purdy. “We’ll go into it like we’re playing any other team. We made some mistakes today we’ll have to work on. We’ll go into it pumped up and play our best game.
“I think this year, our coaching staff is awesome. We have awesome assistant coaches as well. We have more numbers, good incoming freshmen. We’re more like a team with more intensity. It’s our third year into it so we’re learning what a high school team needs to do. We also have a good squad of captains. I think morale is very good. I think we’ve learned not to be too confident. We’re somewhat confident, but we have to be cautious and keep getting better every week.”
“It feels good,” Grover added. “The kids’ hard work is paying off. I look forward to next week and continuing on from there. Telstar has some seniors.”
Freeport junior quarterback James Purdy looks to handoff during first half action. Purdy, whose arm opens up the Falcons’ attack, only completed four passes in the game, but three went for touchdowns.
Freeport senior Jared Knighton breaks into the open field. Knighton had 90 yards on 10 rushes.
Freeport senior Morgan Kuntz, who was active on defense all day, pressures Sacopee Valley quarterback Zach Barrows.
Freeport senior Jared Knighton (left) and junior Dan Burke do their best to slow Sacopee Valley senior Ken Corvin during Saturday afternoon’s contest. The Falcons pulled away in the second half for a 47-18 victory, their second in a row this fall.
More photos below.
SV- 6 6 0 6- 18
F- 7 14 14 12- 47
F- Farmer 5 pass from Purdy (Farmer kick)
SV- Corvin 1 run (run failed)
SV- Corvin 5 run (pass failed)
F- Burke 4 run (Purdy run)
F- Farley 53 pass from Purdy (kick failed)
F- Farley 9 pass from Purdy (Farmer kick)
F- LaMagna 78 run (Farmer kick)
F- Purdy 1 run (kick blocked)
SV- Corvin 10 run (kick blocked)
F- LaMagna 76 kickoff return (pass failed)