Freeport blanks Gray-NG, continues resurgence

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Freeport senior T.J. Morrill, right, is congratulated by classmate Max Doughty after scoring the final touchdown of the Falcons’ 27-0 win over Gray-New Gloucester Saturday afternoon.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Freeport 27 Gray-NG 0

GNG- 0 0 0 0- 0
F-0 7 14 6- 27

First quarter
No scoring 

Second quarter
F- Burke 4 run (Morrill kick) 

Third quarter
F- Burke 3 run (Morrill kick)
F- Dostie recovered fumble in end zone (Morrill kick) 

Fourth quarter 
F- Morrill 39 pass from Burke (kick failed) 

FREEPORT—Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

A Freeport boys’ team learns how to win games, comes from nowhere and goes on to steal headlines.

While it’s fartfetched to think that football can follow the script of its baseball brethren, the Falcons are penning quite a story on the gridiron this fall.

One year after failing to win a single game, Freeport came into the 2016 campaign full of optimism and through three games this fall, the Falcons’ have proved to be very competitive.

Saturday afternoon at Pownal Road Recreational Field, Freeport hosted Gray-New Gloucester and for the better part of a half, neither offense could strike paydirt.

Then, after senior Connor Dostie blocked a Patriots’ punt, the Falcons got the only score they would need when junior quarterback Josh Burke scored on a 4-yard rush with 1:57 to go.

While the game appeared in doubt at halftime, Freeport promptly put it away in the third quarter.

After Gray-New Gloucester fumbled the ball away on the first snap of the second half, the Falcons drove a short field for another score, this one a Burke TD run from 3-yards out.

After Freeport appeared to shoot itself in the foot on its next possession by fumbling at the Patriots’ 1, the Falcons’ defense came up huge, as Dostie, who committed the fumble, pounced on a loose ball in the end zone to give Freeport a 21-0 lead.

The Falcons’ defense was terrific throughout and never allowed Gray-New Gloucester to generate any hopes of a rally and with 3:42 to play, Burke and senior T.J. Morrill combined for a 39-yard touchdown pass and Freeport went on to an emphatic 27-0 victory.

The Falcons held the Patriots to a mere 44 yards, forced three turnovers and improved to 2-1 on the season, keeping their playoff dreams very much alive while dropping Gray-New Gloucester to 0-3 in the process.

“This is so much more fun this year,” said Burke, who ran for two scores and threw for another. “I’m just having a blast playing, being on the field. It definitely beats losing, I’ll tell you that.”

Improvement

Freeport went 0-8 in 2015, but there was ample optimism entering the new year, high hopes which were validated in the opener, a 22-8 home win over Poland. The Falcons came down to earth last week, however, losing at preseason Class C South favorite Wells, 53-0.

Gray-New Gloucester, which enjoyed a very competitive season in 2015, lost its first two games at home to Mountain Valley (62-6) and Fryeburg Academy (42-0).

Last fall, the Patriots won, 36-0, in Gray.

Saturday, it took awhile, but the Falcons made sure they earned a ‘W’ in their Homecoming game.

The Patriots won the opening coin toss, but deferred possession to the second half, giving Freeport the ball first.

The Falcons’ first drive was inauspicious, as senior Max Doughty ran for four yards and senior Cody Vachon was thrown for a two-yard loss before Burke’s hand was hit while he was throwing the ball and he was intercepted at midfield by Gray-New Gloucester junior Jaykob Sanborn.

The Patriots weren’t able to take advantage, however, as two runs from junior Eligh Simmons gained six yards and after an illegal procedure penalty backed the visitors into their own territory, a bad snap led to a loss of five yards, forcing a punt.

Freeport started its next drive at its 28, but two Doughty runs only gained three yards and Burke threw incomplete on third down, forcing a punt.

The Patriots started in great field position again, from their own 47, but three Simmons runs only gained six yards. Simmons then whiffed on the punt, but the visitors were bailed out by the officials, who called a roughing the kicker penalty, giving Gray-New Gloucester a first down at Freeport’s 32.

Burke and junior Eathan Cameron then came up big, throwing Simmons for one-yard losses on successive snaps. Senior quarterback Eric Gilbert found sophomore Tyler Blazejeweski for eight yards, but on fourth-and-4, Gilbert threw incomplete, giving the Falcons the ball on downs at their 27.

Freeport began to drive, as after Burke threw incomplete, he kept it and ran 42 yards up the gut to the Patriots. 31. The Falcons stalled, however, as Dostie and Doughty gained one yard apiece and after Burke threw incomplete, Doughty was thrown for a six-yard loss by junior Eric Brown, giving Gray-New Gloucester the ball at its 35.

On the final play of the first quarter, Simmons was nailed for a four-yard loss by junior Anthony Hodge. The first play of the second period was even worse, as a bad snap led to a 16-yard loss. Simmons was then stopped for no gain by Morrill, forcing a punt.

Freeport started at the Patriots’ 35 with 10:23 to go in the half, but couldn’t take advantage of their field position.

Doughty ran for three yards, then swept left for 14 more and a first down at the 18. Dostie ran for three yards, Burke kept the ball for six and Doughty ran for a yard to set up first-and-goal at the 8, but Gray-New Gloucester’s defense stiffened and after Doughty gained a yard, Burke was sacked for a three-yard loss, Dostie was thrown for a six-yard loss and Morrill’s 32-yard field goal attempt never got off the ground.

The Patriots, starting at their 20, again went three-and-out, as Simmons ran for a yard, Gilbert connected with Sanborn for two yards and junior Josiah Rottari for three, forcing a punt. Simmons then dropped the punt snap, but picked it up and ran for 16 yards and an apparent first down before offsetting penalties brought the ball back to the 26. Simmons then had his punt blocked by Dostie and the Falcons took over at the Gray-New Gloucester 12 with 2:47 left in the half.

This time, Freeport finished the drive.

Burke ran for eight yards on first down, then, with 1:57 left before the break, he followed his blockers to the right and bulled his way into the end zone for the game’s first score.

“They had a six-man front and we normally like to go up the middle, but that wasn’t working, so we had to start running sweeps and pitches and stuff like that,” Burke said. “When I got in the end zone, it felt like the biggest momentum swing and I felt like the team would win.”

“I thought we’d score,” Freeport coach Paul St. Pierre said. “I knew Gray would be tough. They went after us. It took some time and adjustments. We figured out what was working and we stuck with it.”

Morrill added the extra point for a 7-0 lead.

The Patriots got a 13-yard run from Simmons and a first down as time wound down in the half, but a bobbled snap shortcircuited any hopes of getting points before the break and the Falcons took their touchdown lead to halftime.

In the first 24 minutes, Freeport outgained Gray-New Gloucester, 92 yards to 12. Burke ran four times for 60 yards and a score and Doughty picked up 27 yards on eight rushes.

In the second half, the Falcons opened it up.

The Patriots ran one play to start the third period, but the snap went awry and Falcons junior Will Gormley recovered the loose pigskin at the Gray-New Gloucester 24.

It took three plays for Freeport to add to its lead, as Doughty had runs of 15 and six yards, setting the stage for Burke to score a 3-yard touchdown run with 10:36 to go in the third. Morrill’s extra point extended the lead to 14-0.

The Falcons kept the pressure on as Morrill’s squib kick was recovered by Hodge at the Patriots’ 43.

Freeport got a one-yard run from Doughty, Burke ran for five and sophomore Xavier Adams scampered for a dozen and a first down at the 25. After Doughty gained three yards and Vachon lost a yard, Burke was thrown for a four-yard loss, but on fourth-and-12, Burke threw downfield, the ball deflected off Rottari and into the hands of Doughty for a first and goal at the 8. Doughty ran for six yards to put Freeport on the doorstep, but Dostie fumbled the exchange on the ensuing snap and freshman Scott Lynch recovered for the visitors at the Gray-New Gloucester 1, seemingly taking the air out of the Falcons’ sails.

Instead, Freeport’s defense all but iced the victory on the next play.

The Patriots’ snap was off target and the ball landed in the end zone, where Dostie atoned for his fumble by pouncing on it for a touchdown.

“I think our defense is our biggest improvement this year,” said Burke. “I thought we’d get a safety, but I wrong, we got a touchdown.” 

“That play was huge,” St. Pierre said. “Our attitude is reflected by our leadership. They have an ‘I don’t quit attitude.’ They treat every play like their last. If something bad happens, get them back the next play.”

Morrill’s extra point made it 21-0 with 5:31 remaining in the third.

After Simmons ran twice for five yards, Gilbert threw incomplete and the visitors had to punt again. The Falcons started at their 14 and began to drive again.

After Doughty gained a yard, Freeport was backed up five yards by a false start. After a Burke incomplete pass, Doughty broke free for 14 yards and a first down at the 24. After Vachon ran for a yard and Burke did the same, a bad snap forced a punt and Gray-New Gloucester took over at the Falcons’ 29.

As the third period ended, the Patriots took an illegal procedure penalty, then got a four-yard run from Simmons. The fourth quarter started with an incomplete pass and after Simmons lost two yards, Gilbert was intercepted by Burke, who returned the ball 19 yards to the Freeport 40.

The Falcons went three-and-out, as Adams was held to no gain, then was dropped for three yards and Burke threw incomplete, but Morrill got a hold of a punt which traveled 63 yards for a touchback.

Gray-New Gloucester gained a first down, as two Simmons runs moved the ball to the 30, but after Simmons ran for two yards, he was thrown for a two-yard loss, then Simmons gained three yards, necessitating another punt.

Freeport started at the Patriots’ 39 and four plays and 2:14 later, had its final touchdown.

Dostie got things started with a 12-yard run. After Doughty picked up three, a bad snap forced Burke to fall on a loose ball for a 15-yard loss, but on third-and-22, Burke ran a play action and spotted Morrill wide open behind the secondary on the left side and Morrill caught the pass and completed the 39-yard touchdown.

“I told everybody we’d run a toss, but I told T.J., ‘Give me a shake and we’ll run a fade,'” Burke said. “We faked the toss, the cornerback bit and that left T.J. wide open.” 

Morrill missed the extra point, but the Falcons had a 27-0 lead with 3:42 remaining.

Gray-New Gloucester held the ball the rest of the way, as freshman Scott Lynch ran four times for 33 yards, but after another bad snap, time ran out and Freeport got to celebrate its 27-0 victory.

“It’s magical right now,” Burke said. “We can go to Homecoming happy.”

“We haven’t turned the corner, but we’re heading for it,” St. Pierre said. “The scores are reflecting our improvement, but more importantly, the quality of play we’re getting is showing the work. We’re not a one-trick pony. We’re a team by committee. If everyone pulls their weight, we’ll be alright. All the kids have a positive attitude and want to come to practice. They don’t have the fear of getting their butts kicked on Saturday. They know now, no matter who we face, we’ll give our best.” 

The Falcons finished with a 185-44 advantage in yardage, overcame two turnovers and committed four penalties for 40 yards.

Burke completed 2-of-8 passes for 58 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He scored twice on the ground, gaining 36 yards on 10 carries (those numbers were deflated by several bad snaps that he had to fall on).

Doughty ran the ball 16 times for 76 yards and had a reception for 19 yards.

Morrill caught one pass for 39 yards and a TD and made three of four extra point attempts.

Dostie and Gormley had fumble recoveries and Burke intercepted a pass.

Gray-New Gloucester turned the ball over three times and was flagged four times for 20 yards.

Simmons was the workhorse, gaining 29 yards on 24 carries.

Junior Eric Thompson had a sack, Sanborn intercepted a pass and Lynch recovered a fumble.

Realistic goals

Gray-New Gloucester hopes to get its first win Friday when 1-2 Spruce Mountain pays a visit.

Freeport, meanwhile, is no longer happy just winning games. The Falcons believe they can be a playoff team, but it won’t be easy.

Freeport will be a road underdog the next two weeks, at Cape Elizabeth and Fryeburg Academy, then will host Mountain Valley. After playing host to Lake Region in their final home game, the Falcons close at defending regional champion Yarmouth.

“Last year at this time, we were 0-3, but now, we’re 2-1,” Burke said. “Not too many people thought it could happen, but it’s all about heart and determination and that’s what we’ve got. Baseball’s success has carried over. It’s all about believing and having heart. We did that in baseball and we’re doing that in football. We have to work on our offense. I think our defense is great. Playoffs is our goal and who knows, it might be like baseball season all over again.” 

“Darn right we talk about playoffs,” St. Pierre said. “We have a goal to get there. We know we won’t contend for a state championship, but we want to get in, by whatever route we can make it.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Freeport senior Cody Vachon is corralled by Gray-New Gloucester junior Eligh Simmons.

Freeport junior quarterback Josh Burke breaks the plane for the game’s first touchdown.

Freeport junior Will Gormley falls on a fumble.

Freeport senior T.J. Morrill tries to elude a tackler.

Freeport junior quarterback Josh Burke stretches the ball out for the game’s second touchdown.

Freeport senior Austin Langley goes up to make a catch as Gray-New Gloucester junior Jaykob Sanborn defends.

Freeport senior T.J. Morrill hauls in the final touchdown of the game.

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