CUMBERLAND—A short week meant a slow start for Greely’s football team, but it wasn’t long until the Rangers hit their stride.
And ran and passed their way into the win column once again.
Thursday evening at Hutchins Field, Greely hosted defending Western B champion Kennebunk in a pivotal contest to start the second half of the season.
After a promising first drive didn’t result in any points, the Rangers put it all together and never looked back.
Late in the first quarter, Greely broke the ice when junior quarterback Matt Pisini found senior Andrew Verrill for a 34-yard touchdown pass.
In the second period, the Rangers capitalized on a Rams’ fumble to go ahead 14-0 when junior Sam Peck scored on a 4-yard run.
Kennebunk appeared primed to take momentum to halftime, however, when it pulled within 14-6 on a touchdown pass with 40 seconds to go, but a kickoff out of bounds gave Greely the ball at its 35 and the Rangers demonstrated that they could strike quickly.
Two plays after Pisini scrambled for 25 yards, the quarterback found senior Nick Dubois for a 40-yard touchdown and Greely had some breathing room, up, 22-6.
While the Rangers wouldn’t score again, they wouldn’t have to, thanks to a strong defensive effort.
After a scoreless third period, Kennebunk did score with 4:37 remaining, but Greely senior captain Ryan Pomeroy came up with a huge play to deny the two-point conversion and keep it a two-possession game and the Rangers went on to a 22-12 victory.
Greely has now won four in a row, improved to 4-1 and dropped the Rams to 1-4 in the process.
“There was a lot going on with a short week,” said Rangers coach David Higgins. “Kennebunk looked really good and they’re big. With a couple breaks, it could have been a lot different. They have a lot of pride with that program.”
While Kennebunk played in the state final a year ago, losing a thriller to Cony, the Rams have come back to the pack this fall and won just one of their first four outings. Kennebunk opened with 14-12 losses at Fryeburg Academy and at home to York. After holding off visiting Oceanside, 28-22, the Rams fell at Marshwood, 61-20.
Greely was drubbed at Marshwood in its opener, 47-0, then came together, downing visiting Fryeburg Academy (54-18), host Gorham (39-14) and visiting Westbrook (31-6).
The teams met for the first time last fall and host Kennebunk romped, 42-14.
Thursday, the Rangers kept their roll going.
Greely got the ball first and thanks to a 32-yard pass from Pisini to Verrill, moved into Kennebunk territory, but the next three plays gained only nine yards and on fourth-and-1 from the Rams’ 14, sophomore Andrew Ray was thrown for a one-yard loss and Kennebunk got the ball for the first time.
After senior Sean Brannen picked up one first down with a nine-yard scamper, the Rangers defense stiffened and forced a punt.
Greely then took over at its 43 with 4:44 to play in the opening stanza.
Six plays later, the Rangers were ahead to stay.
A four-yard run by Pisini on fourth-and-2 moved the chains. After Peck ran for 11 more, Pisini dropped back and found a wide open Verrill in the flat. Verrill beat the pursuit to the end zone to complete a 34-yard score and although a two-point conversion pass fell incomplete, Greely had a 6-0 advantage with 2:21 remaining in the first period.
“We’ve been working on that all week,” Pisini said. “It just started to click. The defense gave us that so we took what they gave us. We ran good routes.”
The Rams moved the ball as the first quarter gave way to the second, as junior quarterback Donovan Connor scrambled for a dozen yards and a first down at the Rangers’ 37.
Kennebunk would get no closer, however, as sophomore Patrick Saunders was held for no gain, then was thrown for a two-yard loss. After Connor threw incomplete, the visitors had to punt and junior Thomas Wildes got off a good one, pinning Greely at its 8.
The Rangers wouldn’t score on their ensuing drive, but they did get out from the shadow of their end zone to flip field position.
A pass interference penalty on the Rams helped, as did runs of 11- and 20-yards from Peck. Once the drive stalled, Pisini’s 38-yard punt pinned Kennebunk at its 10.
And then, Greely got a break.
After senior Harrison Vosburgh ran for 10 yards, the next snap resulted in a fumbled exchange and the Rangers pounced on the loose ball at the Rams’ 19.
Greely wasn’t about to fail to take advantage of that gift and after Pisini ran for a yard on first down and Peck ran for 14 on the next snap, Peck got the call again and bulled in from the 4 with 5:29 to play before halftime.
This time, the Rangers were able to convert the two-point conversion, as Pisini threw to Verrill to make the score 14-0.
Kennebunk then got on the board to make things interesting.
The Rams would drive 54 yards in nine plays, chewing up almost five minutes in the process.
A facemask penalty on Greely got things moving. A 12-yard pass from Connor to 6-foot-6 senior Jake Boothby moved the chains and a 10-yard Connor-to-Saunders hookup set up a first down at the 17, but just when it appeared the Rangers were on the verge of stopping Kennebunk, a blow to the head penalty gave the Rams a first-and-goal at the 6 and on the next play, Connor found senior Liam Studley on a slant in the end zone and Studley dove to make the catch for the touchdown. The two-point conversion pass fell incomplete, leaving the score, 14-6, but with only 40 seconds to go, Kennebunk looked like it had shifted momentum to its side.
Instead, Greely would have the last laugh.
When the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, the Rangers got the ball at their 35. On first down, Pisini dropped back to pass, couldn’t find a receiver and took off down the left sideline. He didn’t stop until he was taken down at the Rams’ 40 after a gain of 25 yards.
Two snaps later, with time winding down, Pisini dropped back to throw again, rolled right and fired a strike down the field to Dubois, who hauled it in and backed into the end zone for the score.
“I feel like we’re a deadly team,” said Pisini. “I saw (Nick) open. I just threw it up there. He’s a great receiver. He went up and got it.”
Peck got the handoff on the two-point conversion attempt and scored and with 16.9 seconds to go before halftime, Greely had restored a two-score bulge to lead, 22-6.
“I think the key for us was that last drive in the first half,” Higgins said. “Matt and I were talking about it on the sidelines and we were going to go with our speed offense. We thought we could do something. They were playing off us and Matty converted like usual. It was a great throw and a great catch.”
In the first 24 minutes, the Rangers enjoyed a 224-135 yardage advantage, as Pisini completed 4-of-8 passes for 118 yards and two scores, while Peck gained 60 yards and scored a TD on five rushes.
Greely’s offense wasn’t as productive in the second half, but the defense stood tall.
Kennebunk went on offense first in the second half, but went three-and-out. The Rangers appeared poised for another scoring march when Pisini hit Peck for 30 yards, but it was negated by a holding penalty. While the tandem did hook up for 18 yards and Peck ran for two and a first down, followed by another fourth down conversion, the drive eventually stalled. Greely did run nearly six minutes off the clock in the process, however.
The Rams drove from their 20 to midfield, but a false start backed them up and on fourth-and-6, Connor threw incomplete, forcing a punt.
The Rangers drove into Kennebunk territory as the third period gave way to the fourth, but just when it appeared they were about to put the game away, Pisini was intercepted by Studley.
The Rams took over at their 13, but couldn’t move the ball and had to punt again.
Greely got the ball at the Kennebunk 45, but immediately gave it away again on a fumble and Rams senior Shane Normandeau recovered at the 48.
Kennebunk then drove 52 yards in eight plays to make things interesting.
The big play in the drive was a 30-yard rush from Vosburgh on fourth-and-4. That put the ball at the Rangers’ 12. After Studley gained eight yards on a reverse, Wildes ran twice for a yard and on fourth-and-inches from the 2, Wildes hit paydirt.
With 4:37 still to play, had the Rams gotten the two-point conversion, visions of a comeback could have danced in their heads, but when Connor dropped back to pass, Pomeroy pulled him down for a sack (Pomeroy was hurt on the play) and the score remained 22-12.
Greely had a chance to run out the clock, but a holding penalty negated a 23-yard Peck scamper. The Rangers would be forced to punt and after a 14-yard boot, Kennebunk got the ball back at the Greely 48 with 2:34 to go, but after moving to the 31, on fourth-and-6, Connor hit Boothby for only four yards and the Rangers got the ball back on downs.
One Pisini knee later, the clock ran out and Greely had a 22-12 victory.
“We knew they’re a very good 1-3 team,” Peck said. “Very dangerous and physical. They’ll get some wins.”
“We got a victory and now we can move on and that’s what’s important,” Higgins said. “We played pretty well defensively even though we don’t have anyone 6-6 who could cover the big dude.”
Peck finished with 72 yards and a touchdown on 11 rushing attempts. He also caught a pass for 18 yards.
“The linemen gave me big holes,” said Peck. “The outside receivers did a good job sealing the cornerbacks.”
Pisini wound up 6-of-15 for 136 yards, two TDs and an interception. Dubois caught two balls for 50 yards and a score. Verrill had two receptions for 66 yards.
Greely was flagged six times for 48 yards, but outgained Kennebunk, 284-243.
The Rams got 74 rushing yards on 12 carries from Vosburgh. Brannen gained 21 yards on six rushes. Connor completed 8-of-17 passes for 58 yards and a TD. Studley caught four balls for 24 yards and a touchdown. Boothby had three catches for 24 yards.
Kennebunk was penalized five times for 40 yards.
Kennebunk (now sixth in the Western Class B Crabtree Points standings) returns home next weekend to face Morse. After a trip to Westbrook, the Rams close at home versus powerhouse Brunswick.
Greely’s closing schedule is challenging, to say the least. After a trip to York, the Rangers (third behind York and Marshwood in the Crabtrees) go to defending Class B champion Cony, then close at home in the annual Battle of Route 9, versus Falmouth.
“Those will be good tests for us,” Pisini said. “We’re looking forward to it. We’re starting to build camaraderie. We’re getting confidence. As the season progresses, we’re getting better and the games are getting tougher.”
“We have a lot of work to do,” Peck said. “Mentally, we can get better. We can still get crisper in our plays.”
“I’m never happy, but we are progressing,” Higgins added. “Cony’s a good program. York is always tough for us. Falmouth you never know because it’s always a wild and crazy game. It’s going to be very difficult. We hope to stay healthy.”
Greely senior Nick Dubois hauls in a critical touchdown pass right before halftime.
Kennebunk junior Noah Hyde keeps his eye on the ball.
Greely junior Alex Kroot defends a pass.
Greely junior Sam Peck looks for some running room.
Greely junior quarterback Matt Pisini heaves a pass downfield.
Greely senior Andrew Verrill prepares to make a catch.
Greely junior Sam Peck (5) is part of a celebratory mob after the Rangers score a key touchdown just before halftime of Thursday’s 22-12 home win over defending Western B champion Kennebunk.
Derek Carpine photos.
More photos below.
K- 0 6 0 6- 12
G- 6 16 0 0- 22
G- Verrill 34 pass from Pisini (pass failed)
G- Peck 4 run (Pisini pass to Verrill)
K- Studley 6 pass from Connor (pass failed)
G- Dubois 40 pass from Pisini (Peck rush)
K- Wildes 2 run (pass failed)