CUMBERLAND—Entering the 2010 football season, nowhere outside of a certain locker room in Cumberland did anyone predict big things for the Greely Rangers.
Now, it’s starting to look like the Rangers won’t only crash the playoff party next month, but they might just be in the thick of the title chase.
Saturday evening, after three-plus quarters of virtually no action, host Greely and defending Western Class B champion Cape Elizabeth put on a show.
The Rangers finally broke the ice with exactly eight minutes to play, but with time winding down, the Capers tied the score. In overtime, Greely went ahead, but again, the visitors pulled even. Finally, in the second extra session, sophomore Nick Maynard stepped into the hero’s role, catching the go-ahead touchdown pass from first-time starting quarterback sophomore Andrew Hodge, then ending the game with an interception as the Rangers improved to 5-2 on the year with a 21-14 victory, one of the biggest in program history, which dropped Cape Elizabeth to 5-2 in the process.
Greely won its first two games in 2009, then lost its final seven, which was ample reason for the pundits to ignore the Rangers entering 2010, despite the optimistic projections of coach David Higgins.
Greely battled perennial contender Wells to the finish in a 21-14 loss on the road in the opener, then defeated Poland (40-6), Gray-New Gloucester (47-0), Lake Region (26-0) and always-tough York (for the first time ever, 21-6). Last week, the Rangers gave juggernaut Mountain Valley a scare in Rumford before falling, 13-0.
Cape Elizabeth didn’t lose a game until the state final a year ago (35-21 to Leavitt), then graduated some of the finest skill players around. The Capers have remained a top contender this autumn and won their first five outings, 25-0 over Poland, 21-0 against York, 34-0 at Fryeburg, 24-21 in thrilling, come-from-behind fashion over visiting Falmouth and 48-14 against Gray-New Gloucester. Cape Elizabeth fell from the ranks of the unbeaten last week after a 14-7 setback at Wells.
A year ago, in Cape Elizabeth, the Capers routed Greely, 41-7.
Saturday night, a snoozer turned into a heartstopper.
The Rangers, playing short-handed due to injury and disciplinary reasons, had some early chances to take the lead, but couldn’t capitalize.
The hosts got the ball first and gained a first down on a pair of six-yard runs from sophomore Svenn Jacobson. The next three plays gained just four yards and Greely had to punt, but senior Alex Parenteau got the six yards he needed on a fake and the Rangers had the ball in Capers’ territory, at the 40. Three plays later, however, Hodge was intercepted by Cape Elizabeth junior Bill Brooks and the visitors took over at their 25.
The Capers’ first series ended in disaster when on third-and-7 from their 28, junior quarterback Derek Roberts lost three yards, fumbled when hit by Greely senior Caleb King and Rangers senior Mike Higgins recovered the loose pigskin at the Cape Elizabeth 24.
Greely went backwards, however, and on fourth-and-16 from the 30, Hodge was intercepted by Capers senior Jack Barber.
From there, the contest turned into a stalemate and a punting contest.
In the first period, the teams combined for just 37 yards. In the second, 25.
The third quarter was no better as the Rangers had one first down to none for the visitors and the teams managed only 22 combined yards.
Finally, at the start of the fourth period the offenses began to show up.
After a punt, Greely began at the Cape Elizabeth 48 and drove for the first TD.
The hosts got a huge break on third-and-18 when Hodge’s pass fell incomplete, but pass interference was called, giving the Rangers a first down at the Capers’ 40. On the next play, senior Ethan Wyman broke free down the left sideline for 24 yards to the 16. Cape Elizabeth then gave Greely another gift on fourth-and-3 from the 9 when it jumped offsides. On the next snap, Jacobson scored on a 4-yard TD run and Wyman’s extra point made it 7-0 with 8 minutes left.
It looked like that would be the game’s lone score until the waning seconds of regulation.
After trading punts, the Capers took over at the Rangers’ 28 with 4:30 to go. With just over 3 minutes to go, the visitors appeared cooked as they faced a fourth-and-13, but Roberts threw a rainbow that senior Cyrus Wolfinger snared for 25 yards to the 6. After Barber gained a yard on first down, he was thrown for a 6-yard loss by Wyman as the clock neared a minute. Roberts rumbled to the 2 on the next snap, setting up a fourth-and-goal.
Roberts would roll to his left, break a tackle, then fall into the end zone to keep Cape Elizabeth alive. Senior Patrick Tyler’s extra point tied the score with 53.8 seconds remaining.
Greely could do nothing to counter and it was on to overtime.
In Maine high school football, in overtime, each team gets a possession and has a series beginning at the other squad’s 10 yard line.
The Rangers went first and scored on their second play when Jacobson broken free over the right side and ran into the end zone. Wyman’s extra point again put the hosts on the brink of victory, up 14-7.
The Capers still have the heart of a champion, however, and answered.
On third-and-goal from the 10, Roberts and Tyler hooked up for 9 yards to the 1. Senior Jack McDonald then bulled in (barely breaking the plane). Tyler added the point-after and once again the game was deadlocked, 14-14.
It was on to the second OT and again Greely had the first opportunity.
Greely appeared doomed this time around. After Jacobson was thrown for a three-yard loss on first down, Hodge found Wyman for five on second down. Jacobson lost two yards on third down, however, and the Rangers faced a decision on fourth-and-goal from the 10. They could have had Wyman try a field goal, but Higgins went for broke and came up a big winner.
Hodge dropped back and threw a pass into the middle of the Cape Elizabeth defense. Maynard leaped to make the catch, came down with the ball and barely broke the plane of the goal line to once again put Greely ahead.
“It was kind of a broken play,” said Maynard. “It wasn’t even supposed to go to me, but (Andrew) saw me at the last second and I was open and he threw it in a perfect place. I knew I was in.”
“We’re not a very good kicking team, so we went for it,” Higgins said.. “Our third-team quarterback stood up great. Nick was absolutely awesome. It was a great catch.”
Wyman added the point-after and the Rangers clung to a 21-14 advantage.
This time, they’d hold on.
After Roberts failed to gain a yard on a first down rush, he dropped back and momentarily had an open receiver, but his lofting pass never found its target. Instead, Maynard snared the ball for an interception, ending the game.
“The middle linebacker let his man go and I was staying in the zone,” Maynard said. “I saw the ball coming in and just snagged it and ended the game.”
“That was the play and the tight end was open if he would have just zinged it in there, instead he floated it,” lamented Capers coach Aaron Filieo.
In double overtime, Greely had an improbable 21-14 win.
“It feels awesome,” said Maynard. “There was so much pressure, but our whole team stepped up. It’s a great win. Overwhelming. With all the seniors, we got together and realized we had to step up and win. I feel like since we’re a senior-laden team, we have more motivation and drive to have our best year ever. It’s one of the biggest wins we’ve had in awhile. When we heard Cape lost to Wells, we knew we could be in it. We were tied the whole game and stepped it up and brought it all together at the end.”
“It was a great game,” Higgins said. “This is really huge. I can’t say enough about how big this is. Cape’s a great team, those kids are tough. Aaron’s a great coach. It’s just a great experience. We’re very fortunate. Cape just kept coming back. You can never rule them out.”
Jacobson was the Rangers’ top producer on offense, picking up 60 yards and two TDs on 19 carries.
“Svenn’s a tough kid,” Higgins said. “Luckily we have him for two more years.”
Wyman had 22 rushing yards on 11 tries and three receptions for 12 yards. Hodge finished 5-of-10 passing for 24 yards, the game-winning score and three interceptions. Maynard had just the one catch, but it was good for the 10-yard TD.
Greely mustered only 100 yards of offense, turned the ball over three times, fumbled on several other occasions and was penalized six times for 46 yards, but somehow found a way.
For Cape Elizabeth, Roberts rushed for 34 yards and a TD on 15 carries. Through the air, he was 2-for-10 for 34 yards and the game-ending interception. Barber rushed for 34 yards on 16 carries and McDonald had 6 yards and a touchdown on five attempts. Wolfinger had one catch for 25 yards. Tyler caught one ball for 9 yards.
The Capers had just 91 yards of offense, committed one turnover and were flagged five times for 44 yards.
“We can’t just decide to play and execute late in the fourth quarter,” Filieo said. “We’ve done that a couple times this year. It’s just frustrating when we show that type of heart and resiliency at the very end. We need it from beginning to end. That’s been a problem this year. We weren’t sustaining blocks. Opportunities were eradicated pretty quick. Greely has some studs up front and they have some tough runners. They were the difference tonight for sure.”
Cape Elizabeth hosts 2-5 Lake Region Friday, then closes at undefeated Mountain Valley. The Capers would be the fourth and final playoff team if the season ended today.
“We have to win our last two games, that’s what we’re looking at,” said Filieo. “Mountain Valley to end the season will be a true test of how far we’ve come and where we want to go.”
Greely would be in the three-spot, but the Rangers can’t rest on their impressive laurels. After going to 1-6 Fryeburg next Saturday, they host 4-3 Falmouth in the “Battle of Route 9” in the finale.
“We thought we’d be good enough to make the playoffs,” Higgins said. “That was our goal. We really believe in ourselves. We do have some business to take care of, but we’re very excited.”
For good reason.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Capers senior running back Jack Barber sweeps left, but finds little running room.
Greely sophomore Andrew Hodge launches a pass downfield. Hodge made his first varsity start and threw the winning TD in the second overtime.
Greely sophomore Svenn Jacobson picks up some tough yards. Jacobson rushed for two scores on the night.
Cape Elizabeth quarterback Derek Roberts looks for an open receiver during the first half Saturday. Roberts’ heroics weren’t enough to rally the Capers as they fell to 5-2.
The scoreboard tells the story as Cape Elizabeth junior quarterback Derek Roberts comes to the line on fourth-and-goal Saturday night. Roberts would roll left for the tying TD, but host Greely went on to win in double-overtime, 21-14.
Greely’s senior defensive standout Jon Higgins tackles Cape Elizabeth junior Bill Brooks Saturday night. The Rangers’ defense excelled and helped key the 21-14 upset of the defending Western B champion Capers.
More photos below.
CE- 0 0 0 7 7 0- 14
G- 0 0 0 7 7 7- 21
G- Jacobson 4 run (Wyman kick)
CE- Roberts 2 run (Tyler kick)
G- Jacobson 10 run (Wyman kick)
CE- McDonald 1 run (Tyler kick)
G- Maynard 10 pass from Hodge (Wyman kick)