The high school football regular season has come to a close and three local squads have advanced to the playoffs.
Rivalry weekend produced one decisive victory and one shocker and now the fun really begins.
Since the dog days of August, Greely has overcome adversity, but the Rangers got an extra dose last week just when it appeared they were playoff-bound.
Greely was under the impression it didn’t have to beat undefeated rival Falmouth in the “Battle of Route 9” regular season finale to make the playoffs, but the day before the game, it was learned that the Rangers had to forfeit their 20-7 win at Mt. Ararat Oct. 16 due to the use of an ineligible player.
“We were riding high thinking we were in, then we were down in the dumps when we heard (about the forfeit) Thursday, but these kids are resilient,” said Greely coach David Higgins.
As a result, Greely had to do what no other team had been able to do this fall, beat Falmouth, to qualify for the postseason.
And against all odds, the Rangers did just that.
Greely got a superb 48-minute defensive effort and again got on the back of senior standout Sam Peck, who scored a touchdown in each half. The Rangers led, 8-0, at halftime, then extended their lead to 16-0 in the second half. Greely came up with a huge defensive stand in the third period and while it did allow a late touchdown pass from Jack Bryant to George Gilbert, it surrendered nothing more en route to a 16-6 victory.
“The kids just played awesome, it was surreal,” said Higgins. “The defense was great. They answered the call. The offensive guys did a nice job. We had to pitch a perfect game and we did. The odds were against us, but that’s what they said when we beat Cony (and Fitzpatrick Trophy winning quarterback Ben Lucas in 2013).
Peck continued to emerge as one of the state’s elite talents.
“Sam doesn’t get tired,” Higgins said. “People know he’s going to get the ball, but he still goes out and does it. He’s become a great leader. He’s proved to be one of the best players not only in Class B, but in my opinion, in the whole state. He’s fun to watch.”
The Rangers wound up 3-5 and seventh in Class B South and earned a fifth straight playoff berth. Greely is at No. 2 Leavitt (6-2) Friday evening in the quarterfinals. On Oct. 10, the Rangers gave the visiting Hornets a scare, but lost, 20-14. The teams have no playoff history.
“I’d like to win four more games and really be a Cinderella story,” Higgins said. “Leavitt’s a great team. They’re well coached. I hope that the kids can stay focused and answer the call. Hopefully we’ll keep it close and give them a game. It will be fun.”
Falmouth still earned the top seed in Class B South with its 7-1 mark, as it lost a regular season game for the first time since Sept. 19, 2014. Connor Aube ran for 69 yards on 15 carries, Bryant completed 16 of 29 passes for 174 yards and a TD and Sean Bryant had six catches for 80 yards in the loss.
“It was a wakeup call,” said Yachtsmen coach John Fitzsimmons. “I have to give tremendous credit to Coach Higgins and his staff and his team. They faced a do-or-die situation and they won. We had our chances to get back in the game and we squandered them. There’s a different intensity in a rivalry game. We knew we had won the league and homefield advantage, but their intensity was much higher than ours. Now, they have 365 days of bragging rights.
“I’m proud of my players. This is the first time we’ve finished on top of the league. Teams have to come through Falmouth.”
The Yachtsmen will host No. 8 Morse (3-5) Friday night in the quarterfinals. Falmouth blanked the visiting Shipbuilders, 31-0, Oct. 9. Last year, the Yachtsmen handled Morse in the quarterfinals, 48-6.
“There’s real excitement about how far we can go,” Fitzsimmons said. “I’m very pleased with the kids’ focus in practice. The team knows what’s in our reach. We’ve put in some of our best packages that we think can take us to a Gold Ball.”
Yarmouth entered the 2015 campaign viewed as the favorite in Class C South and the Clippers did nothing to disappoint.
Saturday, Yarmouth capped an 8-0 campaign with a 40-14 win at Freeport in the “Battle of the Bay,” staying undefeated all-time against the Falcons.
Cody Cook opened the scoring with a long touchdown run and John Thoma’s TD pass to Jack Snyder made it 13-0 after one period. Touchdown runs from Snyder and Jack Venden pushed the lead to 27-0. After Noah Eckersley-Ray scored on a TD run for a 33-point lead, Freeport got on the board. In the fourth period, the Clippers got a scoring run from Harry Steinharter and went on to a 40-14 victory.
“Going 8-0 is special to us,” said Yarmouth coach Jason Veilleux. “It’s been a few years since our football team finished the regular season undefeated, I think it’s something the kids and the community take a lot of pride in, but the regular season is behind us now and everyone is 0-0 again. We keep stressing to our team and especially our seniors, that every game is a win-or-clear-out-your-locker situation. Our players understand that and I’m confident they will play each game with that sense of urgency.”
Yarmouth will host No. 8 Mountain Valley (2-6) Friday in the quarterfinals. On Sept. 11, the Clippers beat the visiting Falcons, 40-14. The teams have no playoff history.
“Right now, we are just focused on becoming a better football team each day and getting ready for Mountain Valley,” Veilleux said. “Being the number one seed and playing at home in front of our great fans will really help us, but we know we will have to play three perfect playoff games in order to stay alive and keep moving forward.”
Freeport finished 0-8 and 10th in Class C South. Only eight teams qualified for the playoffs.
Quarterback John Thoma and his Yarmouth football teammates are the top seed for the Class C South playoffs.
Senior standout Connor Aube hopes to lead Falmouth to a Class B championship.
Sam Peck and his Greely teammates have defied the odds this fall and made the playoffs. The Rangers will be a tough out.