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Greely’s football team celebrates its 20-7 upset of rival Falmouth in Friday’ Class B South quarterfinal.
Freeport’s Connor Dostie tries to bring down Spruce Mountain quarterback Caulin Parker during Friday’s Class C South quarterfinal. Despite a strong effort, the Falcons lost, 20-14.
Four Forecaster Country football teams took the field for the quarterfinal round of the playoffs last weekend.
Just one remains.
That would be the Greely Rangers, who for the second year in a row have overcome low numbers and a slow start to make an improbable run to the semifinals.
Last Friday night, Greely, the No. 6 seed in Class B South, made its second trip to Falmouth in as many weeks to meet the third-ranked Yachtsmen for a first-ever postseason encounter between the rivals.
Unlike the regular season finale, which saw the Rangers have the ball in Falmouth territory almost the entire first half with nothing to show for it en route to a 14-0 loss, this time, Greely capitalized.
The Yachtsmen did score first, in the second quarter, as a Josh Allen interception set up Garret Aube for a 25-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead. Greely answered, as quarterback Nick Gauvin hit Nolan Anderson for a long pass to the 1, where Gauvin took it in to cut the deficit to 7-6 at halftime.
After Falmouth was stymied deep in Rangers’ territory to start the second half, the Rangers drove for the go-ahead score. Joey Casella ran nearly 60 yards to set the table, then Casella bulled in from the 3 to put Greely up, 12-7, late in the third quarter. The Rangers’ special teams then set up the clinching score, as Paul Buchanan blocked a punt and with time winding down in the third, Casella scored on a 20 yard run and Tim Coyle’s two-point conversion rush made it 20-7. Greely’s defense (led by two Buchanan sacks and a Naveen Caron interception) slammed the door from there and for the second year in a row, the Rangers celebrated a quarterfinal round upset on the road (last year’s victim was Leavitt).
“When we looked at the film from last week, we saw a bunch of situations where we didn’t execute when we were supposed to,” said Greely coach David Higgins. “This time, the kids came to play and they did execute. We felt we’d give them a better game. We made big plays in all phases. It was a typical arch-rival game. We were fortunate.”
Greely, which lost its first two contests this fall, improved to 6-3 on the season.
“I wish we’d start seasons faster, but I’m happy with what we’ve accomplished so far,” Higgins said. “The football Gods have been on our side so far. We have 28 kids and no serious injuries.”
The Rangers go to No. 2 Biddeford (8-1) for a semifinal Friday night. The teams didn’t meet in the regular season and have no playoff history.
Greely will again be a decided underdog, but it’s used to thriving in that situation.
“Biddeford’s tough,” Higgins said. “We played them in an exhibition and they pushed us around. They’re well coached and they have a tremendous tradition. I hope we can give them a game. We can’t get behind the sticks with down and distance and we have to control the football and not make mistakes. We’ll hope to get some breaks.”
Falmouth couldn’t manage to finish its chances as it wound up 6-3.
“We weren’t ready for it to end,” said Yachtsmen coach John Fitzsimmons. “Greely played us hard. They had opportunities in the first game and couldn’t score, then we put up points. This time, they did it to us and we couldn’t take advantage of our opportunities. It was a hard fought game. The kids played hard. Coach Higgins does a great job prepping his players. They played at a higher level once they felt they could take over the game. I wish Greely well at Biddeford. I’ll be there cheering them on.
“I’m very proud of how well we did this year. It was a young and inexperienced group and they did a great job to go 6-2 and finish third in the league.”
The Yachtsmen should be very strong again in 2017.
“We had a very small senior class this year, so it’s a nice feeling to have so much returning next year,” Fitzsimmons said. “We return eight starters on both sides of the ball and we’ll have a third-year quarterback. We’ll have a lot of experience and hopefully be ready for another run. It’s a very tough division, one of the best in the state, but we look forward to it.”
In Class C South, fifth-ranked Freeport went to No. 4 Spruce Mountain Friday night for a quarterfinal and the Falcons gave the Phoenix a mighty scare and almost won a playoff game for the first time.
Freeport struck first, as after Spruce Mountain fumbled, Falcons quarterback Josh Burke scored on a 7-yard run. After the Phoenix came back to lead, 14-6, a fumbled punt return gave Freeport the ball at Spruce Mountain 21 and Burke scored on a 1-yard dive and Connor Dostie’s two-point conversion rush tied matters, 14-14.
The Phoenix then scored a TD in the third period and held on for a 20-14 victory to end the Falcons’ season of rebirth at 4-5.
“We stepped our game up,” Freeport coach Paul St. Pierre said. “I know the score didn’t go the way we would have liked. We liked to have won. Thats what we came here for. We just didn’t come here to play a playoff game. We wanted to win.”
Defending Class C South champion Yarmouth went to No. 2 Wells Saturday for its quarterfinals in a rematch of last year’s regional final.
This time around, the Clippers were no match for the Warriors, falling, 56-12, despite a couple touchdown passes from John Thoma, to finish 3-6.
Sun Journal staff editor Tony Blasi contributed to this story.