Leavitt's big plays ruin Cape Elizabeth's home opener

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Leavitt junior Damion Calder and Cape Elizabeth junior Matt Laughlin battle for the ball in the fog during the Hornets’ 42-20 victory Friday night.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Leavitt 42 Cape Elizabeth 20

L- 7 10 13 12- 42
CE- 0 0 14 6- 20

First quarter
L- Jordan 8 pass from Hathaway (Gray kick)

Second quarter
L- Gray 22 FG
L- Hathaway 3 run (Gray kick)

Third quarter
CE- Conley 14 pass from Hartel (Morin kick)
L- Herman 60 run (Gray kick)
L- Shaw 49 pass from Hathaway (kick failed)
CE- Conley 21 pass from Hartel (Morin kick)

Fourth quarter
L- Jordan 6 pass from Hathaway (kick failed)
CE- Tower 56 pass from Hartel (pass failed)
L- Herman 57 run (pass failed)

CAPE ELIZABETH—Coming off a decisive loss at Wells, Cape Elizabeth’s football team played its home opener Friday evening at Hannaford Field against the least ideal team the Capers could have faced at this point of the season.

The squad that might be the best in all of Class C when all is said and done.

The Leavitt Hornets.

Leavitt, which has already dispatched defending state champion Maine Central Institute this fall, made an immediate statement by getting the ball first and driving 71 yards on nine plays to take the lead for good on an 8-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Wyatt Hathaway to junior Camden Jordan less than three minutes in.

In the second quarter, after senior placekicker Stephen Gray kicked a 22-yard field goal, Hathaway scored on a 3-yard run for a 17-point lead.

Late in the half, Cape Elizabeth had a great chance to rally, as it drove to the Hornets’ 4, but the Capers couldn’t punch the ball in and they went to the break down, 17-0.

Cape Elizabeth got the offense going in the second half, but couldn’t keep Leavitt from answering.

The Capers got on the board midway through the third period on a 14-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Andrew Hartel to senior Matt Conley, but two plays later, junior Mark Herman broke off a 60-yard scoring run to allow the Hornets to restore the 17-point lead.

Later in the third, Hathaway hit senior Oren Shaw for a 49-yard touchdown and while Cape Elizabeth answered on a 21-yard Hartel-to-Conley scoring pass, Leavitt was still up, 30-14, heading for the final stanza.

There, Hathaway and Jordan hooked up again, from 6-yards out, and after the Capers scored on a 56-yard Hartel-to-senior Jack Tower scoring pass, Herman delivered the dagger with another long burst, this one of 57-yards, and the Hornets went on to a 42-20 victory.

Leavitt finished with 449 yards of offense as it improved to 3-0 on the young season, handing Cape Elizabeth its second straight loss and dropping the Capers to 1-2 in the process.

“I’m happier in spots with the effort,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Aaron Filieo. “I appreciate how the guys came out and battled in the second half. Defensively, we can’t give up those big chunks. We made them earn the field in the first half, but in the second half, they got big plays.”

Gut check

Leavitt, a perennial contender, opened with a decisive 28-0 home victory over MCI. Last week, the Hornets went to Yarmouth and rolled, 46-8.

Cape Elizabeth had no problem in its opener, winning at Lake Region, 47-16, but little went right last week in a 40-14 loss at defending Class D champion Wells, a team the Capers have long measured themselves against.

Last year, Leavitt held on for a 19-14 win over Cape Elizabeth in Turner.

This time around, on a comfortable (64-degrees) but foggy evening, the Capers sought their first win over the Hornets since a dramatic 35-34 overtime victory in the 2014 opener, but instead, Leavitt carried play most of the way as it handed Cape Elizabeth back-to-back losses for the first time since the end of the 2015 regular season.

The Capers won the opening coin toss, but deferred possession to the second half.

In just 2 minutes, 48 seconds, the Hornets had the lead.

Starting from its 29, Leavitt began a steady march that wound up in the end zone. Junior Allen Peabody ran for four yards and Hathaway hit junior Damion Calder for a 17-yard pass, as Calder broke tackles to move the chains. After Calder ran for five yards, Hathaway picked up four-and-a-half and on third down, Peabody twisted out of a tackle for two yards to move the chains again, to the Cape Elizabeth 38. On the next play, Hathaway spotted Herman open down the middle and Herman wasn’t tackled until he reached the 5. After Jordan ran for two yards, senior Bradley Moreau was held to no gain and the Hornets moved early, costing them five yards, but Hathaway scrambled out of pressure and found Jordan open in the end zone for an 8-yard score with 9:06 to play in the opening quarter.

“It was their home opener after losing to Wells, they’re well-coached and they have a lot of pride, so we knew they’d play hard and we thought if we could weather their best shot early, we’d be OK,” said Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway. “We want to start fast, so we try to come out up-tempo. We got them on their heels a little bit. Our passing game is going well right now.” 

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

The Capers went three-and-out on their first series, as Tower was held to no gain, Hartel threw incomplete and senior Zach Stewart ran for two yards.

Leavitt got the ball back at its 12 and after Wyatt Hathaway hit Jordan for 14 yards to move the chains, Hathaway threw incomplete, Moreau ran for six yards and on a broken play, Hathaway threw incomplete, forcing the Hornets to punt.

After just an 18-yard boot, Cape Elizabeth took over at its 49 and looked to drive for the tying score.

The Capers got a first down, as freshman Colin Campbell ran for five yards, senior Garrett Mello picked up three-yards, then one and on fourth-and-1, Mello ran for four and a first down at the Leavitt 38. Campbell gained five yards on first down, but Mello was held for no gain by junior Riley Parmenter, Stewart picked up two yards and on fourth-and-3, Hartel’s pass was broken up, giving the Hornets the ball back on downs.

Leavitt started at its 31 and in a drive that spanned the end of the first quarter and the start of the second, the Hornets moved 64 yards in 2:12 for another score.

After Moreau ran for three yards on first down, Hathaway found Jordan wide open down the field and Jordan wasn’t brought down until he reached the Capers’ 10, a gain of 56 yards. After the visitors were backed up five yards for illegal motion, Jordan was held for no gain on the final play of the period (the Hornets had a 144-22 edge in yardage in the first 12 minutes).

Hathaway found Jordan for four yards to start the second quarter, but his next pass fell incomplete, setting up fourth down. After a timeout, Leavitt went for it and Hathaway threw incomplete, but the Hornets got a break as pass interference was called. Leavitt wasn’t given an automatic first down, but was allowed to attempt a 22-yard field goal and Gray drilled it for a 10-0 lead with 11 minutes left in the half.

The next Cape Elizabeth drive started at its 28 and began with a 10-yard pass from Hartel to senior Ethan Convey. After Stewart ran for a yard and Hartel hit junior Matt Laughlin for seven, Stewart was dropped for a four-yard loss, necessitating another punt.

With 8:47 remaining in the half, the Hornets started at their 27 and 11 plays and 4:34 later, they were in the end zone again to Lenten their lead.

After a four-yard run from junior Garrett Jabbusch, Hathaway ran for 12 yards and a 15-yard late hit penalty was tacked on, moving the ball to the Capers’ 42. After Moreau ran for 14 yards, Hathaway picked up six, then threw incomplete, but on third down, Hathaway gained the necessary four yards to move the chains, fighting for extra inches. After a holding penalty backed Leavitt up to the 25, Jabbusch ran for six yards and after a fumbled snap led to a two-yard loss, on third-and-13, Hathaway passed to Herman, who spun out of a tackle and gained exactly 13 yards to set up first-and-goal from the 8. Hathaway ran for five yards, then with 4:13 on the clock, Hathaway  kept the ball again and scored on a three-yard run. Gray’s PAT made the score 17-0.

With 4:03 left, Cape Elizabeth got the ball back at its 38 and embarked on a promising 15-play drive which ultimately came up four yards short.

Tower ran for five yards and Stewart caught a five-yard pass, but Hartel threw incomplete, setting up fourth-and-2. The Capers went for it and Hartel hit Tower out of the backfield and Tower picked up 10 yards for a first down at the Hornets’ 44. After an incompletion, Hartel hit junior Matt Laughlin for nine yards, then Tower ran for 19, moving the pile in the process, to the 16. After three straight incompletions, Hartel found senior Ethan Convey on a little toss out of the backfield and Convey picked up 11 yards down the left sideline to set up first-and-goal from the 5. After Campbell ran for one yard, Hartel threw incomplete, threw incomplete again, then, on fourth down, Hartel’s pass was broken up and Cape Elizabeth came up empty.

“That was a huge turning point,” Filieo said. “I thought we had some things to go to there, but our guys just have to make plays. It’s as simple as that. We have a lot of seniors and eventually, they have to decide to step up or not.”

“Our defense has been good all year,” said Mike Hathaway. “We’re proud of them getting a stop like that before the half.”

After a seven-yard Moreau run, Leavitt took its 17-0 lead to the half.

In the first half, the Hornets had a 236-94 edge in yardage, as Wyatt Hathaway threw for 145 yards and a touchdown and ran for 33 yards and a score.

Hartel went 6-of-16 passing for 52 yards.

Cape Elizabeth got the ball to start the second half, but went nowhere, as Hartel threw incomplete, the Capers had a false start, Hartel threw incomplete and after an offsides penalty on the Hornets, Hartel was again off-target and the hosts had to punt.

Leavitt took over at midfield, but Cape Elizabeth’s defense then stepped up, driving the Hornets back 35 yards. After senior Bear Huffard dropped Hathaway for a five-yard loss, Calder picked up a yard and after a long pass play was negated by a holding call, Huffard sacked Hathaway for a 12-yard loss, forcing a punt.

With 8:40 left in the third period, the Capers got the ball back at the Hornets’ 48 and six plays later found the end zone for the first time.

Hartel got things started with an 18-yard strike to Conley. After Tower ran for a yard, Tower caught a pass, made a couple nice moves and gained 14 yards for a first down at the 15. Campbell ran for a yard and Hartel threw incomplete, but on third down, Hartel found Conley open down the middle and Conley made the catch for a 14-yard score with 6:34 left in the quarter. Junior Alex Morin added the PAT to cut the deficit to 17-7.

But just when Cape Elizabeth appeared to have all the momentum, Leavitt wrested it right back.

Starting at their 37, the Hornets needed two plays to score, as Moreau ran for three yards, then Herman got the ball, found a hole up the middle, made a nice cut to get past a defender, then outran the pursuit for a 60-yard score with 5:57 on the clock. Gray’s extra point made it 24-7.

“That was definitely demoralizing,” Filieo said. “It was a good play by (Herman). We over-pursued. They had a lot of long runs and we can’t win games if we give those up.”

Cape Elizabeth began to drive again, as after two incompletions and a false start penalty, Hartel found a leaping Laughlin for 17 yards and a first down. Tower then ran for 17 yards, but the next snap was mishandled and Gray recovered for the Hornets at the Capers’ 45.

Three plays and 64 seconds later, Leavitt added to its lead.

After Hathaway threw incomplete, Jabbusch ran for a yard and Leavitt moved early, drawing a five-yard penalty. Hathway then hit Shaw on a slant and Shaw raced through the defense en route to a 49-yard score. A bad snap prevented Gray from kicking the extra point, but with 3:53 left in the third, the Hornets enjoyed a 30-7 advantage.

Cape Elizabeth would answer, driving 72 yards in a dozen plays.

Hartel found Conley for 12 yards and after throwing incomplete, the tandem hooked up again for 14 more and a first down at the Leavitt 46. After two incompletions, Hartel hit Conley for 11 more yards, then Tower ran for nine. After an incomplete pass, Tower ran for a yard and a first down at the 25. Hartel hit Laughlin for four yards and after an incompletion, Hartel lofted a pass down the middle to Conley, who hauled it in for a 21-yard score with 18.2 seconds remaining in the third. Morin’s PAT pulled the Capers within 30-14.

After the Hornets spanned the end of the third period and the start of the fourth by going three-and-out (sophomore Eddie Kern was held to no gain, Herman ran for five yards and Hathaway picked up two), Cape Elizabeth got the ball back at its 24 with 10:15 to play with a chance to make things interesting.

It didn’t happen.

Tower lost a yard on first down and Hartel twice threw incomplete, forcing the Capers to punt.

With 9:20 remaining, Leavitt started at its 32 and six plays and 2:35 later, the Hornets were in the end zone again.

Moreau ran for a yard, Hathaway broke free for 20 yards and a first down at the Cape Elizabeth 47. After Peabody rumbled for 39 yards and a first-and-goal at the 8, Herman ran for four yards, Hathaway picked up three and after a false start, Hathaway hit Jordan in the end zone for a second time, from 6-yards out with 6:45 remaining. Again, the PAT was short-circuited by a bad snap, but the Hornets led, 36-14.

On the first snap of the Capers’ next possession, Hartel was intercepted by Calder, who returned the ball all the way to the Cape Elizabeth 43.

Hathaway gave the ball right back when his pass was deflected and intercepted by Conley.

With 4:41 on the clock, the Capers started at their 30 and five plays later, scored for the final time.

Hartel hit Conley for seven yards, then after two incompletions, he found Conley for seven more. On the next snap, Hartel scrambled, almost had the ball stripped from him, then threw a short pass in the left flat to Tower, who took off down the sideline and didn’t stop until scoring a 56-yard touchdown. Hartel’s two-point conversion pass was incomplete, but Leavitt’s lead was again 16, 36-20.

Again, the Hornets responded immediately.

Starting at its 37, Leavitt got a two-yard run from Moreau, a four-yard run from Hathaway and with 1:27 to go, a 57-yard TD run from Herman. The two-point conversion pass failed, but the Hornets had a 22-point lead.

One final Cape Elizabeth drive ended with Hartel being intercepted by junior Keegan Melanson and Leavitt took a knee to bring the curtain down on its 42-20 victory.

“We made some mistakes and were a little sloppy in the second half, but the guys did a good job playing the next play,” Mike Hathaway said.

The Hornets generated 449 yards of offense, as Wyatt Hathaway threw for 200 yards and three TDs (with one interception) on 9-of-16 passing and rushed for 57 yards (and another score) on a dozen carries.

Herman only rushed four times, but he picked up 126 yards and scored twice.

Jordan had five receptions for 88 yards and two scores.

Leavitt committed one turnover and was penalized eight times for 51 yards.

Not the plan

The Capers finished with 309 yards, but turned the ball over three times and committed five penalties for 41 yards.

Hartel threw a whopping 47 times, completing 18, for 256 yards and three touchdowns (he was intercepted twice).

Conley caught nine balls for 113 yards and two scores.

Tower ran for 49 yards on eight carries and had three receptions for 80 yards and a TD.

“The game plan was to run more and take the pressure off of Andrew, but we couldn’t get it going,” Filieo said. “When you get down like that, you have to throw the ball.”

Taking care of business

Leavitt is back in action next Saturday when York, coming off a big win over Gardiner Friday, pays a visit.

“We’re 3-0, that is what it is, but we have a tough game against York next week and they’ll come in ready to play,” Mike Hathaway said. “This conference is wide open. There are a lot of good teams. We’re happy where we are, but we’ll keep trying to get better.”

Cape Elizabeth hopes to right the ship when it welcomes Greely and York the next two weeks. The Capers then have a pivotal showdown at Gardiner Oct. 5. After hosting Fryeburg Academy, Cape Elizabeth closes at Yarmouth.

Nothing will come easily.

“We obviously have work to do,” Filieo said. “The guys have a really strong work ethic, so they’ll come back next week.”

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

Cape Elizabeth senior quarterback Andrew Hartel prepares to throw one of his 47 passes.

Cape Elizabeth senior Zach Stewart stretches out to make a catch.

Cape Elizabeth senior Ethan Convey gets past Leavitt junior Mark Herman.

Leavitt junior Camden Jordan tries to catch a pass as Cape Elizabeth sophomore Gannon Stewart defends.

Cape Elizabeth senior Matt Conley catches Leavitt junior Mark Herman from behind while Capers junior Matt Laughlin joins the play.

Cape Elizabeth seniors Matt Conley, left, and Zach Stewart bring down Leavitt senior Bradley Moreau.

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