Forecaster Country football teams playoff bound
The "Battle of the Bay" and the "Battle of Route 9" are in the rearview mirror and things are about to really get serious (and fun) for local football teams.
Last weekend, host Yarmouth stayed unbeaten all-time against Freeport with a 31-0 victory in their rivalry game, while a few miles away, Greely outlasted host Falmouth in an overtime thriller, 27-20.
The good news is that all four squads qualified for the postseason, which begins Friday night.
Strange and compelling things almost always happen when Falmouth and Greely do battle and even though the Rangers entered this year's matchup as the favorite, the Yachtsmen weren't about to roll over. As a result, it took more than 48 minutes to determine a winner.
Greely, riding high after an inspirational 35-21 home victory over Cony, struck first in the second quarter, behind a touchdown run from workhorse James Ferrar, but the hosts answered before halftime, pulling within 7-6 on a TD run from Storm Covens.
When Christian Kroot returned an interception for a score and Will Peck scored on a short reception from Matt Pisini, the Rangers were up, 20-6, heading for the fourth quarter, but to its credit, Falmouth didn't wilt, getting a TD pass from quarterback Noah Nelson to I.V. Stucker and a short Nelson run to tie the score, 20-20, and force overtime.
Each team then got a chance to run a series of downs from the opponent's 10-yard line and Greely found paydirt, as Pisini found Connor Hanley for a score. The Yachtsmen then had a chance to tie or even win, but couldn't convert and the Rangers held on for the 27-20 victory, improving to 5-3 and ending Falmouth's regular season at 5-3.
"It was a typical Greely-Falmouth game," said Rangers coach David Higgins. "We won and that's all that's important. They came back. Credit to them. I think we took a nap after going up, 20-6, and we had a significant number of penalties so I got a little conservative in our play calling. We played well in overtime. I felt confident going in. I knew we usually answer the call. Our defense took care of them."
"It was the kind of competitive Falmouth-Greely game we're all accustomed to," said Yachtsmen coach John Fitzsimmons. "The players were focused. When we got down, 20-6, there was no quit. We weren't fortunate in overtime, but it was a great game. Having been on the winning end of close games against Greely, I have deep appreciation for how good it felt for the Greely coaches and players."
The Yachtsmen, who won just once in 2012, had a strong bounce-back campaign.
"We made great progress this year," Fitzsimmons said. "It's a great group of really intelligent young men. They wanted to improve. They're great to be around."
Falmouth goes into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed and has the daunting task of visiting No. 3 Marshwood (6-2), the defending regional champion, Friday night. The teams didn't play this fall. Last season, Falmouth lost down in South Berwick, 54-0.
"It's a great challenge," said Fitzsimmons. "They're very physical and well coached. We'll go in with a passing game being a critical part of our attack. We'll look for opportunities on special teams and with the defensive adjustments we're implementing, we'll do our best to stop their big plays. We're glad to be playing in November."
If the Yachtsmen spring an epic upset, they'd either go to No. 2 York (6-2) or host No. 7 Mt. Ararat (4-4) in the semifinals the following weekend.
As for Greely, despite a lot of question marks back in August, it wound up 5-3 against a very competitive schedule.
"I'm absolutely stunned to go 5-3," Higgins said. "I wouldn't have believed it at the start of the season. We had question marks and key injuries along the way, but we put kids in situations and for the most part, they responded. The coaching staff did a wonderful job and credit to the kids too. Our goal was to beat Falmouth and get into the playoffs and we did that."
The Rangers wound up tied with Westbrook for the No. 4 spot, but by virtue of their 41-8 win at the Blue Blazes Sept. 27, they got that seed and will host Westbrook Friday night. Greely knows a 33-point victory isn't likely this time around.
"After watching them on film, they're a completely different team that when we last played," Higgins said. "They're a very good team. I hope we show up ready to play and have another strong game. It will be a classic heavyweight fight. I think it will be fun."
If victorious, Greely will go to No. 1 Kennebunk (8-0) in the semifinals Nov. 8 or 9. Back on Oct. 4, the Rangers lost at the Rams, 42-14. The teams have no playoff history.
Yarmouth wasn't viewed as a top contender in the newfangled Western Class C this fall, but other than close losses to Leavitt and Wells, the Clippers have passed every test.
The final one of the regular season came Friday when Freeport paid a visit. Last year, Yarmouth had to go down to the wire to beat the host Falcons, 14-8, but this time, the Clippers left no doubt.
A touchdown run from quarterback Brady Neujahr broke the ice in the first quarter, giving Yarmouth a 7-0 lead. After Freeport threw an interception, TD runs from Matt Klepinger and Matt Woodbury (145 yards on the night) pushed the lead to 21-0 at the half.
"That's on me," said Falcons coach Rob Grover. "We tried to throw the ball and it wasn't a very good idea. It got intercepted and boom, boom, they were up 21-0. That was too big a hole against them. They have a very good defense. Maybe the best in the league."
Thomas Lord (96 yards) added a third quarter scoring run and a field goal from Andrew Beatty in the final stanza accounted for the 31-0 final score.
"Freeport played tough in the first half and we did our typical shoot ourselves in the foot, commit penalties which kept them within striking distance," said Clippers coach Chris Pingitore. "Then we handled them pretty good. Our defense was dominant. We held them to 99 yards."
Yarmouth wound up 6-2.
"I'm really happy with our year," Pingitore said. "We had a legitimate shot at going undefeated. Even our two losses were ultra competitive. I'm really pleased with how we played. Coming in, I thought 5-3 or 6-2 was reasonable."
The Clippers and Spruce Mountain tied for third in the region and since the teams didn't play in the regular season, a coin toss was necessitated to determine who would be third and who would be fourth. To Yarmouth's chagrin, the Phoenix won the toss, relegating the Clippers to fourth and a daunting challenge in Friday's quarterfinals, a visit from No. 5 Cape Elizabeth (5-3). Yarmouth beat the host Capers, 27-7, back on Oct. 11, but knows doing so a second time will not be easy.
"It's going to be a challenge," Pingitore said. "They'll bring it. They'll bring a good crowd too. It will be a great playoff atmosphere. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. I like our chances as much as anybody. We know we have to clean up mistakes. One mistake this time of year can cost you."
Freeport ended the regular season 4-4 and qualified for the playoffs for the second time in three years, as the No. 6 seed.
"For the most part, I'm pretty happy with our season," said Grover. "To be honest, I thought we'd be competitive. We wound up about where we expected."
The Falcons go to Spruce Mountain (6-2) Friday night. In the season opener Sept. 7, Freeport hosted the Phoenix and lost, 53-20. The teams have no playoff history.
"We had a couple kids hurt in that first game who are back now," Grover said. "We'll change up the defense to get more balance. We'll try to hang in there and give them a game. We'll do the best we can. The kids are excited. Making playoffs was a goal."
Looking ahead, the regional finals are Nov. 16, on the fields of the highest remaining seeds.
The Class B state championship game is Friday, Nov. 22, at the University of Maine in Orono. The Class C state final is the following day at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.