Playoff time arrives on the gridiron
An exciting regular season has come to a close and things are about to serious (and fun) for the Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough and South Portland football teams.
The Capers closed their regular season with an emphatic 64-24 home win over rival Mountain Valley Friday night.
The Red Storm was also victorious, extending its win streak to four games with a 41-6 home victory over Noble.
The Red Riots weren't as fortunate, dropping the "Battle of the Bridge" showdown to Portland for the first time in four seasons, 38-14.
Cape Elizabeth's rivalry with Mountain Valley is well known, film-worthy even, but this year's matchup was lopsided from the get-go.
The Capers led 44-0 at halftime and never looked back as Noah Wolfinger had three touchdown passes (two to Ethan Murphy, one to Nick Moulton). Cape Elizabeth went on to a 64-24 victory to finish the regular season 5-3.
The Capers earned the No. 5 seed in the Western Class C Crabtree Points standings and have to go to No. 4 Yarmouth (6-2) for a compelling quarterfinal round playoff game Friday night (see theforecaster.net for game story). Cape Elizabeth lost to the visiting Clippers, 27-7, Oct. 11. This will be the first playoff meeting on the gridiron between the longtime rival schools.
If the Capers win, they'll likely go to No. 1 Leavitt (8-0) for a semifinal round game Nov. 8 or 9. In the opener, Sept. 6, Cape Elizabeth played tough, but lost to the visiting Hornets, 26-7.
Storm clouds brewing
Scarborough started the season 1-3, but has been as hot as anyone in October, finishing in style with an easy win over Noble. The teams didn't square off last year. The Red Storm was sparked by the return from injury of senior captain Charlie Raybine, who opened the scoring with a pair of TD runs. A Ben Greenberg to Matt Fosler touchdown pass made it 20-0 at halftime. Greenberg had a couple touchdown runs and Dan LeClair added another in a 21-point third quarter to put it away. The Knights finally got on the board in the fourth, but Scarborough prevailed, 41-6, to wind up 5-3.
"We feel our biggest accomplishment during the regular season was improving every week," said Red Storm coach Lance Johnson. "We were physically competitive with all the teams in the playoffs. Our seniors, led by Greenberg, LeClair and Raybine, have worked hard to prepare for the playoff season. We've developed our offensive and defensive line play and have very good athletes to handle the ball."
Scarborough wound up fourth in Western A and will host No. 5 Biddeford (4-4) Friday in the quarterfinals. The Red Storm beat the visiting Tigers, 41-21, Oct. 5 to start its win streak. The teams met once before in the playoffs, a 48-14 Scarborough victory in the 2010 quarterfinals.
"We expect Biddeford to give their best physical and emotional effort," Johnson said. "I'm sure they're not happy with (losing to defending champion Thornton Academy last weekend), but I don't believe any team has improved as much as Biddeford has from week one until now. Our regular season game was much closer than the score indicated and we'll have to play well and compete at a high level to come out on top."
The Scarborough-Biddeford winner goes to No. 1 Bonny Eagle (7-1) Nov. 8 or 9 for a Western A semifinal. The Red Storm lost to the host Scots, 34-26, back on Sept. 27, its last loss to date.
A bridge to frustration
South Portland's seniors had never lost to rival Portland, but an early 25-minute power outage at Fitzpatrick Stadium (the city of Portland improperly set the timer) proved to be an omen Friday.
"We went in and got warm, that was it," said Red Riots coach Steve Stinson. "I didn't know if we'd keep playing. Those lights went out hard."
South Portland then drove for an apparent touchdown to take an early lead, but fumbled at the Portland 1 and the Bulldogs drove 99 yards to take control. Portland was up, 17-0, at halftime, but Red Riots senior Joey DiBiase scored on a 4-yard run to restore some hope. It didn't last as the Bulldogs got two more touchdowns. A Duncan Preston 68-yard TD pass to Jordan Susi made it 31-14, but Portland scored one final touchdown to win, 38-14.
The Bulldogs were led by Justin Zukowski's 261 yards. Preston threw for 232 yards and a score, but five turnovers doomed South Portland.
"(Zukowski's) tough," Stinson said. "He just does a great job. We had too many turnovers. (Portland's) way too good of a football team to come out and give second chances to. We had turnovers, we had drops, missed assignments. Portland smacked us in the mouth pretty dam good for 48 minutes and I thought the score reflected that. We didn't make enough plays to be in a game against such a quality opponent."
The Red Riots finished 5-3 and earned the No. 3 seed. South Portland hosts No. 6 Sanford (4-4) in the quarterfinals Friday night. On Oct. 4, in Sanford, the Red Riots rallied for a 21-10 win. South Portland beat the Spartans two years ago in the quarterfinals, 33-13.
"We have to put it behind us and move forward, as we would have if we had won tonight," Stinson said. "It's November now. We have to improve and make a run in the tournament. It was a good journey, but we did enough to get to November."
If the Red Riots make it to the semifinals for the second time in three seasons, they would go to No. 2 Thornton Academy (6-2) Nov. 9 for a semifinal. South Portland shocked the visiting Golden Trojans, 26-13, in the opener, Sept. 6. Two years ago, in a compelling semifinal, host Thornton Academy held off the Red Riots at the goal line at the end of the game to prevail, 20-15.
Looking ahead, the regional finals are Nov. 16, on the fields of the highest remaining seeds.
The Class A and C state finals are Saturday, Nov. 23 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.