Football season comes to a sudden end
(Ed. Note: For the complete Yarmouth-Cape Elizabeth game story, with additional photos and a detailed box score, please visit theforecaster.net)
The entertaining 2013 football season came to a screeching halt in Forecaster Country Friday night, as Falmouth, Freeport, Greely and Yarmouth were all ousted in their respective quarterfinals.
End of an era
In Yarmouth's short history as a varsity program, it has won a pair of Class C state championships and Friday marked the fifth year in a row the Clippers took part in a playoff game. Much of the credit for that has to go to coach Chris Pingitore, who helped establish the program, served as an assistant to Jim Hartman, then ascended to the varsity job the past two seasons before announcing after Friday's loss that he is stepping down.
Yarmouth, the No. 4 seed in Western C after losing a coin toss with Spruce Mountain for the third spot, hosted No. 5 Cape Elizabeth in a first-ever postseason encounter. The Clippers won the regular season meeting, 27-7, at the Capers on Oct. 11, but Cape Elizabeth returned the favor in the quarterfinal.
Yarmouth picked up where it left off last time by driving for a quick touchdown, courtesy the running of senior Matt Woodbury (who had a 19-yard touchdown run, but the point-after failed). The game turned for good, however, in the second period as Cape Elizabeth scored twice to go ahead, 14-6. The Clippers had their chances in the second half, but couldn't cut into their deficit and the Capers added two touchdowns in the fourth for a 27-6 lead. Yarmouth got a cosmetic touchdown in the waning seconds, as four-year starting quarterback Brady Neujahr found Woodbury in the end zone and the tandem hooked up for a two-point conversion, but Cape Elizabeth had the last laugh, prevailing, 27-14, advancing to meet top-ranked Leavitt in the semifinals and ending the Clippers' fine season at 6-3.
"It is disappointing," Pingitore said. "It was a role reversal of our last game. It started well, but Cape came with a game plan and they executed it. They beat us at our own medicine, power football. Credit to them.
"Going into the season, there weren't many expectations for us. We're still a fairly young team in a new conference. I had no doubt we'd compete. I've coached the seniors for four years. They're probably the best group of seniors in the conference. They were pretty special. They've accomplished a lot."
Yarmouth can't be overlooked going into 2014.
"I think we have a lot of potential," Pingitore said. "Unfortunately, we're low in the junior class. We have ebbs and tides. Our sophomore class is as talented as any class we've had. We should have a big freshman class coming in. We'll be young again, but we have talent to do some things."
That team will have a different coach, however.
"I've thought about it for awhile," Pingitore said. "My (medical) practice has grown exponentially and trying to wrestle running a practice and coaching is tough. After 13 years, it's time to take a break. I was getting tired. It's been a satisfying career. We started with seven kids my first day at the youth level, so what we've accomplished is unbelievable."
Elsewhere in Western C, Freeport reached the playoffs for the second year in a row after a 4-4 regular season. The sixth-ranked Falcons were no match for No. 3 Spruce Mountain, however, trailing, 6-0, after one period, 20-0 at halftime and 42-0 after three quarters before getting a couple fourth period TDs (Ben MacMillan's 1-yard run and a 56-yard reception by Cam Buthlay) against the Phoenix's second unit in a 42-13 defeat.
"Defensively, they were much stronger than what we remembered," said Freeport coach Rob Grover. "Defensively, we were pretty good, but we just couldn't move the ball. I'm very happy with the season. We had low numbers, but still made the playoffs. I wish we were a little more competitive with the top teams."
The Falcons (who finished 4-5) expect to be good again in 2014.
"If we get some 8th graders, that will help," Grover said. "Our sophomore class is strong and all four juniors are good football players. We lose three key seniors, Cam, Ben and Joe (Nixon), but I believe we'll be competitive again next year."
In Western B, after a strong 5-3 regular season, Greely was ranked fourth and hosted No. 5 Westbrook in the quarterfinals. The Rangers romped at Westbrook in the regular season, 41-8, but the rematch was a different story.
The Blue Blazes shot to a 14-0 lead and after a promising Greely drive ended with a turnover, Westbrook made it 20-0 at halftime.
"We spotted them 14 points and we started moving the ball great, but we fumbled and they scored again," lamented Rangers coach David Higgins. "They took advantage."
Not surprisingly, Greely rallied, getting a TD run from Sam Peck and another scoring scamper from Matt Pisini to make it 20-13, but Westbrook got another touchdown to go up, 26-13. Will Peck's 2-yard run cut the deficit to 26-19, but the Rangers weren't able to recover an ensuing on-sides kick and lost as their season ended at 5-4.
"The second half was great," Higgins said. "We knew we could come back and we almost did it. We almost got that on-sides kick. We can move the ball quickly with our hurry-up offense. It was a great game. I just wish the outcome was different.
"I'm very proud of our kids and our season. We exceeded expectations. It was hard with injuries and being in a tough league, but it was fun. It shows we're doing the right things with our program."
Greely expects to be back in the hunt next fall.
"We lose a lot of our line, but we have some skill kids back," Higgins said. "It will be a different team."
Falmouth, coming off a 1-7 season, had a great bounce-back campaign, finishing 5-3 and sixth in Western B. The Yachtsmen went to No. 3 Marshwood Friday and were no match for the reigning regional champion Hawks, falling, 57-0, to wind up 5-4.