Capers fall to Westbrook in the rain
CAPE ELIZABETH—At the start of the second half of Friday evening's football game at Hannaford Field, the host Cape Elizabeth Capers appeared to be putting all the pieces in place.
Coming off successive wins, the Capers had scored a touchdown just before halftime to take a 7-0 lead over visiting Westbrook. Cape Elizabeth got the ball to start the half and had an opportunity to seize control of the game.
Instead, the bottom fell out.
The Blue Blazes would outgain the Capers, 220 yards to negative-1 in the second half, scored twice in the third quarter to take the lead and put the game away with another score in the fourth period, improving to 4-1 with a 22-7 victory, dropping Cape Elizabeth to 2-3 in the process.
"I don't know what happened," said Capers coach Aaron Filieo. "They took momentum from us. We couldn't get in rhythm offensively in the second half."
Wide open season
Both teams got to the Western B semifinals a year ago and figure to be in the mix all season this time around.
Westbrook stole the headlines from the get-go this fall, manhandling visiting traditional powerhouse Mountain Valley in the opener, 30-0, then winning at defending Class B state champion Wells in a playoff rematch, 28-20. The Blue Blazes came back to earth with a 33-12 home loss to Greely, then got back in the win column last weekend, 58-28, at Fryeburg.
Cape Elizabeth was at the other end of the spectrum to start, falling at home to Wells, 21-7, and at York, 20-7. The Capers then turned things around with a 28-0 home victory over Lake Region and last week, evened their record with a 30-14 win at Falmouth, erasing an early 14-0 deficit in the process.
The teams had met just once prior, last fall, a 14-13 Cape Elizabeth victory at Westbrook.
Friday, with Western Class B getting more wild and unpredictable by the week, both teams needed a win to keep pace.
The Capers had ample opportunity to chalk up another 'W,' but it wasn't to be.
After the defense set the tone by forcing a Westbrook three-and-out, Cape Elizabeth's offense matriculated down the field behind bruising sophomore fullback Christian Lavallee.
On the first possession, the Capers gave the ball to Lavallee seven times and he gained 40 yards. Cape Elizabeth marched from its 23 to the Blue Blazes' 30 before going backwards on second and third downs. On fourth-and-14 from the 37, the Capers had to punt and junior Nick Moulton delivered a beauty, pinning Westbrook at its 2.
That special teams play paid huge dividends as on third-and-6 from the 6, a bad pitch resulted in a fumble which Lavallee pounced on at the 11.
Cape Elizabeth was primed to take the lead, but a 2-yard loss by Moulton on first down was followed by an incomplete pass from sophomore Noah Wolfinger on second down. Sophomore Jack Drinan ran for 2 yards on third-and-12, but on fourth down, Wolfinger threw incomplete and the Capers had to give the ball back on downs.
Again, Cape Elizabeth forced Westbrook to go three-and-out and punt and took over at the Blue Blazes' 40, but as the first period gave way to the second, the Capers went nowhere and had to punt to ball back to Westbrook.
The Blue Blazes' first possession of the second quarter saw them finally begin to move the ball.
On the first snap, junior Collin Joyce rumbled 15 yards, fumbled, but senior teammate Keenen Lowe pounced on the loose ball. On third-and-9 from the 38, Joyce broke free for 22 yards, but a holding penalty negated it and soon, Westbrook had to punt again.
The Capers went three-and-out and the Blue Blazes got runs of 11 yards from Heath and 15 from senior Cale Bollig to move into Cape Elizabeth territory. After Heath ran 23 yards to the 7, Westbrook stalled.
First, Bollig was thrown for a yard loss. After a fumbled exchange moved the ball back to the 13, Heath threw to Joyce, but the completion went for no yards. On fourth down, Joyce attempted a halfback pass, but it fell incomplete and the Capers had held.
Cape Elizabeth took over at its 13 with 3:32 to go before halftime and proceeded to march for its first and only score.
The drive was spearheaded by a 30 yard run from Lavallee to midfield. On third-and-4 from the Westbrook 44, Lavallee gained two yards before fumbling, but fortune was on the Capers' side as senior Kyle Snowden fell on the loose ball and not only kept possession, but gained a first down in the process at the 40.
Wolfinger then went to the air, finding sophomore Ethan Murphy for 24 yards down the left sideline. Then, with 33 seconds to go before halftime, the tandem hooked up again, as Wolfinger launched a pass that Murphy went up and got just in front of the left pylon before falling into the end zone to complete a 16-yard scoring play.
Senior Cam Wilson's extra point gave the Capers a 7-0 lead and the hosts took that advantage into the locker room.
Over the first 24 minutes, Cape Elizabeth had gained 135 yards to 29 for the visitors.
That statistic and the game itself would change dramatically in the second half.
The tide began to turn when Westbrook forced a Capers' three-and-out.
Then, the Blue Blazes marched 60 yards in eight plays to get on the board.
Runs of 14 yards by Joyce and 11 by Heath set the tone. On third-and-6 from Cape Elizabeth's 32, Heath scampered 15 yards for a first down. Bollig ran for a dozen yards on the next snap and on first-and-goal from the 5, Bollig delivered the finishing touch with a scoring run. Bollig's two-point conversion rush was stopped, but with 6:39 to go in the third period, Westbrook had pulled within 7-6.
Cape Elizabeth hoped to return momentum to its side on its next possession, but lost six yards on three plays (punctuated by a sack) and had to punt.
The Blue Blazes got the ball at their 23 and two plays later had the lead for good.
After Heath was thrown for a loss of a yard, the handoff went to senior Ben Grant, who rushed once for 1 yard in the first half. Grant broke through the line, ran to his left, deked a defender, then outran the pursuit down the left sideline for a 78-yard TD run.
"That run was a killer," Filieo said. "We had him dead to rights and let him go. Anytime you give up a quick one, or an easy one or a cheap one, whatever you want to call it, it's tough. We want to make them earn the field. On that one, they didn't. We just didn't execute on defense. We missed a lot of tackles."
Bollig ran in the two-point conversion and with 3:32 to go in the third, Westbrook was up, 14-7.
When Drinan fumbled on the first snap of the Capers' next series, the Blue Blazes had a chance to seize complete control, but on third-and-8 from the Cape Elizabeth 21, a fumbled exchange was recovered by Snowden and the hosts had momentarily dodged a bullet.
On the final play of the third quarter, Drinan's 4-yard run gave the Capers a first down at their 35, but a false start penalty to start the fourth period pushed them back and Cape Elizabeth was soon forced to punt.
Westbrook then embarked on a 12-play, 78-yard, nearly 6 minute drive to put it away.
A 20-yard run from Heath got it started. Bollig ran for 13 yards down to the Capers' 35. After senior Josh Tardiff kept possession for the Blue Blazes by recovering a fumble by Heath, Bollig converted a fourth-and-inches from the 26 with a 5-yard rush. Westbrook again escaped disaster when it fell on a fumbled exchange. Then, on third-and-goal from the 10, Bollig essentially iced it with a scoring run up the middle. Bollig ran in the two-point conversion and with 4:32 to play, the Blue Blazes were in command, 22-7.
Cape Elizabeth's next possession ended in a fumble that Tardiff recovered, but Westbrook gave the ball right back on a fumbled exchange which was recovered by Capers senior Jamie Hewes.
The offense wasn't able to capitalize, however, as a center snap went way over the head of Wolfinger and resulted in a 28-yard loss. Despite a 19-yard run from Moulton, Cape Elizabeth gave the ball up on downs.
Heath took a knee twice and that was that.
Westbrook 22 Cape Elizabeth 7.
"We left points on the board (in the first quarter)," said Filieo. "We have a lot of different pieces in there every week. (Senior quarterback Connor Maguire) is hurt. We hoped to have him back this week, but we're just being a little careful with him. It'll be soon. We did some good things tonight. We're just trying to get better. We have to learn to put teams away. It was the same story as York and Wells. We just have to finish better."
Statistically, the Blue Blazes finished with a 249-134 advantage, with most of the yards coming in the second half.
Heath gained 110 yards on 14 carries. He completed 1-of-7 passes for 0 yards. Grant had 84 yards and a touchdown on four rushes. Bollig finished with 77 yards and two TDs on 17 attempts. Joyce gained 30 yards on three rushes.
Westbrook was flagged three times for 49 yards.
For the Capers, Lavallee gained 97 yards on 20 carries, but only 17 yards came after halftime. Moulton rushed for 22 yards on five attempts, Drinan 21 on nine tries, junior Tony Moulton 5 yards on two rushes and Wolfinger 3 on one try. Through the air, Wolfinger was 2-of-6 for 40 yards and a score. Murphy had both receptions.
Cape Elizabeth was penalized twice for 10 yards.
Westbrook is back in action Friday and it faces another stern test from visiting York. The Blue Blazes close the regular season with games at Falmouth and Marshwood.
Cape Elizabeth is seeking its sixth straight playoff berth and needs to play well in its final three games to accomplish that feat.
It won't be easy.
Next week, the Capers go to undefeated Marshwood. After hosting Fryeburg, Cape Elizabeth closes at Mountain Valley.
"I keep telling the guys to continue to stay on path," Filieo said. "It is coming together. My feeling is if we get into the playoffs and we face these teams again, we know we can play with them. We've got to get in. We have tough games coming up and we have to win them."