Cape handles Wells, makes a big statement
CAPE ELIZABETH—Cape Elizabeth's football team had a quite a run in Class B, but this fall, the Capers' first in Class C, saw the perennial contender saddled with few expectations.
Friday evening, at Hannaford Field, Cape Elizabeth welcomed a highly touted Wells squad which was favored in most quarters entering the contest.
The Capers then made those predictions look foolish with a superb performance that propelled them back into the discussion of top championship contenders.
Cape Elizabeth couldn't have produced a better first half, controlling the football, outgaining the Warriors, 262 yards to 5, and opening up a seemingly commanding 20-0 lead behind touchdown runs from senior Nick Moulton and junior Jack Drinan and a TD pass from junior Noah Wolfinger to classmate Ethan Murphy.
Wells wasn't about to roll over, however, and roared back with two third quarter touchdowns, but at the start of the fourth period, with all the momentum against them, the Capers rolled the dice and went deep and a 75-yard Wolfinger to Murphy TD pass restored order and Cape Elizabeth went on to an inspirational 26-12 victory.
The Capers controlled all aspects of the game, getting 202 rushing yards from junior Chrisitan Lavallee, and improved to 2-1, dropping Wells to 2-1 in the process.
"It was an impressive victory," said Cape Elizabeth coach Aaron Filieo. "I thought we did a nice job taking a couple of punches they threw in the second half and responding well. We didn't let them get us down. We stuck with the game plan and kept going. I was proud of our resolve. These guys don't pay any attention (to predictions). They just do what they do, which is good."
New setting, old friends
Cape Elizabeth and Wells have met annually since 2005 as Class B contenders.
The teams split 10 previous meetings (please see below), including playoff encounters in 2009 and 2010.
The Warriors had beaten the Capers four in a row, including a 21-7 victory at Cape Elizabeth last season.
This year, the Capers and Warriors have been reassigned to Class C and both appear to be among the top teams in the region.
Wells opened with an impressive 44-13 victory over Mountain Valley in Rumford, then held off visiting Spruce Mountain, 20-15, last week.
Cape Elizabeth went toe-to-toe with preseason favorite Leavitt in the opener, but fell at home, 26-7, in a game closer than the score indicated. Last week, the Capers got their first win, 31-0, at Poland.
Friday, Cape Elizabeth came out sizzling and earned its first win over Wells since the 2009 playoffs.
The Capers got the ball first and moved down the field, thanks to runs of 5- and 12- yards by Lavallee and a 6-yard pass from Wolfinger to Murphy, but after Lavallee appeared to gain 26 yards deep into Warriors' territory, a chop block penalty moved the ball back and Cape Elizabeth soon had to punt, where disaster occurred when the snap to senior punter Tony Moulton was high and Moulton was brought down for a 19-yard loss, giving Wells the ball at the Capers' 38.
Cape Elizabeth's defense then made a statement, forcing a three-and-out and the hosts got the ball back at their 8 with 6:31 left in the first period.
It took all of one play for the Capers to march from the shadow of their goal line to the cusp of the first score of the game.
Lavallee did most of the work, taking a handoff on first down, breaking through a couple tackles at the line, then breaking free. Lavallee wasn't brought down until he reached the Warriors' 8, a scamper of 84 yards.
"I didn't even know what was happening until breaking free into the secondary," said the bruising Lavallee. "I wanted to score on that play so badly."
After Drinan picked up a yard on first-and-goal, Nick Moulton carried the ball down the 4, setting up third-and-goal. There, Moulton got the call again and this time bulled his way into the end zone to put Cape Elizabeth ahead to stay. Freshman Ben Ekedahl added the point after and with 4:33 to play in the first period, it was 7-0 Capers.
Wells gained a first down on its next series, but a sack by Cape Elizabeth senior Caelan Houle forced a punt and late in the first, the hosts took over on their 30.
Twelve plays later, the Capers had another touchdown.
Wolfinger showed off his touch with a 12-yard completion to Tony Moulton, threading the needle between two defenders, to move the ball into Warriors' territory. Four runs put the ball at the 10 and after Wolfinger was hit while he threw and Wells senior Alex McCormick-Kuhman couldn't come down with an interception, Drinan ran in from the 10 and Ekedahl's extra point made it 14-0 with 6:51 to play in the half.
Another Cape Elizabeth sack led to a Warriors' three-and-out and with 4:28 to go before halftime, the Capers took over at their 29.
This time, they would march 71 yards on 10 plays, chewing up most of the rest of the half to seemingly take an insurmountable lead.
A run of 21 yards by Drinan got it started. Wolfinger then hit Murphy for 15 yards, then for 9 more. Facing third-and-11 from the Wells 21, Wolfinger dropped back, lofted a pass for the left corner of the end zone and Murphy went up over a Warriors' defender to come down with the ball for the touchdown. The extra point was no good, wide left, but with just 39 seconds to play in the half, the Capers were rolling, up, 20-0.
In the first half alone, Cape Elizabeth ran 38 plays to 13 for Wells, outgained the Warriors 262-5 and possessed the ball for 15 minutes, 35 seconds, nearly double that of the visitors.
Lavallee had 145 yards on 12 carries in the first 24 minutes alone.
Not surprisingly, against the backdrop of increasing fog, the proud and talented Warriors came out a different team in the third quarter.
Beginning at its 44, Wells marched 56 yards on six plays to get on the board. A 21-yard scamper from junior Chris Carney allowed the Warriors to cross midfield. Then, on fourth-and-4 from the Capers' 21, Carney broke two tackles and outran the pursuit to the end zone. Junior Ryan Marsh's PAT was no good, but with 8:34 to play in the third quarter, the Warriors were back within 14, 20-6.
Wolfinger was then intercepted by Carney and the visitors took advantage, moving 39 yards in eight plays for another TD. The big play came on fourth-and-8 from the 26, when junior quarterback Nate Booth found Marsh for 12 yards. After being backed up five yards for an illegal block and five more when senior Jake Moody was thrown for a loss, Booth hooked up with Moody for a 24-yard scoring pass down the right sideline to make it a one-score game.
"I wish we would have come out of the half a little better, but they made some nice adjustments and went to a play that we prepared for, but they executed it well," Filieo said.
Booth's two-point conversion pass to Marsh in the back of the end zone looked at first as if it would count, but the receiver couldn't hold on to the ball and with 1:16 still to play in the third, Wells was only down, 20-12.
When Cape Elizabeth lost three yards on the first two plays of its next series, bringing the curtain down on the third period in the process, it was on the ropes, but was about to return momentum to its side once and for all.
After being outgained, 95 yards to 9 in the third quarter, the Capers began the fourth with a flourish.
Wolfinger dropped back and lofted a pass over a defender down the right sideline to a wide open Murphy, streaking free beyond the secondary. Murphy hauled in the pass and outran the pursuit to cap a 75-yard scoring play and just 11 seconds into the final stanza, despite a two-point conversion pass being no good, Cape Elizabeth had extended its advantage to 26-12.
"We saw something we thought we could exploit," said Murphy. "I didn't have to do much, just run down the field. Noah put it exactly where he needed to and I was off to the races. Great play call and great throw. They had us. We were reeling, but that changed momentum."
"We saw Moody line up on the wide side, so we put Ethan on the other side of the field," said Wolfinger. "We ran a 'jet' over his head and got a nice play. We went into the locker room (at halftime) thinking we had the game won. They came out and punched us in the face. We had the resilience to keep on playing and executing. Going into the fourth quarter, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried."
"Quite honestly we felt they had stopped a lot of our run stuff," Filieo added. "Murphy made a nice play. Sometimes you go with the hot hand and it worked. It was a beautiful throw."
Wells continued to keep things interesting by driving from its 37 to the Capers' 37, but on third-and-7, Cape Elizabeth senior Tom Feenstra sacked Booth for an 11-yard loss, forcing a punt.
The Capers took over at their 27 with 7:59 left and never let the Warriors see the football again.
Lavallee ran for 14- and 19-yards. A 10-yard scamper from Nick Moulton, followed by an off-sides penalty, gave Cape Elizabeth another first down. On third-and-11 from the 27, Lavallee ran for 11, setting up a fourth-and-inches, which saw Moulton pick up four yards to move the chains again. Wolfinger then iced it with a 16-yard run, breaking several tackles in the process. Moments later, Wolfinger took a knee and a dazzling two-hour display of winning football was in the books.
Cape Elizabeth 26 Wells 12.
"Wells is a great team, we know they're one of the best in the state, so to come win tonight, it's good for us going forward," Murphy said. "I wanted to come out and show we can win and we did that tonight."
"At halftime, a couple of us thought we had the win, but the rest of us kept the intensity up." said Lavallee. "The third quarter was a little flat, but we got the win. (My four brothers) beat Wells. I'm so pumped to beat them. It's my time now."
"We executed when we needed to," Wolfinger said. "It was a great team win. No one respected us as a team or a defense. No one coming into the season thought we'd do anything. To come out and get a win against a top team in the conference is really special."
The Capers excelled offensively both on the ground (314 yards) and through the air (146). Lavallee stole the show with 202 yards on 19 carries, although he never crossed the goal line.
"It turns into a nice spectacle sport for me, watching (Christian) run," said Wolfinger.
"Christian is outstanding," said Filieo. "He runs tough. He wants to run and run hard. He had good vision. Because he runs so hard, Nick, another fullback, comes in and does the same thing. Last week, Jack had an outstanding game. He was shut down a little bit tonight."
Drinan scored once, picking up 54 yards on a dozen attempts. Nick Moulton had 35 yards on nine rushes, scoring one TD. Through the air, Wolfinger completed seven passes on 14 attempts, good for 146 yards and two scores (he was also picked once). Murphy had five catches for 126 yards and two TDs.
"I love how these guys can catch the ball," said Lavallee. "It takes the strain off of running backs carrying the rock. We're a lot better this year. We have an all-around solid team."
"We have so many weapons," said Murphy. "I don't know if a team can stop us, to be honest, if we're firing on all cylinders."
Cape Elizabeth outgained Wells, 409-115.
Defenisvely, it forced a turnover and registered three sacks.
Proving that no one is perfect, the Capers turned the ball over once and were penalized six times for 68 yards.
"We've got to clean up the penalties and personal fouls," Wolfinger said.
For Wells, Carney had 79 yards and a TD on 14 carries. Booth went 3-of-4 passing, good for 36 yards and a touchdown.
The Warriors had three penalties for 25 yards and turned the ball over once.
Hitting the road
Wells returns home Friday to host Freeport, while the Capers will have a tough test at Spruce Mountain. The teams have no history.
Cape Elizabeth still has games remaining at Freeport and Gray-New Gloucester, as well as home tests against Yarmouth and Mountain Valley.
The Capers have shown they can play with anyone and this squad only hopes to get better.
"We're right in the mix," said Murphy. "Our goal is a state championship. That's what we expect. We'll get better. It's still early in the season."
"We still have things we can work on," said the hirsute Filieo, whose beard has been the matter of great conjecture (the team snips off a piece of it following each victory. " I started to grow (a beard) in the spring, just for the hell of it. I was going to shave it, but I thought I'd keep it and let them cut it for motivation.
"We had penalties I'd like to erase. We'd been good. Tonight was not good. We need to fix that. Spruce Mountain is pretty good. They run the spread well. They have a lot of players. We'll see."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Cape Elizabeth-Wells results
Wells 21 @ Cape Elizabeth 7
@ Wells 14 Cape Elizabeth 6
@ Wells 14 Cape Elizabeth 7
Western B semifinals
@ Wells 47 Cape Elizabeth 7
Cape Elizabeth 37 @ Wells 0
@ Cape Elizabeth 25 Wells 14
@ Cape Elizabeth 7 Wells 0
@ Wells 14 Cape Elizabeth 0