A most enjoyable high school football campaign is about to become even more compelling.
While Yarmouth will host a playoff game for the first time Friday night, two other local squads will do battle with major postseason implications at stake.
Last weekend, Yarmouth capped its 8-0 campaign with a 57-0 home win over Freeport. The Clippers locked up the No. 1 seed and homefield advantage for the Western C playoffs, while the Falcons’ second varsity season ended at 3-5.
Falmouth and Greely both earned wins in Western B. The Yachtsmen bounced back from a home loss to Mountain Valley with a 25-22 victory over visiting Poland to improve to 5-3. The Rangers had no trouble at Fryeburg, rolling, 43-8, and are now 6-2.
The teams meet Friday night in the “Battle of Route 9” in Cumberland. All eyes wll be on that game as it will go a long way in determining the No. 3 and 4 seeds for the upcoming playoffs.
After winning only one game total in its first two varsity seasons, the Yarmouth program shot to prominence in 2009, winning its final six regular season contests before upsetting Livermore Falls and Old Orchard Beach in the playoffs. The Clippers’ run ended with a loss to Dirigo in the regional final and after losing several standouts to graduation, most thought Yarmouth would come back to the pack in 2010.
It didn’t happen.
Instead, the Clippers were only tested twice, edging Oak Hill and Lisbon on the road, while pummeling everyone else. Friday night, Yarmouth got an early fight from Freeport (which defeated Sacopee, Old Orchard Beach and Boothbay this fall after going 1-7 in 2009).
The Falcons had a nice early drive that stalled at the Clippers’ 26. Yarmouth then drove 74 yards in nine plays to take the lead when junior Anders Overhaug scored on a 16-yard run. Junior Bryce Snyder added the extra point and the Clippers had a 7-0 lead after one period. Early in the second, senior Nick Proscia scored on a 13-yard scamper and with 16 seconds remaining before halftime, senior Asa Arden caught an 18-yard TD pass from freshman Brady Neujahr and it was 21-0 Yarmouth at the break.
The Clippers put it away in the third quarter, getting TDs from Overhaug (21-yard run), Arden (a 36-yard pass from Neujahr) and sophomore Caleb Uhl (4-yard run) to go up 42-0. Last scores from freshman Matt Woodbury (5-yard run) and freshman Matt Klepinger (13-yard run) and a two-point conversion rush from Woodbury accounted for the 57-0 final score.
Proscia gained 108 yards and scored once on 10 attempts. He also caught a pass for 53 yards. Overhaug ran for two TDs and 81 yards on five tries. Neujahr wound up 3-of-4 for 107 yards, two scores and an interception. Arden rushed once for 40 yards and had two TD receptions for 54.
“We have a really versatile offense,” said Arden “We have a lot of athletes on the team. After last year, we had a lot of good returning starters and juniors. Obviously, it wasn’t just the seniors from last year. A lot of people have stepped up.”
“We were a little out of sync and it took us a little while to get going,” said Yarmouth coach Jim Hartman. “We had to figure out what they were doing. They took the outside away so we just ran the ball up the middle. They run a tough double-wing offense. We can’t duplicate it in practice. The defense was outstanding.
“It’s a tremendous group of young men. Great athletes and solid citizens. We’re still a young team. We have a great group of seniors. Nick’s done a great job at the fullback spot and Anders has been a real find. A real plus.”
The Clippers earned the top seed and will host 4-4 Maranacook in the quarterfinals Friday at 7 p.m. The teams have never met.
“We have to keep working hard in practice every day,” Arden said. “That’s what we do.”
“We’ll have to forget about (the regular season) and look ahead to the playoffs,” Hartman added. “I’m sure in January and February, we’ll really appreciate it. (Homefield is) so huge for Yarmouth and our program. Hopefully the town will come together and will be here.”
Despite the loss, Freeport won’t view its 2010 season as anything short of an unmitigated success.
“The kids came out and were fired up,” said Falcons coach Rob Grover. “The score before the half kind of hurt us. In the second half, (Yarmouth) came out fired up. Our goal was to shut the outside game down and we did for the most part. They’re just so fast as a team. They’re there, then they make the cuts and they’re gone.
“I think the kids really got into the offseason work. They didn’t like getting beat so badly last year. We made strides and played hard. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing, but they started believing. When we were competitive against Dirigo (a 25-12 home loss) in the opening game, that was huge. We’re still young. Hopefully we’ll keep building next year and make a playoff run.”
Toss of a coin
Falmouth and Greely have taken different paths to contention in 2010.
The Yachtsmen entered the year viewed as a top threat and won their first three games. A painful 24-21 loss at Cape Elizabeth (where Falmouth couldn’t hold a second half lead) started a three losses-in-four-games skid, but the Yachtsmen improved to 5-3 Friday after holding off visiting Poland, 25-22. Junior Jack Cooleen was the difference, catching four TD passes from senior Zach Alexander. Falmouth’s defense held on at the end as it improved to 5-3.
“I was pleased with our offense,” said Yachtsmen coach John Fitzsimmons. “Jack had another great performance with six catches, 102 yards and four TDs. Zach had an outstanding game, going 11-for-16 for 180 yards. (Senior) Storm McGovern did an excellent job filling in for the injured Caleb Bowden at running back. I thought (seniors) Jack Horton and Andrew Edwards had a terrific game on both sides of the ball. They are among the best linemen in the league.”
Greely wasn’t considered a contender this fall, but has impressed from the get-go. Saturday, the Rangers improved to 6-2 with a 43-8 romp at Fryeburg, racing to a 14-0 lead after one period and a 35-0 advantage at the half. Junior quarterback Mike Leeman ran for three scores. The result was a far cry from a 6-0 double overtime home loss to the Raiders a year ago.
“It was nice to get a little bit of revenge,” said Greely coach David Higgins. “Fryeburg’s a really young team. We went up there and took advantage. I’m ecstatic about our season for a number of reasons. Our coaching staff has done a great job and the kids have come a long way as players and people too.”
Greely hosts Falmouth at 7 p.m. Friday. If the Rangers win, they’ll be the No. 3 seed for the playoffs and the Yachtsmen will go home. If Falmouth emerges victorious, things get very interesting. A Yachtsmen win, combined with an expected Mountain Valley victory over visiting Cape Elizabeth, leaves the Capers, Falmouth and Greely all at 6-3 with only two playoff spots available. That would require the Maine Principals’ Association to flip a coin to determine which two play on and which one is finished.
“I’d rather not take my chances on a coin toss,” said Higgins. “We can take care of business on the field and we’re excited. It’ll be fun. Falmouth has their strong points and so do we. I think it’s great for both programs. I hope candidly we can win.”
“We are looking forward to the Battle of Route 9,” said Fitzsimmons. “This game has playoff implications, so I expect the intensity level to be very high. We have been preparing for Greely for the last couple of weeks. They present some tough challenges, but we will come ready to play. We have great rivalry and respect for each other.”
A year ago, host Falmouth defeated Greely, 25-7.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
Yarmouth senior Nate Pingitore gives Freeport senior Cris Libby the brush-off during a run Friday night. The Clippers pulled away in the second half for a 57-0 victory, locking up the top seed for the upcoming Western C playoffs.
Freeport sophomore Jared Polley finds some rare running room Friday. The Falcons’ very successful second varsity season ended at 3-5.