The storybook season of the Yarmouth football team added another improbable and inspirational chapter Friday night in Livermore Falls.
In the first playoff game in their young history, the Clippers went back-and-forth with the established and higher-seeded Andies in the Western Class C quarterfinal round, but senior quarterback Eric Estabrook’s 11-yard TD pass to classmate Brodie Woodson and a late, clutch tackle from senior Andrew Gabrielson allowed Yarmouth to win 35-28 and advance to Friday night’s semifinal round game at Old Orchard Beach.
“What a game!” said Clippers coach Jim Hartman. “It was a fantastic football game by two very good teams. It was like a heavyweight fight.”
Fairy tale continues
Yarmouth is in just its third varsity season, but has crammed more drama into two months than previously thought imaginable. After losing close games to Old Orchard Beach and Oak Hill to start the year (making the program 1-19 in its history), the Clippers exploded in their final six, averaging 57 points a game in easy victory after easy victory. Yarmouth’s 6-2 mark gave it the No. 7 seed and sent it to Livermore Falls, a team the Clippers didn’t meet this year (but lost to 20-12 a year ago).
The game was a seesaw affair all the way. The Andies led 14-13 at halftime, then the fun really began. After Yarmouth went up 19-14, Livermore Falls answered with a TD for a 21-19 advantage. Senior David Dietz answered with a 2-yard TD for a 27-21 lead, but the hosts then drove 65 yards to go up 28-27 with 4:21 to go. That set the stage for the biggest drive in the Clippers short history, which was culminated by Estabrook’s TD pass to Woodson. The Andies had one final chance and drove to the Yarmouth 5. There, as time expired, Gabrielson came up with the biggest tackle of his life to keep Livermore Falls quarterback Sam Whiting out of the end zone and the Clippers were able to celebrate their 35-28 win.
“We came out fired up in the second half,” Gabrielson said. “It hadn’t been there in the first half. We needed to keep our heads in the game. The last minute was scary.”
“The last few minutes took forever,” Hartman added. “Andrew hustled his butt off and made a great tackle that saved it for us.”
The Clippers gained 270 yards on the ground, led by Dietz (17 carries, 91 yards). Estabrook (8-85), Woodson (7-55) and junior Nate Pingitore (7-35) also had their moments.
“Estabrook was unbelievable on both sides of the ball,” Hartman said. “He led us in tackles. Livermore’s a good team. They hit hard. We got our yards. In the second half, it was off to the races. In the past, the kids weren’t ready to win a game like this.”
On Sept. 4, Yarmouth, playing short-handed, lost 28-12 at Old Orchard Beach (7-2). Friday at 7 p.m., the Clippers expect a much different result.
“It’ll be another slugfest,” Hartman said. “Two different styles. We’ll have to stand tall with their tough running backs. They have a phenomenal receiver. We’re more confident this time. Our offense wasn’t in gear yet. This is great for the school.”
The Western C Final is the following weekend on the field of the highest remaining seed.
The Class C championship game is Saturday, Nov. 21 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
Falmouth and Greely met in their annual season-finale Friday night in Falmouth. The Yachtsmen were hoping to emerge victorious to secure a second straight winning season, while the Rangers were hoping to spring an upset.
In the end, Falmouth had too much of a passing game as junior quarterback Zack Alexander threw a pair of TD passes to sophomore standout Jack Cooleen and a third to senior Jon Webster. Junior David Goodrich added a field goal and that was more than enough to counter Greely’s lone score, a 63-yard run from freshman Svenn Jacobson, as the Yachtsmen cruised, 25-7, to finish 5-4.
“It’s a great win,” said Falmouth coach John Fitzsimmons. “It’s uplifting and sets the tone for the next year. It’s the second winning season in a row for us. I’m pleased. Zack Alexander has been coming on. He had a great game. Jack Cooleen’s something special. He has amazing hands. I feel like Falmouth has come of age and is ready to be a contender. We beat everyone we were supposed to and lost 26-20 to Wells, or we’d be in the playoffs.
“We’re only losing six players. We return almost all our starters. How we do will depend on if we do the work in the weight room in the winter.”
Greely ended up 2-7, dropping its final five contests.
“The kids worked hard all year,” said first-year coach David Higgins. “They never quit. It’s a tribute to them. Falmouth’s a great team. John does a great job with his guys. They were ready. We graduate five seniors. We have a big junior class. Hopefully, we’ll contend next year.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org