A football weekend unlike any other is in the books.
In Western Class C, the powerhouse, top ranked and undefeated Yarmouth Clippers hosted a playoff game for the first time and toyed with No. 8 Maranacook, 54-6, to advance to the semifinals.
That paled in comparison to drama of Western Class B.
Friday night, Greely hosted Falmouth, needing only to win to cap its resurgent season with a playoff berth, but despite a fourth quarter lead, the Rangers fell, 15-14.
That left the two rivals, along with Cape Elizabeth, tied at 6-3 and necessitated a coin toss Saturday afternoon to establish which teams made the playoffs and their seeding.
Less than 24 hours after their agonizing loss to the Yachtsmen, the Rangers came up short in the currency department. Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth made the cut into this weekend’s semifinals, while Greely will have to wait until next year.
Nine down, three to go
Yarmouth didn’t miss a beat in its first playoff test. The Clippers, regional finalists in 2009 and close to unstoppable in an 8-0 regular season, dominated No. 8 Marancook from start to finish in the quarterfinals.
Senior Nate Pingitore’s short TD run gave the hosts all the points they’d need in the first quarter. Senior Tommy O’Toole then blocked a Black Bears’ punt, setting up a TD run by senior Nick Proscia. A long TD run from freshman quarterback Brady Neujahr made it 21-0 after one period.
By halftime, Yarmouth was comfortably ahead, 40-0, thanks to TD runs from Pingitore (96 yards on 12 carries), Proscia (108 yards on 13 rushes) and senior Billy Clabby. Proscia and Clabby had scoring runs in the second half before the Clippers’ second string defense finally allowed a touchdown in the waning moments, accounting for the 54-6 final score.
“I was really happy,” said Yarmouth coach Jim Hartman. “Maranacook’s a good team. They had the fourth-ranked offense coming in, but we held them close to negative yards before we pulled our starters. We knew they were a power running team. They’re very big, but we were up to the challenge. Our whole defense was phenomenal. We had great offense, 471 yards on 59 carries, without throwing a pass. Tommy had a great game in all phases.”
The Clippers will host No. 5 Oak Hill (5-4) in Friday’s semifinal round (kickoff is at 7 p.m.). The teams met back on Sept. 11, in Wales, where Yarmouth held on for a 20-15 victory. The teams have no playoff history.
“Oak Hill’s a very good team,” said Hartman. “They run an identical offense to us and are good on defense. They’re well coached. It’ll be a battle. It’ll come down to turnovers and penalties. It’s a big difference for us to be at home.”
Flipped to be tied
Falmouth expected to be in the playoff hunt in 2010, but few thought Greely would be hosting the Yachtsmen in the regular season finale with a great shot of advancing. That was indeed the case and this rivalry showdown played to an epic finish.
Falmouth took the lead on an early touchdown pass from senior quarterback Zach Alexander to junior Jack Cooleen and made it hold up until early in the final period when the Rangers scored two TDs in just over three minutes to seemingly take control.
Greely tied the score on a 1-yard run from senior Ethan Wyman with 11:14 remaining, capping a 16 play, 7 minutes, 20 second drive. On the next Yachtsmen possession, senior David Goodrich’s punt was blocked and after taking over in optimal field position, the hosts grabbed a 14-7 lead on junior Mike Leeman’s 6-yard run.
However, with just 2:12 to go, after an untimely Greely interception and after an improbable conversion on third-and-26, Falmouth got a 6-yard touchdown run from Alexander (8 carries, 36 yards) and with Goodrich injured and unavailable, a two-point conversion pass from Alexander (11-of-23-190 yards and a TD) to Cooleen to win the “Battle of Route 9” for the third consecutive season, 15-14.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Alexander. “A lot of the guys came into the game putting everything into it, but we weren’t sure if we could come out on top. I think it was all mental. It was about getting our confidence back up after tough losses.”
“It was a great comeback by our players,” said Falmouth coach John Fitzsimmons. “All the hard work came together. I’ve been hoping all season for this team to pull together as a unit and tonight, it happened. We played our hearts out when we had to have it. I don’t think people understand we’ve had significant injuries this year. We’re playing with our fourth center. It’s been that kind of season for us, but I’m thrilled for the boys tonight.”
Greely left the field shellshocked.
“I wouldn’t say it’s devastating,” said Rangers coach David Higgins. “It’s a loss. We’ve done a lot of great things during the season. Are we disappointed? Absolutely.”
The news was even worse for Greely on Saturday afternoon.
The coin toss was held in an empty gymnasium at Yarmouth High School. Greely athletic director Mike Griffin, Falmouth AD Todd Livingston and Cape Elizabeth’s Jeff Thoreck all brought a coin and tossed it under the supervision of Yarmouth’s athletic director Susan Robbins.
All three ADs tossed a coin in the air at once. Cape Elizabeth’s landed heads, Falmouth’s landed tails. Adding to the drama, Greely’s coin actually rolled on its side for a few seconds, then finally came to a rest.
By pre-agreement that the “0dd-man out” would actually be the winner, Cape Elizabeth had won the toss and earned the No. 3 seed. Falmouth, by virtue of its head-to-head win over Greely, wound up No. 4.
The Rangers, despite a valiant and inspirational season, are done.
“I figured we were in trouble,” said Higgins. “I didn’t think the football gods would be with us. I’m a firm believer that if you don’t take care of your own business, someone else will.
“I’m very proud of the guys. We had great leadership. We were very fortunate with our senior class. The kids worked hard all season. We had goals set. We didn’t achieve all of them, but we’re happy with our record. We’d like to be in the playoffs because I thought we could have given Wells or Mountain Valley a great game. I wish all the best to John and (Cape Elizabeth coach) Aaron (Filieo).”
Greely will be hit hard by graduation, but anyone discounting the Rangers again 2011, will likely be in for a surprise.
“It’s going to be a struggle next year with numbers,” said Higgins. “We’re losing 14. We’ll have to hope some kids step up.”
As for Falmouth, it earned a semifinal round date at 9-0 Mountain Valley, the top seed, Friday at 7 p.m. The Yachtsmen were blanked at home by the perennial powerhouse Falcons, 38-0, back on Oct. 15. In the teams’ lone prior playoff meeting, the 2008 semis, Mountain Valley cruised at home, 41-6.
“Obviously, the boys will be thrilled to have another week to play,” Fitzsimmons said. “I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that I’m very disappointed for Greely. They had a sensational year. I’d love to see them continue.
“This is the fifth year in a row we’ve gone to Mountain Valley. It’s a great atmosphere for a football team. They’re a strong team, a class act, undefeated. No surprises. They know what we do and we know what they do. It’s a chance to redeem ourselves and it sounds like fun.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yarmouth senior Tommy O’Toole blocks a Maranacook punt during the Clippers’ 54-6 home victory over the Black Bears in Friday’s Western C quarterfinal.
Falmouth senior Zach Alexander makes a futile stab at tackling Greely sophomore Svenn Jacobson during Friday night’s thriller. The Yachtsmen rallied for a 15-14 victory which forced a three-way tie for the final two Western B playoff spots. Saturday afternoon, Falmouth and Cape Elizabeth survived the coin toss and the Rangers’ season came to an end.
Falmouth sophomore Alex Derhagopian sends Greely sophomore John Giardina flying on a fourth quarter run.