The Yarmouth football team once again finds itself one win shy of a first Class C state final.
After last year’s improbable underdog run to the regional championship game, the 2010 Clippers are the top seed this time around and continued to dazzle Friday night with a 28-7 semifinal round win over No. 5 Oak Hill. Yarmouth took an early lead it never relinquished and set up a showdown (which it will host) against second-ranked Lisbon Saturday at 1 p.m.
Falmouth, the beneficiary of a coin toss, played its second ever playoff game Friday night in Rumford, but its season ended at 6-4 after a 43-6 loss to top-ranked Mountain Valley.
Close enough to taste
It’s been well documented just how far and fast the Yarmouth program has come. After winning just once in their first 18 games over two-plus seasons, the Clippers have only fallen short once, in last year’s regional final, since. Yarmouth dazzled during the regular season in 2010, going 8-0 behind six easy victories, to earn the top Western C playoff seed.
After dominating No. 8 Maranacook, 54-6, in the quarterfinals, the Clippers welcomed one of the two teams to give them a scare in the regular year, Oak Hill. Back on Sept. 11, Yarmouth had to hold off a late Raiders’ rally for a 20-15 win. The teams had no playoff history.
Friday, the Clippers judiciously scored one touchdown in each quarter and gradually pulled away.
Junior Dennis Erving’s 22-yard punt return led to the first score, a 15-yard run from junior Anders Overhaug. Yarmouth’s defense was then tested, but stopped the Raiders at the 1. After a punt, Oak Hill drove deep again, but Clippers senior Tommy O’Toole recovered a fumble to squash the threat. After an interception, Yarmouth’s defense was put to the test one more time and again it sparkled, forcing a loss of downs.
Then, with 40.7 seconds to go in the first half, Overhaug (12 carries, 108 yards, two TDs) scored on a 12-yard run and junior Bryce Snyder added the point-after for a 14-0 lead at the break.
In the first 24 minutes, the Clippers outgained the Raiders, 191 yards to 39, but Yarmouth couldn’t shake Oak Hill in the third period. Senior Nate Pingitore made it 21-0 with a 30-yard run, but after a Yarmouth TD was called back by penalty and Snyder just missed a 29-yard field goal, the Raiders got on the board by virtue of a 72-yard TD pass with 1:41 remaining in the third.
To their credit, the Clippers responded immediately and added their final TD, a 1-yard Pingitore run. The defense slammed the door from there and brought the curtain down on a 28-7 triumph.
“This is the game we didn’t want to play, but we got it and I’m so proud of the boys,” said Clippers coach Jim Hartman. “For the program itself, it’s probably bigger than last year, the way we responded. We lost our two best defensive players and these kids got punched in the side of the head. We haven’t gotten punched all year and we had to punch back.”
Yarmouth was keyed by 73 yards on 10 carries from senior Billy Clabby, who came in to relieve the injured Nick Proscia.
“Billy Clabby just put us on his back,” Hartman said. “He and Proscia are best friends. He responded and defended his teammate.”We came out strong,” said Clabby. “Our defensive plan was to get in the backfield and that’s just what we did.”
“I had a chance to step up on offense and pick up my buddy, Nick Proscia, when he got injured, and I just ran straight and hoped for the best,” said Clabby. “We have weapons. Anders can run outside. After we run outside, we can pound it in the middle. It’s a very versatile offense.”
The hosts finished with 337 yards of offense. Defensively, Yarmouth had five sacks, good for 34 yards. All was not ideal for the Clippers, however, as they turned the ball over twice and were penalized eight times for 49 yards.
“We had three touchdowns called back,” said Hartman. “No football team is ever perfect. We’ll keep pushing.”
Yarmouth’s other close regular season game was a scintillating 16-14 win at Lisbon on Oct. 2. The teams meet again Saturday for the first time in the postseason.
The Clippers, just happy to be there a year ago, are very well equipped to lock up a date in their first state championship game if they play to their capability.
“Homefield’s really fun,” said Clabby. “Speed on the turf is what we’re about. We’re focused. We have to work on penalties. That’s our weakness right now. And continue to work on our running game.”
“We’re not as banged up (this year),” Hartman added. “I’m happy with our team and where we’re going and the progress of the program.”
End of the road
Many miles away, Falmouth’s up-and-down season was coming to a close.
The Yachtsmen got off to a great start in 2010, winning three in a row, but then lost three of four before rallying with two wins to wind up 6-3. Falmouth, Greely and defending regional champion Cape Elizabeth had the same record and number of Crabtree Points at season’s-end, necessitating a coin flip, which the Capers won to become the third of four Western B playoff teams. That left the Yachtsmen and Rangers and by virtue of a 14-13 win at Greely, Falmouth made the postseason, while the Rangers were left on the outside looking in.
The Yachtsmen’s “reward” was a trip to undefeated, top-ranked Mountain Valley, which has long been the standard bearer in the region. The Falcons came to Falmouth and rolled, 38-0, on Oct. 15. The teams also met in the 2008 semifinals (the Yachtsmen’s lone prior playoff game), a 41-6 Mountain Valley romp.
Friday night was more of the same as the Falcons dominated all phases of the game and scored on five of their six possessions in the first half. They went up 18-0 in the first quarter and after the visitors got on the board, scored the final 25 points of the game to roll, 43-6.
Falmouth’s lone points came on a 26-yard TD pass from senior quarterback Zach Alexander to junior Ryan MacDonald in the second period. The Yachtsmen gained eight rushing yards and ran six plays in the second half.
“It was a disappointing performance,” said Falmouth coach John Fitzsimmons. “We thought we’d play a much stronger game than we did. We shot ourselves in the foot with our special teams. We scored a TD and were feeling OK, but kicked off and they got an 80-yard touchdown. Then, they kicked to us and we fumbled. We went from feeling in contention to putting ourselves in a deep hole.
“There’s nothing better than high school football in Rumford. It’s like a Hollywood set,” Fitzsimmons added.
Despite the setback and a some struggles along the way, the Yachtsmen’s season has to be classified as a success.
“We started so strong, then we had a series of injuries,” said Fitzsimmons. “We had four or five starters out. When you have a smaller program, you have the numbers.
“The program’s heading in the right direction. We have to work harder to beat the tougher teams. We’re playing at a higher level, but we’re not at that threshold yet.”
While Falmouth will lose some key contributors to graduation, many talented players return and the Yachtsmen will seek to continue their climb up the Western B ladder.
“Our senior class gave us three strong, winning years and they’ll be missed, but our returning group has some of the best skill players in the league,” said Fitzsimmons. “We need work on our offensive line and defense. (Junior) Matt Kingry was neck-and-neck with Zach in the summer and preseason before he got injured. He’s athletic and smart and reads defenses well. MacDonald and (junior) Jack Cooleen were Campbell Conference all-stars. I look forward to next year. I feel good about it.”
Sun Journal staff writer Bob McPhee contributed to this story.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yarmouth senior Billy Clabby bulls past the Oak Hill defense Friday night. Clabby gained 73 yards on 10 attempts as the Clippers downed the Raiders, 28-7, in the Western C semifinals.
Yarmouth senior Tommy O’Toole knocks a potential touchdown pass out of harm’s way early in Friday’s contest.