YARMOUTH—The two-time defending Class C state champion Yarmouth football team found itself at a crossroads when it hosted undefeated, unscored-upon Traip Academy Friday night.
Having dropped two of their first three contests, including a gutwrenching one-point setback at Maranacook a week ago, the Clippers needed to find a way to earn a ‘W’ and stay within hailing distance of the top teams in the conference.
Instead, Yarmouth fell short, learning in the process just how formidable the Rangers have become.
Traip set the tone with a 19-play, 83-yard, 8 minute, 37 second scoring drive in the first period and the Clippers never caught up.
Traip added a second TD in the second quarter, then returned the second half kickoff for another score to make it 20-0. Yarmouth attempted to rally and became the first opponent to score on the Rangers this season, but the Clippers could draw no closer and a backbreaking, multiple tackle-breaking, highlight reel 80-yard TD run from senior Cory Aldecoa in the fourth quarter put the finishing touches on a 27-6 victory.
Traip improved to 4-0 and dropped Yarmouth to 1-3, as the Clippers’ home win streak ended at 18 games.
“(Traip) set the tone with that first drive, but we did a lot of things wrong tonight,” lamented Yarmouth’s first-year coach Chris Pingitore. “We hit them in the backfield probably 75 percent of the time, but we didn’t tackle. That’s what it came down to. I don’t think they’re better than we are. We’re just as physical. We just didn’t finish tackles.”
Traip has been a feel-good story in recent years. The Rangers suffered through a 51-game losing streak between 2000 and 2006, but slowly clawed their way back to competitiveness and last fall, made it all the way to the Western C Final, only to have their championship dreams dashed by Yarmouth, 14-0.
This fall, Traip has been stellar, downing visiting Telstar (45-0), visiting Winthrop (35-0) and visiting Freeport (31-0).
The teams have only played since 2007, but have established quite a rivalry.
The Rangers won the first two meetings (please see sidebar), but Yarmouth rode a four-game win streak into Friday’s meeting.
Traip made sure it didn’t get to five.
After the Clippers went three-and-out to start the game, the visitors took over at their 17. The Rangers’ first play was a 2-yard loss by Aldecoa, but senior Devon Draker ran for eight yards and on third-and-4, Draker gained seven more to move the chains. Three plays later, on third-and-1, Draker rushed for 10 yards. A short burst from Aldecoa moved the ball across the 50. Two more conversions set up a first down at the Yarmouth 26. On the next play, Draker was thrown for a loss of 2 and had to leave the game with an ankle injury (he wouldn’t return). On third-and-9 from the 25, it looked like the Clippers were primed to hold, but Traip junior quarterback Chris Czachor threw a jump ball down the right sideline where senior Atencio Martin outleaped the Yarmouth secondary. Martin came down with the ball at the 2, setting up first and goal. After senior Christian Montembeau was thrown for a loss of a yard and senior Andre Bradley ran for two, on third-and-goal, Aldecoa capped the marathon drive by barreling in from the 1. Montembeau added the extra point and with 41.3 seconds to go in the first quarter, the Rangers had the lead for good, 7-0.
“That’s how we start every game,” said Traip coach Ron Ross. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get the ball first. We like to have an eight to 10 minute drive and wear them down. We like every drive to be from five to eight minutes. If we have eight to 10 minutes, great.”
A pair of penalties killed Yarmouth’s hopes on its next drive and as the first period gave way to the second, the visitors had all the momentum, having outgained the Clippers, 83 yards to 2, running 19 plays to the hosts’ five, picking up five first downs to Yarmouth’s zero and holding the football for 8:37.
Fifteen seconds into the second quarter, Traip began a drive at its 43. This time, the Rangers marched 57 yards to paydirt. It took eight plays and a relatively quick by comparison 4:35. A 12-yard run by Aldecoa moved the ball into Clippers’ territory. An 8-yard Bradley run, accompanied by a facemask penalty, set up first down at the 22. On third-and-11 from the 23, Czachor dropped back to pass and lofted a rainbow toward the goal line. Despite double coverage, Martin managed to jump, snare the ball and land with it for a 23-yard touchdown. Montembeau’s extra point was no good, wide right, but with 7:10 left before halftime, the Rangers had a 13-0 advantage.
Yarmouth’s offense finally started to move the ball on its third series. A 25-yard pass from junior quarterback Brady Neujahr to junior Matt Woodbury brought the Clippers’ sideline to life. Two plays later, junior Matt Klepinger had a 20-yard run to the Traip 28, but the drive stalled and on fourth-and-7 from the 25, a pass from Neujahr to Klepinger only gained four yards, giving the ball back to the Rangers.
Traip had 3:27 to work with and moved from its 21 to the Yarmouth 37, but on the final play of the half, Czachor’s pass to sophomore Nate Henderson resulted in just 29 yards and the Rangers’ lead remained 13-0 heading into the break.
Henderson would get his taste of the end zone shortly.
At the half, the statistics were dramatically in Traip’s favor, to the tune of 211-55 in yardage, 37-14 in plays, 11-2 in first downs and 16:39 to 7:09 in time of possession.
The Rangers made a point of reminding each other that the game was far from over and that Yarmouth was capable of rallying, but right out of the break, Traip got some breathing room.
The kickoff came to Henderson at the 15. He couldn’t handle it initially, ran down the loose ball at the 22, then took off, not stopping until he crossed the goal line 78 yards later. Montembeau added the extra point and just 16 seconds into the second half, the Rangers led, 20-0.
“Those are killers,” Pingitore said. “You preach that at halftime. Maybe it’s a mistake talking about it, since it’s in their head. Those are backbreakers and they’re tough to give up.”
The hosts then embarked on their lone scoring drive after a nice kickoff return from junior Race Morrison was somewhat negated by a blocking in the back call.
Beginning at their 35, the Clippers began a Traip-like 18-play, 65-yard, 8:18 march.
Runs from Klepinger, Woodbury and junior Thomas Lord did most of the damage. A 19-yard Neujahr-to-junior Nate Shields-Auble pass helped move the chains and 9-yard Neujahr passes to Klepinger and Woodbury moved the ball to the Rangers’ 10. On fourth-and-1 from the 8, Neujahr kept the ball on a sneak and fell forward to the 6. Then, on the next play, Neujahr dropped back to pass, rolled right and spotted junior Rhys Eddy in the end zone. Neujahr’s pass was true and with 3:12 to go in the third quarter of the fourth game of the 2012 season, Traip’s defense had finally given up a score.
“l felt sorry for our defense,” Ross said. “They were probably going to score anyway, but we called a corner blitz, thinking they would pass. That was our fault.”
Shields-Auble’s extra point was no good, but Yarmouth had life, down, 20-6.
Early in the fourth period, after stopping the Rangers on downs (a nice open field tackle by Eddy brought Aldecoa down for a loss of a yard on fourth-and-inches), the Clippers had a chance to make things really interesting, but after Woodbury rushed for two yards, Neujahr twice threw incomplete to set up fourth-and-8 from the Yarmouth 47.
Despite being down two scores, Pingitore eschewed keeping the ball in the hands of the offense and instead gambled on pinning the Rangers deep and hoping his defense could either force a turnover or a quick three-and-out.
It didn’t happen.
Traip took over at its 17 with 8:52 to go. After Bradley lost two yards, the Clippers jumped offsides, setting up a second-and-7 at the 20.
Then, Aldecoa delivered the coup de grace.
Aldecoa, who spent his sophomore year at Freeport, took a handoff, was met in the backfield and appeared down for a loss. Instead, he somehow stayed on his feet, got past the initial wave of defenders, broke another tackle downfield, then was off to the races. The big man showed he had some speed to boot, going 80-yards for the pivotal score.
“That’s our mentality,” said Aldecoa. “It’s just go as hard as you can. You don’t stop. You keep your feet pumping and you won’t be stopped. I hit a couple guys and I just kept my shoulders low and my feet pumping. I just saw wide open space, I put on the speed and just went.”
“That’s Traip football,” Ross added. “That’s how we live. We live and die with extra yards. Credit to those guys. They work hard every day and in the offseason to break those tackles. Extra yards after the hit is great.”
Pingitore’s hopes had been dashed.
“We were starting to stop them defensively and the yardage was too much to go for it at that point,” Pingitore said, of his decision to punt. “Nate was punting well. I wanted to pin them deep and see what we could do. We had (Aldecoa) six, seven yards in the backfield and let him go. That nullified everything we did until that point.”
Montembeau’s extra point gave the Rangers a 27-6 advantage with 7:28 left on the clock.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Yarmouth return team couldn’t get to the ball and Traip pounced on it at the Clippers’ 28, for what was essentially an onsides kick. The Rangers didn’t turn the possession into points, but ran a couple minutes off the clock. Yarmouth quickly gave the ball up on downs and Traip ran the clock down to 6.5 seconds before giving the ball back to the Clippers. One final snap sealed it and the 27-6 final score was official.
For Traip, it was a landmark victory.
“This means so much to us,” Aldecoa said. “We came in here knowing they’d be a big challenge for us. It’s a big, emotional win. We had mistakes, but we really came together on this one. We knew we needed to come here and work hard. We had a bad week of practice, but we made up for it. Everyone on the team gave 110 percent. We had to grind hard. We knew they had good threats with quick sweeps and long passes. We knew we had to be on point. We knew they’re a good, athletic team and that they’d score. We knew we had to react well to their scoring. We buckled down, played defense and rode it out.”
“This is a huge statement,” Ross said. “We have size and we know how to use it. We’re not slow. We used to be slow, but we’re not slow. Yarmouth’s a good team. They’re well coached. We came here not thinking about last year, but you can’t help but have it in the background. The kids played hard. They wanted this one. They knew what it means. It’s good to be 4-0 in a tough Class C West. I feel Yarmouth’s a good team. They could potentially win their next four games. No one should overlook them.”
Statistically, the Rangers finished with 319 yards. Aldecoa led the way with 164 yards and two TDs on 21 carries. Before leaving with his injury, Draker ran seven times for 37 yards. Bradley had 30 yards on seven rushes. Czachor rushed four times and gained 6 yards. Senior Cam Cavanaugh had five carries for 34 yards. Czachor completed 5-of-6 passes for 93 yards and a TD. Martin had two receptions for 46 yards and the score. Henderson caught two passes for 30 yards. Cavanaugh had a catch for 17. Traip was flagged 10 times for 62 yards.
Yarmouth had just 138 yards of offense and was called for seven penalties, good for 57 yards.
“I thought (Traip) scouted us well on offense,” said Pingitore. “They did some shifting into our motion and such. The penalties didn’t help. We had four or five first down runs or passes called back. We have to clean those up. When you’re in a hole, your play calling changes.”
Neujahr wound up 9-of-16 passing for 93 yards and a touchdown. Eddy had the TD catch. Woodbury caught three passes for 48 yards. Klepinger had two receptions for 13, Lord two for 6 and Shields-Auble one for 19. Freshman Ryan Nason attempted a halfback option (which went for a touchdown against Poland), but it fell incomplete. On the ground, Klepinger gained 24 yards on six carries, Lord 22 on a half dozen carries, Neujahr five on three tries and Woodbury 2 on seven attempts. Defensively, Lord had a sack.
The biggest difference in the game was yards after contact. It’s safe to say that Traip had over 200 yards after its ballcarriers were initially touched.
“That’s something that is correctable,” Pingitore said. “We may have to change some practice habits to get there. (The guys) listen to the hype. They read the papers. They hear, ‘Why even show up to the game?’ I told them they have to go out and claim what’s theirs. There are some good juniors who are hurting right now. This is something that’s new for them. They have to toughen up, stick their faces in there and finish tackles. I don’t know if you can teach that. You have be born with an inner nastiness.”
Traip returns to action Friday at Boothbay. The Rangers are in the mix for a top playoff seed and show no signs of slowing down.
“We accomplished our goal to get in the playoffs,” said Aldecoa. “Our next goal is to just improve and get better every day.”
“You can’t take any team lightly in this division,” Ross said. “It’s one crazy division. One guy gets hurt on any team, anything can happen. We just have to stay healthy.”
Yarmouth needs to earn some wins and quickly, but the schedule doesn’t abate. Next Saturday, the Clippers go to Winslow. They then host Lisbon and Dirigo before closing the regular season at Freeport.
Unlike the past two seasons, nothing is coming easily for Yarmouth. Regardless, the Clippers aren’t giving in. Anyone who doesn’t think they’ll be a factor in late October could be in for an unpleasant surprise.
“We’re starting to right the ship,” Pingitore said. “We have smart kids, good kids. It’s making them believe we can turn it around. We have four games left. It won’t be easy for us. We keep stressing little things in practice. I think we have the athletes and players to turn this around. We can still claw our way in.”
T- 7 6 7 7- 27
Y- 0 0 6 0- 6
T- Aldecoa 1 run (Montembeau kick)
T- Martin 23 pass from Czachor (kick failed)
T- Henderson 78 kickoff return (Montembeau kick)
Y- Eddy 6 pass from Neujahr (kick failed)
T- Aldecoa 80 run (Montembeau kick)
Yarmouth 27 @ Traip 7
Western C Final
@ Yarmouth 14 Traip 0
@ Yarmouth 46 Traip 7
Yarmouth 56 @ Traip 8
Traip 21 @ Yarmouth 6
Traip 58 @ Yarmouth 0