Yarmouth senior captain Cody Cook shows off the runner-up plaque after the Clippers’ 24-10 loss to Winslow in Saturday’s Class C state final.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
W- 14 3 7 0- 24
Y- 3 7 0 0- 10
W- Trask 3 run (Gagnon kick)
Y- Beatty 33 FG
W- Rickard 2 run (Gagnon kick)
Y- Leblanc 50 pass from Thoma (Beatty kick)
W- Gagnon 37 FG
W- Bouchard 34 interception return (Gagnon kick)
PORTLAND—For 11 weeks, Yarmouth’s explosive football team avoided key mistakes, forced many by the opposition and rode its way to triumph.
Saturday afternoon in the Class C state final at Fitzpatrick Stadium, the Clippers picked the worst possible time to do the exact opposite.
Facing defending champion Winslow, Yarmouth dug an early hole, rallied and suggested that it might just snatch victory from the jaws of defeat for the second week in a row, but a third state crown wasn’t to be and due in large part to five turnovers, the Clippers fell two scores shy of the coveted prize.
The Black Raiders, who scored 62 points in last year’s state final win, took a 7-0 lead just three plays and 54 seconds in, when senior quarterback Jacob Trask, one play after dashing 63 yards, capped the initial drive with a 3 yard touchdown run.
Yarmouth got on the board later in the first period when senior kicker Andrew Beatty, one of the heroes of the regional final, booted a 33 yard field goal, but Winslow answered right back and when bruising junior Kenneth Rickard bulled in from the 2 on the penultimate play of the quarter, the Black Raiders had a seemingly commanding 14-3 advantage.
But the Clippers would answer and with 8:17 to go in the first half, junior quarterback John Thoma found classmate Remi Leblanc for a pretty 50 yard scoring pass to cut the deficit to four. That momentum didn’t last, as Winslow got a 37 yard field goal from sophomore Ryan Gagnon as time expired in the first half for a 17-10 lead.
Yarmouth’s frustrations really grew in the second half.
First, the Clippers drove to the Black Raiders’ 5 on the opening series of the third quarter, but were stopped on downs.
Yarmouth then fumbled on its next series and with 4:39 to go in the stanza, Thoma was intercepted by senior Trenton Bouchard, who returned it 34 yards for a backbreaking TD.
The Clippers were picked twice more in the fourth period and Winslow went on to slam the door on its repeat title, 24-10.
The Black Raiders finished 11-0 and while the Clippers also wound up with 11 victories, it’s the one loss and when it occurred that will sting for a long time.
“The frustrating part is I honestly don’t feel like they beat us,” lamented Yarmouth coach Jason Veilleux. “I feel like we beat ourselves. I’ve heard other coaches say that and now I understand the meaning of it. We got some good things going. The defense kept us in it, but we couldn’t put it in the end zone when it counted.”
Winslow is one of the state’s most storied programs, while Yarmouth is still in its relative infancy, but both have won their share of Class C Gold Balls over the past five years.
The Clippers went back-to-back in 2010 and 2011 (see sidebar), while the Black Raiders lost a close state final to Foxcroft Academy in 2012, fell again to Leavitt in 2013, then avenged that loss with a 62-14 drubbing of the Hornets in last year’s state game.
That was Winslow’s 14th all-time state final appearance and the win evened its record at 7-7. The Black Raiders were also deemed champions in 1958, 1960 and 1976.
This season, both teams lived up to billing and few were surprised at the state game matchup.
Winslow opened with decisive shutout wins at Belfast (43-0) and at home versus John Bapst (63-0). After a 35-20 victory at Mt. Desert Island, the Black Raiders handled visiting Madison (57-7), then closed with four more shutouts: 68-0 at Oceanside, 42-0 over visiting Foxcroft Academy, 63-0 over visiting Hermon and 35-0 at Waterville.
As the No. 2 seed in Class C North, Winslow shut out MDI in the semifinals (21-0), then won a showdown of unbeatens at top-ranked Old Town in the regional final, 40-27, to advance.
Yarmouth, which was ousted by Leavitt in the semifinals a year ago, began 2015 by downing visiting Lake Region (31-13) and Mountain Valley (40-14). After a 49-0 win at Poland, the Clippers prevailed at Fryeburg Academy, 48-12. October brought a pair of challenges and Yarmouth rose to them, rallying to edge visiting Wells, 16-15, and after a 29-8 win at Spruce Mountain, rallying again to hold off visiting Cape Elizabeth in a 37-36 epic. A 40-14 victory at Freeport capped an 8-0 regular season.
As the top seed in Class C South, the Clippers had no problem with eighth-ranked Mountain Valley (50-15) in the quarterfinals or No. 4 Fryeburg Academy (54-12) in the semifinals. Last week, in the regional final, Yarmouth got a serious scare from No. 3 Wells, which took an early 14-0 lead, a deficit which was compounded by the loss of senior captain and standout Cody Cook to a knee injury. With Cook sidelined, the Clippers appeared on the ropes, but they rallied and won it late, 17-14, on Beatty’s 37 yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
An interesting sidebar to the state final was that Veilleux once played quarterback at Winslow for Mike Siviski, who remains the Black Raiders’ coach to this day.
Winslow and Yarmouth played just once before in the postseason, a 50-22 Black Raiders’ triumph in the 2012 quarterfinals.
This time around, the Clippers hung tough, but couldn’t make the plays they needed to win a third Gold Ball as Winslow managed to repeat.
The Black Raiders won the opening coin toss and in a rarity these days, elected to eschew deferring and take the ball and it paid off.
Yarmouth’s defense appeared to set the tone on the opening play when senior captain Jack Venden threw Bouchard for a two-yard loss, but on the next snap, Trask faked a handoff, then found a huge hole up the middle, exploited it and ran all the way down to the Clippers’ 3 before Leblanc brought him down from behind.
That saved a touchdown for all of one play, as Trask capped the three-play, 64-yard, 45-second march with a 3 yard TD run over right tackle to break the ice. Gagnon’s extra point made it 7-0 Winslow just 54 seconds in.
Things then went from bad to worse for Yarmouth on its first possession.
After senior Lucas Uhl ran for five yards, then was held to no gain, Thoma hit freshman Noah Eckersley-Ray for six yards and a first down, but on the next snap, senior standout Jack Snyder, who put the Clippers on his back and willed them to victory in the regional final, lost yardage and fumbled on the play and Black Raiders senior Luke Fredette recovered at the Yarmouth 49.
The Clippers defense bailed Snyder out and prevented Winslow from extending its lead.
After junior Nathan St. Amand moved the chains with an 11 yard run, Yarmouth senior Joey Fortin threw St. Amand for a six yard loss, but it was negated by an illegal block. On the next snap, senior Noah Colby-George threw St. Amand for a six yard loss and that play stood. Task then threw incomplete and St. Amand’s six yard run forced a punt.
With 7:54 to play in the first quarter, the Clippers got the ball at their 29 and nine plays, 54 yards and 2:55 later, they got on the board.
The drive started with a six yard run from Snyder. After Leblanc ran for four and Uhl picked up one, Thoma hit Snyder with a short pass and Snyder broke a tackle and rumbled all the way to the Black Raiders’ 37. On the next play, Uhl gained 12 more for a first down at the 25. The drive would stall, however, as Uhl ran for seven yards, but Snyder only gained one and Thoma threw incomplete, forcing Beatty to come on to try a 33 yard field goal, which was long enough and through the uprights to cut the deficit to 7-3 with 4:59 remaining in the period.
Winslow then embarked on its most impressive drive of the afternoon, as the Black Raiders marched 63 yards on 10 plays, chewing up 4:45.
The drive started with a pair of four yard runs by St. Amand and a three yard pickup by Bouchard to move the chains. After Bouchard picked up five more, Rickard broke free for 21 to the Yarmouth 26. After Bouchard ran for a yard, St. Amand gained a dozen to the 13. Rickard picked up four, Trask kept it for seven, setting up first-and-goal at the 2, and Rickard capped the march by forcing his way in with just 8.1 seconds to go in the quarter. Gagnon’s extra point extended the Winslow lead to 14-3.
The Clippers started their next possession at their 16 and on the final play of the quarter (which saw the Black Raiders enjoy a 130-59 yardage advantage), Uhl lost a yard.
On the first play of the second period, Snyder ran for two and on third-and-9, Leblanc was held to no gain, necessitating a punt.
Winslow got the ball back in good shape at its 47, but went three-and-out, as Trask ran for three yards, St. Amand picked up four and after an offensive pass interference penalty, Trask threw incomplete.
Yarmouth then started at its 43 and three plays later, was in the end zone.
After Leblanc had runs of three and four yards, on third-and-3, Thoma dropped back and launched a bomb down the far sideline for Leblanc, who got behind the secondary. Leblanc juggled the ball initially, then tucked it in and outran the pursuit to the end zone to complete a pretty 50 yard scoring pass. Beatty’s extra point with 8:17 remaining in the half pulled the Clippers within 14-10.
And that would be their highwater mark.
The Black Raiders looked to answer and drove into Yarmouth territory before being stymied.
After Clippers sophomore Henry Venden stopped St. Amand for no gain, Rickard ran for four yards and on third-and-6, St. Amand burst free for 35 yards and a first down at the Clippers’ 36. Runs of eight yards and four by Rickard moved the chains again. After St. Amand twice ran for a yard, he gained six, setting up fourth-and-2 from the 16, where Yarmouth senior captain Ricky Tillotson threw Trask for a two yard loss, giving the Clippers the ball back on downs at their 18 with 3:16 to go before halftime.
Yarmouth’s next drive began auspiciously, as Thoma hit Snyder for 15 yards and a facemask penalty on Winslow tacked on 15 more, but Uhl lost a yard on a reception, Colby-George caught a pass for two yards and while Snyder’s nice second effort led to a seven-yard gain to the Black Raiders’ 44, on fourth-and-2, Uhl was held to no gain and with just 51.4 seconds remaining, Winslow got the ball back.
And the Black Raiders did something with it.
After Winslow was backed up due to a holding penalty, Trask hit junior Dylan Hutchinson for 22 yards to the Yarmouth 41. After successive incompletions, Trask found Hutchinson for 19 more yards to the 22. Rickard picked up three yards on a rush and out of a timeout, Siviski sent Gagnon on for a 37 yard field goal attempt and as time expired in the half, Gagnon split the uprights to up the Black Raiders’ lead to 17-10.
In the first half, Winslow outgained Yarmouth, 211-156. The Black Raiders committed four penalties for 43 yards, or they might have led by more. St. Amand had 77 yards on 12 rushes, while Trask had 74 yards and a TD on five rushes and completed 2 of 6 passes for 41 yards.
The Clippers were led by Thoma, who completed 6 of 7 throws for 95 yards and a touchdown. Yarmouth had just one penalty and a turnover.
As the third quarter began, the Clippers were very much in the game and they drove for the tying score, but would fall just short.
After the kickoff went out of bounds, Yarmouth started at its 35 and after Uhl was held to no gain, Leblanc picked up four yards and Thoma connected with Snyder on a beautiful pass, good for 27 yards to the Winslow 34. After Thoma found Colby-George for nine more, a pass interference penalty on the Black Raiders gave the Clippers a first down at the 13. A false start penalty backed Yarmouth up five yards, but Snyder ran for three yards and after an incomplete pass, Thoma found Eckersley-Ray for 10 yards, setting up fourth-and-2 at the 5.
That brought about decision time for Veilleux, who could have taken the three points, but he decided to go for the tie and Snyder went back in the ‘Wildcat’ formation, took the snap and ran to the left, but before he could turn the corner, he was brought down by a pair of Winslow tacklers at the 7 and that ended Yarmouth’s best chance of the second half.
“I won’t sleep well after that, but we were trying to get points and momentum for our offense,” Veilleux said. “We went for it and wanted to see what happened. It wasn’t the best play call.”
The Clippers’ defense did its part, forcing a three-and-out, as Rickard gained three yards, St. Amand lost three and St. Amand gained eight on third-and-10, and after a punt and a Black Raiders’ personal foul, Yarmouth appeared set up nicely once more at the Winslow 40.
This time, the Clippers hurt themselves, as a 10 yard pass to Leblanc was negated by a tripping penalty, which backed Yarmouth up to its 45. On the next play, disaster struck as a failed pitch led to a fumble which was collected by Rickard at the Clippers’ 44.
Yarmouth’s defense again did its job, as Tillotson threw St. Amand for a five-yard loss, St. Amand ran for four and after St. Amand broke free for 16, he was stripped of the ball and Uhl recovered at the Clippers’ 22 with 5:03 to go in the third quarter.
As it turned out, the Black Raiders’ defense had the Clippers right where they wanted them.
After Thoma twice threw incomplete, he tried again to the right side on third down, but Bouchard made the interception at the 34 and rumbled down the left sideline, carrying a couple tacklers into the end zone to complete the pick-six and with 4:39 to play in the period, Gagnon’s extra point gave Winslow its biggest lead, 24-10.
Yarmouth’s frustration would only grow the rest of the way, as its defense gave it opportunities to rally, but the offense just couldn’t capitalize.
The Clippers started their next drive at their 26, but after Leblanc ran for six yards, he was thrown for a loss of two and Snyder only gained five on a reception on third-and-6. After a false start, Yarmouth had to punt and the Black Raiders got the ball back at the Clippers’ 41.
St. Amand gained two yards on first down, but Colby-George threw Trask for a six yard loss and on third-and-14, St. Amand only gained nine, forcing Winslow to punt.
With 21.6 seconds to go in the quarter, Yarmouth got the ball back at its 15.
This time, the Clippers started to move, as Leblanc caught a pass for 24 yards, then grabbed another for two, as the period came to an end.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Thoma connected with Colby-George for five yards, then on third-and-3, the tandem hooked up for six more yards and a first down at the Black Raiders’ 48. After throwing incomplete, Thoma found Leblanc for five yards and Colby-George for six more for a first down at the 37. After an incompletion, Thoma hit Snyder for eight yards, then for 12 and a first down at the 17, but Yarmouth couldn’t finish, as Thoma was sacked for an eight yard loss by senior Nate Beckwith and after Thoma hit Colby-George for 11 yards, he twice threw incomplete to give Winslow the ball back at its 14 with 9:11 to play.
A 14 yard run from St. Amand moved the chains, but Tillotson threw St. Amand for a two yard loss, senior Norman Carver dropped Trask for a three yard loss and on third-and-15, Trask only gained two yards and again, the Black Raiders had to punt.
With 6:55 to play and desperation setting in, the Clippers started at their 40 and after being backed up by a holding penalty, Snyder ran for 13 yards and Thoma’s pass was intercepted by Trask at the Winslow 30 with 6:03 remaining.
Again, Yarmouth forced a three-and-out, as St. Amand ran three times for five yards and with 4:13 to play in the game and the season, the Clippers got one final chance.
And ran just one play.
With Snyder again in the ‘Wildcat,’ he attempted a pass, which Trask intercepted at the Black Raiders’ 37.
Winslow took over with 4:05 left and this time, managed to pick up a couple first downs to run out the clock.
After Rickard picked up four yards and Trask ran for three, the quarterback kept the ball again and broke free for 26 yards (only a tackle from Uhl prevented a touchdown) for a first down at the Yarmouth 30. After St. Amand ran for three yards, Rickard ran for five, then Rickard picked up six for a first down at the 16.
All that was left was for the Black Raiders to run out the clock, but a poignant moment was in store first.
Cook, the standout athlete and young man, who suited up Saturday despite being on crutches, took the field to a rousing ovation as Winslow prepared to take a knee to run out the clock.
“That was just out of respect for (Cody),” said Veilleux. “It meant a lot to him to say he played in the game and the crowd appreciated it.”
The Black Raiders then made it official by running one more play (Trask took a knee) and at 5:02 p.m., Winslow had repeated as Class C champions, 24-10.
“Yarmouth did a fantastic job,” Siviski said. “Much respect to them. Our game plan was to keep the ball away from them and play smash-mouth. They throw the ball so well.”
The Black Raiders finished with 298 yards and overcame eight penalties for 87 yards and one turnover.
Trask wound up rushing for 94 yards and a touchdown on nine carries and completed 2 of 6 passes for 41 yards. Just as importantly, he intercepted two passes.
St. Amand rushed for 130 yards on 26 carries.
Rickard had 64 yards and a TD on 11 attempts.
Bouchard finished with 7 yards on four rushes and had the crucial interception return for a touchdown.
Hutchinson had both receptions, good 41 yards.
Yarmouth had 234 yards, but four penalties for 40 yards, three interceptions and two fumbles were far too much to overcome.
Thoma finished 19 for 29 for 225 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
“Old Town exposed their pass defense as a little bit suspect, so we wanted to take advantage of that,” Veilleux said. “We tried to run first to set up the pass, but without Cody, we didn’t have the same threat.”
Snyder was more or less held in check on the ground Saturday, gaining 18 yards on seven carries. He did catch six passes for 90 yards and threw an interception on his one pass attempt.
Uhl closed out his high school career with 12 yards on eight carries and one reception for a negative-1 yard.
Leblanc ran seven times for 19 yards and had four catches for 81 yards and the Clippers’ lone TD.
Colby-George finished with six catches for 39 yards.
Eckersley-Ray had two receptions for 16 yards.
Despite the sting of defeat, Yarmouth produced a memorable season.
“We restored pride in Yarmouth football,” Veilleux said. “We want to have good energy around town and get kids out for the team since numbers have been a problem. Winning states would have been nice. There were high expectations on the senior group since seventh grade. I’m not surprised we made it this far. We just had injuries and turnovers at bad times. That’s football.”
Fourteen seniors will graduate, including some of the team’s premier players, but the Clippers won’t be starting from scratch in 2016. Thoma is back under center. Eckersley-Ray and Leblanc will continue to play key roles and other kids will get their chance to shine.
“We’ll be a very young team next year in terms of our line,” Veilleux said. “Our skill positions will be experienced. We just need to find some new blood.”
Sun Journal staff writer Kalle Oakes contributed to this story
Yarmouth senior Noah Colby-George makes a reception.
Yarmouth freshman Noah Eckersley-Ray drives Winslow junior Nathan St. Amand backwards.
Yarmouth junior quarterback John Thoma throws a pass.
Yarmouth senior Jack Snyder finds some running room.
Yarmouth senior Joey Fortin tries to bring down Winslow junior Nathan St. Amand.
Yarmouth junior Remi Leblanc races up the field during a kick return.
Yarmouth senior captain Ricky Tillotson (52) congratulates sophomore Henry Venden after a big defensive play.
Yarmouth’s student section turned out in big numbers Saturday.
2012 Western C quarterfinal
Winslow 50 Yarmouth 22
2011 Class C
Yarmouth 41 Bucksport 14
2010 Class C
Yarmouth 34 Stearns 6
2014 Class C
Winslow 62 Leavitt 14
2013 Class C
Leavitt 47 Winslow 18
2012 Class C
Foxcroft Academy 22 Winslow 20
2006 Class B
Mountain Valley 24 Winslow 16
2004 Class B
Mountain Valley 21 Winslow 7
2001 Class B
Winslow 24 York 17
2000 Class B
Winslow 29 York 7
1993 Class B
Winslow 55 Wells 0
1992 Class B
Winslow 14 Wells 6
1986 Class B
Winslow 29 Lawrence 6
1984 Class B
Lawrence 21 Winslow 7
1982 Class B
Winslow 18 Mt. Blue 0
1981 Class B
Gardiner 12 Winslow 7
1979 Class B
Gardiner 14 Winslow 6