November 12, 2012

High School Notebook: Fourth-down gamble didn't work out for Cheverus

From staff reports

Late in the Western Class A football championship game Saturday, Cheverus Coach John Wolfgram had to make a critical decision, with his team trailing 14-13 and facing fourth-and-8 on its 19.

FOOTBALL STATE FINALS

Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium

(times TBA)

CLASS A: Thornton Academy (10-1) vs. Lawrence (11-0)

CLASS B: Marshwood (10-1) vs. Mt. Blue (11-0)

CLASS C: Foxcroft Academy (10-1) vs. Winslow (10-1)

Rather than punt the ball away with four and a half minutes left, the Stags went for the first down but were stopped. Wolfgram explained afterward that he felt if his team had punted, it wouldn't have gotten the ball back because it was having a hard time stopping Thornton Academy.

"It was fourth-and-8 and I felt we could get the first down," said Wolfgram. "If it had been fourth-and-15, we would have punted."

Cheverus quarterback Liam Fitzpatrick dropped back to pass but immediately was pressured and had to run out of the pocket. He was tackled at the 20. Thornton took possession, and Andrew Libby scored on the next play to make it 20-13, which turned out to be the final score.

Fitzpatrick was under pressure throughout the game, especially in the fourth quarter when Cheverus was forced into passing situations.

"It's a lot easier when you know they have to pass," Thornton Coach Kevin Kezal said of his defense's intensity.

AFTER LIBBY'S touchdown, Thornton called a timeout to decide if it wanted to kick the extra point or go for a 2-point conversion, which would have given the Trojans a nine-point lead. The point after was almost guaranteed because kicker Brandon Briggs has been nearly automatic this season. Thornton elected to try for the 2-point conversion, however, but was stopped just shy of the goal line.

"We had a good play we thought would work," said Kezal. "We wanted to win the game right there. Cheverus made a good play."

RANDY SMALL, the York football coach, was visibly upset after the Western Class B championship game Saturday against Marshwood. York lost 21-20 in a contest that could have gone either way.

Small composed himself later and reflected on the Wildcats' 8-3 season.

"Phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal," he said, when asked to describe the season. "The senior class, from last December working out at 5 a.m. in the morning to being able to play on a day like this in front of this crowd, it's something you dream about.

"Absolutely phenomenal season."

Asked how long it takes to get over a loss like this, he said, "A year. We've got eight guys coming back on both sides of the ball. You just feel for the seniors."

MARSHWOOD IS BACK in a state championship game for the first time since 1989, when the Hawks won the Class A title in their first year in that division.

Coach Alex Rotsko said his team may have overachieved a bit in his first season as its head coach.

"Yeah, we won some close games," he said. "That's what happens when you have a successful season, you win those close games."

ONE OF THE REASONS why it'll be Marshwood (10-1) rather than York playing against Mt. Blue (11-0) for the state championship was York's inability to contain Marshwood quarterback Cameron Roll on his rollouts. He finished with 105 yards rushing, with 66 coming the first three times he touched the ball.

Roll ran 21 yards for a touchdown on his first carry, on third-and-5. Then he picked up 25 yards on third-and-11 and 20 yards on third-and-10 on Marshwood's next possession.

He later added a 21-yard run on second-and-10. And he scored Marshwood's go-ahead touchdown on a 12-yard run.

"It's been a good play for us all year," said Rotsko. "You've got to be able to establish the run, the inside run game, at least a little bit, which I think we did a decent job inside."

FRYEBURG ACADEMY Coach Bill Reilly told Silas Eastman to watch the movie "Chariots of Fire" on the eve of the New England high school cross country championships. Reilly could only laugh about it afterward.

In the movie about two British runners, one of them, Eric Liddell, falls in a 400-meter race, gets up and still passes a runner at the end.

In Saturday's race at Twin Brook Recreation Area in Cumberland, Eastman fell down in the final stretch, then got up and passed two runners to finish third.

"What is that, life imitating art?" Reilly joked.

But Reilly turned serious when discussing Eastman, a senior, and one of the best runners and cross-country skiers in Maine.

"A once-in-a-lifetime athlete," Reilly said. "An absolute pleasure. Not only in his running, but in his school life, how he handles himself with his teammates. He's the whole package."

-- Staff Writers Tom Chard, Mike Lowe and Kevin Thomas contributed to this report.

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