YARMOUTH – Early in the third quarter of Saturday’s Western Maine Class C football final, Yarmouth safety Tommy O’Toole made a leaping interception near his goal line.

On fourth down.

intercepting the pass instead of simply knocking it down, O’Toole cost his team 23 yards of field position.

“We know we’re going to make mistakes against such a good team,” O’Toole said after a 14-12 come-from-behind victory over Lisbon, “but what we’ve got to do is just keep our heads high and forget about it and play hard every play.”

O’Toole and his teammates know most attention will be on a high-powered Clippers offense that averaged more than 44 points per game this season. When attention does fall upon a defense, it usually does so because of a breakdown leading to an opponent’s touchdown.

Mistakes of aggression, such as the one O’Toole made against Lisbon, are a lot easier for coaches to accept.

“We’re still learning,” said Coach Jim Hartman, whose program didn’t exist seven years ago, attained varsity status three years ago and this Saturday will play in its first state championship game, against Eastern champion Stearns of Millinocket. “We’re still growing as a program. We’ve got to learn to play in these games better.”

The Class C final is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., the last of a high school tripleheader at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. Both teams are 11-0. Stearns has allowed 28 points in three playoff games; Yarmouth has allowed 25.

In order to add a gold-plated football to a trophy case that includes seven soccer balls, 25 skiing statuettes, five for field hockey, four for cross country and seven for hockey, the Clippers will have to come up big on defense and keep their mistakes to a minimum.

“It’s a great offense,” Yarmouth middle linebacker Nick Proscia said of the Stearns’ attack. “It’s traditional. It doesn’t have much trickery. So we know what’s coming, we just have to step it up.”

Proscia and Jon Held are at the heart of Yarmouth’s defense, flanked by outside linebackers Nate Pingitore and Carter Dorsett. O’Toole and Dennis Erving play safety, with Anders Overhaug and Asa Arden at cornerback.

Up front, the Clippers rotate four linemen — Billy Clabby, Jack Watterson, Ben Weinrich and Tommy Lord — through three positions.

A broken foot prevented Dorsett from playing in the regional final, so Eric Deerwester filled in at outside linebacker without missing a beat. The emergence of sophomore Nik Pelletier at middle linebacker allows Yarmouth to move Held to the defensive line on occasion.

“It’s a pretty aggressive group,” Hartman said. “They like to hit. They like to tackle.”

A year ago, Clabby was a 160-pound cornerback. Now he’s 180 and a nose guard.

“What the coaches want me in there for is speed,” Clabby said. “If I get the jump off the ball, I can usually put some pressure on the quarterback, and there’s nothing better in my opinion than sacking the quarterback.”

Hartman gives credit for Yarmouth’s defensive success this season not only to a staff led by defensive coordinator Tom LaChance but also to Jack Cosgrove’s staff at the University of Maine. Hartman brought a contingent to Maine’s spring football practices, where a thorny run-support problem in the Clippers’ secondary got solved “in about two seconds,” Hartman said, thanks to a suggestion from one of Cosgrove’s assistants.

“Jack’s staff is wonderful,” Hartman said. “Hopefully, someday we’ll send some athletes up there.”

A year ago as the seventh-seeded upstarts, the Clippers came up a touchdown short in the regional final against Dirigo. Proscia, who also filled in at place-kicker last week and delivered the decisive point-after kicks against Lisbon, remembers buying a ticket to the championship game and watching from the Fitzpatrick stands as Dirigo beat Foxcroft Academy.

“The atmosphere is crazy,” he said. “It’s going to be a great experience. I can’t wait.” 

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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