After Austin Chase’s first – of four – running TDs against Freeport on Friday night, Sept. 18, the Patriots ran away with the game. Zack Haskell added a fifth score for Gray-New Gloucester in the final quarter as the team topped the visiting Falcons 36-0.

“Zack and Chase, it’s a pretty good combo,” said Gray-New Gloucester head coach Mark Renna. “We told Chase, ‘We’re going to run you till your legs fall off.’ They haven’t fallen off yet.”

G-NG advances to 3-0 on the victory – a record that has fired up the entire school. Prior to the No. 2 Patriots’ first win this season, they’d lost 23 straight games. The squad’s breakout W was a 44-37 triumph at Mountain Valley (presently No. 6, at 1-2) in Week 1; they followed it up with a 22-20 win at Fryeburg (No. 7, also 1-2) the following Friday.

“It feels great,” said Chase. “It sucks being on the losing side every single time, but now that we got the win at Mountain Valley…we’re on cloud nine.”

Freeport is still looking for their first win of the season. The Falcons fell to Poland 49-12 in Week 1, then 63-6 to Wells in Week 2.

G-NG’s opening drive didn’t end as prettily as many of their later drives would: Chase fumbled on a carry, and Falcon Cody Vachon recovered. But Freeport went three-and-out, and Patriot Connor Deschenes blocked the punt, giving his team possession at the Falcons’ 26. Five runs later, Chase pushed across the goal line to make it 6-0. G-NG’s two-point conversion attempt fell flat, however.

Freeport struggled on their next series as well, and were forced to punt again. Haskell opened G-NG’s push with a long run – a spectacular 27-yarder that saw him dodging and shucking tacklers – to the Falcons’ 28. From there, Chase led once more, assembling a battery of short runs into another TD. QB Justice Bowie ran right and converted on the two-point attempt for 14-0.

Chase added his third touchdown late in the second, bumping the Patriots’ advantage to 20-0, and his fourth – his biggest of the night, a 45-yard breakaway up the middle – late in the third. Another two-point conversion gave G-NG a 28-0 lead.

Despite turning some beautiful plays – particularly in their passing game – and coming within striking distance of the end zone more than once, Freeport could never convert. Eli Fox showed his stuff at QB, connecting with receiver Brady LaFrance for a number of long plays, including a 17-yarder, a 31-yarder and a 23-yarder in the first half alone.

“When you look at our offense, our passing game is really coming along,” said Freeport head coach Paul St. Pierre. “Eli’s really starting to step up. His prior quarterback experience is mostly just handing off, and one or two passes a game. So the fact that we’re putting the team on his shoulders and he’s driving us down is great.

“Problem is,” St. Pierre added, “if we don’t punch ’em in, the field gets shorter, and some of those deep pass routes aren’t there. We’ve just got to get more push from our offensive line, especially deep, around the five-yard line; we run up the middle and they hit us for a loss, and we have to go back to the passing game to cue in on it.”

The Patriots picked up two quick points on a safety in the early fourth – Fox drew a flag for intentional grounding – before Haskell notched their biggest, baddest score of the night, immediately returning the free kick for 55 yards and yet another touchdown and the 36-0 final.

Obviously the two teams employed noticeably different offensive styles, each outfit playing to its strengths. G-NG relied heavily on their running game – and with Chase and Haskell to carry the ball, why wouldn’t they? – while Freeport incorporated more throwing into their attack.

When it came to throwing, Bowie erred on the side of caution, wisely risking only a handful of quick, short passes.

“Eighty percent of this league is running,” said Renna. “Bad things happen when you throw the ball: timing’s off, tipped ball, kid doesn’t catch it, he drops it. It’s safer to run the ball.

“Plus we have – four to five linemen are seniors. We told them, ‘We’re going to go as far as you take us. And we’re putting it to them.”

“We know we’re a running team,” said Chase, “so we push our linemen very hard, and they do a great job. I was completely open for my 30-yard touchdown, and I came back and was like, ‘That was a hell of a block, guys.’ The line did perfect.”

Freeport, on the other hand, has a QB in Fox who appears to have come into his own. His passing at G-NG was impressively on target; even his misfires were close to where they needed to be. He even threw well when under pressure on the run. At the other end of his passes, LaFrance frequently eluded coverage to get open.

Of course, neither Fox’s throws nor LaFrance’s catches earned the Falcons a W, or even a TD, but they’re still major strengths for a team that’s struggling in a number of areas, which St. Pierre knows well.

“He’s never been asked to do this,” St. Pierre said of Fox. “I stepped in this year and said, ‘It’s time to start throwing the ball. You’re a quarterback. We don’t really have the team to run a real power offense. The running game is not our strength. So we’ve got to rely a lot on our speed and athleticism.”

The Falcons’ creative play-calling, by the way, could also be an asset to them in the future. The squad rolled a couple unusual formations onto the field Friday night, and even tried a bit of a trick play, in which Fox jetted up the left side as a receiver while teammate Josh Burke dropped back to launch the ball Fox’s way. The connection didn’t happen, but it didn’t miss by much either, and if it had worked out, the Falcons would’ve picked up huge yardage.

Similarly, if Freeport can regain its injured players – the team’s roster is extremely short, and the boys who’re missing are among their most talented – they might start to see more success.

“We took a huge loss in the first quarter, losing TJ Morrill,” St. Pierre said, by way of an example. “He just joined this week, but he’s one of the best athletes in the Freeport area. He played Monday in a JV game, his first-ever football game, and had three touchdowns. He was all over the place.” Morrill checked out in the first quarter with a potential rib injury.”

St. Pierre was proud of his boys for never giving up against the Patriots, despite suffering setbacks. “This is a team that, last week, probably would’ve been down 43, 50 to nothing at halftime, the kids would’ve quit – but they stayed in it [tonight.] If we could’ve just punched in a few of those touchdowns, it’s a whole different game.

“At the end of the day, that seems to be the story every week: If we just could’ve got that one touchdown in. And I have hope that we will.”

The Patriots are riding high on a wave of good vibes following their recent string of victories, but their toughest challenges are undoubtedly still ahead of them. The team, fully aware of that fact, have no intentions of relinquishing their momentum or their morale.

“We’re not slowing down at all,” said Chase.

G-NG drops in on Spruce Mountain in Week 4, on Sept. 25, before hosting Cape Elizabeth in Week 6 and traveling to Wells the next week.

“We’re going to get the kids fired up, get them working hard,” said Renna. “We looked pretty good sometimes tonight, sometimes we didn’t. We’ve got to clean that up and see what happens next week.

“The seniors are really dedicated this year. We had a really good turnout in the summer – a lot of hard work. That’s basically our success, hard work. It’s paying off now.

“Last year, it was hard to instill in them that if they worked hard, it would pay off, because we were on the other side – we were the 0-36 last year.

“Like I said, extremely close senior class. They’re doing everything for each other. Family’s our motto, and they’re taking it to the next level…It’s just a lot of fun to watch these guys.”

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Patriot Austin Chase – seen here dragging unwilling Freeporter Cody Vachon – earned four rush TDs in Gray-New Gloucester’s 36-0 blasting of the Falcons on Friday night.Justice Bowie quarterbacked ably for the Patriots all night against the Falcons on Friday. Bowie had superb running options in Austin Chase and Zack Haskell, but also turned a few nice rushes of his own.Max Doughty carries the ball for Freeport at Gray-New Gloucester on Friday.The Patriots’ Brandon Ruminksi throws a block up against Freeporter Josh Burke.Freeport’s Brady LaFrance completely escapes a diving Patriots’ tackler on one of his numerous pretty receptions for the Falcons.Gray-New Gloucester’s Kyle Keenan tangles with Freeport’s Cody Vachon on the outside, just after a snap.Zack Haskell carried the Patriots’ longest TD of the night on Friday, a 55-yard free-kick return.Gray-New Gloucester’s Eric Gilbert fights for still more yardage after Freeport defender Craig Richards wraps him around the waist.


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