GRAY — One play.

The way the Cape Elizabeth and Gray-New Gloucester football teams were pounding each other Friday night, you knew one play would make the difference.

And Ben Ekedahl delivered it to keep the Capers undefeated.

Ekedahl, a junior defensive back and wide receiver, intercepted a pass and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown with 9:33 remaining to lift Cape Elizabeth to a 7-0 victory over the Patriots in a pivotal Class C South game.

“Big-time players make big-time plays,” said Aaron Filieo, the Capers’ head coach. “And we needed it and he made it when it counted. He actually got fooled on it, but he had great makeup speed and a great bead on the ball to grab it.”

The victory kept top-ranked Cape Elizabeth unbeaten at 6-0. The Patriots, ranked third coming in, dropped to 4-2.

“This was a great test for us,” said Mark Renna, the Patriots’ coach, of Cape Elizabeth. “This was a great game for us. It was a fun high school game.”

Defenses dominated this game. Cape Elizabeth’s defensive front, led by 6-foot-3, 250-pound sophomore Luc Houle, took away the Patriots’ power inside game and forced them to look elsewhere.

Gray-New Gloucester, meanwhile, was paced by defensive back Justice Bowie, who knocked down at least three passes in the first half and a couple more in the second.

So it wasn’t surprising that a defensive play won it.

Gray-New Gloucester faced a third-and-2 at the Cape 40 when Bowie, also the quarterback, rolled right on a play-action pass. Ekedahl stepped in front of his pass at the 40 and took off with no one in front of him.

“It was right to me and I was gone,” said Ekedahl. “I saw the quarterback coming at me but Justin Guerrette had a great block.”

Ekedahl also kicked the PAT that made it 7-0.

That was the second huge defensive play made by the Capers. Gray-New Gloucester had taken the third-quarter kickoff and methodically moved downfield, getting a first-and-goal at the 4 when Bowie passed 20 yards to Zack Haskell. Three running plays later, it was fourth down at the 1.

Bowie tried to sneak it in, but the officials marked the ball about an inch or two shy of the goal line.

“The focus this week was on defense, and I thought our guys stepped up and played really well,” said Filieo. “We’ve just been a little flat on defense lately. We didn’t do anything different. It was just more of an attitude that we wanted to find our identity on the defensive side and get a little bit of pride back. I think the guys were just fired up and played hard.”

Renna said he couldn’t tell if Bowie got in but added, “We didn’t get the push. We didn’t do our job but I am very proud of our kids.”

The Patriots had one more opportunity, getting the ball at their 8 with 3:57 left. Facing a fourth-and-3 at the 15, they got the first down on a 16-yard halfback pass from Haskell to Tristan Herod. But Henry Shroder sacked Bowie for an 11-yard loss on third down and the Patriots’ last gasp was extinguished.

“It was just a dogfight,” said Ekedahl. “Both teams played really well, both had some mistakes they made. But I think defense was really the game changer.”

He should know. He changed the game.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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