The scoreboard tells the story as Cape Elizabeth’s coaches and players celebrate Friday’s 14-13 home win over Fryeburg Academy. Hoffer photos. More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Cape Elizabeth 14 Fryeburg Academy 13

FA- 0 0 7 6- 13
CE- 7 0 0 7- 14

First quarter
CE- M. Laughlin 17 pass from Stewart (Smith kick)

Second quarter
No scoring

Third quarter
FA- Southwick 1 run (Thurston kick)

Fourth quarter
FA- McKenney 26 pass from Southwick (kick blocked)
CE- McKean 72 pass from Stewart (Smith kick)

CAPE ELIZABETH—Playing short-handed and coming off a loss, Cape Elizabeth’s football team was in dire need of some good fortune when it hosted Fryeburg Academy in a pivotal early-season Class C South contest Friday evening at Hannaford Field.

And good fortune is exactly what ensued.

With a big side of resilience and heart.

The Capers made it look easy early, driving 68 yards in seven plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 17-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Gannon Stewart to senior Matt Laughlin just three minutes in, but despite good field position, the hosts weren’t able to add to their lead, as twice when they were threatening to score again, they fumbled the ball away.

The Raiders didn’t gain a yard in the first half, but finally got their offense going in the second half and with 33 seconds left in the frame, a 1-yard TD run from senior quarterback Calvin Southwick tied the contest.

Cape Elizabeth then fumbled the ball away again and Fryeburg Academy took advantage, as Southwick hit junior Isaak McKenney for a 26-yard touchdown pass and while the Raiders had the extra point blocked, they were up, 13-7.

After the teams traded punts, the Capers got the ball back for what figured to be a final chance and that’s when they were kissed by lady luck.

Stewart mishandled a high snap, but kept with it, rolled out, then spotted senior Ryan McKean wide open downfield and McKean caught the ensuing pass and completed an improbable 72-yard scoring play with 4:10 on the clock. Sophomore Colin Smith added the PAT and Cape Elizabeth was on top.

Fryeburg Academy had one final chance and drove as far as the Capers’ 11, but Cape Elizabeth wasn’t about to give it away, as junior Noah Pillsbury clinched it with an interception wit 1:26 to go and the Capers held on for the dramatic 14-13 victory.

Cape Elizabeth improved to 2-1 on the year and in the process, dropped the Raiders to 1-2.

“It’s a huge win,” said Capers’ first-year coach Sean Green. “The number one thing we stressed this week was resiliency in the face of adversity. We’re a really banged-up, young football team, but we had intensity and we had purpose and that’s all I can ask for from the kids.”

Down to the wire

Cape Elizabeth got Green’s coaching tenure off to a great start with a 24-6 home win over Mountain Valley, but last weekend, the Capers had no answers for host York in a 42-12 setback.

Along the way, Cape Elizabeth lost junior receiver Will Thornton for the year with an injury and lost sophomore running back Colin Campbell indefinitely with an injury as well.

Fryeburg Academy, meanwhile, held off host Lisbon, 14-6, in its first game, then lost last week, 20-14, at home to highly touted Leavitt.

Cape Elizabeth won the first dozen meetings between the schools, but last year, Fryeburg Academy won, 27-7, at Hannaford Field.

Friday, on a very pleasant evening (67 degrees at kickoff), the Capers appeared en route to a decisive win, but they allowed the Raiders to stay in it before saving their best for last.

Fryeburg Academy won the opening coin toss, but deferred possession to the second half.

Cape Elizabeth then quickly marched for the opening score, needing less than three minutes to find paydirt.

Starting at their 32, the Capers kept the ball in Stewart’s hands on first down and the quarterback picked up six yards before freshman Nick Laughlin moved the chains with a five-yard rush. Matt Laughlin then first made his presence felt, getting open deep, then hauling in a Stewart pass with one hand for a 38-yard pickup to the Raiders’ 19. After Nick Laughlin ran for four yards and Stewart was held to no gain, McKean rushed for three yards, setting up fourth-and-3 from the 12. Cape Elizabeth then moved before the snap, making it fourth-and-8, but Matt Laughlin saved the day again, catching Stewart’s pass in the back left corner of the end zone for a 17-yard score. Smith added the extra point and the Capers had a 7-0 advantage.

Fryeburg Academy started its first drive at its 20, but went three-and-out, as Southwick sandwiched incomplete passes around a rush by sophomore Job Fox for no gain. Matt Laughlin returned the ensuing punt to Cape Elizabeth’s 49 and the Capers appeared in business, but on the first play, Stewart was intercepted by Southwick at the Cape Elizabeth 43.

The Capers’ defense then came up huge.

After the Raiders moved early for a five-yard penalty, junior Bryce Micklon broke free for 25 yards to the 23, but Cape Elizabeth senior Hajan Carr dropped Southwick for a three-yard loss and Southwick lost another yard. On third-and-14, however, Southwick found senior Dawson Jones for 14 yards and a first down at the 13, but a holding penalty backed Fryeburg Academy up and Southwick was sacked by junior Patrick O’Brien on the next play and fumbled with senior Lukas Stephen recovering for the hosts at their 41.

The Capers then marched for what appeared would be another score, before they were done in by an untimely turnover.

After Stewart threw incomplete, Nick Laughlin ran for two yards and on third-and-8, Stewart connected with junior Andrew Conley for 12 yards and a first down at the Raiders’ 45.

Cape Elizabeth junior Andrew Conley looks for running room as Fryeburg Academy junior Isaak McKenney looks to make the tackle during the first quarter.

After Matt Laughlin pushed the pile for nine yards, Nick Laughlin gained 11 more to move the chains to the 25. Stewart threw incomplete and a holding penalty set up second-and-22, but Matt Laughlin ran for 12 yards and Nick Laughlin gained 13 for a first down at the 12. After Nick Laughlin lost a yard, Stewart hit Matt Laughlin on a quick slant for 10 yards to the 3, but after Matt Laughlin was stuffed for no gain, a bad snap on fourth down resulted in a fumble which Fryeburg Academy senior Jack Campbell recovered at the 10.

The Raiders looked to drive as the first quarter ended, as Southwick scrambled for 15 yards, then ran for three. As the second period began, McKenney ran for a yard, then took a Southwick pass for nine yards and a first down at the 38. Micklon then gained four, but after a holding penalty backed the Raiders up, Southwick was intercepted by Matt Laughlin, who returned the ball to the Fryeburg Academy 36.

Again, the Capers had a chance to extend the lead, but failed to do so.

Stewart ran for a yard, then Matt Laughlin picked up two and on third-and-7, Stewart hit Matt Laughlin for 18 yards and a first down at the 15. After Nick Laughlin gained six yards, Stewart picked up two and McKean ran for five, setting up first-and-goal at the 2. A touchdown didn’t ensue, however, as after another bad snap, Raiders’ junior Eli Mahan recovered the ball at the Fryeburg Academy 6.

Fox ran for seven yards and Southwick gained two more, but a holding penalty followed by another O’Brien sack forced a punt and with 3:07 left in the half, Cape Elizabeth started at its 38.

After an incomplete pass, Nick Laughlin gained 19 yards for a first down at the Raiders’ 43, but after a holding penalty, Stewart ran for a yard, Matt Laughlin caught a pass for 16, Stewart ran for two and on fourth-and-2, Nick Laughlin was dropped for a one-yard loss, giving Fryeburg Academy the ball on downs at its 36.

Southwick was dropped for a two-yard loss and that was it for the first half, as the Capers took a 7-0 lead to the break.

In the first 24 minutes, Cape Elizabeth had a 173-0 advantage in yardage, but four penalties for 59 yards and three turnovers prevented it from having a healthier lead.

“It was very frustrating, but the most important thing was staying resilient,” Green said. “We can’t leave points like that on the board. (Fryeburg’s) physical and well-coached, but we had to finish better.”

Intensity

The Raiders got the ball at their 32 to start the second half, but again went nowhere, as a one-yard Southwick run was negated by a one-yard loss by Fox and on third down, Southwick threw incomplete.

The Capers then got their first possession of the second half and they again would drive into Fryeburg Academy before stalling.

Starting from the 32, Stewart ran for two yards, then he hit Matt Laughlin for 17 more and a first down at the Raiders’ 49. McKean lost four yards, but Stewart found Matt Laughlin for three yards and hit Conley for 10 more, but on fourth-and-1, Matt Laughlin was dropped for a loss, giving Fryeburg Academy the ball back at its 41 with 6:42 left in the third.

And that finally awakened the Raiders’ offense, which marched 59 yards in 10 plays and 6 minutes, 9 seconds to draw even.

The drive started with Southwick hitting Micklon over the middle for 22 yards and a first down at the Capers’ 37. Southwick ran for three yards, then Micklon gained nine more to move the chains to the 25. After Micklon was held to no gain, Southwick hit junior Gabe Rogers for eight yards and Micklon spun to gain four yards for a first down at the 13. Southwick was dropped for a one-yard loss, but a late hit penalty gave Fryeburg Academy a first and goal at the 7. After Southwick ran for two yards, then for four to the 1, the quarterback kept the ball again and bulled in to his right for a 1-yard TD with 33 seconds left in the quarter. Junior Eddie Thurston added the PAT and the game was even, 7-7.

“Credit to Fryeburg,” Green said. “They have three good backs in the backfield and they’re beefy up front. They’ve got a great tight end. They want to pound it and own the clock.”

Cape Elizabeth got the ball back at its 36, but on the final play of the period, Micklon sacked Stewart for a one-yard loss. The first play of the final stanza was even worse for the hosts, as a fumbled pitch was recovered by Raiders senior Charlie Stokes at the Capers’ 30.

Three plays later, Fryeburg Academy had the lead.

After Southwick ran for four yards, then was held to no gain, he fired a pass to McKenney behind the defense and McKenney completed the 26-yard score with 10:31 to go. Thurston’s extra point was blocked, but the Raiders were on top, 13-7.

Cape Elizabeth started at its 40 after a nice kickoff return from Matt Laughlin, but Micklon dropped Laughlin for a four-yard loss and after a holding penalty, Nick Laughlin caught a pass for a yard and Stewart threw incomplete, necessitating a punt.

Fryeburg Academy got great field position when a facemask penalty was called on the ensuing punt return, which put the ball at the Capers’ 41, but Cape Elizabeth’s defense didn’t allow the Raiders to make it a two-score game.

After Southwick threw incomplete, Micklin ran for four yards and Jones made a nice sliding catch at the marker for a first down at the 31. Micklon ran for a yard and Southwick picked up four more (he was shaken up on the play), but Micklon lost two yards and on fourth down, backup quarterback, sophomore Bobby Hallam, threw incomplete, giving the Capers the ball at their 28 with just 4:24 remaining.

It would take just 14 seconds for Cape Elizabeth to rediscover the end zone.

With Stewart in the shotgun, the snap was high and the quarterback momentarily bobbled the ball. The play was thrown out of rhythm, but Stewart stayed with it, rolling to his right, then spotting a wide open McKean behind the defense. McKean caught the ball at the Fryeburg Academy 40, then outraced Jones and McKenney to the pylon to complete the breathtaking 72-yard scoring play.

“I just went and he scrambled and I was open,” McKean said. “I was hoping he’d see me. I caught it and ran as fast as I can.”

“Sometimes, playmakers just make plays,” Green said. “Believe it or not, that was a run call. Credit to (Gannon and Ryan). It was a perfect ball, a dart. It’s (Gannon’s) third game as a quarterback, his first year in a spread (offense) system. Every day he gets better and he makes plays like that. His football IQ is right up there.”

That set the stage for the all-important extra point, which Smith drilled through the uprights for a 14-13 Capers’ lead with 4:10 remaining.

The Raiders would get one final possession and nearly answered.

Fryeburg Academy started at its 35 after the kickoff went out of bounds and after Southwick returned and threw incomplete, he found Jones for five yards. Then, on third-and-5, Southwick threw a ball up for grabs down the middle and McKenney came up with it, then broke multiple tackles before finally being brought down at the Cape Elizabeth 13.

Things looked dire for the Capers, but after Micklon was held to a two-yard run, Carr and Stewart brought Southwick down for a four-yard loss, then on third-and-12 from the 15, Southwick threw over the middle, but was picked off by Pillsbury, who brought the ball back all the way to the Cape Elizabeth 44.

Cape Elizabeth’s sideline erupts following junior Noah Pillsbury’s game-clinching interception.

“Coach told me to spy the QB and luckily, I did my job and the ball came right to me,” Pillsbury said. “I just wanted to get out of bounds so we could get in a victory stance. It’s all about mental toughness. Every play is in the past and we have to keep going.”

“Every play, we keep going on defense,” McKean said. “I was crying when he got that interception.”

“They got us backed up to our goal line, but we played our robber coverage and Noah peeled back and got it,” Green added.

With 1:26 to go, Cape Elizabeth only had to snap the ball three times and have Stewart take a knee and with the Raiders holding only one timeout, the Capers were able to milk the clock all the way to zero and celebrate their hard-fought 14-13 triumph.

“We needed this one,” said McKean. “All week, we were focused on doing the best we could every play. We never give up. It shows how mentally tough we are.”

“We knew we should have come out stronger,” Pillsbury said. “We have to get better at stomping on teams early. This is a great way to get our energy going and get the team back up. It’s good for the fans and the town.”

Stewart wound up completing 11-of-14 passes, good for 214 yards and a pair of touchdowns, with one interception.

Matt Laughlin caught eight passes for 120 yards and a score.

McKean had just one reception for 72 yards and a TD.

Conley had two receptions for 22 yards.

Nick Laghlin gained 58 yards on nine carries.

The Capers had 236 yards, but were hindered by three turnovers and six penalties for 78 yards.

Fryeburg Academy was paced by Southwick, who completed 8-of-14 passes for 140 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran 15 times for 25 yards and a score.

McKenney had three catches for 82 yards and a TD.

Micklon ran nine times for 47 yards.

The Raiders had two turnovers and were penalized five times for 52 yards.

Midway point

Fryeburg Academy looks to even its record next Saturday when it hosts 2-0 Freeport.

Cape Elizabeth has its hands full next Friday when it goes to one of the state’s elite powers, three-time defending champion Wells (3-0). Last year, in Wells, the Capers lost, 40-14, to the Warriors.

“We’ll take it week by week and do our job next week,” McKean said.

“We have a team where the sky is the limit potential-wise,” Green said. “The Cape community is phenomenal. The boosters are great. (Athletic director) Jeff Thoreck is unbelievable. (Former) Coach (Aaron) Filieo did a phenomenal job. I’m not here to replace him. I’m here to be Coach Green. These kids have played in a wing-T system, but they’re taking this and running with it.

“It’s about us and we need to build on this. I think we match up well (with Wells). They’re physical up front, but it’s about us playing our game. We need to do that and go from there.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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