Cape Elizabeth’s Matt Laughlin, shown during a kick return last fall against Leavitt, played a critical role in the Capers’ upset bid at Wells on Friday night. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Cape Elizabeth didn’t snap Wells’ winning streak on Friday night, but its performance in a 34-33 loss was still impressive. Wells needed to knock down a pass on a two-point conversion with 20 seconds remaining to secure its 32nd straight win.

“Every week you go in to win, right, regardless of the situation. The goal is to win the game and we came up short of the goal,” said Cape’s first-year coach, Sean Green. “With that said, we have a really young team and we feel that this game gave us some confidence.”

Like so many other teams that have played Wells over the past three years, the Capers had difficulty stopping the run. Payton MacKay scored four touchdowns on runs of 54, 51, 42 and 12 yards, including the go-ahead score with a little over nine minutes to play and his 51-yarder to give Wells a 34-27 lead with 2:23 to play.

But Cape Elizabeth (2-2), which led at the half and after three quarters, was able to counter with its own big plays, notably from the Laughlin brothers. Senior Matt Laughlin had over 150 yards receiving, intercepted a pass for the fourth straight game, and scored on a 65-yard punt return. Freshman Nick Laughlin had two touchdown catches and a 90-yard kick return score.

“Matt Laughlin is one of the best weapons in the state in my opinion,” Green said. “But the key was spreading out our offense a little.”

Green credited junior quarterback Gannon Stewart for his role in getting the ball to various playmakers. Cape also benefited from the return of sophomore running back/safety Colin Campbell who had missed the last two games with injury.

The Capers, fifth in the Class C South Crabtree points, play another unbeaten team on Friday when it hosts fourth-place Freeport (3-0). The Falcons are coming off a 14-7 win at Fryeburg Academy on Saturday.

“They have a lot of team speed, a lot of speed on defense especially,” Green said of Freeport. “That’s the biggest thing. They’re fast, well-coached and they’re aggressive. You can see it. They aren’t waiting around for you.”

Freeport won the Class E championship last season and returned to Class C. The Falcons had a scheduled bye in Week 2 and will also be idle in Week 6 because Dirigo cancelled its varsity schedule (Freeport will get a forfeit win).

“It doesn’t help us but there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Freeport Coach Paul St. Pierre. “But we really haven’t looked past Friday night.”

Quarterback Anthony Panciocco (two TD runs against Fryeburg) leads a multi-dimensional offense that includes returning backs Adam Ulrickson and Caden Benedict. Joe Coleman, a junior tight end, “has been doing a great job for us,” in his first season of football, St. Pierre said.

While many players play on both sides of the ball, Freeport has established enough depth to allow two of its key players to focus on defense. Miles Panenka has shined at inside linebacker and 315-pound nose tackle Treyvon Murhammer “has been phenomenal,” St. Pierre said.

WELLS HAS A challenging second-half schedule. The Warriors are on the road the next two weeks against unbeaten teams: Friday in Pittsfield against C North leader Maine Central Institute, and in Turner against Leavitt on Oct. 12. Wells finishes up with a home game against Fryeburg and at York.

THE GAME OF the week will be Bonny Eagle at Thornton Academy (3 p.m. Saturday). Both squads are 4-0. It will be the fourth straight game in which Scots have faced a quality opponent. They had to rally to beat Oxford Hills, 33-21 on Friday. In contrast, after facing stiff challenges against Sanford and Marshwood, the Trojans had an easier time the past two weeks, beating Lewiston, 43-7, and Bangor, 49-0.

TWO 2018 CHAMPIONS have had it rough this season. Portland, which won Class A North last season before losing to Thornton Academy in the state title game, is now 0-4 in its first season in Class B. The Bulldogs have been outscored 160-21 in games against Scarborough, Biddeford, Marshwood and Kennebunk (all currently 3-1). Portland is at Cheverus (2-2) on Saturday. … Defending Class C state champion Nokomis has had an even rougher 0-4 start. Nokomis has been outscored 184-6, which ties Class D Washington Academy for the fewest points scored in Maine this season.

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