FALMOUTH — In past years, when it was halfway through the regular season, players from Falmouth and neighboring Greely High in Cumberland found it hard to resist a peek ahead to the final game on their schedule:

The Battle of Route 9.

For 16 years the rivals tussled in late October over a trophy the winner would keep and display until the following year.

“They were our rivals,” Falmouth senior Nick Mancini said. “It was always a great game because each side always brought toughness to both sides of the ball. They always gave us a challenge.”

“Greely-Falmouth? Everyone knows there’s a historical rivalry there,” said Greely senior Naveen Caron, whose interception three years ago helped seal a 20-7 playoff victory against Falmouth a week after the Rangers had lost 14-0 in their-regular season finale.

But this fall Mancini the quarterback is handing off and throwing passes to Caron the running back. They are teammates on a combined Falmouth/Greely team that wears Falmouth’s blue-and-gold and goes by that school’s nickname of Yachtsmen.

Greely, faced with dwindling numbers following graduation of a large class last spring, is sending eight players south to the Falmouth program. Two freshmen and two sophomores mainly play on the junior varsity, while three juniors and Caron, the lone senior, play on a varsity team that is 2-2 in the revamped Class B North and travels to Brewer (1-3) on Friday night.

“It’s tough when you look around and see all these blue colors but it’s still football,” Caron said. “We all love football so it’s great to be out here with these guys.”

Caron is averaging nearly 8 yards per carry and has eight receptions, including one for a touchdown. Mancini has thrown for 522 yards and four scores without an interception.

As a football program born shortly after the turn of the century, Falmouth received guidance and assistance from its neighbor to the north. Falmouth Coach John Fitzsimmons, who led the town’s youth program at that point, never forgot that generosity.

“That’s why I have such a deep affection for (Greely),” Fitzsimmons said. “It’s our turn to help you. You brought us into football. One year later we went on our own and I’ve stayed with Falmouth ever since.”

Over their 16-year rivalry, Greely won the first three meetings and Falmouth captured the last three. The Yachtsmen held a 9-7 overall advantage.

Before incorporating Greely into the Falmouth mix, Fitzsimmons met with the Rangers’ players and with their parents.

“They needed to believe that we would treat them fairly,” Fitzsimmons said. “And we’ve proven that.

“I told my boosters and their boosters, we’re football coaches first. The best players will be on the field and we’ve lived up to that.”

In addition to Caron, who is one of the four team captains, Greely juniors Braden Bickford and Brady Nolin earned starting positions.

“Obviously we had to go through some team bonding,” said Bickford, who on the offensive and defensive line. “Right now we’re just one team.

“Besides the fact we go to different schools each day, you would never know.”

Greely doesn’t provide a shuttle, so players must find their own transportation to practices that normally begin at 4 p.m. For upperclassmen with driving licenses, that’s less of a challenge than for those on the junior varsity squad.

Wyatt Horning, a Greely freshman who lives in North Yarmouth, said it’s roughly 25 minutes from his house to Falmouth High for practice. If a parent isn’t available, he has to catch a ride from a teammate.

After school, “I get home, pack up the football cleats and get out,” Horning said.

“I don’t have much time but it’s worth it. I really love it here.”

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