BOX SCORE

Cape Elizabeth 21 Freeport 20

F- 12 8 0 0- 20
CE- 7 0 7 7- 21

First quarter
F- Ulrickson 49 run (rush failed)
CE- Campbell 1 run (Smith kick)
F- Ulrickson 7 run (rush failed)

Second quarter
F- Morris 25 run (Ulrickson rush)

Third quarter
CE- Campbell 4 run (Smith kick)

Fourth quarter
CE- N. Laughlin 3 run (Smith kick)

CAPE ELIZABETH—Cape Elizabeth has established itself as a top Class C South contender.

Friday evening at Hannaford Field, the Freeport Falcons staked their claim as a legitimate power as well, but one thing the Capers have that the Falcons don’t is extensive experience playing in a one-point contest.

For the third consecutive week, Cape Elizabeth found itself in a nail-biter and unlike last week, when it nearly upset powerhouse Wells only to fall an agonizing point short, this time, the Capers did just enough to earn a victory and hand valiant Freeport its first setback of the year.

The Falcons made an immediate statement when it scored on its first possession, on a 49-yard scamper from senior Adam Ulrickson for a 6-0 lead.

Cape Elizabeth answered, as sophomore Colin Campbell scored on a 1-yard plunge for a one-point advantage, but by the end of the first quarter, Freeport was back on top, as Ulrickson’s 7-yard TD run made it 12-7.

When senior Tre Morris added a 25-yard scoring run in the second period (and with Ulrickson adding a two-point conversion rush) and sophomore Danny Casale kept the Capers off the board just before halftime, intercepting a pass from Cape Elizabeth junior quarterback Gannon Stewart, the Falcons were seemingly and stunningly in control, up, 20-7.

But the Capers came out strong to start the second half, riding Campbell, who capped a long drive with a 4-yard run to cut the deficit to six.

Then, with just 1:59 remaining, Cape Elizabeth finally retook the lead, as freshman Nick Laughlin’s 3-yard run and sophomore Colin Smith’s extra point did the trick.

But Freeport wasn’t finished, as junior Justin Cogswell returned the ensuing kickoff 63 yards to the Capers’ 12, apparently setting up the Falcons for the last laugh, but a fumbled snap was recovered by Campbell and after Campbell ran for one final first down, Cape Elizabeth managed to hold on for a dramatic 21-20 victory.

The Capers improved to 3-2 on the season and in the process, dropped Freeport to 3-1.

“I live for this stuff,” said Cape Elizabeth first-year coach Sean Green. “There’s nothing better than being involved in games like this.”

In the hunt

Preseason prognostications held that Wells and Leavitt were the teams to beat in Class C South, but Cape Elizabeth and Freeport are hoping to crash the party.

The Falcons, who played in the Class E Developmental League, and won the state title in 2018, won their first three outings this autumn: 41-13 at home over Morse and after a bye, 38-8 at home over Lake Region and 14-7 last weekend at Fryeburg Academy.

The Capers, meanwhile, opened with a 24-6 home win over Mountain Valley and after a 42-12 setback at York, rallied to edge visiting Fryeburg Academy, 14-13. Last weekend, Cape Elizabeth nearly ended Wells’ 31-game win streak, but a last-second two-point conversion failed and the Capers lost at the Warriors, 34-33.

Cape Elizabeth and Freeport didn’t play in 2018, or in 2017. The most recent encounter came in the 2016 regular season, when the Capers rolled at home, 42-6.

Friday, on the chilliest night of the fall sports season to date (47 degrees at kickoff, 42 degrees at the final horn), the Falcons nearly pulled off one of the biggest wins in program history, but Cape Elizabeth did just enough to capture a thriller.

Freeport won the opening coin toss, but contrary to the recent trend, it elected to take the ball and not defer possession to the second half.

And for that outside-the-box thinking, the Falcons were rewarded with quick points.

Starting at their 38, the Falcons needed just four plays and 1 minute, 36 seconds to march 62 yards to break the ice.

Ulrickson got the game’s first carry and ran for five yards. On second down, however, Ulrickson was dropped for a three-yard loss by Capers’ junior Noah Pillsbury, but on third-and-8, junior Caden Benedict broke a tackle and got outside for 11 yards and a first down at the Cape Elizabeth 49.

Ulrickson then got his number called again on a sweep to the left and he found a hole, burst through and left the pursuit in his wake en route to the end zone for a 49-yard scoring run with 10:19 to play in the opening stanza. Freeport went for the two-point conversion, but Ulrickson was stopped short and the lead stayed 6-0.

The Capers then answered, thanks in large part to a 57-yard kickoff return by senior Matt Laughlin, which set the hosts up at the Falcons’ 39. Six plays and 2:39 later, Cape Elizabeth had the lead.

Campbell moved the chains with runs of six- and five-yards, but Ulrickson held Campbell to no gain on the next play. Stewart then threw his first pass, a short toss to Matt Laughlin in the flat and Laughlin kept his balance and broke a tackle before weaving his way to the 1. After Stewart was held to no gain on a keeper, Campbell got the ball again and dove into the end zone for a 1-yard score with 7:28 left in the quarter. Smith’s PAT made it 7-6 Capers.

Back came Freeport, which drove 56 yards in nine plays and 4:27 for a second touchdown.

The Falcons started at their 44 and gave the ball to sophomore Tony Casale on first down and Casale picked up six yards. Benedict gained three more and on third-and-1, Ulrickson again broke free on the left side and gained 21 yards to the Cape Elizabeth 26. After junior quarterback Anthony Panciocco kept the ball for five yards, Ulrickson gained four. On third-and-1, Freeport jumped early, costing it five yards. Panciocco then threw incomplete, but on fourth-and-6, Ulrickson gained 11 yards and a first down at the 11. After Benedict gained four yards, Ulrickson did the rest, scoring on a 7-yard burst up the middle with 2:55 to play in the frame. Morris tried to add two points on the ground, but he was stopped short, keeping Freeport’s lead at 12-7.

The Falcons then got a gift, as on the Capers’ first play of their next drive, Matt Laughlin fumbled and Ulrickson recovered at the Cape Elizabeth 37.

As the first quarter gave way to the second, Freeport hoped to add to its lead, but couldn’t do so.

After Panciocco kept for five yards on first down, Ulrickson gained two, then Tony Casale picked up five more to the 25. On the final play of the opening period (which saw the Falcons hold a 129-41 advantage in yardage), Ulrickson was thrown for a one-yard loss by senior Hajan Carr and on the first play of the second quarter, Panciocco threw incomplete. Stewart then threw Benedict for a four-yard loss and on fourth-and-15, Panciocco threw a pass to Casale in the flat, but he was brought down for no gain and the Capers got the ball back at their 30 with 10:56 left in the half.

Cape Elizabeth went three-and-out, as Stewart sandwiched incomplete passes around a Campbell run for no yards.

After a 57-yard Matt Laughlin punt, Freeport was pinned at its 13, but in a drive that would eat up 13 plays and 6:28, the Falcons found their way to the end zone again.

The drive began inauspiciously as Ulrickson lost a yard, but he got the ball again and ran for 16 yards and a 15-yard facemask penalty was tacked on, putting the ball at the 43. After Ulrickson and Benedict each ran for a yard, Benedict gained six and on fourth-and-2, senior Colby Petrin bulled through the line for eight yards and first down at the Capers’ 41. Morris ran for four yards and a five-yard facesmask penalty was tacked on. After Panciocco recovered a fumbled snap, Benedict gained two yards on third-and-1, moving the chains to the 30. Ulrickson was held to no gain, Tony Casale gained three yards and recovered his own fumble in the process and Ulrickson picked up two yards, setting up fourth-and-5. Morris then did the rest, sweeping right, breaking a tackle, then outrunning the defense down the right sideline for a 25-yard scoring rush with 3:34 left before halftime. Ulrickson’s two-point conversion rush put the Falcons ahead, 20-7.

Cape Elizabeth, knowing it was getting the ball to start the second half, looked to score before the break and drove deep into Freeport territory before coming up short.

The Capers started at their 35 and got an eight-yard run from Campbell and a four-yard rush from Matt Laughlin to move the chains to the 47. Stewart then connected with Laughlin for 14 yards and a first down at the Falcons’ 39. After a holding penalty, Campbell ran for nine yards. An incomplete pass set up third-and-3, but Freeport jumped offsides, giving Cape Elizabeth a first down at the Falcons’ 27. A bad snap backed the hosts up 15 yards, but Laughlin got them back and more, as he caught a short pass from Stewart and rumbled 26 yards to the 16. After an incomplete pass and a false start, Campbell caught a pass, but lost three yards, then with time winding down, Stewart threw to the end zone where Danny Casale was waiting to intercept the pass.

After taking a knee, the Falcons took a 20-7 lead to halftime.

In the first 24 minutes, Freeport outgained Cape Elizabeth, 211 yards to 90 and got 113 yards and a pair of scores on 14 carries from Ulrickson.

Regrouping

The Capers did some soul searching during the break.

“Coach put it on us at halftime,” Campbell said. “He told us we needed to start playing our game.”

“I had a pretty simple message that it’s about us and not them and if we played our game, we’d win it,” Green said. “The captains had some aggressive talks to their guys and we responded.”

When the third quarter commenced, it was apparent that Cape Elizabeth was going to ride Campbell as far as he could take his team.

The Capers started at their 37 and drove to paydirt in nine plays, with Campbell carrying on seven of them.

Campbell set the tone with a 10-yard burst, then ran for six-yards and Matt Laughlin gained seven more for a first down at the Freeport 40. After Campbell picked up eight yards, he moved the chains by gaining six more. When Campbell ran for 11 yards to the Falcons’ 15, Freeport coach Paul St. Pierre called timeout. It helped momentarily, as a bad snap backed the hosts up nine yards, but Campbell rumbled 20 yards to the 4, then with 8:09 to go in the quarter, Campbell capped the 3:45 drive with a 4-yard burst up the middle.

“Our line got dialed in,” Campbell said. “That was a focal point at halftime. We played smash-mouth football.”

Smith’s extra point pulled Cape Elizabeth within 20-14.

The Falcons tried to counter as they started at their 31, but after Benedict gained seven yards, Ulrickson ran for two, then on third-and-1, Ulrickson was stopped inches short of the line to gain. Freeport rolled the dice and went for it, but Panciocco was stood up for no gain and the Capers got the ball back at the Falcons’ 41.

They wouldn’t take advantage of their good field position, however, as after Campbell ran three times for a total of nine yards, Matt Laughlin fumbled and Ulrickson recovered at Freeport’s 30.

The visitors would go three-and-out, as Ulrickson was tackled by junior Finn McQueeney for no gain, a fumbled exchange resulted in the loss of five yards and after a delay of game penalty, Panciocco threw to Benedict, but he lost a yard, necessitating a punt.

In the final minute of the period, the Capers started at Falcons’ 45, but again couldn’t capitalize.

Campbell ran for nine yards and Stewart kept for three and a first down at the 33 as the quarter ended.

On the first play of the fourth period, Campbell ran for a yard. He then picked up six yards and Matt Laughlin gained one, setting up fourth-and-2 at the 25. Cape Elizabeth went for it, but Campbell was stuffed for a one-yard loss by Morris and junior Jack Coffin and Freeport got the ball back at its 26 with 10:09 remaining.

The Falcons hoped to drive and put the game away, but instead, turned the ball over.

After Benedict was dropped by senior Will Brenneman for a four-yard loss, Panciocco threw incomplete, but on third-and-14, Panciocco threw a screen pass to Benedict, who gained exactly 14 yards to move the chains. Ulrickson fumbled the toss on the ensuing snap, but he picked the ball up and gained three yards. Morris then ran for one yard, but on third-and-6, Panciocco dropped back to pass and was hit while he threw and threw the ball up for grabs. Junior Noah Pillsbury came down with the interception and with 7:12 left on the clock, the Capers had another chance, starting at their 45.

Cape Elizabeth would drive for the go-ahead score, but it would take a dozen plays and over five minutes to do so.

A quick 10-yard pass from Stewart to Matt Laughlin got things going and moved the ball into Falcons’ territory. After Campbell ran for three yards, then was held to no gain, Stewart rolled left, then found Laughlin for nine yards and a first down at the 33. Stewart threw incomplete, but Laughlin ran for eight yards, then on third-and-2, Campbell gained eight more for a first down at the 17. Danny Casale had a chance to play the hero again when Stewart threw the ball up for grabs in the end zone, but he couldn’t come down with it. Campbell then gained four yards and on third-and-6, Campbell gained 10 more for a first-and-goal at the 3. After Campbell was stuffed for no gain, the Capers mixed it up and gave the ball to Nick Laughlin and he bulled through the line and into the end zone for the touchdown with 1:59 to play.

“That’s the way this offense can go,” Green said. “Matt Laughlin, Nick Laughlin, (senior) Ryan McKean, Gannon Stewart, Colin Campbell, (junior) Andrew Conley. We have a lot of guys. What’s good about Nick is he’s experienced. He had 200 all-purpose yards last week against the best team in Class C, Wells, and we called his number and he kept driving his legs.”

Smith added the all-important PAT and Cape Elizabeth clung to a 21-20 lead.

But this one was far from over.

The Capers kicked short on the ensuing kickoff and Cogswell caught the ball on the run at the 25, bounced off a tackler, then broke free to the right and took off down the sideline. Only a terrific effort from Matt Laughlin prevented Casale from bringing the ball all the way back, but Freeport was set up in great field position at the Cape Elizabeth 12.

That set the stage for the Capers’ defense to rise to the occasion.

Ulrickson kept the ball for five yards on first down, but after a Cape Elizabeth timeout, a false start penalty backed the Falcons up. Then, a direct snap to Ulrickson was off target and in the ensuing scrum, Campbell somehow came up with the ball and the turnover gave the Capers possession at their 18 with 1:33 remaining.

“I know we could stop them,” said Campbell. “Before the snap, I envisioned (a fumble) and it happened and I got lucky and fell on it.”

“We just fumbled,” St. Pierre lamented. “We just didn’t make the play we needed to. Some games come down to one play and you make it or you don’t and that’s the play that could ave made the difference.”

Cape Elizabeth still needed one first down to wrap it up and Campbell, naturally did the honors.

Campbell lost four yards on first down, but he picked up 12 on second and then on third-and-2, Campbell bulled ahead for four yards and with Freeport out of timeouts, the Capers only needed to take a knee, then at last they were able to celebrate their 21-20 victory.

“I think we came in a little too confident and obviously came out sluggish, but we showed resilience and pulled it out,” said Campbell. “The games prior have proved we can pull through in big moments. Unfortunately, last week at Wells we couldn’t, but this week we did.”

“The way we played in the second half is a better representation of who we are, but even the second half wasn’t perfect,” said Green. “We didn’t play our game tonight. We were a little worried about a big-game hangover after last week and Freeport’s a heck of a team. They’re physical, fast, well-coached. We hadn’t established dominance in the run game, but we were good in the second half. We had to possess the ball and convert on third down and make plays. On defense, we made slight adjustments. We played with better technique. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot, but we responded when we needed to the most.”

Campbell, who missed a couple games earlier this fall with a hand injury before returning last week against Wells, had himself a night, rushing for 155 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 30 carries (23 of which came after halftime).

“It’s so nice to be back,” Campbell said. “I was getting the rust off against Wells and tonight, I felt like I had to pick it up for my teammates.”

“Colin just brings another dimension to our team,” Green said. “He gives us two players because it allows us to play Nick Laughlin at wide receiver and gives us another weapon. Colin’s a great football player and showed it tonight.”

Stewart completed 7-of-14 passes for 91 yards with an interception.

Matt Laughlin caught five passes for 86 yards.

Nick Laughlin touched the ball just once, but his 3-yard TD rush was the winner.

The Capers overcame three turnovers and four penalties for 27 yards.

Valiant effort

Freeport finished with 231 yards of offense, but committed two turnovers and was flagged four times for 20 yards.

Ulrickson led the way with 124 yards and two TDs on 19 carries.

Benedict carried nine times for 26 yards and caught two passes for 13 yards.

Morris rushed three times for 30 yards and a score.

Panciocco went 3-of-6 passing for 13 yards and an interception.

“It’s an odd-shaped ball and it bounces in weird ways and it just didn’t bounce our way tonight,” St. Pierre lamented. “I’m proud of the guys. We had a chance to really make a statement tonight and we let them back in it, but we’ll learn from our mistakes and get better. We’ve had injuries pile up and we haven’t been able to train as normal. The guys got tired toward the end and didn’t have the same push. That’s something we can fix.  It’s a really good effort. It took a one-point loss at Cape to finally stop us.”

Getting late

Freeport (now fifth in the Class C South Crabtree Points standings) has a second bye next weekend and it’s an unwelcome and unexpected one, as instead of playing Dirigo, the Falcons get a win by forfeit due to the Cougars shutting down their varsity program earlier this fall. Freeport then hosts Poland and closes at Camden Hills.

“I think we can play with anybody,” St. Pierre said. We can be competitive with everyone and that’s a huge step up for our program. We’re catching up to the rest.”

Cape Elizabeth (fourth in Class C South) travels to Morse next week, then has a huge showdown at home against Leavitt Oct. 18 before closing at Poland.

“We can always get better,” Campbell said. “This shows we can pull out tough games and that we can handle adversity. That will help us in the playoffs.”

“We have to work on little things, tackling, playing together,” said Green. “We need to swarm to the ball on defense. When our offensive line shows up, our offense shows up. ‘Eleven-as-one’ is our mantra. If we improve on little things, we’ll be good to go.”

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

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