BOX SCORE

Cape Elizabeth 35 York 14

Y- 7 0 7 0- 14
CE- 6 15 0 14- 35

First quarter
Y- Doughty 1 run (Whelton kick)
CE- C. Mello recovered fumble in end zone (kick blocked)

Second quarter
CE- Gorman 20 pass from McDuffie (Laughlin rush)
CE- Gorman 17 pass from McDuffie (Smith kick)

Third quarter
Y- Higgins 13 pass from Doughty (Whelton kick)

Fourth quarter
CE- Gorman 20 pass from McDuffie (Smith kick)
CE- McDuffie 26 run (Smith kick)

CAPE ELIZABETH—Test administered.

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Test passed.

Friday evening at Hannaford Field, Cape Elizabeth’s football team, which won its first three games by an average of 52 points, hosted another squad that was undefeated, York, and as expected, got pushed.

But the Capers pushed back and took another step toward their goal of becoming the top team in Class C.

The Wildcats struck first, as senior quarterback Luke Doughty scored on a 1-yard dive for a 7-0 lead.

Cape Elizabeth then got its offense going and answered, in thoroughly unorthodox fashion, as junior standout Nick Laughlin appeared to be paydirt-bound from 12-yards out, then fumbled just shy of the goal line, but after the ball rolled into the end zone, sophomore Ceroi Mello fell on it and while the extra point was blocked, the Capers were within one point after one quarter.

Cape Elizabeth went on top for good early in the second period, as senior quarterback Caden McDuffie hit senior Jack Gorman from 20-yards out and Laughlin added a two-point conversion rush.

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Then, with just 6.4 seconds to go before the half, the McDuffie-to-Gorman tandem connected again, this time from 17-yards, and at the break, the Capers were ahead, 21-7.

York wouldn’t go quietly and drew back within seven late in the third quarter, on a 13-yard pass from Doughty to sophomore Brady Higgins, but Cape Elizabeth put it away in the fourth period, as McDuffie found Gorman one final time, from 20-yards out, then McDuffie put the finishing touches on the victory with a 26-yard TD scamper and the Capers went on to a 35-14 victory.

Cape Elizabeth will head into a showdown next weekend at Leavitt with a 4-0 record, while the Wildcats are now 3-1 on the season.

“It was a good game,” said Capers coach Sean Green. “We’ve battled through a lot of adversity. I couldn’t be more proud of the guys who were on the field fighting for their brothers.”

Stop us if you can

If the disappointment over not having a season in 2020 wasn’t bad enough, Cape Elizabeth’s 2021 campaign started on an agonizing note when its first game, at Hermon, was cancelled by COVID-related complications, but once the Capers took the field, they more than made up for lost time, rolling over visiting Fryeburg Academy (40-8), dominating host Gardiner (52-7), then last week, shutting out host Hampden Academy by a whopping 78-0 score.

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Cape Elizabeth had a tough week of practice, however, as standout senior running back Colin Campbell was sidelined by a knee injury (he hopes to return by the end of the season) and the Capers also had to play Friday without junior tight end Owen Tighe, senior corner Filip Reck and senior lineman Ben Steinberg.

York’s 3-0 start has come with less fanfare, although the Wildcats had been impressive in dispatching Winslow (21-7), Gardiner (21-8) and Westbrook (55-14).

The teams last met early in the 2019 season, when host York prevailed, 42-12.

This time around, on a 55-degree evening, Cape Elizabeth rose to the occasion and stayed unbeaten.

The Wildcats won the opening coin toss, but deferred possession to the second half, then went out on defense and forced the Capers into a three-and-out.

Cape Elizabeth got a 45-yard kickoff return from Laughlin, but in a sign of things to come, a penalty, blocking in the back, moved the ball all the way back to the Capers’ 14. After junior James Rickman gained a yard, the first of an abundance of false start penalties moved the ball back to the 10 and after McDuffie was incomplete on his first pass attempt, McDuffie was sacked by York senior Liam Whelton, forcing a punt.

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The Wildcats took over at Cape Elizabeth’s 35 and while nine plays were required, they would drive for the game’s first score.

Doughty was thrown for a three-yard loss by Rickman on the first play, then he threw incomplete, but on third-and-13, Doughty found junior Sam Fogg for eight yards and on fourth-and-5, a defensive holding penalty set up first down at the 19. Senior Caleb Pappagallo caught a pass for eight yards, then ran for two more to set up first-and-goal from the 9. After Fogg caught a Doughty pass for five yards and Doughty ran for three more, the quarterback kept the ball and bulled in from the 1 with 6:36 left in the opening stanza. Whelton added the extra point for a 7-0 lead.

The Capers then started from their 42 and seven plays and 2 minutes, 44 seconds later, got on the board.

Laughlin moved the chains with a 12-yard burst, then McDuffie kept the ball, ran to his left and gained 24 yards to the York 22. After McDuffie ran for two more yards, Laughlin ran for four, then picked up five and a first down at the 11. After McDuffie was dropped for a one-yard loss by junior Matt Charpentier, Laughlin got the call, ran right, broke free and was about to cross the goal line, when he was undercut by a tackler and lost the ball.

But luckily for Cape Elizabeth, Mello was able to pounce on the loose football in the end zone for the touchdown. Senior Colin Smith’s PAT was blocked and the Wildcats clung to a 7-6 lead.

The Capers’ defense then forced a three-and-out, as York started from its 35, but a fumbled exchange lost three yards and after Doughty hit senior Hayden Henriksen for 11 yards, Smith and sophomore Jake Leiss combined to drop Pappagallo for a two-yard loss.

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Cape Elizabeth got the ball back at its 37 and began driving as the first quarter came to a close.

McDuffie ran for a yard, then after a false start, Gorman had his first reception, a 14-yard grab on the right sideline for a first down at the 47. McDuffie then found Laughlin in traffic for 14 more yards to the Wildcats’ 39. After an incomplete pass, Laughlin ran for eight yards, then McDuffie kept for 10 more and a first down at the 21 as the period ended.

On the first play of the second quarter, Rickman gained one yard. McDuffie then fired a strike to Gorman on a post pattern, as the receiver left the secondary in his dust, and the 20-yard scoring strike capped an eight-play, 63-yard, 2:37 march. Laughlin ran in the two-point conversion and the Capers had a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, 14-7.

York couldn’t answer, as it started from its 30, but committed a false start, then after a five-yard run by Pappagallo, Doughty threw incomplete, then Smith and Mello combined to sack Doughty for a five-yard loss, forcing a punt.

After a short boot, Cape Elizabeth took over at the Wildcats’ 46, but couldn’t capitalize.

After a holding penalty and an incomplete pass, the Capers had a false start, but York returned the favor with an offsides penalty. After Laughlin caught a pass for six yards, McDuffie scrambled for 13, setting up fourth-and-2, but another false start moved the ball back five yards before McDuffie was sacked for a one-yard loss by Charpentier and senior Chris Fletcher, giving the Wildcats the ball on downs at their 44.

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But York couldn’t move it, as after Henriksen caught a pass for four yards, Pappagallo was held to no gain by Smith and Doughty threw incomplete, forcing another punt, which saw senior Will Orso drop the ball, pick it up, then be tackled, giving Cape Elizabeth great field position at the Wildcats’ 40.

And the Capers couldn’t take advantage, as after Laughlin gained a yard, a bad center snap led to a five-yard loss and after McDuffie threw incomplete, McDuffie only ran for seven yards on fourth-and-14 and York got the ball back at its 37.

Cape Elizabeth’s defense continued to shine, forcing another punt.

After an illegal man downfield penalty on the Wildcats, Fogg ran for six yards, then caught a pass for six more, but Doughty threw incomplete and York punted the ball away.

With 2:46 to go before halftime, the Capers started at their 27 and they saved their best drive of the half for last, marching 73 yards on nine plays, chewing up all but six seconds of the remaining clock.

The drive began inauspiciously with a four-yard McDuffie run and an incomplete pass, but McDuffie then hit senior Caden Lee over the middle for 20 yards and a first down at the Wildcats’ 49. After Rickman ran for a yard, McDuffie threw incomplete and a holding penalty set up third-and-15 back at the Cape Elizabeth 44, but Gorman got free behind the defense and McDuffie found him for 40 yards and a first down at York’s 16 with just over 30 seconds left before halftime. Fletcher then dropped McDuffie for a one-yard sack, but that only delayed the inevitable, as with time winding down, McDuffie fired a strike to Gorman on a post pattern and Gorman scored, completing the 17-yard TD reception with just 6.4 seconds showing.

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“(The Wildcats) were bracketing Nick and they had no overhang safety,” Gorman said. “I don’t think they knew we had good players all over the field. The post was there all night. Caden made great throws and we hit it twice.”

“When you just focus on one kid (Laughlin), and we know he’s an animal, one of the best players in the state, it leaves other people open,” McDuffie said. “Jack’s my top target. I love the kid. I’ll keep going to him.”

Smith added the extra point and the Capers held a 21-7 halftime advantage.

“That score was huge,” said Gorman. “You could feel momentum going into the locker room and coming back out.”

In the first half, Cape Elizabeth had 189 yards of offense to 40 for York. McDuffie threw for 131 yards and two scores and ran for 62 more, while Gorman had four receptions for 91 yards and two TDs.

The Capers tried to build on their momentum when the second half began when they attempted an on-sides kick, but it didn’t go the requisite 10 yards and the Wildcats took over at Cape Elizabeth’s 48 with a chance to get right back in the game.

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But York couldn’t manage a first down, as Henriksen ran for three yards, Smith dropped Doughty for a one-yard loss and Doughty’s third-and-8 pass to senior James Holly was only good for three yards. On fourth down, Henriksen caught a pass, but only gained one yard and the Capers got the ball back at their 42.

Cape Elizabeth went nowhere, as Rickman lost a yard, consecutive false start penalties cost the hosts 10 more yards, then McDuffie threw a pair of incomplete passes.

With 8:43 to go in the third, the Wildcats started at their 44 and began to march, as after Pappagallo was held to no gain, Doughty found Holly for 11 yards and Henriksen caught a pass for seven more to the Capers’ 38, but Doughty then had a pass deflected at the line and it was intercepted by diving senior defensive back Will Clancy at the 25.

Cape Elizabeth moved the chains, as McDuffie sandwiched five-yard runs around a four-yard pickup from Rickman. After yet another false start penalty, Rickman ran for a yard, then caught a pass for 12 more, but a false start penalty and an incomplete pass forced a punt.

With 3:55 left in the quarter, York got the ball at its 34 and began an 11-play, 66-yard, 3:43 scoring march to make things interesting.

Doughty threw incomplete on first down, then Henriksen got the ball on a reverse and gained 22 yards to the Capers’ 44. After another incomplete pass, Pappagallo ran for five yards and on third-and-5, Cape Elizabeth jumped early, giving the Wildcats a first down at the 34. After a pair of incomplete passes, Doughty found Henriksen for six yards and on fourth-and-4, Doughty found Fogg open over the middle for 10 yards and a first down at the 18. After a defensive pass interference and an incomplete pass, Doughty threw to Higgins, who found his way into the end zone to complete a 13-yard scoring pass with just 12.9 seconds to go. Whelton added the extra point to pull York within seven, 21-14.

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The Capers then took over at their 32 and in a drive which spanned the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth, drove 68 yards in seven plays and 2:28 for a little breathing room.

McDuffie set the tone with a 27-yard run on the final play of the third. Rickman was held to no gain on the first play of the final stanza, but Laughlin ran for eight yards and McDuffie moved the chains with a 10-yard run to the Wildcats’ 23. After McDuffie kept for three yards, McDuffie threw incomplete, as Gorman dropped a potential touchdown, but on the next play, Gorman got free again in the back right corner of the end zone and McDuffie found him. Gorman, despite being interfered with, came down with the ball for the touchdown.

“I saw the corner press me, Caden threw me a great ball and I was there,” Gorman said.

“Jack has been a phenomenal athlete for years,” Green said. “We knew he’d put it together, it was just a matter of when (he’d show it). (York) decided to bracket Nick all night and that opened the game up for Jack.”

Smith added the PAT and with 9:39 to play, Cape Elizabeth had a 28-14 lead.

Starting at its 15, York couldn’t respond, as Henriksen ran for two yards and Doughty twice threw incomplete.

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After a punt, the Capers got the ball back at their 48 with 8:31 to go.

This time, Cape Elizabeth was happy to keep the ball on the ground and behind McDuffie’s heroics, it milked nearly five minutes off the clock on a dagger of a game-clinching nine-play, 52-yard scoring march.

McDuffie was held to no gain on the first play, then Laughlin ran for six yards and McDuffie picked up three, setting up fourth-and-1. McDuffie then bulled his way for four yards and a first down at the Wildcats’ 39. Rickman ran for three yards, the McDuffie gained five and four more for a first down at the 27. After Laughlin picked up a yard, McDuffie did the rest, finding space up the gut and he ran to paydirt for a 26-yard score with 3:33 left.

“I come from a triple-option powerhouse team,” said McDuffie, who came to Cape Elizabeth from Las Vegas. “Milking the clock is what I do. I told Coach we’d have a (long) drive. I bring some West Coast to Maine.”

“McDuffie’s a great dual-threat quarterback,” Green said. “He’s like a point guard at QB. He’s a bowling ball. He runs with power, but he’s sneaky fast and agile. He really got us the tough yards when we needed it. We felt like we didn’t execute in the first half like we wanted to up front on the offensive line against a really good defensive line that we’d talked about all week long, so to get it done at the end of the game, you couldn’t ask for more.”

York’s final possession resulted in a one-yard Pappagallo run and three Doughty incompletions.

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The Capers then got the ball back at the Wildcats’ 43 and after McDuffie ran three times for 10 yards, he took a knee and at 9:10 p.m., the horn sounded and Cape Elizabeth celebrated its 35-14 victory.

“We don’t have a weak link anywhere,” said McDuffie. “We’re a good football team. We play 11 as one. We’ve had adversity all week long, down four key guys. For us to come out here says a lot about us as a team. Physically and mentally. It took a lot of preparing.”

The Capers finished with 324 yards of offense.

McDuffie was a dual threat, completing 9-of-18 passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns and rushing 23 times for 164 yards and one more TD.

Laughlin, who was the focal point of York’s defense all night, ran nine times for 56 yards and had a pair of receptions for 20 yards.

Rickman ran eight times for 10 yards and caught one pass for 12 yards.

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Gorman excelled with five catches, three of which went for TDs, good for 111  yards.

Lee caught one pass for 20 yards.

Cape Elizabeth was penalized 14 times for 91 yards. Eight of those flags were for false starts.

“We have a ton to work on,” Green said. “We’re shooting ourselves in the foot too much and we need more depth. That next-man-up mentality.

York had 133 yards of offense.

Doughty threw 27 times, completed 13 of them for 93 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

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Henriksen had five receptions for 29 yards and ran three times for 27 yards.

Fogg caught four passes for 29 yards.

Pappagallo ran eight times for 12 yards and caught one pass for eight.

Holly had a pair of receptions for 7 yards.

Higgins had one catch, good for 13 yards and a touchdown.

The Wildcats were penalized four times for 25 yards.

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“That’s a really good football team that’s well coached, so congratulations to Cape,” said York coach Matt Nelson. “They had a good game plan and they outplayed us and outcoached us. Our game plan was to keep it away from Laughlin. He’s a great player, but (Gorman) played really well. He’s a big, tall kid and the kid we had covering him is not.”

Showdown

York hopes to bounce back when it visits Fryeburg Academy next Saturday.

“You can learn something from a loss,” Nelson said. “It’s a humbling moment for us. We’ll get back to work and work hard as players and work hard as coaches.”

Cape Elizabeth, meanwhile, will get to measure itself against the preseason favorite, 3-0 Leavitt, next Friday night. The Hornets had several coaches on hand scouting the Capers-York game and Cape Elizabeth knows it will have its hands full.

“We just have to be consistent and eliminate penalties,” Gorman said. “We’ll adjust and I know that we’ll be ready for Leavitt.”

“We’re excited and we look forward to our game next week,” Green said. “(Leavitt coach Mike) Hathaway and his staff are one of the best coaching staffs in the state. They’ll have their boys ready. They’re tough and balanced and play great defense. We just need to do our jobs and execute at a high level and well be OK.”

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

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