Senior quarterback Caden McDuffie was simply unstoppable in leading Cape Elizabeth’s football team to the Class C state title last fall. McDuffie would earn the Fitzpatrick Trophy for his efforts. File photos

(Editor’s note: This story originally ran in the July 17 Maine Sunday Telegram as part of the 2022 Varsity Maine awards.)

Cape Elizabeth’s football team raised the Gold Ball to the heavens last Nov. 20 at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

But it was the week before that the Capers demonstrated that they had the ingredients to become a champion.

A first-time champion.

And our boys’ Team of the Year.

Trailing perennial power Leavitt by four points in the fourth quarter of the Class C South Final, visiting Cape Elizabeth needed a touchdown to advance.

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And it was a touchdown the Capers got, but they needed all 10 remaining minutes to march 18 plays to immortality.

Cape Elizabeth rode its horses, senior Colin Campbell (who will play lacrosse at Bowdoin next year), junior Nick Laughlin (who is getting looks from numerous colleges) and senior quarterback Caden McDuffie, who took the snap on fourth-and-goal from the Leavitt 3 on the game’s final play and even with every player on the Hornets’ defense lined up to stop him, wouldn’t be denied, finding the end zone to produce an exhilarating 25-23 victory.

“I’ve been ready since I was 5 years old to get my name called for that play,” McDuffie said. “It was nerve-wracking, but I got it done.”

Cape Elizabeth, which averaged over 51 points a game in six regular season victories, then easily rolled over Westbrook (56-0) and Fryeburg Academy (33-6) in its first two playoff games, had finally gotten a stern test and found a way to beat a Leavitt squad which handed the Capers their only loss.

“I don’t know how many games I’ll get to coach like that one,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Sean Green. “It was a lot of fun. Some incredible moments. We had flawless execution from the offensive line on that last drive.”

The state game versus Winslow was never in doubt, as the Capers led, 39-0, at halftime and rolled to a 53-8 victory. McDuffie cemented his place in program lore with over 300 combined rushing and passing yards, five touchdown passes and two more TD runs and Laughlin had six catches for 171 years, with three of his receptions going for scores.

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To the victor goes the spoils. At last. Cape Elizabeth’s football team celebrates winning the Gold Ball after defeating Winslow, 53-8, in the Class C state final Nov. 20, 2021.

“This means everything,” Green said. “It’s unbelievable. We talked in February 2019 for the first time as a team when my staff and I took over here. We talked about this moment here, delivering a Gold Ball to Cape Elizabeth. Not a lot of people believed in us, but we knew this group was special and they delivered.”

The winning didn’t stop that evening. In March, McDuffie was given the Fitzpatrick Trophy as Maine’s finest senior player. In June, McDuffie (who will play next year at Louisiana Christian University), Campbell, Laughlin and several other football players helped Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ lacrosse team win another championship.

The Capers will experience more glory on the gridiron, perhaps as soon as this coming November, but the first state title in program annals, and the way it was won, will never be forgotten.

“The season was unreal for all of us,” McDuffie said. “We just prepared and executed everything our coaching staff told us to do.”

“When your best players are also the best human beings, you have something special,” Green added.

Sun Journal staff writer Adam Robinson contributed to this story.

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

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