One year after posting just one victory, Yarmouth’s football team is heading to the eight-man large division state final this weekend.

And the Falmouth Navigators and Freeport Falcons are still alive as well in 11-man play.

It was quite a weekend for Forecaster Country gridiron players and fans.

Revenge

Yarmouth’s football team celebrates after beating Mt. Ararat for the eight-man large school South region title last weekend. Contributed photo.

Yarmouth won its first seven games this fall with relative ease, but in the regular season finale Oct. 21 in Topsham, the Clippers were humbled by Mt. Ararat, 38-14.

As a result, Yarmouth dropped to the No. 2 spot in the South region and after eliminating No. 3 Spruce Mountain in the semifinals, went back to Topsham for a rematch with the top-ranked Eagles last Friday night and turned the tables for the program’s biggest victory in seven years.

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The Clippers started fast, as Michael McGonagle (29 carries, 163 yards, two touchdowns) scored on a 65-yard run, then, after a successful onside kick, Yarmouth made it 12-0, as Spencer LaBrecque bulled in from the 1.

But Mt. Ararat rallied and pulled even at halftime behind two TD runs from standout Shea Farrell.

Late in the third period, the Clippers went back on top to stay, as McGonagle scored on a 12-yard run and quarterback Sam Bradford hit Kai Sullivan with the two-point conversion pass. The Eagles answered with a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t produce the two-point conversion and Yarmouth’s defense did the rest, as the Clippers prevailed, 20-18, and improved to 9-1.

“Last time, I feel like we gave up, we kind of sat down and with that past experience, we didn’t want to do that again,” said Sullivan, who had a critical interception in the fourth quarter to halt a potential Mt. Ararat go-ahead drive.

“We struggled all year on defense, because there’s a lot of young kids out there,” said Yarmouth coach Jim Hartman. “They’re really understanding what football is all about. Close games, how to stay tough, not get down. I think that’s the biggest compliment I can give them. They don’t know how good they are.”

The Clippers will take on Waterville (6-3) Saturday at 11 a.m., at Cony High School in Augusta in the state final. The teams didn’t meet this year and have no playoff history. The Purple Panthers got to the state final last fall and lost to Cheverus.

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Yarmouth has been in three previous state games, winning the Class C title in 2010 and 2011 and losing in 2015.

Revenge, part two

Falmouth’s Indi Backman breaks away from a tackler during the Navigators’ 35-28 win at Cony in the Class B North semifinals Friday. Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal

Falmouth, the No. 4 seed in Class B North, closed its regular season with a gutwrenching overtime loss at Cony, but after eliminating fifth-ranked Gardiner, 27-21, in the quarterfinals, the Navigators got another shot at the top-seeded Rams in the semifinals and this time, took care of business.

After Cony scored first, Falmouth responded with a 40-yard keeper from quarterback Finn Caxton-Smith down the left sideline for the game-tying score, aided by the blocking of 6-foot-4, 305-pound left tackle Will Gale.

But that play was just the appetizer for the Navigators’ two second-quarter TDs, both helped by Gale’s big blocks. On Falmouth’s first possession of the second quarter, Caxton-Smith dashed 83 yards down the left sideline for the end zone and Indi Backman followed on the next drive with a 60-yard run, down the left sideline, of course, to give the Navigators a 21-7 lead.

“Me and Indi just love to carry the ball,” said Caxton-Smith. “It just is what is.”

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“Finn had a sensational night,” said longtime Falmouth coach John Fitzsimmons.

After the Rams roared back to tie the score at halftime, Falmouth took the lead again in the third on Caxton-Smith’s 8-yard TD scamper, set up one play earlier by Backman’s 28-yard run. The always-scrambling Caxton-Smith ran right, found no daylight, turned left and reached the end zone untouched.

“We knew we just had to pound the rock and waste time and we knew we could do it,” Caxton-Smith said.

“I told them we can move the ball out and I have confidence we can do it,” Fitzsimmons said. “To open up the second half with a touchdown was a great way to set the tone for the game.”

Cony tied the score once more, but in the fourth period, Taylor Evers’ 23-yard touchdown run put the Navigators ahead for good, 35-28. The drive included a 4th-and-1 conversion from the Navigators’ own 32-yard line when Caxton-Smith plowed up the middle for 2 yards. After a defensive stop, Falmouth ran out the clock, highlighted by Caxton-Smith’s 24-yard completion to Peyton Mitchell, who had missed the last several weeks with an injury, on 4th-and-5 from Cony’s 40.

Caxton-Smith, a track star who holds the school record in the 100 meters, ran for 204 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries, and Backman added 167 yards and a score on 23 carries.

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“What was good was our ability to drive the ball and control the clock because they are so good on the other side,” said Fitzsimmons. “Cony’s a very good program. If we played 10 times, it would be split down the middle. We were fortunate this time to have the ball last.”

The Navigators will take part in the Class B North Final for the first time (they lost to Marshwood in the Class B South Final five years ago), when they go to No. 2 Skowhegan (8-2) Friday night. The teams didn’t meet this fall. In last year’s quarterfinal round, Falmouth was eliminated, 42-0, by the River Hawks in the teams’ lone prior playoff encounter.

If the Navigators advance to the state final for the first time, they’ll take on either Portland or South Portland Saturday, Nov. 19 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.

First step

Freeport, the No. 2 seed in Class D, began its title hunt last Friday by handling No. 7 Oak Hill, 41-12, in the state quarterfinals to improve to 6-3.

Jordan Knighton caught a 35-yard TD pass from quarterback Aidan Heath and added a 55-yard touchdown run as the Falcons built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Knighton’s third TD came on the final play of the first half, as Freeport made it 28-6. Max Peters returned a blocked punt 35 yards for a score for the Falcons in the second quarter. Alex Graver scored on a pass in the third, then added field goals in the third and fourth.

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Freeport remains home Friday to take on No. 3 Lisbon (6-3) in the state semifinals. The Falcons opened the year with a 35-22 home victory over the Greyhounds Sept. 2. The teams have no playoff history.

If Freeport is able to advance, it will take on either Foxcroft Academy or Winthrop in the state final Saturday, Nov. 19 in Bangor.

Press Herald staff writer Travis Lazarczyk and Kennebec Journal staff writer David Bailey contributed to this story.

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

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