YARMOUTH—It was devastation on one sideline, exhilaration on the other.

And there will be no repeat state title for the Yarmouth Clippers eight-man football team.

That’s because the Brunswick Dragons have returned to glory faster than anyone could have imagined.

Monday evening, in the large division, South region semifinals, top-ranked Yarmouth picked up where it left off a little over two weeks ago, when it beat the visiting Dragons by 44 points, by getting two quick, long touchdown runs from senior standout Michael McGonagle.

But fourth-ranked Brunswick, which had its 2021 season cut short by a hazing scandal, then went 0-8 last fall, settled in and countered, pulling within 12-8 after one quarter on a TD run from junior quarterback Cam Beal, then taking a 20-12 lead when Beal scored on a 1-yard rush and junior Jimmy Cook added a 5-yard touchdown scamper.

The Clippers closed the half strong, however, tying things up on a 9-yard McGonagle rush and a two-point conversion pass from senior quarterback Sam Bradford to sophomore Adam Pelotte, then going up, 26-20, at the half, when Bradford threw up a prayer to Pelotte in the waning seconds and Pelotte came down with the ball and raced 65-yards to paydirt.


Twice in the third quarter, Yarmouth took a two-score lead, but the Dragons cut the deficit to 40-34 when sophomore Lucas Labreque returned a kickoff 83 yards to the end zone.

Brunswick pulled even with 5:57 remaining, when Beal hit junior Trevor Gerrish for a 9-yard score and after recovering a fortuitous bounce on the ensuing kickoff, the Dragons got a 9-yard TD pass from Beal to junior Liam Scholl and an extremely important two-point conversion pass from Beal to Gerrish to make it 48-40 with just 2:26 remaining.

The Clippers responded like champions, however, and with just 1:05 left, Bradford connected with junior Wyatt Gawtry for an improbable 60-yard touchdown pass, but on the potential game-tying two-point conversion, McGonagle was stuffed by senior Lucas Coffill and Brunswick was able to close out its 48-46 victory.

The Dragons improved to 6-3, ended Yarmouth’s title reign and its season at 6-2 and advanced to play at either No. 2 Greely (4-3) or No. 3 Mt. Ararat (5-3) in the South Region Final at a day and time to be announced.

“These are great kids,” said Mark Renna, Brunswick’s first-year coach. “They work so hard. They’ve finally learned to believe in themselves and win. We didn’t do anything special today as coaches, we just let them play and they succeeded.”

Long wait


Yarmouth won its first eight-man championship last season in dramatic fashion and came into the 2023 season as the favorite in the South Region.

The Clippers didn’t disappoint (see sidebar for links to previous stories), winning every game but one and earning the top seed for the playoffs.

Brunswick was at the other end of the spectrum.

The Dragons, who were a longtime contender, had undergone a few difficult seasons prior to this one.

The 2020 season was wiped out by the pandemic, and the school canceled the remainder of its 2021 season after only five games in the wake of a preseason hazing incident that eventually led to the removal of longtime head coach Dan Cooper. Brunswick needed a waiver from the Maine Principals’ Association to reinstate its program for the 2022 season, then proceeded to go 0-8, scoring just 34 points, surrendering 382 and getting shut out five times.

“They had a bad season last year,” said Renna. “They had COVID, they had the scandal before that. I came on in April and the first day, all those kids were in the weight room and greeted me. They believe in themselves. I did nothing special. The kindling was there. I just got the fire stoked a little bit.”


Brunswick was much better this fall, winning four regular season games and as the No. 4 seed, eliminating No. 5 Gray-New Gloucester, 68-34, in the quarterfinals.

“Coach is just a leader,” Beal said. “Last year, we lacked that determination and grit. He wants us in the moment and to know that is doesn’t matter who we play. It just matters who has the most heart.”

Yarmouth beat the Dragons in the regular season meeting, 64-20, Oct. 13 at home.

The teams had no playoff history.

Monday, on a chilly evening (38 degrees at kickoff) that included occasional rain, the Clippers started fast and appeared poised for another decisive victory, but Brunswick had other ideas and would wind up crashing the party.

Yarmouth won the opening coin toss but deferred possession to the second half and the Dragons started with the ball at their 41 and began to drive.


Cook ran for six yards on the game’s first play, then ran for one and two, setting up fourth-and-1 at midfield, where Beal kept the ball for the first time and gained three to move the chains. Cook lost three yards on the next play and after Labreque gained six yards, Beal hit Gerrish for two to set up fourth-and-5, but a pass to senior Hunter Duval only gained one yard, giving the Clippers the ball on downs at their 41 with 9:08 to go in the opening stanza.

And 12 seconds later, Yarmouth had the lead.

McGonagle got the ball, ran right, got a block, then took off down the sideline, leaving the defense in his wake en route to a 59-yard score. McGonagle’s two-point conversion rush attempt was stopped short, but the Clippers were up, 6-0.

Brunswick hoped to answer when it began its second possession at its 37. After Beal lost two yards, Cook ran for two and on third-and-10, the Beal-to-Scholl combination connected for the first time, good for a dozen yards and a first down at the 48. Cook then ran for two yards and carried for one before Labreque was dropped for a one-yard loss, necessitating a punt.

Yarmouth got the ball back at its 16 with 5:54 on the first quarter clock and this time, needed two plays and 54 seconds to find the end zone.

McGonagle gained four yards on first down, then he got the ball again, burst up the middle and again left everyone chasing him to no avail for an 80-yard touchdown run. Bradford’s two-point conversion pass was no good, but the Clippers had a 12-0 advantage with 5 minutes remaining.


The Dragons started their next drive at their 35 and this time, got going and didn’t stop until they marched 65 yards in eight plays and 2:28 to cut into the deficit.

Labreque got things started with a seven-yard burst. After Beal moved the chains with a seven-yard carry, Cook ran for five yards, then six for a first down at the Yarmouth 40. After the Clippers jumped offsides, Cook ran for six yards and a first down at the 29. Cook then picked up one yard before Beal hit Scholl for 23 yards to set up first-and-goal at the 5. On the next snap, Beal kept the ball and ran up the middle into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown with 2:32 left in the first period. Beal then hit Scholl for the two-point conversion to make it a 12-8 contest.

Late in the quarter, Yarmouth took over at its 41 and this time couldn’t score.

McGonagle ran for three yards, then gained nine for a first down at the Brunswick 47. After McGonagle gained 12 more yards, a bad exchange ended the quarter.

The Clippers, who gained 167 yards in the first 12 minutes, started the second period with false start penalty, then McGonagle ran for four yards, picked up three, then on fourth-and-8, was held to five, giving the Dragons the ball back on downs at their 28 with 10:29 to go before halftime.

This time, Brunswick needed 10 plays and 2:48 to march for the go-ahead score, getting some help from Yarmouth along the way.


Cook picked up two yards on first down, then Gerrish caught a pass for five yards on second. At the end of the play, a personal foul penalty was called on the Clippers, giving the Dragons a first down at midfield. After Labreque gained five yards, he ran for nine and at the end of the play, another 15-yard personal foul penalty was assessed on Yarmouth, putting the ball at the Clippers’ 21. Cook ran for four yards, then picked up two and Beal threw incomplete, setting up fourth-and-4, but Gerrish caught a Beal pass in traffic for eight yards to set up first-and-goal at the 7. After Cook ran for six yards to the 1, Beal scored up the middle with 7:41 on the clock and despite Gerrish being stopped short on the two-point conversion, Brunswick was in front, 14-12.

After Bradford returned the ensuing kickoff to the 40, Yarmouth hoped to answer, but after gaining a yard, Bradford fumbled and sophomore Christian McMaster recovered for the Dragons at the Clippers’ 45.

Brunswick took advantage, marching 45 yards in five plays and 1:42 to extend its lead.

Cook gained just one yard on first down, but Beal hit Gerrish for seven, then Beal kept the ball for seven yards and a first down at the Yarmouth 30. Cook then broke free down the right side and wasn’t brought down until he reached the 5. Cook then finished off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to the left. Beal’s two-point conversion rush was stopped short but the Dragons had a 20-12 advantage with 5:47 left before halftime.

The Clippers then reawakened and finished the half strong.

Starting at its 39 with 5:39 on the clock, Yarmouth needed just six plays and 2:44 to pull even.


McGonagle got things started by breaking a tackle and gaining 14 yards to the Brunswick 47. After Bradford kept the ball for four yards, McGonagle gained three and on third-and-3, with the Dragons expecting the run, Bradford found Pelotte for 20 yards and a first down at the 20. McGonagle then rushed for 11 yards before getting the ball again and breaking a tackle en route to a 9-yard score with 2:55 left. Bradford then hit Pelotte with the two-point conversion pass to make it 20-20.

Brunswick started at its 40 but couldn’t retake the lead.

After Scholl caught a 12-yard pass to the Clippers’ 48, Labreque ran for six yards, then five for a first down at the 37, but Beal threw incomplete and after Labreque caught a pass for one yard, two more Beal incompletions gave Yarmouth the ball on downs at its 36 with 47.4 seconds remaining.

That was enough time for the Clippers to go back in front.

Bradford threw incomplete on first down, then senior Albert Porter dropped McGonagle for a one-yard loss, but on third-and-9, Bradford rolled left while under pressure and threw up a prayer down the sideline where Pelotte outleaped McMaster at the Dragons’ 30, then strolled into the end zone to complete a 65-yard touchdown with just 31 seconds left. McGonagle’s two-point rush was stopped short, but Yarmouth had momentum back in its corner and took a 26-20 advantage to the break.

The second half would be equally explosive and dramatic.


The Clippers got the ball to start and Bradford returned the kickoff 45 yards to the Brunswick 30.

Three plays and 59 seconds later, Yarmouth was back up by two scores.

McGonagle ran for four yards, then broke a tackle and gained 21 more to set up first-and-goal at the 5. McGonagle then ran left and carried a tackler over the line for a 5-yard score with 10:50 left in the third period. A two-point conversion pass failed, but the Clippers had a 32-20 lead.

To their credit, the Dragons didn’t let the game get away from them, marching 68 yards in eight plays and 3:17 to get right back in it.

Beal did most of the work, breaking free to the right en route to a 50-yard pickup all the way to Yarmouth’s 18. After Cook ran for two yards, Beal hit Scholl for five yards, then Cook gained three to set up first-and-goal at the 8. After Beal ran for seven yards, he was dropped for a one-yard loss by senior Trent Richard. Cook got a yard back, setting up fourth-and-goal from the 1 where Beal surged in for the score with 7:29 on the clock. Beal’s two-point conversion rush was stopped short, but Brunswick’s deficit was just 32-26.

Junior Malyk Cofer returned the ensuing kickoff 17 yards to the Dragons’ 49 and the Clippers were in position to score again, but after McGonagle was held to no gain by Porter and McMaster, McGonagle ran for two yards and after a false start penalty, Bradford threw incomplete, forcing a punt where Bradford came up huge, booting the ball 51 yards and pinning Brunswick at its 1.


The Dragons were lucky to avoid a safety, as Labreque and Cook were each tackled while barely getting the ball out of the end zone before Cook caught a pass from Beal for eight yards, setting up fourth-and-2. Brunswick didn’t punt, however, and Beal couldn’t connect with Gerrish, giving Yarmouth the gift of possession at the Dragons’ 9.

And with 3:19 left in the period, McGonagle scored on a 9-yard run up the middle, breaking a tackle before spinning and crossing the goal line. This time, McGonagle was able to add the two-point conversion rush and the Clippers had a 40-26 lead.

But only for 15 seconds.

Labreque took the ensuing kickoff at his 17, shot up the middle, then cut to his left, found room and got a block to break free before leaving everyone in his wake en route to a stunning 83-yard touchdown.

“The kickoff return just absolutely killed us,” said Yarmouth coach Jim Hartman.

Beal added a two-point conversion pass to Scholl and Brunswick had the momentum right back.


Yarmouth looked to answer as it started at the Dragons’ 47, but couldn’t do so.

McGonagle moved the chains with runs of six yards, then 12. After McGonagle ran for eight more, Bradford threw incomplete, then McGonagle was dropped for a two-yard loss by Coffill and junior Tyler Maxim on the final play of the quarter.

The fourth period began with the Clippers facing fourth-and-4 from the Brunswick 23. McGonagle got the call and got close, but he only picked up three yards and the Dragons got the ball back at their 20 with 11:53 remaining.

Brunswick went three-and-out, as Labreque ran for a yard, Beal kept the ball for six, then Beal hit Cook for no gain. Gerrish then punted the ball and it deflected off of Scholl, but the ball took a fortunate bounce for the Dragons, rolling all the way to Yarmouth’s 28.

The Clippers then went three-and-out as well, as Bradford threw incomplete, McGonagle ran for two yards, then Bradford picked up three on third-and-8. Bradford pinned Brunswick at its 22 with 8:40 to go, but in a matter of nine plays and 2:43, the Dragons marched the field and tied the score.

Cofer held Cook to no gain on the first play, but Beal then threw deep to the left side and found Scholl for 30 yards and a first down at the Yarmouth 48. After Labreque gained three yards, Gerrish caught a pass for seven more and a first down at the 38. A bad exchange cost the Dragons 11 yards, but on the next play, Beal hit Scholl deep down the left side again for 33 yards to the 16. After Cook ran for three yards, Beal threw incomplete, but on the next snap, Gerrish ran a slant, Beal hit him in stride and Gerrish did the rest, breaking the plane for a 13-yard score with 5:57 on the clock. Beal’s two-point conversion rush was stopped short, but Brunswick had made it a 40-40 contest.


And on the ensuing kickoff, the Dragons got a huge break, as the ball bounced off a Clipper and was recovered by Scholl at midfield with 5:55 to play.

Seven plays and 3:29 later, Brunswick went ahead for good.

Cook got things started with a seven-yard run. Scholl caught a five-yard pass for a first down, then after Cook ran for five yards, Beal scrambled for six and a first down at the 27. After Labreque gained nine yards, a defensive holding penalty set up first-and-goal at the 9. Cofer held Cook to no gain, but on second-and-goal, Beal threw to the end zone, where Scholl lunged and made the catch for a 9-yard TD with 2:26 remaining.

“Liam Scholl is my dog,” said Beal. “Coach called the play and I said, ‘Coach, why are we running that, there’s three minutes left?’ He just told me to run the play and we scored.”

Beal then found Gerrish for the all-important two-point conversion to make it 48-40.

Yarmouth got a final chance, starting from its 46 with 2:20 left and the Clippers would rise up and drive the field in just three plays.


After a false start penalty, McGonagle was dropped for a loss of a yard and Bradford threw incomplete. Bradford then dropped back to throw again and looked for an unexpected target, Gawtry, downfield. Scholl got a hand on the ball, but Gawtry was able to bring it in, then he ran the rest of the way to paydirt to complete a stunning 60-yard scoring play with just 1:05 on the clock.

The game would come down to a two-point conversion attempt and before the Clippers ran the play, Renna called timeout.

“I told them to just enjoy the moment,” Renna said. “We work hard on two-point conversions.”

Then, unsurprisingly, McGonagle, who redefined the word workhorse the past two seasons, got the football for the final time in his high school career, but Coffill brought him down to keep the Dragons in front.

“That’s the play he wanted,” Hartman said. “He’s the stud and you give him the ball, but I had a feeling they’d make an adjustment.”

“I couldn’t look,” said Beal. “I was on a knee praying. We got the big stop. It was a big moment and we just balled out.”


The Clippers’ last hope was to recover the subsequent on-sides kick, but Scholl fell on it to essentially end it.

Yarmouth had just one timeout remaining and Beal twice took a knee.

At 9:02 p.m., the final horn sounded and Brunswick had a stirring 48-46 victory.

“It means the world to me,” said Beal. “If you told me last year we’d be in this position, I would have laughed. Yarmouth’s a great team and we just balled. They motivated us. Last game, we were frustrated. That fueled us.”

“Coach told us to do our jobs and we did it,” said Porter. “Last game, we lost by a lot and kind of gave up after a big play. We’ve been training to keep our heads in the game no matter what. We kept fighting to the end.

“We’re just all in shock. A lot of people didn’t think we could make it here, but I knew we could do it. It’s crazy what this team has gone through. Two years ago, we didn’t even have a season. It got taken away from us. The year before that, COVID. We used to be a dynasty. Now, Brunswick football is back, baby.”


“We made some good adjustments and it paid off,” Renna added. “We always preach details.”

The Dragons finished with 445 yards of offense.

Beal excelled, completing 19 of 24 passes, good for 179 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 87 yards and three scores on 15 attempts.

“Last year, I started at quarterback, moved to wide receiver, moved back to quarterback and this year, we’ve got it all,” Beal said.

“Cam played amazing,” said Renna. “He’s the leader and he’s steering the ship. He’s still green, but he’s ready at 4 in the morning. He’s a gamer. It’s fun to watch to him.”

Cook gained 95 yards and scored one TD on 27 rushes.


Scholl had eight catches for 108 yards and the winning touchdown.

Gerrish caught five passes for 66 yards and a TD.

Labreque contributed 10 rushes for 51 yards.

Brunswick beat host Greely, 42-38, back on Sept. 14 and lost at home to Mt. Ararat, 64-14, on Oct. 6. At this point, there’s no point in looking at regular season results to predict what might happen in the playoffs, so the Dragons will be content going on the road in the next round and looking to continue their magical ride.

“We beat the one seed and reigning state champs, but we can’t get on our high horse,” Beal said. “We have to go into next week knowing whoever we’re playing just won too, so we have to dial in and really focus.”

“This win really helps us,” said Porter. “The boys are more confident we can win. We’re hyped. We’ll just have to go out there and do it like we did tonight.”


“We’ll reassess and see what happens,” Renna added. “It’s playoffs and there’s a lot of emotion. I’ll enjoy this tonight, then it’s back to work in the morning.”


Yarmouth finished with 446 yards of offense.

McGonagle capped his stellar career by rushing 27 times, good for 284 yards and five touchdowns.

“(Michael) had a great career,” Hartman said. “Back-to-back 2,500 yard seasons. He’s the man. He got us here.”

Bradford went 3-of-9 passing for 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns.


Pelotte had two receptions for 85 yards and a score.

Gawtry caught the other pass for a 60-yard TD.

The Clippers were doomed in part by a lack of discipline, nine penalties for 74 yards, as well as the absence of senior linebacker Rufus MacVane, who was unavailable for the game.

“It’s a heartbreaking way to end. Big time.” Hartman said. “There’s only one team that ends happy and wins. We did as much as we could. We got 46 points. It’s tough. We’ve been hurt all year. Rufus was a big loss. He’s our middle linebacker and not having him just killed us.”

Graduation will hurt the program, as five players depart, including the quarterback, workhorse running back, defensive leader, Richard and Eddie Kim, who will all graduate.

A lot of talent will return in 2024, however, when Yarmouth plans to make another run at the title.

There might be a change at the top though.

“My goal when I came back here was to make the program strong again,” Hartman said. “The youth is doing well. I’m 72 now and I have some things to think over.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. For game updates and links to game stories, follow him on Threads: @foresports2023

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