Early good K-night: Raiders put up 41 first half points to thump Poland

GREAT FINGERTIP CATCH by Raider Caleb Eklund for a big gain. (Rivet Photo)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — As he approached the line of scrimmage, end Caleb Eklund looked to his left and gave quarterback Oscar Saunders a little nod.

Saunders initially dropped the snap, but was able to pick up the ball, slide to the right, set his feet and fire a high pass down the middle of the field.

As he expected, Eklund found a big hole in the Poland secondary, leaped high for the toss, and managed to get a couple of fingertips onto the ball, making a spectacular grab. He rumbled into the endzone for a 37-yard TD.

When a team is on a roll, the breaks seem to fall their way.

And, when a team has speed to burn, it can make life very difficult for an opponent to keep pace.

Fryeburg Academy scored 41 first half points Saturday and buried Poland 48-6 to improve to 3-0. Senior back Jared Chisari had another huge day, breaking loose for touchdown runs of 48 and 46 yards to finish with 141 yards rushing.

Meanwhile, after starting the game 0-for-2 passing, Saunders went on a 5-for-5 tear, finishing with 132 yards, including a perfectly-placed deep ball to Eklund for a 37-yard TD.

And, when the offense slipped up a few times (two fumbles), the Raider defense rose to the challenge, allowing the Knights a mere 47 yards rushing — 106 for the day.

“I think we had a good week of practice, but we still have some bumps and bruises that we have to contend with,” FA Coach David Turner said. “Today, we started off sloppily, and they gave us some problems and we didn’t do a great job handling it. We have more speed than they have, and sometimes, it makes up for some miscues. We’re fortunate with that.”

Poland caught an early break when Chisari had the ball knocked out of his hands trying to gain extra yards on a sweep to the right, recovered by Aaron Paradis.

But, the Knights were stuffed by the FA defense as lineman Reese Kneissler blasted Paradis for no gain and on third down a pass completion from Brady Downing to Paradis went for a mere two yards as Ryan Hewes and Eklund were quick to the ball.

At the FA-39 facing 4th-and-8, Poland Coach Gene Keene decided to punt. The Knights gained just 16 yards of field position.

“The early fumble was caused by missed assignments. The defense responded. Regardless, they’re well coached and we knew they would be where they were supposed to be most of the time,” Coach Turner said. “If we execute, we feel we can keep teams off-balance. It will be tougher to do next week (against Leavitt).”

Fryeburg looked much sharper on the next drive as the line dominated the trenches, creating good running lanes for Cody Gullikson (three carries, 18 yards) and Chisari, who beat the Knight defense for 48 yards on a jet sweep.

FA showed a little trickery as placeholder Caleb Bowles found Cobey Johnson all alone in the endzone on the point-after try, good for two points.

After another three-and-out by the Knights, Fryeburg scored quickly as Chisari busted loose for 20 yards and Poland was penalized for a late hit, placing the ball at the P-11. Two plays later, Gullikson followed big blocks by Tucker Buzzell and Kneissler for a six-yard TD. The extra point boot failed.

FA 14, Poland 0 after one.

Just like the first quarter, the Knights couldn’t move the ball on the Raiders, going three-and-out again.

Fryeburg went up 20-0 on Eklund’s grab with 10:24 until halftime.

Poland’s next possession went backwards — minus 1 for Paradis thanks to a big hit from Liam Harriman, minus 1 as Hewes delivered a jolt to a Poland receiver on the sideline, and minus 4 as Calvin Southwick thumped Paradis on a screen pass play.

Junior Nathan Knapp made some nifty jukes and spins on the ensuing punt return to give the Raiders great field position — the Poland 32. FA was quick to cash in as Chisari ripped off 16 yards, setting up a 16-yard run by Saunders, who weaved through the Knight defense.

Harriman’s sack of Knight quarterback Brady Downing for a nine-yard loss thwarted the next Poland possession. Starting at their own 47, the Raiders needed just three plays to score with 3:49 left in the half. Chisari showed great patience as blockers got out in front of him along the right side, and he bounced off two Poland defenders, barely staying inbounds, completing the tight-rope run with a 46-yard TD.

Poland finally cracked the stingy Raider defense as Paradis popped free for a 41-yard jaunt, finally knocked down by Knapp at the FA-19. Backup quarterback Joe Ringuette found Zach Cote alone down the left sideline on a busted coverage for a 24-yard TD strike with 2:09 left.

Fryeburg responded, moving the ball 61-yards in five plays in 1 minute, 27.8 seconds with Gullikson hitting pay dirt from four yards out behind blocks from Buzzell and Josh Frye.

The big play, another acrobatic one-handed catch by Eklund between two Poland defenders, good for 27 yards. Chisari thought he had his third TD on a 13-yard run, but the play was called back after Gullikson unloaded a thunderous block in the backfield. A new rule to protect player safety no longer allows blindsided hits, something Coach Turner says players are still adjusting their games to.

Up 41-6 at the break, by rule, the teams played running time in the second half, resulting in 23 total plays — not a bad thing as summer-like temps roasted the pad-layered players.

FA scored the only points of the half when backup quarterback Caleb Bowles rescued a broken play in the backfield, scrambling to his left and finding plenty of open green space, 27 yards for a touchdown. Freshman Eddie Thurston’s PAT boot was good.

A good day in the sun for the Raiders, but a very big challenge looms ahead.

Up next: At 3-0, just how good are the Raiders? The answer comes Saturday when FA hosts fellow Class C South co-leader in the Heals, the Leavitt Hornets (3-0). Game time is 1:30 p.m.

Leavitt has been a juggernaut so far this young season. The Hornets beat York 55-34, then blasted Belfast 73-0. Last week, Leavitt downed Gardiner, 19-7.

“Year in and year out, they are one of the top teams. They’re extremely well-coached. They’re a year-round football team, whether it be the weight room or 7-on-7, it’s year-round for them. We have to be at our absolute best because they will be at their best. They’re big. They’re athletic. They’re physical and have speed. So, they’ve got everything. We have to come out and play our best game, which is what you want to do,” Coach Turner said.

He added, “I would think our focus this week will be there. It’s not necessarily being overly intense, but paying attention to what am I doing, what is my assignment. I think this is a great test, much like when Wells came here last year. At the same time, it’s the fourth game of the season. Though it’s a big game, it’s just one game. Win or lose, it’s not indicative what is going to happen weeks down the road.”

ANOTHER GREAT CATCH by end Caleb Eklund went for a touchdown,

WRAPPED UP AND NOWHERE TO GO — A Poland runner is tackled by Raider's Brad Kruger (front) and Ethan Burk.

FIGHTING THROUGH BLOCKS to make a play on Poland running back Zach Cote were Raider defenders Liam Chisari (#11) and Jaden Dennery (#27).

UNDER PRESSURE — Raider defender Calvin Southwick nearly sacks Poland quarterback Brady Downing. (Rivet Photos)

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