FA’s Southwick burns Rams with late TD, 14-12

HE WOULDN'T BE DENIED — After catching a quick pass, Raider senior receiver Ben Southwick raced past two Kennebunk defenders to score the game's winning touchdown Saturday. Fryeburg rallied from a 12-0 deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Rams. (Rivet Photos)

HE WOULDN'T BE DENIED — After catching a quick pass, Raider senior receiver Ben Southwick raced past two Kennebunk defenders to score the game's winning touchdown Saturday. Fryeburg rallied from a 12-0 deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Rams. (Rivet Photos)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG —With 1:01 left in the game Saturday, Ben Southwick was thankful that Kennebunk decided to call a timeout.

The senior receiver dropped to one knee, wiped sweat off his face and tried to fight the exhaustion taking over his body.

Fryeburg trailed defending Class B West champion Kennebunk 12-7. After a goal-line stand and a fumble recovery at their own 7-yard line, the Raiders still had life — a chance to spring a major upset.

Southwick had faith the Raiders could reach the end zone 52 yards away.

“Honestly, I have no endurance. I was dying from the heat after playing every down,” he said. “My team needed me, so I needed to step up and show them what I could do to help them out.”

So did junior quarterback Ryan Gullikson, who limped to the huddle. He had taken a hard shot to the lower calf in the third quarter, but refused to leave the game.

“When I was younger, my dad told me to put my pain in a box, lock it and forget about it. That’s how I tried to get through it,” Gullikson said.

With the game on the line, both players showed heart and determination to snatch victory away from highly-regarded Kennebunk.

Gullikson calmly took a two- to three-step drop and rifled a spiral to Southwick just a few yards downfield. Southwick beat Ram inside linebacker Patrick Saunders and kicked it into high gear. Defensive back Justin Wiggins dove in hopes of knocking Southwick down or at least make him stumble around the 20-yard line, but Southwick avoided contact and sprinted into the end zone.

“When I caught it, I knew it was going to go for a touchdown,” Southwick said. “Seeing our fans and my teammates on the sideline going wild was incredible.”

Immediately, Southwick celebrated the moment with his quarterback as the Raiders stunned the Rams 14-12 in the season opener.

“I just threw it and Ben did the rest. The guys up front really stepped up when they had to. Fourth quarter, they were there,” Gullikson said. “It’s a huge win. We’ve talked about believing in ourselves and how we can win. Today, we believed.”

SACKED — Kennebunk quarterback Donovan Connor is dropped for a loss by Raiders Isaac Wakefield (left) and Brandon Ludwig.

SACKED — Kennebunk quarterback Donovan Connor is dropped for a loss by Raiders Isaac Wakefield (left) and Brandon Ludwig.

A year ago, Kennebunk throttled the Raiders 49-20.

FA Head Coach David Turner impressed upon his squad all week that this was a different Ram team and the focus needed to be on assignments, not the past or the Rams’ pedigree.

The Raiders had their chances in the first half, but penalties erased two potential scores and defensive breakdowns resulted in two late scoring plays to give Kennebunk a 12-0 lead at intermission.

The Rams scored on a 31-yard run by Patrick Saunders, and then struck for a 66-yard bomb down the middle from quarterback Donovan Connor to Saunders with 2:49 left until intermission.

“We had some chances in the first half, but just didn’t execute. When we did, we scored twice but then had penalties take points off the board,” Coach Turner said. “We told the guys at halftime that we just need to keep playing — play the next play. It seemed we were a little dejected at halftime, being down 12-0, but we felt we could have scored at least two touchdowns. We didn’t, but we felt we could. We felt it was a matter of executing. We told them to just keep playing and we will get something. We needed stops. We knew what we did wrong (a couple of big breakdowns) and needed to fix them.”

Kennebunk appeared ready to deliver the knockout punch late in the third quarter when Gullikson was popped on a scramble and the ball sailed away, recovered by Kennebunk lineman Richie Plattt at the FA-46.

Justin Wiggins then ripped off a 26-yard gain before finally being stopped by Kyle Bennett and Donovan Brown. Later, a pass interference call put the ball at the FA-6. It was gut check time as a weary Raider defense needed stops to stay in the game.

And, they delivered. Gullikson and Nick Armstrong combined to produce a two-yard loss. Bennett delivered a bone-rattling hit on fourth down to drop 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior fullback Sean Brannen for a two-yard loss.

“They had a chance to put the game away, but we came up with a stop — that was huge. It lifted us,” Coach Turner said. “Our guys were gassed. We tried to sub the best we could, but we were gassed.  If you keep playing, eventually something good might happen.”

Bennett gave the Raiders some breathing room with a five-yard gain. Kennebunk helped the cause when they were whistled for roughing the passer, good for another 15 yards.

After Gullikson connected with Armstrong for eight yards, the Raider quarterback followed big blocks by Isaac Wakefield and Kevin Ventura to pick up four yards and a first down.

At the FA-36, Gullikson hit Southwick in stride and he bolted for a 64-yard touchdown with 7:34 left in the game. Brandon Ludwig booted the extra point.

“We felt we had that play all game long, but missed it three or four times. You keep missing it doesn’t do you any good,” Coach Turner said.

UPSET SPECIAL — There was plenty of emotion along the Fryeburg Academy sideline after Saturday's 14-12 upset of Kennebunk. Pictured are Gage Fowler (left) and Angel Escalante.

UPSET SPECIAL — There was plenty of emotion along the Fryeburg Academy sideline after Saturday's 14-12 upset of Kennebunk. Pictured are Gage Fowler (left) and Angel Escalante.

Fryeburg’s defense would be put to the test once more as Kennebunk threatened to ice the victory by moving the ball inside the Raider 10. Initially, it appeared the FA defense would hold, forcing a 3rd-and-2 at the K-29. But, Brannen hit a hole off tackle, broke right and scooted 60 yards before Wakefield made a saving tackle at the FA-11.

Digging deep, the Raiders would bend, but not break. Matt Boucher stopped Kennebunk’s Harrison Vosburgh for a yard gain.  After a four-yard pickup, Kennebunk tried to go wide, but a pitch play went awry. Kyle Bennett had a shot at the loose ball, but was unable to tuck it away. Teammate Boucher came to the rescue and secured the ball with 1:51 left at the FA-7.

Fryeburg has engineered some miraculous 2-minute drives in recent years, but Coach Turner was a little nervous about this one because the team struggled executing it during practice.

“We did it against our JV Thursday and had a pass picked off by our 80-pound freshman (Bayden Roy) and other times we ran it, we got stopped on downs,” Coach Turner said. “We couldn’t beat our scout team, but thankfully, we did it today.”

1:40 left. With no timeouts left, the Raiders dug out of the hole as Southwick found some running room on the outside and bolted 20 yards before being hit out of bounds.

1:32 left. Gullikson scrambled, but was dropped for a two-yard loss.

1:18 left. Gullikson finds Brandon Ludwig along the sideline, good for 23 yards to the FA-48.

1:01 left. Kennebunk calls for a timeout to set up its defense. The rest proved more valuable for the Raiders, especially Southwick.

52.2 left. Southwick delivers the game winner.

Because Kennebunk had struck quickly earlier in the game, the FA coaching staff had their defensive secondary playing deep. It nearly paid off as Kennebunk’s two pass plays were nearly intercepted by Gullikson and Ludwig. On fourth down, Ludwig finally snagged a pass over the middle, secured the ball and finally went down at the FA-48 with 20.1 seconds left.

As players sprinted out of the end zone to ring the victory bell, Coach Turner was very proud of how his club battled all day under difficult circumstances.

“Our quarterback (Gullikson) was beaten up, but he is such a competitor. So is Ben (Southwick). It really doesn’t matter what happens for the first three quarters, Ryan will keep on playing,” Coach Turner said. “At one point, I was trying to get him out, and he wouldn’t go for it. I trust him. It’s not easy in high school football. I trust he is going to make a play.”

Playing against a big Kennebunk front line, Coach Turner felt the Raiders held their own, especially when the game’s outcome was in the balance.

“We’re young up front with three sophomores starting. Little experience. We’ve gotten better over the past three weeks, but have a long way to go, but they see what they can be. They are competitors,” he said. “I hope this game shows our kids that we can compete in this division. We have tough games ahead. We’ve worked hard telling them to believe in themselves; believe that their best is good enough; their best is all we can ask for and it will be good enough. Today, they did and somehow we pulled this one out.”

Gullikson attributes the team’s success to their general demeanor.

“As a group, we’re a lot happier. We tell jokes during our stretching lines,” he said. “Before, if we were down 14-0 at halftime, we didn’t believe we could come back. We would be insulting each other in the gym. Our D-line — Bouch, Wakefield, Angel (Escalante) and Kevin — came up big. I think the difference is that we’re not playing for ourselves, but for the team.”

Southwick believes a willingness to put in hard work is the key to the team’s fortunes this season.

“Our line is small this year and a lot of people don’t believe in us. We’ve been in the weight room and are strong and have the mental toughness to show people what we’ve got,” he said. “We’re close as a team, and we know that we just need to keep working our butts off and go out there with the same mentality we had today. A lot of people don’t believe in us, but after a game like this, they might start changing their minds.”

Next: The Raiders travel to Cumberland this Friday night to meet the Greely Rangers at 7 p.m. Greely lost to Marshwood on the road 47-0 in the opener.

 

 

 

 

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