Homecoming magic: Raiders stun Eagles with furious fourth quarter

NEARLY BLOCKED — Fryeburg Academy junior lineman Baha Demir nearly blocks a pass attempt by Mt. Ararat quarterback Kyle Benjamin during Saturday's Homecoming Game. (Rivet Photo) RAIDERS 14 MT. ARARAT 11 First Downs: FA 13, MTA 15 Penalties: FA 9-55, MTA 6-50 Turnovers: FA 4, MTA 1 Rushing: FA 25-100, MTA 44-190 Individual Rushing: FA, Kyle Bennett 6-9, Ryan Gullikson 19-91; MTA, Jacob Schoenberg 15-62, Donte Dangerfield 18-60, Robert Heatherman 6-37, Kyle Benjamin 4-minus 32, Garrett Bolduc 11-63 Passing: FA 17-30-156; MTA 3-11-23 Receiving: FA, Brandon Ludwig 4-60, Nicholis L’Heureux-Carland 9-87, Donovan Brown 3-7, Nick Armstrong 1-2 Tackles (solo, assist, total): FA, Angel Escalante 9-4-13, Donovan Brown 4-3-7, Ryan Gullikson 4-0-4, Tyler Hall 0-1-1, Brandon Ludwig 4-1-5, Nick Armstrong 1-4-5, Matt Boucher 1-3-4, Eli Thompson 0-2-2, Nicholis L’Heureux-Carland 3-5-8, Kevin Ventura 0-1-1, Kyle Bennett 9-4-13, Isaac Wakefield 1-2-3, Baha Demir 6-4-10, Cody Gullikson 1-0-1

NEARLY BLOCKED — Fryeburg Academy junior lineman Baha Demir nearly blocks a pass attempt by Mt. Ararat quarterback Kyle Benjamin during Saturday's Homecoming Game. (Rivet Photo)
RAIDERS 14
MT. ARARAT 11
First Downs: FA 13, MTA 15
Penalties: FA 9-55, MTA 6-50
Turnovers: FA 4, MTA 1
Rushing: FA 25-100, MTA 44-190
Individual Rushing: FA, Kyle Bennett 6-9, Ryan Gullikson 19-91; MTA, Jacob Schoenberg 15-62, Donte Dangerfield 18-60, Robert Heatherman 6-37, Kyle Benjamin 4-minus 32, Garrett Bolduc 11-63
Passing: FA 17-30-156; MTA 3-11-23
Receiving: FA, Brandon Ludwig 4-60, Nicholis L’Heureux-Carland 9-87, Donovan Brown 3-7, Nick Armstrong 1-2
Tackles (solo, assist, total): FA, Angel Escalante 9-4-13, Donovan Brown 4-3-7, Ryan Gullikson 4-0-4, Tyler Hall 0-1-1, Brandon Ludwig 4-1-5, Nick Armstrong 1-4-5, Matt Boucher 1-3-4, Eli Thompson 0-2-2, Nicholis L’Heureux-Carland 3-5-8, Kevin Ventura 0-1-1, Kyle Bennett 9-4-13, Isaac Wakefield 1-2-3, Baha Demir 6-4-10, Cody Gullikson 1-0-1

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — For three quarters and six minutes into the fourth period, the Raiders were “terrible,” according to Coach David Turner.

“We couldn’t get a rhythm going. I couldn’t get a rhythm going. Every time we started to get something going, we would have a breakdown — a missed assignment, a dropped pass. It was frustrating and the kids were a bit down, but they kept fighting,” Coach Turner said. “Fortunately, we can run a two-minute drill.”

Much like they did in the season opener, Fryeburg Academy rallied for two late scores to shock Mt. Ararat 14-11 to send the FA faithful smiling on Homecoming Saturday.

Junior quarterback Ryan Gullikson is becoming a magician, pulling another improbable win out of his hat. He completed three long strikes, including an 11-yard dart to end Nicholis L’Heureux-Carland to keep the drive alive, setting up a 1-yard TD run by Gullikson with 4:38 left. FA linemen Angel Escalante and Baha Demir created the opening for Gullikson.

Mt. Ararat, which had moved the ball effectively all day on the ground, tried to squeeze more time off the clock by sticking with its misdirection and power rushing attack. But, the Raiders took control of the line of scrimmage, stuffing three runs including a blitz by Nick Armstrong, who spun around Eagle quarterback Kyle Benjamin, who then was drilled backward by L’Heureux-Carland and Demir for a five-yard loss.

With 2:16 left, the Raiders started their game-winning drive with great field position, at their own 47.

But, two dropped passes put the Raiders on the brink of losing. After Gullikson scrambled for four yards, L’Heureux-Carland came up with the game’s biggest catch — a seven-yard gain to buy the Raiders a new set of downs.

The junior end picked a great time to turn in his finest game as a Raider. Senior receiver Ben Southwick injured an ankle Thursday and was out for Saturday’s game. L’Heureux-Carland emerged as a reliable target Saturday, catching nine passes for 87 yards. He also anchored the outside on the FA defense, making eight tackles.

“Ben was a big part of what we thought we were going to be able to do against Mt. Ararat. That was a big setback. Nick’s play was huge. He had a drop in that last drive, but came back to make two big catches. That was the Nick we expect, and we need more of that,” Coach Turner said. “Other guys — like Eli Thompson — really stepped in.”

SEALING THE DEAL — FA cornerback Brandon Ludwig (#21) tipped a pass and then intercepted it to end Mt. Ararat's last ditch effort. Fryeburg improved to 2-1. (Rivet Photo)

SEALING THE DEAL — FA cornerback Brandon Ludwig (#21) tipped a pass and then intercepted it to end Mt. Ararat's last ditch effort. Fryeburg improved to 2-1. (Rivet Photo)

Gullikson hooked up with L’Heureux-Carland with 1:48 left for eight yards and another first down to the MTA-31. The two connected again with 58.2 seconds, this time good for 15 yards inside the five-yard line. Two plays later, Gullikson found pay dirt with 37.3 seconds, and then lofted a perfect touch pass to the left corner of the end zone to Brandon Ludwig for the two-point conversion.

Trying to keep the Eagles from a possible big kickoff return, the Raiders kicked the ball out of bounds once and then were whistled for an offside, giving up 10 yards of real estate. A third squib kick was covered up by Alex LaFountain at the FA-44 with 36 seconds left.

Despite good size at the tight end position, the Eagles run the football better than passing it. A toss over the middle to LaFountain was tipped upward by Ludwig, who then was able to reset himself and jump again to catch the ball and seal the victory.

“As I told our guys, for three quarters and seven minutes of the fourth quarter, we were terrible,” Coach Turner said. “But, once we completed a few passes, the kids knew they had been here before and we felt comfortable that we could get back into it. We kept fighting and gave ourselves a chance to win.”

Both teams struggled to reach the end zone in the first half as the scoreboard read “Home 0, Guest 0” at intermission.

The Eagles rushing attack — featuring three backs — used up six minutes in the first quarter, driving to the FA-19. But, the drive stalled when senior Angel Escalante — who was a force all day with 13 tackles — delivered a big stick on third down, and linebacker Kyle Bennett (13 tackles) and lineman Isaac Wakefield dropped Eagle Jacob Schoenberg for a five-yard loss on fourth down.

“Angel kept us in the game early on. He didn’t come off the field unless it was special teams. I have to give a lot of credit to our offensive and defensive lines — they are all new and without a lot of experience. Yet, they battled it out. They did a great job,” Coach Turner said. “Kyle has great instinct and a different gear, different mentally, which is what you want. He’s just a tough, tough kid.”

Escalante made another big stop, sniffing out a MTA reverse and unloading on Robert Heatherman for a yard gain on a 4th-and-3 try.

The Raiders started to move the ball as Gullikson found L’Heureux-Carland for 12 yards, which turned into a 27-yard gain as the Eagles were slapped with a roughing penalty.

But, the drive ended with three straight incompletions.

After a Fryeburg interception with 1:55 left until halftime, Mt. Ararat completed three passes to the FA-11, but a holding penalty, three consecutive incompletions and a sack by L’Heureux-Carland with 5.9 seconds left ended the first 24 minutes without any points.

The Eagles finally finished a drive, opening the third quarter with a five-play, 74-yard drive keyed by a 15-yard facemask penalty against the Raiders and an 18-yard run by Donte Dangerfield. MTA scored with 10:06 left on an 11-yard run by Garrett Bolduc, who also added the two-point conversion.

Offensively, the Raiders went 3-and-out and then fumbled their next possession.

The Eagles had chances to put serious distance between themselves and the Raiders, but were stymied by big defensive stops. Bennett sacked Eagle quarterback Benjamin for a 14-yard loss to end one drive, while the FA defense jarred the ball loose, resulting in a nine-yard loss and forcing Mt. Ararat to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Jacob Stienman in the final 20 seconds of the third quarter, giving the winless Eagles an 11-0 lead.

“We wanted to make them drive the field and not give them huge plays, and then hopefully we’d make a stop or they would turn it over. We did what we needed to do, but just couldn’t get anything going offensively until late in the game,” Coach Turner said. “Giving up just a field goal was huge. If they scored a touchdown, it could have been 14 or 15, and we might be out of the game.”

The Eagles ran four minutes off the clock after Jason Black recovered a Raider fumble at the MTA-26 on a pitch play, thwarting a FA threat to climb back into the contest.

Down 11-0 with 6:10 left on the clock, the Raiders were still in the game, but desperately needed a jumpstart.

Ryan Gullikson once again was the igniter. He was 4-of-5 passing for 50 yards and ran the ball four times for 16 yards to lead FA to their first score with 4:38 left.

Gullikson still had plenty of magic left, which spelled D-E-F-E-A-T for the Eagles, who dropped to 0-3.

Next: The Raiders (2-1) travel to Bath Saturday to take on the Morse Shipbuilders (1-2) at 1:30 p.m. Morse opened the season with a 27-20 home win over Oceanside, and then dropped road defeats to Falmouth (55-14) and Gardiner (8-0).

“It’s going to be a battle, on their Homecoming,” Coach Turner said. “It’s the same mentality as this game — we need to execute, not give up big plays and keep them off the field. We can’t lose the turnover battle again and expect to win.”

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