One that slipped away: Raiders had their chances against Greely

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

ALL EYES ON THE LOOSE BALL — Greely’s Pat Finnegan looks to regain possession of the football before Fryeburg Academy defenders Jake Thurston (left, #88) and Ryan Buzzell can pounce on it during Saturday’s Homecoming game. Greely won its fourth straight game, squeaking out a 20-8 victory over the Raiders. (Rivet Photo)

FRYEBURG — When you’re in it, you want to win the game.

David Turner knows his Fryeburg Academy football team had a great chance to earn a “statement” win Saturday against playoff contender Greely (4-1), but came up just short, 20-8.

Mistakes (five turnovers — three interceptions and two fumbles) and blown chances prevented the Raiders from beating a playoff-bound team, while hurting their own chances of making the expanded Campbell Conference tournament.

With heavy rain soaking the Academy field, Greely’s roadrunner Mike Leeman had a tough time accelerating as the Raider defense closed off the edge as Devine Dockery (10 tackles) and linebacker Bobby Ramsay (13 tackles) prevented the Ranger rocket from exploding. Leeman failed to gain a yard on the afternoon — he had four plays for minus 26 yards, quite a feat considering on a dry surface, he is capable of hitting 160 to 200 yards. Good news for Fryeburg. But, was it good enough for the Raiders to win the game? Not quite.

Greely’s bulldozer — junior fullback Svenn Jacobson (6-foot-1, 208 pounds) — hammered the FA interior defense for 166 yards on 26 carries including touchdown runs of 1 and 24 yards.

Runners found more yards to be had moving forward rather than trying to go east-west.

Neither offense reached paydirt in the first 12 minutes as the defenses ruled the wet track. Fryeburg had the best drive of the quarter as Dockery rumbled ahead for 17 yards on three carries. Once inside Ranger territory, the Raider ground game stalled as Rascoe was stuffed for no gain and Dockery was knocked backward by Jacobson on a pitch play.

Greely broke the scoring ice when Jacobson finished off a 13-play drive with a 1-yard plunge with 1:03 left until halftime. Greely rode the broad shoulders of Jacobson down the field as the junior carried the ball 7 times for 32 yards. After the burly back picked up 8 yards on fourth down to keep the drive alive, Greely caught the FA defense flat-footed as quarterback Drew Hodge connected with Leeman for a 20-yard gain to the FA-4 as Ryan Buzzell made the saving hit.

Fryeburg’s defense came to the rescue early in the third quarter after Dockery took a hard shot from Greely’s Nick Dubois, causing a fumble at the FA-27. Reaching the 10-yard line, Greely took four shots at the end zone, but came up empty handed. Linebacker Bobby Ramsay stuffed Hodge for no gain on first down, and Kirk Hubbard delivered a perfect form-tackle to keep Jacobson to a 1-yard gain. Two pass plays failed as the Raiders held their ground.

But, the FA defense was unable to make back-to-back stands. In a close call, FA receiver Buzzell made an 11-yard catch and as he turned up the field, he was hit hard by Leeman, who jarred the ball loose. Greely recovered at the FA-33. After FA linebacker CJ Bartlett burst free up the middle for a 5-yard sack, Hodge found Conner Hanley for a big 18-yard pick up on third down. It seemed for a minute that another Greely drive would fizzle when the Rangers were slapped with an illegal block penalty, but Hodge put the ball up for grabs and Leeman came away with it between two FA defenders for a 27-yard score with 1:05 left in the third quarter. Pat Finnegan connected on his second PAT kick for a 14-0 Greely lead.

“Against good teams, you can’t turn the ball over. We can’t afford to give points away when we struggle to score,” FA Coach David Turner said. “One drive, we had two or three opportunities to shut it down, but we missed a couple of picks. It should have been a 0-0 game at halftime. We were our own worst enemy at times. We told our kids at halftime that we needed to keep playing, and maybe we’d get one of those breaks or turnovers.”

Fryeburg dodged a major bullet late in the third as Greely’s Leeman intercepted a Rascoe pass at the GRE-39. The Rangers, however, were stopped by a great effort by Hubbard and Greg Sargent, who stymied Jacobson on 4th-and-1.

That energy sparked the Raider offense. Rascoe threaded a pass through the Greely defense to Kyle Bonner for a 20-yard gain and later found Buzzell for 13 more on a key fourth down call. A quick toss to Bonner on the sideline gained 6 yards. Rascoe’s quickness and determination enabled the junior QB to scramble for 4 yards to keep the drive alive. Dockery finished off the drive, following strong kick-out blocks by Tanner Wentworth and Sulo Burbank. Dockery added the 2-point conversion try, pulling the Raiders to within 14-8 with 8:27 left in regulation.

“We became energized during that drive because we finally made a few plays,” Coach Turner said. “Andrew (Rascoe) made some good reads in the first half, but our guys weren’t catching the ball. Then, we started to make a few catches. When you can throw the ball effectively, it spreads the defense out and it allows us to run more effectively. We hadn’t been doing that, but once we completed a few passes, Greely’s mindset changed.”

With the Raider defense clamping down and holding the Rangers to 3-and-out, FA took over at their own 14 with 6:21 left.

In a downpour, Rascoe found Hubbard for 11 yards, and he saved the drive with a 12-yard scramble on third down to the FA-42.

Then, disaster struck. Rascoe looked right and floated a pass toward the sideline. The ball was intercepted by Greely’s Eric Coyne with 4:05 left.

Trying to strip the ball from Jacobson, the Raiders gave up big chunks of real estate, including a 19-yarder off tackle. After Dockery and Ramsay combined to stuff Jacobson for a five yard loss, the Greely hammer lowered the final blow of the day — a 24-yard run, which started right, but then cut back to the left for a touchdown with 2:44 left.

Fryeburg’s last gasp ended with Rascoe trying to throw the ball deep, but it was picked off by Hodge to seal the victory.

“We played hard and had a chance to win the game in the end. That’s all you can ask for,” Coach Turner said. “We had some young kids in there and they played well against a dangerous team. We were able to hit with them, play with them, stopped them and drove on them. What is frustrating is that for the past two weeks, we could have pulled a win and been right in there (fighting for a playoff spot).”

Up next: Fryeburg (2-3) travels to Falmouth this Friday at 7 p.m. The Yachtsmen are 4-1, coming off a 46-14 victory over Lake Region.

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