Raiders complete Hail Mary pass, but fumble away victory against Patriots

DEEP BALL CAUGHT by Fryeburg Academy receiver Nick L'Heureux-Carland as the play clock neared zero, but a Gray-NG defender dislodged the ball. (Rivet Photo)

DEEP BALL CAUGHT by Fryeburg Academy receiver Nick L'Heureux-Carland as the play clock neared zero, but a Gray-NG defender dislodged the ball. (Rivet Photo)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — Nick L’Heureux-Carland was just two yards away from lifting Fryeburg Academy to an improbable fantastic finish.

The senior Raider wide receiver somehow slipped behind the Gray-New Gloucester defense down the right sideline and hauled in a beautifully thrown ball by quarterback Ryan Gullikson around the five-yard line with a few seconds left on the clock.

But, when L’Heureux-Carland made a cut to the left to avoid a saving tackle by Patriot defensive back Zack Haskell, the football suddenly squirted out of his hands and sailed into the air.

Haskell’s hit sent the ball into the end zone. FA’s Cody Gullikson and Gray-NG’s Jaycob Sanborn and Justice Bowie dove for the loose ball. When the officials unstacked the pile of blue and white jerseys, Sanborn, who was initially on his back, had won the battle securing the football, thus saving the Patriots.

With 1 tick left on the clock, the ball was placed at the GNG 20, and the Patriots escaped the Academy Saturday with a 22-20 victory. The win sent the Patriots to a 2-0 start, something players wondered if the school had ever done since the football program began.

The loss was a tough pill for the Raiders (0-2) to swallow. Fryeburg put up impressive numbers, but mistakes cost them a chance to even their record.

“We made too many mistakes today,” FA Coach David Turner said. “We had penalties that killed drives and took us out of what we wanted to do. Offensively, we didn’t make the plays we had to make, and defensively, we just gave up too many big plays. Those big plays in the game that you have to make to win it seemed to go the other way today.”

FIGHT FOR POSSESSION — Fryeburg's Cody Gullikson tries to secure the loose ball after a fumble into the end zone with time expiring Saturday against Gray-NG. The Patriots came up with the fumble, and hung on for a 22-20 victory over the Raiders. (Rivet Photo) GRAY-NG 22, RAIDERS 20 First Downs: FA 19, GNG 3 Penalties: FA 7-65, GNG 8-56 Turnovers: FA 5, GNG 1 Passing: FA 19-for-40, 200 yards; GNG 5-for-8, 63 yards Rushing: FA 31-252, GNG 31-226 FA rushing: Ryan Gullikson 25-232, Cody Gullikson 6-20 G-NG rushing: Austin Chase 18-198, Elijah Simmons 4-15, Justice Bowie 8-12, Zack Haskell 1-1 FA receiving: Oscar Saunders 3-58, Nick L’Heureux-Carland 6-70, Scott Parker 3-26, Alex Ehrensberger 1-11, Cody Gullikson 6-35 G-NG receiving: Zack Haskell 4-45, Tristan Herod 1-18 FA tackles (solo, assist, total): Alex Ehrensberger 1-3-4, Cody Gullikson 4-3-7, Matt Boucher 2-6-8, Gage Fowler 2-1-3, Ryan Gullikson 1-1-2, Scott Parker 0-1-1, Cobey Johnson 1-1-2, Baha Demir 0-1-1, Nick L’Heureux-Carland 4-1-5, Oscar Saunders 2-0-2, Kevin Ventura 0-2-2, Isaac Wakefield 1-1-2 Up next: The Raiders (0-2) travel to Wells (2-0) Friday, game time 7 p.m.

FIGHT FOR POSSESSION — Fryeburg's Cody Gullikson tries to secure the loose ball after a fumble into the end zone with time expiring Saturday against Gray-NG. The Patriots came up with the fumble, and hung on for a 22-20 victory over the Raiders. (Rivet Photo)
GRAY-NG 22, RAIDERS 20
First Downs: FA 19, GNG 3
Penalties: FA 7-65, GNG 8-56
Turnovers: FA 5, GNG 1
Passing: FA 19-for-40, 200 yards; GNG 5-for-8, 63 yards
Rushing: FA 31-252, GNG 31-226
FA rushing: Ryan Gullikson 25-232, Cody Gullikson 6-20
G-NG rushing: Austin Chase 18-198, Elijah Simmons 4-15, Justice Bowie 8-12, Zack Haskell 1-1
FA receiving: Oscar Saunders 3-58, Nick L’Heureux-Carland 6-70, Scott Parker 3-26, Alex Ehrensberger 1-11, Cody Gullikson 6-35
G-NG receiving: Zack Haskell 4-45, Tristan Herod 1-18
FA tackles (solo, assist, total): Alex Ehrensberger 1-3-4, Cody Gullikson 4-3-7, Matt Boucher 2-6-8, Gage Fowler 2-1-3, Ryan Gullikson 1-1-2, Scott Parker 0-1-1, Cobey Johnson 1-1-2, Baha Demir 0-1-1, Nick L’Heureux-Carland 4-1-5, Oscar Saunders 2-0-2, Kevin Ventura 0-2-2, Isaac Wakefield 1-1-2
Up next: The Raiders (0-2) travel to Wells (2-0) Friday, game time 7 p.m.

Senior quarterback Ryan Gullikson was a force offensively. He rushed for 232 yards on 25 carries, and completed 19-of-40 passes for 200 yards.

Fryeburg won most of the statistical battles — 19 first downs to GNG’s 3, and 452 yards of offense to the Patriots’ 289 — but lost the war. Five Raider turnovers would haunt the home team.

If Gray-NG surprised people a week ago with a win at Mountain Valley, they will surely start making people believe they are a club on the rise.

With a solid offensive line, the Patriots continued their big play ways as senior running back Austin Chase broke free for two TD runs of over 80 yards en route to a 198 yard rushing afternoon.

“45 (Chase) is a good back. For the most part, we contained him. On those long touchdowns, we had him in the backfield or dead to right, but didn’t finish off the tackle. When you’re tired in the fourth quarter, that’s what happens. You don’t either have the strength to make the tackle or your technique breaks down.” Coach Turner said. “They (the Patriots) are a good team. They are physical. They’re strong. And, they’re quick.”

Fryeburg scored on its first possession as Gullikson broke free off tackle for a 10-yard TD run. The Raiders overcame a couple of bumps in the drive as Gullikson hooked up with L’Heureux-Carland for 12 yards, and erased a penalty with a 17 yard run.

The Raider defense stuffed the Patriots’ first two drives, then came up with a big stop after a FA punt was blocked and FA was whistled for a personal foul.

Fryeburg moved the ball to the Patriot 21, but an interception on a toss over the middle stopped the drive with 8:17 left in the second quarter.

Gray-NG tied the game with 3:27 left when Chase popped free to the outside and raced 85 yards down the sideline. QB Justice Bowie zipped a slant PAT pass to Haskell to tie the game.

On the ensuing kickoff, Haskell booted a short floater toward the left sideline, which the Raiders failed to cover in time as the Patriots took possession at the FA-30. On the first play of the drive, Bowie found Haskell in single-coverage for a TD. Bowie added the 2-point PAT run to give the Patriots a 16-8 lead with 3:16 left until the half.

With 1:04 left, the Raiders appeared set to tie the game when Gullikson spurted free on a fourth down play from the Patriot 29, but as he approached the goal line, he was tackled from behind and lost control of the ball. GNG recovered the fumble at their own 2.

The Patriots attempted to run out the clock, but Chase was stopped on fourth down. FA immediately called for timeout with .2 seconds left on the clock — enough time for one play. Gullikson got some redemption as he followed strong lead blocks from Kevin Ventura and Isaac Wakefield to score from two yards out. A PAT run was stuffed by Chase and Joe Gurney.

After holding Gray-NG to a three and out to start the third quarter, the Raiders regained the lead as Gullikson finished off a 11 play, 76-yard drive with a 4 yard run. The key play setting up the score was a nifty sideline catch by freshman Oscar Saunders off a Gullikson scramble, good for 40 yards to the GNG 1.

FA misfired on a PAT pass to lead 20-16 with 4:55 left in the quarter.

Saunders added a big play on the other side of the ball, as well, intercepting a Bowie pass near the end of the third period.

Fryeburg nearly capitalized on the turnover, driving the ball to the GNG 12 before the drive stalled, courtesy of a holding penalty and a pass deflection by Haskell.

The Patriots seem to operate the best when their backs are up against the wall. On the first play from their own 13, Chase shook two tackle tries and then put the jets on to beat the FA defense down the left sideline for an 87-yard dagger with 8:02 left. Bowie’s PAT run try was stopped by Gullikson.

When FA failed to move the ball, Coach Turner opted to punt with 6:27 remaining. The strategy nearly worked. The FA defense allowed one first down as the Patriots converted on 4th-and-1.

With 1:10 left on the clock, FA took over at their own 32. Gullikson bought the Raiders one last chance for a comeback win when he scrambled on fourth down and picked up 32 yards. After two incompletions, Gullikson fired a Hail Mary spiral down the right sideline — a prayer that was almost answered.

“Great throw. Great catch. He just didn’t get in. The kid from Gray just made a play, which is what you have to do when the game is on the line,” Coach Turner said. “If we make a few plays, we win the game. One issue we had was in short yardage pounding situations, we had no one to go to because our guys were gassed due to the lack of depth. They were tired. We still have guys out and it hurt. We need to do a better job substituting, as well.”

Coach Turner felt his club could mount a late score, but on this Saturday, it wasn’t meant to be.

“I am very confident in our two minute drill and again, we delivered but just didn’t score,” he said.

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