Sixth straight: Raiders blank Mountain Valley 28-0 to advance to semis
By Wayne E. Rivet
FRYEBURG — Heavy rain and a slick field negated Fryeburg Academy’s explosiveness on offense, but the Raiders showed Mountain Valley that they could more than hold their own in the trenches.
Relying more on their ground attack, Fryeburg hammered the Falcon defense for 285 rushing yards en route to a 28-0 victory in Class C quarterfinal play.
Winners of six straight, the Raiders (7-2) travel to Wells this Friday night to meet the Warriors (8-1) in the semis.
Known for his electric, big play sprints, Jared Chisari had a more workmanlike day, rushing for 151 yards on 24 carries including a four-yard TD run. His longest play from scrimmage came on his first touch of the day, an 18-yarder to start the playoff game.
Running mate Cody Gullikson battered the Falcons for 93 yards on 16 carries, including two touchdowns.
The game was won upfront with the Raiders limiting Mountain Valley’s misdirection offense to 135 yards on 44 carries, a 3.0 yards per touch. While the Falcons did string together a couple of long drives, MV came up short on each occasion as the Raider defense made big stops on fourth down tries. For the game, the Raider D stuffed Falcon running backs for losses nine times — three of those came on the opening MV drive as the Raiders sent a strong message, sending Kyle Farrar, Nick Newman and Elijah Turner each backward for two-yard losses.
“Our main objective was not to overpenetrate, and keep everything on the line of scrimmage. When you watch film, every time they (Mountain Valley) made a big play, the defense was up the field. That’s what they want you to do, and their backs come underneath you. Overall for the whole game, we did a pretty good job,” Raider Coach David Turner said. “They’re physical, and on a day like this (the way conditions were), they can wear you down a little bit. I thought we did a good job staying on the line of scrimmage, staying home and not chasing.”
While Coach Turner wanted to continue to use a balance of run and pass to open up the field, Mother Nature had other thoughts.
“Throwing the ball more would have been part of the game plan, but since we were running the ball fairly effectively, we felt there wasn’t a real need to throw more,” Coach Turner said. “Despite the weather, we still were able to throw the ball effectively.”
The Raiders jumped out to a 7-0 lead by scoring on their first possession. Chisari moved the ball into Falcon territory by gaining 18 and 10 yards on his first two touches. Quarterback Oscar Saunders then completed a hitch pass to Cobey Johnson, who found some open space toward the middle of the field, good for 18 yards. After gaining 15 yards on a sweep, Chisari finished the seven-play drive with a four-yard run. Jeremiah Schrader added the PAT kick for a 7-0 lead with 8:23 left in the first quarter.
“One of the advantages we thought we had was our speed and being able to throw the ball. The weather negated some of that, but we were able to control the line of scrimmage for the most part and had a consistent run game,” Coach Turner said.
Linebacker Tucker Buzzell, who tied for the team lead with nine tackles on the afternoon, sparked the FA defense with two solo hits, resulting in Falcon losses as Mountain Valley went three-and-out.
Fryeburg earned the game’s first big break when Caleb Eklund latched on to a fumble with 15.8 seconds left in the first quarter.
Following solid lead blocks, Chisari ripped off 13 and 16 yards. With the Falcons flagged for a personal foul on the second carry, the Raiders set up shop at the MV-5.
Fryeburg seemingly was on the verge of squandering the earlier Falcon gift by being whistled for two penalties, moving the ball back to the MV-17. No matter. Saunders zipped a pass to end Eklund for the score, and Schrader boomed the extra point for a 14-0 lead.
Facing bad weather, Coach Turner emphasized to his players the importance of ball security.
“We talked about covering the football, and also in these conditions, be aware of a second guy coming in trying to rip the football away,” he said. “If we don’t turn the ball over and don’t give them anything, we have a pretty good chance of winning. That was a main focus, and overall, our backs did a good job.”
Mountain Valley struggled mightily to get their run game going as FA linemen Kevin Ventura and Josh Frye plugged the lanes, resulting in three rushes for one yard.
The Falcons found a little rhythm on their second drive of the second quarter, moving the ball from their own 32 to the FA-38. But on a fourth down play, Falcon running back Jacob Blanchard was dropped short of the first down stick by a swarming FA threesome — Buzzell, Johnson and Gullikson.
While the Falcon drive consumed nearly four minutes off the clock, MV was left empty-handed.
Fryeburg, however, finished what they started. FA moved the ball into Falcon territory on a 21-yard jaunt by Gullikson, converted a third down as Chisari followed big blocks to the outside by Reese Kneissler and Joe LeBrun for seven yards, and entered the Red Zone on a 14-yard scramble by Saunders.
After Chisari gained 10 yards, the Raiders went with their power attack, as Gullikson lowered his shoulder pads and popped Falcon defenders to reach pay dirt from a yard out. Again, Schrader added the point after to make it 21-0 with 1:16 left until halftime.
“We felt they were going to be able to move the ball. It’s going to happen. These type of conditions, I feel, was more suited for them than us. Defensively all year long, we’ve bent but didn’t break. We want to keep everything in front of us. The more plays you make a team make, the more chances they have to make a mistake. That’s what we tried to do, not give up the big play,” Coach Turner said.
The Falcons appeared on the verge of answering the Raider score by moving the ball to the FA-11 on solid runs of 15 and 13 yards by Farrar. But, when the Falcons went to the air, it proved to be a drive-killing mistake as Caleb Bowles picked off Newman’s pass down the middle, then returned it down the sideline, where he was hit late out of bounds, resulting in 15 yards added to the run.
The Raiders were unable to capitalize as Saunders was intercepted by Farrar, who nearly returned the pick for a score, finally knocked out of bounds by Chisari. A personal foul penalty on the Raiders pushed the ball to the FA-8. With just seconds left, FA defenders Eklund and Cam Mailman put some heat on Newman, forcing the Falcon quarterback into a quick throw that fell incomplete to end the half.
Mountain Valley had a golden chance to get on the board in the third quarter. After two penalties pinned the Raiders deep in their own end, the Falcons forced a punt.
Taking over at the FA-47, the Falcons kept pounding the ball and steadily picked up yards, moving the ball inside the 10.
Again, the Raider defense would bend but not break. On third down at the FA-6, the Falcons handed off to Blanchard. He lost two yards on a big hit from Gullikson. On fourth down and needing three yards to keep the drive alive, the Falcons tried senior Todd McKellick. He bulled ahead, but gained just two yards, again stopped by Gullikson.
Fired up by the stop, the Raider offense played with the same pizzazz. Starting from their own 6-yard line, the Raiders put together a 94-yard scoring drive that erased seven minutes and 30 seconds on 19 plays culminating with a Gullikson one-yard TD run.
Big plays on the march: two Chisari eight-yard runs to get the ball away from the end zone; Chisari gaining five yards on a third down play to give FA a new set of downs; Gullikson erased a holding penalty by gaining 10 yards, and got a big assist from lineman LeBrun, who pounced on the loose ball stripped from Gullikson’s clutches; and Saunders snapping an 0-for-3 stretch (including an interception) by zipping the ball to the outside on a fourth down play to Johnson, who rushed for 14 yards.
With time their enemy, the Falcons tried for quick strikes through the air. One pass worked as Farrar flicked a floater to McKellick for a center-screen, good for 16 yards. But, Farrar was picked off on his next throw by Bowles. Newman suffered the same fate on the next Falcon possession as Gullikson outjumped a MV receiver for the ball to seal the deal with 1:11 left.
While the Raiders celebrated winning their second straight home quarterfinal game, Coach Turner knows his club needs to clean up a few things as they head to their semifinal confrontation with Wells.
“Penalties certainly hurt us. I’ll have to watch the film. I didn’t agree with a lot of them, but that doesn’t make me right. Certainly, we had a lot of unnecessary holding penalties,” said Coach Turner, whose team was flagged four times for holding and finished the game with 13 penalties for 105 yards. “Often times, someone doesn’t see the whole play and something gets called. But, having said that and I haven’t seen the (game) film yet, there were certainly way too many penalties that hurt us on several drives. In high school football, you can find holding a lot. With these conditions, you really have to focus on your technique as linemen. I certainly think our technique was as good as theirs, but obviously, the officials felt we held more than they (MV) did.”