Sports

Wells ends up being too much for Foxcroft in Class D championship

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PORTLAND — For the first few series of the 2017 Class D football championship on the turf at Fitzpatrick Stadium during the late afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 18, North region top seed Foxcroft Academy and South No. 1 Wells High School were evenly matched as both defenses forced the opposing offense into a pair of three-and-outs.

The Warrior offense then got going with two touchdowns in the opening quarter and three more in the opening half to help the team win 48-0. Wells finishes the season with a perfect 12-0 record, having won 16 consecutive games dating back to the 2016 postseason that culminated in the Class C title. In the 2016 championship game the Warriors defeated Mount Desert Island High School 44-0, for a 92-0 advantage between the two contests in Portland.

Foxcroft (the team ends the season with a record of 8-3 with all three losses coming against programs outside of Class D North) received the game’s opening kickoff and junior Hyatt Smith set his team up with great field position on a 29-yard return to the Pony 46-yard line. The Ponies ended up stuck at the 46 before punting on a fourth-and-10.

The defense then forced Wells into a fourth-and-10. The Warriors got ready to punt but the snap soared over the head of senior punter Ethan Marsh. Marsh reached the loose football first and he was able to kick the ball away to midfield where it was downed at the Pony 46.

A second three-and-out led to a second Smith punt with the ball going out of bounds at the Wells-37. Foxcroft then held the opposition to a fourth-and-10 to get possession back once again.

On a third-and-11 from the team’s own 40, Pony senior quarterback Nick Clawson threw deep down the field. The pass ended up being picked off by Wells junior Tyler Bridge at the Warrior-19.

A pair of rushes by senior quarterback Michael Wrigley and classmate Nolan Potter moved the ball 51 yards to the Foxcroft-30. On the ensuing play Potter found a hole in the left side of the line and he rumbled 30 yards for the touchdown at the 3:42-mark of the opening quarter.

“It wasn’t really an adjustment,” Wells head coach Tim Roche said about getting his team’s offense going. “I just think the kids said what we need to do. ‘Let’s run belly right down Adam’ and we started running belly Adam and Nolan starts going, going, going and it’s tough to stop that. I wouldn’t want to defend us, honestly I wouldn’t. We have one of the best defenses too but I wouldn’t want to defend us and what we have because we have a lot of threats.”

Another three-and-out led to the Pony punt team going back on the field at the end of the ensuing possession. The snap went back but Wells blocked the punt as the football rolled to the Foxcroft 21-yard line. A play later Wrigley found Bridge open in the flat to his left and Bridge took the short pass all the way for the touchdown.

The touchdown pass was the first score Wrigley would have a hand in. He began the second quarter by scoring on a 6-yard rush. Later in the quarter he found the endzone on plays from six yards and 18 yards to help his team build a 34-0 lead. Wrigley finished with 69 yards and three touchdowns on five carries.

“We traditionally have held off on doing that during the season because we don’t want to get our quarterback hurt,” Roche. “Then we turn him loose later on in the season to get him going.”

The play of the Wells offense helped keep Foxcroft’s offense — which had outscored the opposition 74-0 in the previous two playoff games and 114-0 dating back to the regular season finale — off the field as did a pair of interceptions deep in its own territory.

A pick at the Wells-16 led to the possession ending in Wrigley’s second 6-yard touchdown. Another interception took away another chance for Foxcroft. The Warriors would hold the Ponies to 7-of-26 passing for 77 yards with four interceptions.

“I thought our pass defense, which everybody says is terrible, was pretty good,” Roche said. “We just came in here on the big stage and played well.”

The Wells head coach said his players have been heading out to practice early to prepare for the Pony pass attack, which entered the game having picked up over 1,100 yards in 10 games. “They will run plays against each other that they know Foxcroft’s going to run and we have been doing that for three or four weeks and that’s how you get better.”

On the opening possession of the second half, Wells kept the ball on the ground to go from the team’s own 44 to the Pony-15. Here Potter ran up the middle for his second touchdown of the day — he led all players with 159 yards on 16 carries and ends the season at over 1,500 rushing yards with 28 touchdowns. The 41-0 point lead — Wells sophomore Matt Tufts went 6-of-7 on his PATS — activated the running clock rule for the remainder of play.

Two plays from scrimmage later, a fourth Wells interception and short return by Potter set the team up at the Foxcroft-21. Four plays after the pick senior Chad Fitzpatrick ran the ball in from a yard out for his team’s seventh and final touchdown.

“That’s a very good high school football team,” Foxcroft head coach Danny White said, as his team was shutout for the only time in 2017. “One of the best I’ve witnessed or coached against.”

“We knew we had to take chances down the field and try to get some points that way, but their front is so aggressive and strong and get to the quarterback so that he doesn’t have a whole lot of time,” White said.

The Wells front helped limit the Ponies to 32 yards on the ground, and 109 overall. Clawson gained a team-high 18 rushing yards on eight carries and junior Michaleb Niles picked up 15 yards on seven carries.

Smith’s three receptions resulted in 40 yards — putting him at over 700 yards on the season — and junior Jeremy Richard caught a trio of passes for 39 yards.

The Class D championship is the first for Wells at that level. In addition to the 2016 Class C title the Warriors had played in five Class B title contests, winning in 2011 and 1997.

“They’re all special, there’s no way they can’t be, but I think when you lose 19 (seniors) you’re not really expecting this,” Roche said about the roster turnover from the 2016 state championship squad.

Since the Maine Principal’s Association began crowning a state championship in a matchup between regional winners, Foxcroft has now appeared in 13 title games (winning five Gold Balls and two other state championships in the 1960s). The Ponies advanced to the finale for the first time since winning the Class C championship in 2012, and third time under White in his nine seasons guiding the Ponies.

The Bangor Daily News’ Ernie Clark contributed to this story.

FOOTBALL
CLASS D
CHAMPIONSHIP
South No. 1 Well 48,
North No. 1 Foxcroft 0
WE 14 20 14 0 | 48
FA 0 0 0 0 | 0
First qtr: W — Potter 30 yds
(Tufts kick)
W — Bridge 21 yds
from Wrigley (Tufts kick)
Second qtr: W — Wrigley 6 yds
(Tufts kick)
W — Wrigley 6 yds
(Tufts kick)
W — Wrigley 18 yds
(kick wide)
Third qtr: W — Potter 15 yds
(Tufts kick)
W — Fitzpatrick 1 yd
(Tufts kick)
Passing: W — Wrigley
4-of-6 53 yds TD Int;
Bridge 0-of-0
F — Clawson 6-of-25
57 yds 4 Int;
Spooner 1-of-2 20 yds
Receiving: W — Marsh 2,
33 yds;
Bridge 2, 20 yds TD
F — Smith 3, 40 yds;
Richard 3, 39 yards;
Marsh 1, -2 yds
Rushing: W — Potter 16,
159 yds 2 TD;
Bridge 11, 106 yds;
Wrigley 5, 69 yds 3 TD;
Fitzpatrick 3, 22 yds TD;
Scott 1, 4 yds;
Roberts 2, 3 yds;
Tufts 1 2 yds;
Talevi 2, 1 yd;
J. Potter 1, 0 yds
F — Clawson 8, 18 yds;
Niles 7, 15 yds;
Nelson 2, 1 yd;
Spooner 1, 0 yds;
Richard 1, -2 yds
Records: W — 12-0
F 8-3

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
2017 CLASS D FOOTBALL STATE CHAMPIONSHIP — Foxcroft Academy junior Hyatt Smith upends Wells High School senior quarterback Michael Wrigley during the second quarter of the Class D championship on Nov. 18 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland, as Pony junior Caleb Ladd and Wells junior Morgan Welch-Thompson look on. Wrigley would score on the ground three times in the second quarter to help his team earn a 48-0 victory and its second straight state crown after winning at Class C in 2016. For a story and photos from the game please see page 6 and for congratulations from local businesses on the Ponies winning the Class D North championship please see page 2.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
NOT SO COVETED HARDWARE — Foxcroft Academy senior captain R.J. Nelson holds the Ponies’ Class D runner-up plaque following the state championship on Nov. 18 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland, won 48-0 by Wells High School. Among the other seniors coming forward are, from left, Cameron Marsh (21), Levi Stedman (12), captain Johnny Labree (55) and captain Drew Dankert (87). Foxcroft was playing in a state final for the first time since 2012.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
GET OUT OF THE WAY! — Pony junior Hyatt Smith stiff arms Wells sophomore Devin Chace on a 29-yard kickoff return to the open the game. Smith led his team with 40 receiving yards on three receptions.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
UNABLE TO CORRAL THE RUNNING PONY — Foxcroft junior Michaleb Niles slips a tackle by Wells sophomore Matt Tufts during the opening quarter of the Class D championship on Saturday afternoon in Portland.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
AIR ATTACK — Senior quarterback Nick Clawson lets a pass fly as his line holds the pocket.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
BURST ON THROUGH — The Foxcroft Academy football comes onto to the field for the start of the 2017 Class D championship between the Ponies and Wells. The Ponies finished 2017 with a record of 8-3, with all three losses coming against non-Class D North schools. In addition to Wells, Foxcroft lost in the regular season at Class C champion Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield and vs. D South runner-up Madison/Carrabec in week one.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
LEADING THEIR TEAM — Pony head coach Danny White and senior captains, from left, Nick Clawson, Johnny Labree, Reggie Johnston, Drew Dankert and R.J Nelson head to the center of the field for the opening coin toss.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
20-YARD COMPLETION — Junior Jeremy Richard fends off Wells junior Tyler Bridge for a 20-yard catch from junior Matthew Spooner late in the fourth quarter. Richard recorded three receptions for 39 yards.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
FALL ON THE BALL — Foxcroft junior Matthew Spooner falls on a punt blocked by Wells during the first quarter on Saturday, as Warrior sophomore Devin Chace lands on Spooner.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
REDZONE PICK — Pony junior Hyatt Smith leaps to intercept a Wells pass inside the Foxcroft 10-yard line in the final seconds of the opening quarter. Foxcroft senior Nick Clawson was also in on the coverage against Wells sophomore Henry Thifault.

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