FRYEBURG — Saturday’s Class C South clash of unbeaten teams between Leavitt and Fryeburg Academy stood up to the hype, and the heat.
It was clear after each team’s first possession that the game was going come down to something unexpected. That something turned out be sophomore Eli Lind’s kicking leg.
Lind’s 26-yard field goal late in the first half turned out to be the difference in a 17-14 Leavitt victory on a cloudless, mid-80 degree Saturday afternoon.
“I’ve practiced a lot, so I knew I could do it,” Lind said. “It’s a team effort. You’ve got to have a good snap (Cole Melanson), a good line and a good holder (Bryce Hudson). When you kick it in the middle of a game, you don’t know it’s going to come down to that.”
The field goal gave the Hornets (4-0) a 17-7 lead. As it had already done once before, Fryeburg (3-1) answered quickly to make it a three-point game just before halftime. The second half turned into a defensive standoff, not decided until the Hornets converted on a 4th-and-3 in the final minute that allowed them to end the game with QB Tim Albert taking a knee.
Any thoughts that Fryeburg’s matching record going into the game wouldn’t translate onto the field vanished when it took the Raiders one play to equal what Leavitt had just done in 10.
Leavitt took the opening kickoff and marched 59 yards in those 10 plays, capped by Tim Albert’s 10-yard pass to Caleb Bowen in the right flat. Lind’s extra point made it 7-0.
“We wanted to come out and send a message, come out and drive down the field and score on the drive,” Albert said.
Raider running back Jared Chisari (eight carries, 109 yards) answered immediately with a run around the right side, following a block by Scott Parker that sprung him for a 68-yard touchdown that, with Eddie Thurston’s kick, drew Fryeburg even again.
“There was a series where we couldn’t get any pressure on the quarterback, so (Albert) was sitting back there,” Fryeburg coach Dan Turner said. “He’s got a big arm, so he can throw the ball down the field. They went down and took out half the quarter at least, so to come back quickly and respond that way was big for us. I think it gave us a little confidence.”
The Hornets kept the pressure on with their next possession, cobbling together an 11-play 68-yard scoring drive. Albert hooked up with Bowen again in the right flat, this time from four yards, for a 14-7 lead.
Damion Calder’s interception and return to the Fryeburg 24 gave the Hornets a good chance to build on the lead, but Fryeburg’s defense stiffened and forced a pair of incompletions on third- and fourth-and-goal from the 10.
A high snap and short punt on the Raiders’ ensuing possession gave the Hornets a short field again, made even shorter when the Raiders were assessed two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties (one on a player, the second on a coach for being outside the coach’s box) that moved the Hornets from the 37 to the 11.
The Raiders again forced back-to-back incompletions inside their red zone, this time on second and third down. Enter Lind, who split the uprights to make it 17-7 with 2:42 left.
“It was kind of in his sweet spot, in between the middle and the right hash, where he’s most accurate. And it made it two scores at the time,” Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway said. “We’d already gone down and come up empty once, so we felt like we couldn’t come up with no points again. We had to take it.”
Fryeburg responded with another big play, but not before handing the ball to Chisari for four straight plays to get them into Leavitt territory. On 2nd-and-6 from the 26, QB Oscar Saunders found Parker on a slant route for the touchdown that pulled the Raiders within three.
The Raiders started the second half with their longest drive of the day, 12 plays, to get to Leavitt’s 20. But an ineligible receiver penalty and a Nolan Cabral sack for a six-yard loss ended the march.
The Hornets appeared to have the next big gainer of the day when Albert faked a handoff to Hudson on a read option and scampered down the right side, bound at least for the red zone if not the end zone. But an official was as fooled as the Raiders on the play and blew his whistle when Hudson was tackled near the line of scrimmage, making the play dead.s
Leavitt was allowed to replay the down and was able to drive to the Fryeburg 23 until the Raiders forced a fumble.
Fryeburg had a 68-yard TD run by Chisari called back by a holding penalty on its ensuing possession and ended up having to punt with 4:49 to go.
The Hornets never gave the ball back. A pass interference penalty on Fryeburg and a terrific leaping catch on 3rd-and-6 by Cole Morin with a defender draped all over him helped the Hornets sustain the drive. After Fryeburg burned all of its time outs and Leavitt burned one of its own, Bradley Moreau’s five-yard run on 4th-and-3 finally allowed the Hornets to go into a satisfying victory formation.
“The last thing we said in the locker room before we left was nothing was going to faze us,” Hathaway said. “It didn’t matter what it was, whether it was the heat or a play that didn’t go our way or a call that didn’t go our way or whatever. If you’re going to go on the road and beat somebody who’s good and well-coached, you have to move on to the next play. Our guys did a great job of that.”
Albert finished 11-for-18 for 160 yards and two touchdowns.