POLAND — Freeport came out of the gates swinging, with an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Adam Ulrickson for a touchdown just a dozen seconds into the game. After getting shutout in last week by Mountain Valley, it looked like it might be more of the same for Poland.
First-year head coach Spencer Emerson knew that sooner or later his Knights would find the end zone, and on Friday they did six times as they defeated Freeport 43-12.
“You run stuff all week and in the preseason you have success, and then last week we got in the red zone three times and couldn’t score,” Emerson said. “It was like when you shake up a bottle of soda and you get a little pressure and all the sudden it pops and all the soda comes running out and we put up 43 points.”
In the Knights’ first drive, Tyler Tucci ran roughshod over Freeport’s defense for 62 total yards, including a six-yard touchdown, his first of two on the day to go along with 113 total yards on the ground, to take a 7-6 lead.
“I had to step up and give it my all,” Tucci said. “The offensive line played great, they gave me a hole and we just pounded it right down the middle.”
Freeport returned the favor on its first drive, running the triple-option all over the field for 52 yards, capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Panciocco to Aidan Michaud for a 12-7 lead.
Poland was prepared for the run-heavy offense that the Falcons run, and Emerson kept the defensive game plan simple. It paid off as Freeport accumulated only 108 yards of total offense.
“We were disciplined all week,” Emerson said. “We didn’t get too fancy upfront, we didn’t do too many blitzes or stunts, we just slanted to strength and played base.”
The Knights’ resilience was evident throughout. When the Knights were forced to punt, their defense, led by Gawain Tibbetts and Tucci, started to force some quick drives and give the Poland offense more tries at the end zone.
Trailing 12-7, Poland started a drive in the middle of the second quarter on Freeport’s 29. Downing threw a pass to Isaiah Hill 17 yards for a touchdown. Hill had struggled most of the half with a couple of drops, but his touchdown gave the Knights a 14-12 lead with 6:44 left in the half.
“Isaiah is a good player,” Downing said. “He has his moments, but the kid is a rock. In two years he’s going to be one of the best players in the state.”
On Poland’s following drive, Tucci scored once more, this time from just two yards away. The touchdown, set up by two 22-yard passes by Downing, gave Poland a 21-12 lead at the half.
“I’ll tell you what, we have a senior in Tyler Tucci who has the biggest heart I’ve ever seen in a player, and I’m glad we could reward him with some yards and a touchdown,” Emerson said.
In the second half the Knights shut out Freeport while scoring 22 more points. The opening drive for Poland was spearheaded by three passes from Downing totaling 51 yards, and finished with a three-yard touchdown run by Joe Ringuette, his first of two scores.
Poland scored on its next two drives to put away the Falcons. For Emerson, the explosion of offense was a perfect way to close the door on the Week 1 loss.
“I think it was just what the doctor ordered for this program,” Emerson said. “The kids battled. … We have 11 guys that just care, there was a lot of grit, and I wasn’t calling anything fancy. The players played unbelievable and they made it easy on me.”
Caden Benedict led Freeport with 46 yards rushing, followed by Hunter Demers with 29.