FRYEBURG, Maine — The stands were full as the Fryeburg community came out last Saturday to support their Raider football team.
High school fans have a way of returning to the same seats each game to sit in their little pods of sports buddies to cheer on the home team. This week they cheered for a 33-12 victory over a very strong York team coming in with a 3-2 record against other good teams.
As the coin was tossed, the York sideline was very loud as they realized they would receive. Fryeburg seemed equally excited to be on defense first. You could feel this was going to be a good one.
Before the game I talked to one of the Fryeburg coaches, Bob Pulito, who told me, “This is going to be a tough one.”
I knew York liked a physical style of play, but Fryeburg can match up physically as of late with their heart-of-a-lion attitude.
York attempted to run the ball right at the belly of the Raider defense, but Will Hallem, Jackson Whitchley and Job Fox turned them away. On third and long, York went to the air, but Bobby Hallem was there on the coverage separating the ball from the receiver with a firm, legal, well-timed hit.
Before York could catch their breath, they were in punt formation. The Raiders moved the ball on the ground, although initially they came out throwing. It was enough to gain field position.
After an exchange of punts the Raiders were on the downhill side of midfield, and David Turner and David Jones had York off balance with their play calls. The Raiders marched down to the York 1-yard line with a combination of runs and passes.
With time running out in the first quarter, Gunnar Saunders put the home team on the board first on a 1-yard plunge, and a 6-0 lead as the extra point pass fell incomplete.
The lead would hold up until in the second quarter. Saunders would drop back to pass before taking off on a 13-yard run to the York end zone and a 12-0 Raider lead. The extra point failed as the half ended.
You could see that the Raiders had energy in their step while York looked tired as the teams went in at halftime. It would be Raider ball to start the second half, and with 15 minuets or so for the Raider coaching staff to make adjustments, look out York, the Raiders are coming at you.
In the third quarter, watching individual match-ups (to see who was winning the game within the game), I got lucky to follow Owen Galligan on a pass route where he drove 10 yards down field, made a false step to the post, spun around and broke to the outside sideline. QB Saunders was on a sprint pass right when he picked up Galligan running uncovered and delivered a strike to his dependable receiver who made a hands catch and tuck, before running up the sideline for the end zone.
The play brought the capacity crowd to their feet as Galligan ran down the sideline reminiscent of Otis Taylor in Superbowl II. Owen Galligan would be knocked out of bounds inside the 5. This would set up a touchdown pass from Saunders to Caleb Michlon at the end of the third.
The Wildcats would manage to get a touchdown on the board, but never threaten Fryeburg control. The Raiders had brought the high-flying Wildcats to their knees, and the home town team walked off with the victory.
You can see the Raiders improving with every snap. I heard one Fryeburg player call out in the third quarter, "They aren’t better than we are."
Next up for the squad is Nakomis at home on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.