Clippers Upset Boston College High School
By: Rich Maclone
Reputations do not win football games. Teams win football games.
Falmouth High School Head Coach Dana Almeida would not allow his Clippers to be intimidated by the résumé of Boston College High School. Yes, the Eagles were ranked No. 9 in the state. Yes, the Eagles were the reigning Division I state champions. Yes, hardly any “experts” would expect the Clippers to hang with BC High.
Still, the Clippers had a football game to play on Friday night and they refused to concede anything to the Eagles. “I told the kids that we were coming to Boston to do one thing, win the game,” Almeida said. “All week I heard BC High this and BC High that. We didn’t get the respect.”
With an undefeated record heading into the contest, Falmouth had reason to believe in itself. The club bought into the coach’s thinking and it paid off as the Clippers pulled off one of the biggest upsets in program history, upending the Eagles 22-20 before a stunned house of Eagles fans.
With the victory Falmouth debuted in yesterday’s Boston Globe Top 20 poll at No. 18. The Eagles, who are now 2-2 on the season, fell to No. 15.
Building to the showdown with the Eagles, the Clippers had been toiling to expose their opponents by using superior team speed to make things happen on the perimeter of the field. Almeida said after his team’s third win of the year over Dartmouth that he didn’t feel like the Clippers were yet hitting on all cylinders. Against the Eagles they did. The fleet-footed tandem of junior backs Nelson Baptiste and Josh LaFrange were a 1-2 punch that the Eagles had no answer for as they combined for 259 yards rushing. LaFrange went for 155 yards on nine carries, with one touchdown, while Baptiste gained 104 yards on six carries, with two electrifying scoring runs.
“They did a great job, but what’s great is that those two halfbacks, they’re in a competition to see who can be the best block for the other,” Almeida said.
Not once during the game did the Clippers seem out of their element or overwhelmed by the magnitude of the moment. The Clippers grabbed the lead early in the third quarter and never trailed the rest of the way. BC High tied it at 14-14, but then the Clippers would take the lead back on a fantastic run by Baptiste late in the third quarter. With the team’s regular long snapper, Bobby Whelan, nursing a sore shoulder, FHS went for two and converted on a swing pass from Mike Thines to Baptiste that made it an eight-point differential. That conversion would loom large at game’s end.
Falmouth nearly put the game away early in the fourth, when LaFrange cut it back on a toss from his own 18-yard line and found daylight. Just as the junior was about to cross the goal line and the end of an 81-yard jaunt, Miami-bound Andrew Tallman caught him from behind and apparently knocked the ball loose, although that’s not how Almeida saw it. The referees ruled that LaFrange fumbled the ball out the back of the end zone and BC High dodged a major bullet, getting the ball back at their own 20 rather than finding themselves down two scores.
“(The referee) said that the kid fumbled the ball over the pylon. I thought he kicked the pylon,” Almeida said.
Falmouth’s defense got the ball back in short order, though. After giving up a long pass play on first down, BC High shot itself in the foot with a fumble, which it recovered, and then a personal foul. Facing third-and-15, from its own 49, BC High quarterback Brendan Collins threw incomplete. That set up a big coaching blunder by BC High’s Jon Bartlett, who opted to have his team go for it on fourth-and-15, from the 49, with nearly six minutes left to play. Bartlett dropped back to throw but never had a chance to find an open man as Falmouth’s John Lavin and Alex Carbone teamed up to level the signal caller for a nine-yard sack, turning the ball over to the Clippers in great field position.
FHS had a chance to ice the game with a couple of first downs, but the Eagles’ defense responded by stopping FHS on four straight plays. A dip into the bag of tricks on fourth-and-six didn’t work out for the Clippers, as an option pass by Baptiste down the field for DK Johnson was off the mark, and the Eagles took over on downs, still trailing 22-14, with 4:19 left to go.
Capping off a fantastic football game were two teams that each came up big at crunch time. Bartlett orchestrated a nearly flawless scoring drive to give his team a chance to tie the score, as he marched the Eagles 63 yards in just under three minutes. BC picked up big chunks of yardage to get down to the Falmouth 20, with 2:03 left. Linebacker Trevor Andrews came up with a big play to stop Ra’ees Wingard for a three-yard loss on first down, but then Bartlett delivered the goods as he found Brandon Cippola on the left wing on a little hook pattern. Cippola did the left as he caught the ball and cut it back in, sprinting the final 15 yards to the end zone to make it a 22-20 game.
Now it was the Clippers’ turn to come through in the clutch, and that’s exactly what they did. Throughout the fourth quarter the Eagles had been able to run the ball successfully against the FHS defensive front, a unit which they held a distinct size advantage over. Super sophomore Preston Cooper took a handoff over right tackle to try to knot the score, but the Clippers’ stuffed the back a yard short of the goal line as Lavin and Jordan Ervin combined to drop the runner at the one. “We were out-manned up front, they out-weighed us by 40 or 50 pounds per man, but those kids played hard,” Almeida said.
Trailing by two with 1:25 to play, the Eagles’ lone hope was to recover an onside kick and hope to get one more shot, but they failed in their attempt. The onside kick attempt traveled out of bounds and FHS took over at its own 42. A couple of kneel-downs later and it was party time on the Clippers’ sideline.
Boston had looked like it might be able to deliver on a predicted lopsided win early on. After stopping the Clippers’ first drive of the game, the Eagles methodically used nine plays to find the end zone, capping things off with a 17-yard run by Kevin Hughes, who spun through a couple of arm tackles near the line of scrimmage and bolted for the goal.
FHS responded with an impressive nine-play drive of its own. LaFrange finished off that drive with a 33-yard touchdown run on a counter play that saw him stutter-step past one tackler and then sprint to paydirt. A failed kick attempt on the PAT left BC High up one point with 3:05 left in the second quarter and the 7-6 Eagles’ lead would hold into the half.
The second half saw Falmouth come out swinging as they took the lead right away. Baptiste scored the go-ahead TD on the team’s first possession of the second half as he dropped jaws and bugged-out eyes with a weaving 38-yard run that saw him take the ball to the right side on a pitch before cutting it back across the grain and going across the entire field before getting in. A pitch to LaFrange scored the conversion and FHS had the lead, 14-7.
BC High didn’t trail long, though. Cooper nearly ran the kickoff all the way back, getting stopped after a 50-yard return that set the Eagles up at the FHS 38. Four plays later BC tied it up as Hughes got his second score of the day, this time from 10 yards away.
The pinball pace of the game continued on Falmouth’s ensuing drive, and the Clippers were also the beneficiaries of a little luck. The team’s first three plays netted just six yards and the visitors lined up to punt the ball away. As Dillon Mansfield kicked the pigskin away he was toppled by the Eagles, who were cited for a running into the kicker penalty. That snafu by BC High extended Falmouth’s drive and the visiting team made the most of their second life. After a couple of first down runs by LaFrange, Baptiste once again came through with a rush worthy of the highlight reel, following some key blocks on an option pitch to the right side before blazing for the end zone to cap off a 49-yard touchdown run that put his team ahead to stay.
FHS is back in action on Friday night as they open up Atlantic Coast League play, on the road, against Sandwich at 7 PM at the Sandwich Pop Warner Field.
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