CUMBERLAND—Westbrook QB Eli Higgins hooked up with receiver Kyle Champagne for a late-second-quarter touchdown at Greely on Friday night, Sept. 15, but the strike would prove the Blazes’ only of the night. The Rangers, meanwhile, hung five TDs on their guests and ultimately claimed the victory, 31-6.
“Oftentimes, we were kind of just one little thing away,” Westbrook head coach Jeff Guerette said of his boys’ inability to get their offense going. “I give great credit to the Greely defense; they were physical and flying around. They gave us a couple different looks than what we expected. We tried to adjust to it.”
The Blazes and the Rangers traded faulty drives to begin the game: Greely started with the ball, but Westbrooker Brayden Demers picked off QB Nick Male around three minutes in. Demers and Co. couldn’t do much with their chance, however, and found themselves punting – after incurring an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty – from their own 15.
Greely next assembled a long, determined series, a chain of short- and medium-length runs by Joey Casella dotted here and there with the occasional pass – Male connected with Nick Gauvin for nine and Shane DeWolfe for 28. After arriving at first and goal at the Blazes’ four, the Rangers punched home their first TD of the night, Tim Coyle doing the honors. 6-0 after a botched PAT attempt.
Forced to punt once more at the start of the second, Westbrook were falling further and further back on their heels. Handed another opportunity, Greely again advanced doggedly up the length of the field: This time, Coyle handled much of the running, and Male hooked up at one point with Gauvin for 20 – in fact, Male also found Gauvin the end zone on a 13-yarder to cap the push. 12-0 now.
“We had a lot of plays that weren’t executed as well as we were hoping to,” Guerette said. “We’ve got to do a better job coaching our guys on execution. They’re coachable kids, so I think we’ll keep working on it.”
The Blazes finally got on the board after that. The drive wasn’t especially pretty, and was actually saved when a Rangers personal foul for running into the kicker converted a Westbrook punt into a fresh set of downs. The Blazes can claim credit, however, for perhaps the slickest play of the night, which came when Higgins hit Champagne with a 13-yard scoring pass over the top: Higgins fired and a Greely defender tipped the ball, started it wobbling – still, Champagne, already falling backwards inside the end zone, somehow managed to reel the thing in with his fingertips. 12-6.
Overall, Westbrook favored the run. “Probably our best offensive plays this year have been running plays,” Guerette said. “So we were just trying to play to our strengths.”
The Blazes lineup is replete with solid runners, from Champagne to Demante Louriero to Hayden Phelps to Timyka Adams. “Each one of them has their strengths,” Guerette said. “But they all run hard; they’re all pretty physical once they get downhill and they hopefully present us with some balance in the run game. Those guys are fun to coach.”
Westbrook wouldn’t score again. For their part, Greely struck thrice more: when Male connected with Nolan Anderson for a five-yard pass touchdown early in the fourth, when Jackson Williams returned a Westbrook fumble roughly 40 yards for a defensive tally a few minutes later, and when Casella broke away from the crowd at the Rangers’ own 39 and cruised all the way to six more points – six more points and a decisive W, that is.
Despite giving up a substantial heap of touchdowns, the Westbrook defense did look tough at times, and halted more than one Greely drive in its tracks. Guerette acknowledged as much.
“Yeah. I thought – on both sides of the ball – we hung in there, the whole game,” he said. “It wasn’t perfect, but we managed to kind of keep the game under control in the first half, and give ourselves the opportunity to take the lead coming out of the first half. So in terms of a team hanging around and showing some perseverance, I was really proud of our guys tonight.”
Westbrook slips to 1-2 on the loss; the Blazes fell 43-0 to Biddeford in week one, then slid past Brewer 25-22 in week two. They host Noble in week four.
Greely picks up their first win of the fall. The Rangers succumbed 26-0 to Kennebunk in week one and 47-14 vs. Marshwood in week two. They travel to Brewer this weekend.
Westbrook-Greely has turned into something of a rivalry in recent years. “We expected them to be physical,” Guerette said. “They have some very good players. Coyle’s probably as physical a kid as there is in the league, and [Casella] is an outstanding player, and they’ve got great athletes on the edge. We certainly weren’t fooled by their 0-2 record; they’re a good football team.”
Guerette took a moment to single out a couple key contributors. “I thought Ben Stearns did a great job; he’s a senior, kind of unheralded. Ended up playing both ways tonight. He’s a guy who’s under-the-radar who’s doing a nice job for us. Eli Higgins did a nice job for us in a tough spot – he’s kind of a back-up guy that hasn’t played a ton. I thought he did a great job with his opportunity tonight.”
“I know the score wasn’t perfect,” Guerette said, “but I was really proud of the way the kids played.”
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
Jared Grant carries for the Blazes on Friday.
Demante Loureiro runs a route up the middle for Westbrook.
Eli Higgins quarterbacks for the Blazes.
Kyle Champange jukes on the run for Westbrook.