Foxcroft Academy’s final team standing, Coach Danny White’s football team, suffered a heartbreaking 13-7 loss to the 2nd-seeded Waterville Purple Panthers when Cam Thomas plunged into the end zone from five yards out with eight seconds left in Saturday’s Eastern Maine Class C semifinal game in Waterville. The Ponies, who had their hands full all afternoon with Waterville’s massive defensive front but played with a tremendous amount of heart, finish up an excellent 2014 campaign at 7-3. The 8-1 Purple Panthers advance to play top-seeded Winslow on Saturday in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Maine title game.
The last-second touchdown was a brutal way for the Ponies to end their season, but it was a play earlier in the game that players, coaches, and fans will likely remember most. After a scoreless first quarter that saw the Ponies twice stuff the Panthers on fourth-and-short deep in their own territory, the Pony defense was able to force a punt midway through the second quarter, and here’s what happened:
Hunter Smith’s brilliant return (and the ensuing extra point from Second Team All-Conference kicker Nate Church) provided a lead that would hold for just over four minutes, as Waterville’s Cam Thomas ripped off a 61-yard scoring dash to tie things up with 2:06 remaining in the first half. Both defenses played incredible football the rest of the way until Thomas was able to deliver the game-winner against an exhausted Foxcroft unit that was on the field for a total of 27 minutes and 64 plays.
“This certainly was a tough matchup for us physically,” said Coach White. “But the kids poured their hearts out and gave themselves the chance to win it. I couldn’t be prouder of their effort.”
Pete Boyer capped a phenomenal career with 20 tackles from his spot at middle linebacker while running mate Clay Carroll gutted out a sprained MCL suffered a week ago to finish with 13. Billy Brock (13 tackles), Connor Holmes (10 tackles, fumble recovery), Smith (8 tackles, fumble recovery), Isaiah Kennell (6 tackles), and Kaleb Faloon (6 tackles) made big plays all afternoon for a unit that did everything it possibly could to keep its team in the game.
Thomas finished with 179 yards on 27 carries to spearhead a deep Waterville backfield that combined for 294 yards on 57 tries. Smith led the Ponies with 53 yards on 17 carries while fellow Player of the Year candidate Boyer was bottled up in the backfield all afternoon, managing just 15 yards on 9 attempts. Chris Storer sparked the Pony offense with a 14-yard gain on a jet sweep to open the second half and finished with 15 yards on two carries.
Smith, who was named to the Big Ten Conference’s First Team as both a quarterback and defensive back, completed 4 of 6 passes–hitting Boyer twice, Brock once, and Carroll once–for 21 yards. Panthers’ quarterback AJ Godin connected on 3 of 9 passes for 28 yards.
It’s hard to imagine a coach being more dedicated to his players than Danny White is, and the sixth-year man would give anything to have a few more weeks with his team. “It’s tough to just have the season end,” he said. “Only four teams in the state accomplish the ultimate goal, and everyone else ends the season with pain. It just shows how tough it really is.”
Coach White preaches that a team is a family, and he won’t soon forget any of his ten seniors, a tightly-knit group that closes its career with a 28-12 record to go with a state title in 2012. “In order to have a successful season in any sport or competition you must have great leadership,” he said. “These seniors were no exception. This group became stronger and smarter and grew as a unit each year. They pushed one another to improve as football players, they challenged each other to be better teammates, and in return they inspired me to give my very best back to them. For that, I say thank you to the Class of 2015 for all of your contributions to OUR program and for the countless memories you provided that we all can cherish for years to come. You are all such quality young men, and I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend this chapter of your lives with you. FAMILY.”
Brandon Dyer earned the starting job at center as a senior and contributed 11 tackles on defense over the past two years, Caleb Edgerly totaled 40 tackles and four interceptions from the cornerback spot in his final two seasons, Isaiah Kennell was one of the Ponies most improved players this season and finishes his career with 57 tackles and an interception, Gaige Pleninger amassed 78 tackles and three interceptions since winning a starting job as a junior, Talon Strout joined the program as a senior and added depth to the offensive and defensive line, and Trevor Tash earned his first career start when the Ponies hosted Nokomis on Senior Night three weeks ago.
The Ponies’ four senior captains–Kaleb Faloon, Sean Cody, Clay Carroll, and Pete Boyer–have left an indelible mark on the program.
Faloon was a force in the trenches, finishing his career with 46 tackles, two sacks, and an interception. “Kaleb came to us as a junior and immediately made a positive impact on the field, becoming a two-way starter–on offense as our left tackle and as one of our defensive ends on the other side of the ball,” said Coach White. “In the locker room he was quickly identified as a leader, and he never looked back. Kaleb was a pleasure to have these past two years. He brought energy and excitement to the field everyday and has been selected as an Honorable Mention member to the Big Ten Conference this fall.”
Cody was also an anchor on both the offensive and defensive line, closing his career with 45 tackles and two sacks. “Sean is a four-year member of our program and a two-year starter,” said Coach White. “He made improvements each year but none more noticeable than the leap he took between last year and this fall. He worked out very hard in the weight room, and on the field his physical gains were clear. He became a powerful force at both right tackle on offense and as a defensive tackle–so much so that he was selected as a Second Team All Big Ten offensive lineman and as a First Team All Big Ten defensive lineman. Sean was a constant leader for our team and a prime example of how you want your program represented.”
Carroll overcame several hard-luck injuries earlier in his career to finish with 173 career tackles, an interception, and a rushing touchdown. “Clay is another four-year member of our program– a two-year starter and a three-year long snapper (a position that is not easy to fill),” said Coach White. “Clay is such a quality person–the type of leader all coaches look for. He leads on the field, in the classroom, and in the weight room. Because of that, his teammates and coaches respect him a great deal. Clay faced adversity more often than most, but he never wavered. Each time he refused to back down from the challenge; he picked himself up, wouldn’t make any excuses, and fought his way back to the field of play. It’s that drive that earned him First Team All Big Ten honors as an offensive lineman and Second Team All Big Ten honors as a linebacker.”
All Boyer did in his career was pile up 2710 rushing yards, 35 rushing touchdowns, 302 tackles, and 6 interceptions. “Peter is also a four-year member of our program–a three-year starter who also played significantly as a freshman during the 2011 season,” said Coach White. “Peter has had one of the most impressive football careers that anyone has had at Foxcroft Academy. His all-around toughness, ability, and leadership made him a force to be reckoned with over the years. His work in the weight room is second-to-none, and his success has been a result of that commitment. Peter enjoyed his finest season this fall, and it didn’t go without notice. He was selected by all 10 coaches in our league as a First Team All Big Ten running back and also as a First Team All Big Ten linebacker. Peter will have the opportunity to play football in college next fall if that’s what he decides to do. If he does, I have no doubt that he will enjoy great success wherever he lands.”
Photo of the captains taken by Holly Ly ’15. Photo at top by Perry Wang ’17. Click here to see more of his great work from Saturday and here to see additional photos from Cathy Cody. Video clip from Daniil Grishko ’16. Click here to watch the entire game.
Special thanks to Dan Decker ’13 for once again keeping statistics all season and to all Foxcroft Academy students and parents who took photographs or filmed games this fall. You guys are awesome!