PORTLAND — The Yarmouth High School football program lost 17 of its first 18 varsity games.
Less than two full seasons later, the Clippers are state champions.
Undefeated Yarmouth, in just its fourth year as a varsity program, ended a storybook season Saturday evening at the expense of Stearns’ of Millinocket’s own storybook progression, surging past the Minutemen 34-6 in the Class C state final at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
With the victory, Yarmouth also became the first school to win state championships in football and boys soccer in the same year. The Clippers won the Class B state crown in boys soccer on Nov. 6 by defeating Ellsworth 5-0.
Stearns, making its first trip to the state final since 1998, ends its season with an 11-1 record.
Yarmouth, known for an offense that averaged 44 points per game in its first 11 victories of the season, was dominant defensively against a Stearns team that lost starting quarterback Jared McGreevy to a knee injury late in the first quarter.
“We played a lot of defense tonight and their speed wore us down,” said Stearns coach Chris Preble. “Offensively we couldn’t keep them off balance enough because we had to shorten our playbook down quite a bit, so they keyed on our backs and took chances with the passing game, and their speed got to us.”
The Clippers limited the Minutemen to 76 total yards — including minus-7 rushing yards — to go with four quarterback sacks and fumble recoveries by Nick Proscia, Ben Weinrich and Billy Clabby.
“I think they mirrored Maranacook (of Readfield, which Yarmouth defeated in the Western C quarterfinals),” said Yarmouth coach Jim Hartman. “They ran the same plays, so we were really comfortable going into the game that we could play with these guys.”
Yarmouth, meanwhile, featured a balanced running attack that produced 251 of the team’s 280 total yards. Nate Pingitore rushed for three touchdowns, Anders Overhaug gained 104 yards on 17 carries and Proscia added 95 yards and a touchdown on 19 rushes in support of freshman quarterback Brady Neujahr, who rushed for 16 yards and completed two of five passes for 29 yards and a touchdown.
“We just ran the ball tough. We did a great job of that,” said Hartman. “We only ran Brady a couple of times, but they were big, key runs. We only had to throw (five) passes. Again we were able to keep the pressure off the freshman. That’s what’s great about the ability to run the ball like that. He can have his turn next year throwing the ball.”
Stearns — the state’s smallest football-playing school with a listed enrollment of 197 — had feasted throughout its run to the state final on good field position, but it was Yarmouth that used the field-position advantage in the first half to move out to a 20-0 lead.
Pingitore — who entered the game coming off a painful hip flexor — ran the opening kickoff back 61 yards to the Stearns 19, and while Yarmouth didn’t score on that possession, the Clippers converted on a 39-yard march after an exchange of punts, with Neujahr completing a 17-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Perrier with 6:04 left in the first quarter.
Bryce Snyder added the extra-point kick to give Yarmouth a 7-0 lead.
Things got worse for Stearns late in the first quarter when McGreevy suffered an injury to his left knee while being sacked by Weinrich.
Proscia recovered McGreevy’s fumble on the play, and Yarmouth drove 47 yards to extend its lead to 13-0 on a 4-yard run by Pingitore with 9:57 left in the first half.
Sophomore Jordan Morrow replaced McGreevy at quarterback for Stearns, but a fumbled pitch on the Minutemen’s next possession gave Yarmouth another short field. The Clippers needed three plays to go 30 yards, with a 20-yard run by Overhaug leading to a 5-yard touchdown run by Pingitore with 7:58 left in the half.
McGreevy initially went to the locker room and late in the second quarter returned to the Stearns bench, but when he tried to throw the football on the sidelines, his knee gave out and the senior captain was relegated to the bench for the rest of the evening.
Stearns managed just six net rushing yards and 33 total yards in the first half. Yarmouth had 123 yards of total offense, with Overhaug rushing for 51 yards on seven carries and Proscia adding 37 yards on six attempts.
“We knew we had to keep them off balance and be physical,” said Preble, “but we had the big injury and that made us really predictable on offense. Their team speed took over from that point.”
Two more short drives extended the Yarmouth lead to 34-0 in the third quarter.
A sack of Morrow by Carter Dorsett led to a 47-yard Yarmouth march that ended when Proscia scored on a 2-yard run with 5:24 left in the third quarter.
A fumble by Stearns’ Billy Eurich on an attempted halfback option pass was recovered by Weinrich at the Minutemen’s 8-yard line, and Pingitore scored his third touchdown of the night with a run around left end on the next play.
Stearns finally broke Yarmouth’s shutout bid when Morrow connected with Ethan Michaud on a 45-yard touchdown strike with 56.2 seconds left. That pass play, down the right sideline, completed a seven-play, 70-yard drive.
Morrow completed 4 of 8 passes for 83 yards.
“These kids have worked their tails off from day one,” said Preble of the Minutemen. “They had a goal for the state game and they made it. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win, but our community’s been outstanding. A lot of people have been out supporting these kids right along and hopefully it continues because it’s a big boost for Millinocket and these kids deserve it win, lose or draw.”
Yarmouth (12-0) 7 13 14 0 — 34
Stearns (11-1) 0 0 8 0 — 6
Y—Perrier 17 pass from Neujahr (Snyder kick)
Y—Pingitore 4 run (kick blocked)
Y—Pingitore 5 run (Snyder kick)
Y—Prosica 2 run (Snyder kick)
Y—Pingitore 8 run (Snyder kick)
S—Michaud 45 pass from Morrow (pass failed)