Saturday, December 3, 2016
RECAP: Falmouth Overwhelms Marblehead in D2A
By Brendan Hall (@BHallESPN)
FOXBOROUGH, Mass.- When Derek Almeida took over his alma mater Falmouth High three years ago, the Clippers were going through some of their leanest years in program’s rich history. But the way Almeida sees it, “I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.”
Given a blank canvas, Almeida carefully molded the Clippers back into a dynamo. And after achieving the first state championship and undefeated season in school history this afternoon, after skating to a 34-13 rout of Marblehead in the MIAA Division 2A State Final, Almeida has his Picasso.
“It’s amazing,” Almeida said. “I really think we’ve got the toughest kids in the state. I don’t know if I have the best game, but I don’t think there’s any tougher kids. We’ve shown it week in, week out, and we’ve won every week with toughness. We’ve got talent, but that’s a tough group of kids over there.”
In bringing the Clippers’ program back to dominance, Almeida has deployed the uniquely-oriented “Flexbone” offense, a modified triple-option scheme popularized by college programs such as Georgia Tech and Navy, and growing in popularity here in the Bay State.
Today, against an aggressive 3-4 Magicians scheme, Falmouth dominated early and often, getting three touchdowns from fullback Gates Kelliher (18 carries, 95 yards) and seeing three ballcarriers get at least 75 yards. The Clippers put up twice as many yards as Marblehead (438-217) and especially owned the ground game, rushing for 344 yards while holding the Magicians to just 68 – with one-third of that total coming on a rush late in the first half.
It took the Clippers less than three minutes to draw first blood, with Nick Couhig firing a well-threaded laser down the right hash to his favorite target Jean Vazquez (2 catches, 40 yards, TD) on a post route.
And then, it took the Clippers just four more minutes to pile on another score. Couhig went deep again, this time hitting Trent Leachman for 33 yards on a seam post up the left sideline. Gates Kelliher punched it in four plays later, riding guard Noah Rowell into the end zone on a four-yard dive, to make it 14-0.
Couhig, a Boston College baseball commit, finished the day with 94 yards on 5 of 8 passing, but his first-quarter vertical passes helped put the Magician defense in a bind.
“When we watch the film, we’ll probably watch it together and he [Couhig] will say, ‘We shoulda taken more shots downfield’,” Almeida laughed. “We kinda say that every week. He knows the offense we run, and that’s what we wanna do. We set things up as we go. But we still took some shots when could.
“We’ve been so good on the perimeter, and everybody tries to defend our perimeter pretty tough – you’ve got to crank the safeties down, the corners gotta be aggressive. We try to slow people down really by throwing the ball deep. If we hit them, we hit them. And even if we don’t hit them, it does something for us offensively, because it slows them down a bit.”
Falmouth’s third scoring drive served as the proverbial backbreaker, a 15-play, 95-yard drive punched in with another Kelliher dive, making it 21-0. Marblehead got one back on a great play call from head coach Jim Rudloff, using motion out of the backfield and running a “China” route combination up the left sideline, leaving Manning Sears wide open for a 27-yard score.
But the Magicians just could not slow down Falmouth’s rushing game. Kelliher, who got most of his yardage on short dives up the middle, finally broke one in the fourth quarter, a 42-yard touchdown scamper.
“Gates Kelliher, you talk about toughness,” Almeida said. “He might be the toughest one of them all. We kept feeding him the ball, and eventually he popped one.”
Well over 200 of Falmouth’s 344 rushing yards came before contact, while 234 of the total yards came outside the tackles.