Falmouth Football Hopes To Pull Off Big Upset

Thomas Tobey and the FHS defense have are focused on stopping Barnstable on Thursday.RICH MACLONE/ENTERPRISE - Thomas Tobey and the FHS defense have are focused on stopping Barnstable on Thursday.

Short of stealing the spark plugs from the Barnstable team bus, the Falmouth High School football team will need to dig deep to find a way to slow down the high-powered Barnstable Red Raiders on Thursday morning. To be frank, the Clippers’ chances don’t look very good heading into their annual tilt with BHS that dates back to 1895. Barnstable has won each of the previous four games, by an average of 24.5 points, and it won’t be easy for this year’s edition of the maroon and white to put an end to that trend. Barnstable, once again, has had one of the strongest teams in the state this year.

Since a surprising lopsided loss to Dennis-Yarmouth on opening night, which saw the Dolphins hang a 37-9 loss on the Raiders, BHS has been manhandling most opponents. They did have their eight-game winning streak ended by Mansfield in the Division 2 quarterfinals, 41-16. During the eight games between defeats, Barnstable has been impressive. They bounced back from their night one loss by beating Boston College High School on the road, 20-13, and then upended another Catholic powerhouse, Xaverian, the next weekend, 15-14. After beating Xaverian Brothers, the offense began to really click and it hasn’t slowed down much. For the season the team is averaging 26 points per game, while they’re allowing 20, which skews a bit high thanks to their two losses, which were both blowouts.

Perhaps the biggest reason that Barnstable has flourished since losing to D-Y is that head coach Chris Whidden abandoned the idea of having star Hayden Murphy play quarterback after that game. Senior Kristian Lucashensky took over at QB  in game two, and the Raiders have been off and running since. The quarterback has thrown for 1,129 yards since taking over with 10 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. He’s also gained 271 yards on the ground, and run for a pair of scores. That move allowed Murphy to do what he does best, which is run roughshod over the competition. The senior running back has compiled 1,074 yards on the ground, an average of just better than 107 yards per game. He’s found the end zone 16 times on the ground, and caught a pair of TD passes. He’s been one of Lucashensky’s three favorite targets in the passing game, having caught 19 passes from the QB. The other two favorites are Derek Estes (19 catches, 302 yards, five touchdowns) and Mike Bilodeau (19 catches, 183 yards, one touchdown).  The Raiders have weapons on both sides of the ball. Estes has five interceptions on defense, and is near the team lead in tackles with 53.

Senior linebacker Nate Yingling is the team’s leading tackler with 58 (23 solo). So how do the 1-8-1 Clippers handle all of that? First, and foremost, they have to shorten the game.

“We’re going to have to run our offense, try to feature Blake [Murphy] and try to sustain drives,” Falmouth head coach Steve Femino said. Murphy has averaged about 80 yards on the ground per game and has scored a pair of touchdowns for FHS. He was out of action in the team’s most recent game, a 25-24 loss at Pembroke, but should be back at nearly 100 percent for Thanksgiving.

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FHS will need to make some plays in the passing game as well to keep the Raiders’ defense honest and prevent them from stacking the box against Murphy. Quarterback Jack O’Rourke had his best game of the year against Pembroke, completing 12-of-16 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns. Seniors Ryan Rocci and Mike DiGiammarino made some huge plays that night, and will be key components again if FHS is to pull off a shocker. Should FHS be able to chew up the clock when they have the ball, the Raiders could get antsy. BHS does not always protect the ball exceptionally well, and Lucashensky has thrown his share of interceptions this year.

“They’re not very patient,” Femino said. “They want to score quickly.” Most importantly for Falmouth is that the Clippers must have a clean game on special teams. That portion of the game has been the team’s biggest problem this season, on several levels.

Defensively, FHS has been much better than the record would indicate. Due to special teams issues, the defense has had to face short fields and has had the points against column bloated by mistakes that left them facing a short field.  Femino said he’s seen improvements over the second half of the season on the defensive side of things. The unit has played especially well over the last three games. 

If FHS can catch lightning in a bottle and have everything come together the right way, no one would spend much time reminiscing about the tough times that the Clippers endured during 2013. This year’s team then would be remembered as the one that shocked Barnstable, and ended a four-year losing slide. “That’s the great thing about the rivalry, it’s like a second season, separate from the playoffs and everything else. It’s something you look forward to,” Femino said. “You can right a whole season by winning on Thanksgiving.”

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