SOMERVILLE, Mass. -- In his first year at the helm of Falmouth High, and his Clippers' first year of running his preferred 3-3 defensive stack, Steve Femino hasn't been afraid to go all-or-nothing inside the red zone. So on third and goal with 40 seconds left, and Somerville standing five feet from the end zone and threatening to send the game to overtime, Femino sent the house. Undersized nose guard Tyrone Reine -- all 5-foot-7 of him -- burst through the a-gap to stuff Josh Scarry for a two-yard loss.
"To be honest, it just all came into me at once and I got through him," Reine said. "I saw the ballcarrier, and I just took him."
The Highlanders found themselves a yard and a half away again on fourth down, thanks to an offside call, but the snap fumbled, A.J. Gonsalves landed on it, and the Clippers escaped Dilboy Stadium with a hard-fought 7-0 win.
"I believe it comes down to heart and desire -- that's really what it is," Reine said. "It's all about heart, it's about wanting to win. Doesn't matter how big you are. You could be 5-3 and go up against a 6-5 guy...doesn't matter. We've got all little guys here. We don't have any big guys, we're just a small team. But it's about heart and desire."
The muffed opportunities left Highlanders head coach Harry Marchetti disappointed.
"The opportunities were there, and we didn't capitalize," Marchetti said. "If we expect to play against this kind of caliber competition, we can't make those mistakes. But the defense played well, to hold that team to seven points, I'm pretty pleased with that. I think we're very confident on defense, and we have to get that confidence to progress through the season over to the offensive side of the ball."
The game's lone score came off another golden opportunity for Falmouth, when a Highlander player misplayed Dillon Mansfield's punt. The ball incidentally tipped off of his hands, and the Clippers came out of the ensuing scrum with the ball at the Somerville 35. Two plays later, Mansfield hit Nelson Baptiste perfectly in stride, in single coverage running a go route from the left slot, for a 35-yard touchdown strike.
"Triple left seam, that's my main play right there," said Baptiste, who totaled 60 yards of offense in this affirmatively defensive affair. "I did the same thing to them last (year) to score a touchdown, so we knew what we've got to do. We've got to score one touchdown, and it's in the books."
Said Somerville head coach Harry Marchetti of the special teams miscues, "They're usually flawless back there. They're sure-handed."
And aside from a few quick tosses to Baptiste on the outside; some bruising scampers from Somerville's 5-foot-11, 210-pound junior fullback Kris Taylor (nine carries, 57 yards); and a few keepers from Somerville's Bobby Pratt (seven carries, 56 yards) up the middle on the Highlanders' final drive; this was a physical battle kept mainly in the trenches. Led by sophomore Ryan Conte and 6-foot-4, 260-pound senior John Wallace (a Division 1 prospect) in the trenches, the Highlanders moved the chains with multiple lead blockers and a confusing single-wing approach that kept the Clippers' 5-3 scheme on its toes.
Losing its three defensive linemen to ankle and shoulder injuries on the game's first six plays, Falmouth was forced to grind it out with underclassmen. But with Baptiste taking tosses from the slot and isolation runs up the middle from Bobby Whelan and Joey Olsen, they kept the Highlanders' defense honest as well.
"That is a strong team," Baptiste said of Somerville, widening his eyes. "They hit really hard. But we get hit all the time, we work every day so hard, so we know what we got to do."
And in the end, the Highlanders nearly won it after nearly coughing up another six points. Mansfield coffin-cornered a rugby-style punt to the left pylon that was fielded at the one yard line, met immediately by Falmouth players, giving Somerville first and 10 with 5:32 and 99 yards to go. Between belly option keepers by Pratt and direct snaps to up-back Eduardo Dias, the Highlanders marched all the way down to the one-yard line before Reine came up with the big hit, and a play later they fumbled the ball away.
"We're a little more aggressive," Femino said of his red zone defense. "We get down there, and we loosen up, they're not as worried down there."
Said Reine, "Our defense, when we're in the red zone, at the goal line, everything changes. Everyone gets together, everyone's yelling at each other. It's all momentum. And obviously, that was a big momentum-changer right there, to win the game."
FALMOUTH 7, SOMERVILLE 0
Fal 0 0 7 0 --- 7
Som 0 0 0 0 --- 0
F - Nelson Baptiste 35 pass from Dillon Mansfield (Tyrone Reine kick)