BARNSTABLE -- Thursday's battle between Falmouth and Barnstable High had everything that makes Thanksgiving football great.
A rivalry that dates back over 100 years was a back-and-forth battle that wasn't determined until the final play.
The Clippers beat Barnstable, 25-19, in a game that featured three fourth-quarter touchdowns.
"We knew it was going to be a fight to the end," Falmouth head coach Joe Morency said. "It came back to just grit and toughness, and our kids just didn't give up."
Falmouth led 19-6 entering the fourth quarter, but after the Red Hawks scored two touchdowns in just over seven minutes to tie the game at 19, the Clippers suddenly found themselves needing to go 81 yards in 3:41 to win the game.
The Clippers are normally very deliberate on offense, huddling before each play and controlling the clock, however this situation required something different. They opted to run a hurry-up offense, taking minimal time between plays to get the next one called.
After crossing midfield, senior quarterback Aiden North, playing in his final game, quickly got up to the line of scrimmage at the 48-yard line, perhaps even too quickly for his head coach.
"Honestly, it wasn't supposed to be a hurry up," Morency said laughing. "I wanted him to huddle, but luckily it worked out well for us. We haven't hit that one (play) yet this year, so we finally did."
The result of that play changed the game. North found Cole Spellman up the seam for his second touchdown of the game, to put the Clippers back on top 25-19.
"I knew I had to make up for one, because I had a great ball from him earlier in the game that went right threw my hands," Spellman said. "It was eating at me all game, (and) I knew I had to get one back, and it just happened to be for the lead."
The drive took under two minutes, which meant the Red Hawks still had just under two minutes themselves on their final drive. The game was squarely in the hands of the Clippers defense that had been stout early, but had already given up two scores in the quarter.
The Red Hawks began the drive on the 24-yard-line, and after working their way down the field, had a chance to win the game on the final play. The ball was on the opposing 29, and Aiden Kundel dropped back to pass. He rifled one to his left towards the end zone, but it was broken up on the goal line by none other than Spellman.
Early on it looked as though the Red Hawks were going to seize control of the game, before the Clippers even got a foothold. The Red Hawks had three first-quarter red zone possessions before Falmouth even got across midfield.
Yet after those three possessions, Barnstable only had a 6-0 lead, courtesy of a 3-yard touchdown run from senior JJ Martin. The Red Hawks have battled injuries all season, and the result was a bit of a patchwork offense in this game that lacked some familiarity.
"It was the first time that whole group had actually played any offense together," Barnstable coach Ross Jatkola said. "So I think once we settled down and realized, 'Okay we're alright', we were able to move the ball a little bit better."
Kundel scored from a yard out to reduce the fourth-quarter deficit, and then Martin added his second score to tie the game. The Red Hawks were on the fourth-quarter comeback trail, and it all started with getting quick stops on the defensive side.
"We just talked about it all week long. Playing with intensity, running to the football, (and) playing team defense," Jatkola said. "I think on those stops you see multiple red jerseys at the point of attack, and that's been our thing forever."
The game ends the seasons for both of these teams. Falmouth ends the season with a league title and an 8-2 record. The Red Hawks finish the season 3-8.
This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Falmouth High football outlasts Barnstable for Thanksgiving triumph