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PORTLAND—Be it Friday evening or Saturday afternoon, under sunny or threatening skies, the Cheverus football juggernaut marches on.
This week, it was on a Saturday, amid a steady rain when the defending Class A state champion Stags welcomed Scarborough to Boulos Stadium and delivered yet another dose of dominance.
In a game pushed back two-and-a-half hours due to SAT testing, Cheverus came out and did what it has for the better part of three years, run the ball effectively, throw when necessary and win the defensive and special teams battles.
The Stags forced four turnovers on the Red Storm’s first nine plays and wound up benefiting from nine giveaways altogether. First quarter touchdowns from seniors Spencer Cooke and Louie DiStasio and sophomore Donald Goodrich set the tone and Cheverus added 17 more points in the second period before cruising home for a 38-0 triumph.
As a result, the Stags are now 5-0, have won 17 straight overall and are now without debate, the clear-cut favorite in Western Class A, as they dropped the Red Storm to 2-3 on the season.
“It’s a quality win over a very good team,” said Cheverus coach John Wolfgram. “I thought we started pretty well. We took advantage of some turnovers. The turnovers set the tone and we got ahead. Football’s football. Sometimes it’s raining and sometimes it’s sunny. You play no matter what the conditions.”
A year ago, in the semifinal round of the playoffs, Cheverus got a fourth quarter touchdown from Evan Jendrasko and held off Scarborough’s upset bid, 21-14.
That was the teams’ first meeting since Sept. 24, 2004, a 34-13 Red Storm victory in Scarborough. The only other game between the schools was Sept. 27, 2003, when host Cheverus prevailed, 28-0.
The Stags entered Saturday’s game sizzling, having yet to be tested in 2011. After opening with a 59-21 home romp over South Portland, which featured a 42-point second half, Cheverus blanked host Gorham (35-0), rolled at Bonny Eagle (42-18), then controlled visiting Sanford from start to finish in a 41-8 triumph last week.
Scarborough, meanwhile, made a big statement in its opener, a 21-6 home victory over highly-touted Windham, then was upset at Sanford, 23-13. After a 42-0 home win over Biddeford, the Red Storm dropped to .500 last week with a 34-20 home setback to resurgent Bonny Eagle.
Saturday, Scarborough shot itself in the foot repeatedly in the early going and never had a chance.
The Stags won the opening coin toss, but deferred possession to the second half, which proved to be a brilliant decision.
The Red Storm began the game with a handoff to junior Merrick Madden, who failed to gain a yard and even worse, fumbled. Cheverus senior Mike Dedian pounced on the loose ball and the hosts were in business at Scarborough’s 27.
After junior Brent Green gained 3-yards on a rush, Cooke ran to his right, was bottled up, cut back to his left and after breaking a tackle, outran the pursuit into the end zone for a 24-yard TD scamper which gave the Stags the lead for good. DiStasio’s extra point made it 7-0 Cheverus just one minute into the contest.
The Red Storm’s second play from scrimmage also resulted in a turnover as junior quarterback Dillon Russo was intercepted by Stags senior Cam Olson at the Scarborough 46.
Runs of 10, 6 and 3-yards from Cooke and a 12-yard run from junior Donald Goodrich got Cheverus close and with 8:06 to go in the opening stanza, Olson passed to Goodrich in the flat, who broke a couple tackles and beat the defense to the right pylon to complete a 16-yard scoring play. DiStasio’s point-after gave the hosts a 14-0 lead.
The good news for the visitors on their next series was that they didn’t turn the ball over on their first play (an incomplete pass) or the second (Goodrich sacked Russo for an 8-yard loss), but on third-and-18 from the 12, Russo found sophomore Austin Doody for 14 yards, but he was hit and fumbled and Stags senior Colie Walsh recovered.
This time, Cheverus wasn’t able to capitalize, but Scarborough gave the ball right back on its next series as Olson intercepted Russo, giving the Red Storm four turnovers in just nine plays.
“Every single day, coach reminds me I’m not a linebacker anymore and that I have to read everything as the safety,” Olson said. “It’s hard for me sometimes. The defense was unbelievable. It starts at the line where the boys did an amazing job. I never think they’re going to have an off day. It was definitely a defensive day. We love hitting. Defense is our favorite thing.”
“We just didn’t play well,” lamented Scarborough coach Lance Johnson. “We didn’t give ourselves a chance. I thought we were competitive physically, but we kept giving them the ball over and over again. Some of the guys we have in there have inexperience. Obviously, we didn’t look comfortable.”
The Stags would drive 30 yards in six plays to score again as Olson threw a beautiful ball to DiStasio in the back left corner of the end zone. DiStasio kicked the extra point and Cheverus was up, 21-0, with 2:25 to go in the opening stanza.
In the first period, the Stags outgained the Red Storm, 106-20, but more importantly, forced four giveaways.
“The field position was a big, big help, especially in this kind of weather,” Olson said. “We got it done.”
“I thought the big thing was we took advantage of the turnovers, executed and got the lead,” Wolfgram added.
Scarborough’s initial second quarter possession ended with another interception, as junior Liam Fitzpatrick was the beneficiary of a tipped ball after Russo threw under pressure from Cheverus senior Christian Deschenes.
Taking over at the Red Storm 17, Cooke raced down the left sidelines before being forced out at the 1. Green then bulled his way up the gut for the touchdown. DiStasio kicked the extra point and with 8:44 to go before the half, the Stags enjoyed a 28-0 advantage.
With 7:10 to go in the first half, Cheverus received a punt and took over at its 42. The only reason that’s notable is that it was the first play of the entire game that was run on the Stags’ side of the field!
Cheverus went three-and-out, but Olson’s punt was muffed by Scarborough senior Conor McCann and Deschenes recovered. Starting at the Red Storm 23, Green ran for 6-yards, Cooke for 5 and 2, then, on fourth-and-10 at the 12, Wolfgram elected to let DiStasio, whose right foot has no rival, kick a field goal, and DiStasio split the uprights from 29-yards to make it 31-0 with 2:35 to go in the half.
Scarborough hoped to drive and get something going late in the half and sure enough, Russo found junior Greg Viola for 9-yards, then shoveled a pass to sophomore Dan LeClair for 11 more.
The turnover bug reared its ugly head on the next play, however, as Russo was picked by Green and Green ran it back 40-yards to paydirt. DiStasio kicked the extra point and Cheverus took a 38-0 lead to the half.
The Stags “only” mustered 131 offensive yards in the first 24 minutes, but the six turnovers consistently provided for short fields and the defending champs took advantage.
Cheverus wouldn’t score again, but either would Scarborough. The Red Storm did commit two second half turnovers (Russo was intercepted by junior Liam Fitzpatrick and Olson) and never got closer than the Stags’ 7 and Cheverus went on to a 38-0 victory.
“Unfortunately, (Scarborough) had starters who were injured,” Olson said. “We were hoping they’d play so we can see their full potential. They’re a very good team. They’ll be back.”
“We got good leadership out of our seniors,” said Wolfgram. “We’re younger this year, but I think we’re growing as a team, which is good. (Scarborough’s) physicality and their play action pass worried us. We almost got burned a couple times. They’re a good team. They’re bruised up, which hurts.”
Cheverus had just 176 yards of offense, but never needed a sustained drive.
Cooke wound up with 101 yards on 14 carries, with a TD. Green gained 35 yards on 11 attempts. He scored a rushing TD and also returned a pick for a score.
Olson continued to dazzle on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, he ran three times for 23 yards and completed just two passes in eight attempts, but they went for 38 yards and a pair of scores.
“It’s nothing that’s completely new to me,” said Olson, about replacing reigning Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Peter Gwilym under center. “I’ve always done the reps in practice. Coach puts me in that position for a reason. I like running the ball. I used to be a running back. It’s tough to follow in Peter’s footsteps. You look at what he did. There’s not really a quarterback like him. I just try to do what I can. The guys trust me and I trust them. It’s like one big family out there. I do what I have to do.”
“Cam’s doing a nice job for us,” Wolfgram said. “He’s very intuitive. He’s learning the position and he’s really growing. He’s a really good athlete.”
Defensively, Olson, who played linebacker in the past before moving to safety this fall, had three interceptions.
“We’re trying to teach (Cam) to play safety,” Wolfgram said. “He’s adjusting.”
Goodrich (16 yards) and DiStasio (22) had the TD receptions.
For Scarborough, Russo struggled, as he was intercepted six times during an 8-of-21 passing day. He did produce 73 yards through the air.
McCann had three grabs for 23 yards. Viola caught two passes, good for 27 yards. LeClair (11), Doody (14) and Madden (1 for negative-2 yards) also had receptions.
Ultimately, nine turnovers were just too much to overcome.
Johnson refused to use the absence of standout senior running back Scott Thibeault (out with a back injury, but expected to return by the end of the season) as an excuse.
“(Scott’s) one of the best players in the league, so I think he would have made a difference, but not 38 points,” Johnson said.
Scarborough plays its home finale Thursday versus Deering. The Red Storm then go to Thornton Academy and Gorham to wrap up the regular season. This team needs some victories to live up to its preseason billing as a playoff squad.
“We have to play sounder football,” Johnson said. “We’ll show up for practice next week. We have a quick turnaround. We’ll try to get better and take care of the football.”
Cheverus, finishes its regular season home slate Saturday of next week against winless Biddeford, then goes to Portland and Deering to finish the regular season.
If the Stags stay healthy and focused, they’re on their way to another special November.
“We have a lot of things to work on,” said Olson. “We have to execute on defense and offense and special teams. Bottom line, is we have to get it done.”
“We will have some close games,” Wolfgram said. “There are a lot of good teams out there.”
Cheverus’ elite senior running back Spencer Cooke follows the block of junior Jim Peabody-Harrington for a big gain Saturday afternoon. Cooke broke the 100-yard mark yet again and scored the first touchdown of the game.
Scarborough junior quarterback Dillon Russo prepares to throw while under pressure. Russo was intercepted six times Saturday.
Cheverus junior Ryan Casale prepares to tackle Scarborough junior Merrick Madden.
Scarborough senior captain Conor McCann goes low to bring down Cheverus senior Spencer Cooke.
Scarborough junior Greg Viola runs upfield after a reception.
Scarborough seniors Jesse Bell (68) and Harry Motter open a big hole for sophomore Dan LeClair.
Scarborough junior quarterback Dillon Russo watches the football fall to the turf while Cheverus junior Donald Goodrich looks to get past sophomore Dan LeClair’s block. The Red Storm turned the ball over a mindboggling nine times and the Stags cruised to a 38-0 victory.
More photos below.
S- 0 0 0 0- 0
C- 21 17 0 0- 38
C- Cooke 24 run (DiStasio kick)
C- Goodrich 16 pass from Olson (DiStasio kick)
C- DiStasio 22 pass from Olson (DiStasio kick)
C- Green 1 run (DiStasio kick)
C- DiStasio 29 FG
C- Green 40 interception return (DiStasio kick)