Thornton Academy senior quarterback Michael Laverriere eludes Cheverus junior Finn Cawley during the teams’ contest Saturday. The Golden Trojans dominated for 48 minutes and blanked the Stags, 65-0.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
TA- 28 24 7 6- 65
C- 0 0 0 0- 0
TA- Laverriere 42 run (Cadorette kick)
TA- Rosario 35 pass from Laverriere (Cadorette kick)
TA- LaBreck 9 run (Cadorette kick)
TA- Laverriere 26 run (Cadorette kick)
TA- Montano 2 run (Cadorette kick)
TA- Rosario 31 run (Cadorette kick)
TA- Houde 1 run (Cadorette kick)
TA- Cadorette 25 FG
TA- LaBreck 33 run (Cadorette kick)
TA- Mitchell 2 run (rush failed)
PORTLAND—Thornton Academy’s two-time defending Class A state champion juggernaut football team is hard enough to contend with under normal circumstances.
When the Golden Trojans are playing with a chip on their shoulder, then it’s going to get ugly.
Saturday afternoon at Boulos Stadium, Thornton Academy returned to the site of their 49-point drubbing three years ago and handed the host Cheverus Stags an even more lopsided defeat.
One year after blanking the Stags, 57-0, in Saco, the Golden Trojans nearly matched that score by halftime and once again reminded everyone that while this team has some holes to fill, it is still the title favorite until someone can figure out a way to end their reign.
In the first quarter alone, Thornton Academy got a pair of touchdown runs from senior quarterback extraordinaire Michael Laverriere from 42 and 26 yards and another from sophomore C.J. LaBreck from 9 yards out, as well as a 35-yard Laverriere-to-senior Johnny Rosario touchdown pass for a commanding 28-0 lead.
In the second period, the onslaught continued, as the Golden Trojans got a 2-yard scoring run from sophomore Jason Montano, a 31-yard TD scamper from Rosario, a 1-yard touchdown plunge from junior Cam Houde and a 25-yard field goal from senior placekicker Cam Cadorette, who also drilled seven extra points in the first half, which ended 52-0 in Thornton Academy’s favor.
A 33-yard scoring run from LaBreck in the third period and a 2-yard TD run from freshman Will Mitchell in the fourth quarter brought the curtain down on the 65-0 victory.
The Golden Trojans enjoyed a 501-47 yardage advantage and got 238 combined yards from Laverriere as they improved to 2-0, handed Cheverus one of its most lopsided losses in program history and dropped the Stags to 1-1 in the process.
“(Thornton Academy’s) a huge buzzsaw,” said Cheverus first-year coach Mike Vance. “We told the guys there are better days ahead and there will be opportunities for success down the road. How they handle adversity is going to affect us the rest of the way.”
Cheverus and Thornton Academy have set the standard in football in Southern Maine for the better part of the past decade, but both teams entered the 2016 campaign with questions to answer.
The Stags, as has been well documented, had to say goodbye to legendary coach John Wolfgram, who retired in the spring, and turned the program over to Vance, last year’s Class A North Assistant Coach of the Year for his prowess as a defensive specialist with Cheverus. Vance and his charges got off to a strong start with a 33-18 victory at Oxford Hills last week.
The Golden Trojans, despite winning the past two Class A titles and three of the past four crowns, appear a little more mortal this season, but you wouldn’t know it by their 62-27 romp at Sanford in the opener.
The teams have created quite a rivalry over the past several years.
In 2009, the Stags came to Saco for the Western A semifinals and stunned Thornton Academy, 36-7. The next meeting came in the 2011 regional final, which saw Cheverus erase a halftime deficit and prevail, 21-10. In the 2012 regular season, the Stags came to Thornton Academy, won 28-14, and tied the Class A record for consecutive victories with 31. The Golden Trojans got their revenge that November, however, shocking Cheverus in the regional final, 20-13, snapping its state-record streak at 34 wins. The Stags got a degree of payback in the 2013 regular season, romping, 56-7, at home.
That was the last time the teams met in Portland.
“We had a couple kids play in that game and if they weren’t playing, they were up on the hill watching, so it was mentioned a couple times this week,” said Thornton Academy coach Kevin Kezal.
The 2014 game was the most memorable, as Cheverus trailed early, then rallied to force double overtime before prevailing in a shootout, 48-41.
Last year, back in Saco, was a far different story, as Thornton Academy eviscerated the Stags, 57-0.
Saturday, on a day which started warm at 76 degrees and got gradually more cloudy, the Golden Trojans were even more prolific.
Cheverus, which won the opening coin toss only to defer possession to the second half, came out with a lot of energy, but a tough call helped the visitors take the lead for good.
Thornton Academy started at its 40 after a 26 yard kickoff return from LaBreck. Laverriere ran for three yards on first down, then hit Rosario for eight yards, but Rosario was called for a facemask penalty when he tried to stiff-arm a tackler. That moved the ball back to the 39 and on the next play, Stags junior Bob Holzhacker threw sophomore Anthony Bracamonte for a four-yard loss, setting up third-and-15 at the 35.
On the next snap, Laverriere threw deep for Bracamonte and the pass fell incomplete, but a flag was thrown and a dubious pass interference penalty gave the Golden Trojans a first down at midfield.
“I don’t think that affected the final score, but it affected the beginning of the game,” Vance said.
After LaBreck ran for a yard and Laverriere threw incomplete, Rosario caught a pass for seven yards, setting up fourth-and-2. Laverriere then did the rest, bursting through a hole on the right side and racing 42 yards for the game’s first touchdown with 9:08 left in the first quarter, capping an eight-play, 60-yard, 2 minute, 43 second march.
Cadorette added the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
Cheverus started its first drive at its 28 and after senior Rylan Benedict picked up three yards, Thornton Academy was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which moved the ball to the 46.
That proved to be the Stags’ lone first down of the first half.
After Benedict ran for a yard, junior quarterback Perrin Conant threw incomplete and on third-and-9, junior Griffin Watson only picked up three yards, forcing a punt.
With 7:40 to go in the opening stanza, the Golden Trojans began at their 17 and four plays later, were in the end zone again.
After Laverriere burst free for 25 yards, he hit Rosario for 12 yards to the Cheverus 46. Laverriere ran for 11 yards, then threw a rainbow down the left sideline which Rosario caught in stride by the front pylon for a 35 yard score.
“The line opens it up and they have to stop us and that opened up the deep game and we have great athletes,” Laverriere said. “We had Corey Hart who was a threat for years and now having Johnny just opens it up. He can get jump balls. He’s a great athlete. He runs a 4.4 40 (yard dash) which is crazy to me.”
Cadorette’s PAT extended the lead to 14-0 with 6:53 remaining in the frame.
The Stags then went three-and-out, as Benedict was thrown for a four-yard loss, Watson lost two yards and Benedict picked up four yards to necessitate a punt which was returned 47 yards by Bracamonte to the Cheverus 18.
Four plays and 1:55 later, Thornton Academy was in the end zone once more.
LaBreck started the drive with a two yard run, but a false start penalty backed the Golden Trojans to the 21. Laverriere ran for nine yards and then three to set up fourth-and-1 at the 9. LaBreck then capped the drive with a nine-yard TD burst over the right side with 2:14 left in the quarter. Cadorette’s extra point made it 21-0.
After the score, before the kickoff, play was delayed 23 minutes by a scary incident as a longtime statistician for the Golden Trojans collapsed on the sideline. He was ultimately revived and removed by ambulance and no further word about his condition was available.
The Stags then took over at their 31, but after Conant hit Benedict for two yards, he was intercepted by Thornton Academy junior Garret Lynn at the Cheverus 26.
The Golden Trojans needed all of one play to find the end zone again, as Laverriere ran up the gut for a 26 yard score with 1:04 left in the first period. Cadorette’s PAT made it 28-0.
“They were ready to play and they were hyped up to play us, but we established ourselves and ran the ball down their throats,” said Laverriere. “That opened everything else up.”
The Stags got the ball back at their 28 and as the first quarter (which saw Thornton Academy hold a 187-28 yardage advantage) gave way to the second, Benedict ran twice for six yards.
On the first snap of the new quarter, Lynn threw Benedict for a five-yard loss, forcing another punt.
Forty-two seconds into the second period, the Golden Trojans started at the Cheverus 49 and eight plays and 2:42 later, they had another touchdown.
After Rosario ran for eight yards and Laverriere threw incomplete, Laverriere ran for four yards to move the chains. LaBreck lost a yard, but Laverriere gained nine. After a false start, Laverriere hit Rosario for 24 yards to the 10. LaBreck gained eight yards to the 2, setting the stage for Montano to score on the next snap. Cadorette’s extra point made the score 35-0 with 8:36 left in the half.
On the first play of the next Stags’ series, Conant was intercepted by Laverriere, who brought the ball back to the Cheverus 33, setting the stage for another score.
Laverriere threw incomplete on first down, then hit Rosario for two yards. On third-and-8, Rosario took the ball on a jet sweep and ran right, blew past the defense and outran the pursuit for a 31 yard score with 7:21 remaining in the half. Cadorette added the PAT to make it 42-0.
The Stags went three-and-out, as Watson ran for four yards, Conant was sacked by Lynn and senior Xavier LeClair for a seven yard loss and Benedict ran for five yards on third-and-13.
With 4:47 to go before halftime, Thornton Academy started at its 49 and embarked on another scoring march.
LaBreck got things started with a 10 yard burst into Cheverus territory. After Laverriere got free for 18 yards, LaBreck scampered for 22 yards and was brought down at the 1. On the next play, Houde bulled in for the score with 3:23 remaining in the half, extending the lead to 49-0.
The Stags went three-and-out again, as Watson and Benedict both ran for three yards and Benedict lost a yard.
After a 33 yard punt return from Rosario, the Golden Trojans started at the Cheverus 28 with 48 seconds to go in the half.
Laverriere hit Bracamonte for 18 yards to the 10, but two LaBreck runs only gained two yards and Cheverus senior defensive back Dominic Casale broke up a Laverriere pass to Rosario in the end zone, forcing Thornton Academy to settle for a 25-yard field goal from Cadorette which made it 52-0 at halftime.
In the first half, the Golden Trojans had 340 yards of offense, while the Stags only mustered 27. Laverriere ran nine times for 132 yards and two TDs and he connected on 7-of-11 passes for 106 yards and two more scores. Rosario had six catches for 88 yards and one TD and scored another on a run, while LaBreck ran for 43 yards and one score on nine carries.
By rule, the second half was played with a mercy rule running clock.
Cheverus got the ball first and after Benedict ran for two yards, Watson was held to no gain and so was Benedict, forcing a punt.
With 8:32 to go in the third quarter, Thornton Academy started at the Stags’ 38 and after LaBreck ran for five yards, he got free and scored on a 33-yard touchdown scamper with 7:48 left in the frame. Cadorette’s PAT made it 59-0.
The Stags went three-and-out again, as Watson didn’t gain a yard and two Benedict rushes resulted in a loss of a yard.
With 3:52 left in the third, the Golden Trojans started at their 15 and their second team offense went into the game and was just as productive.
Seven plays, 85 yards and 3:52 later, they had another touchdown.
After junior Eric Heiman broke free for 43 yards, Heiman ran for two yards, then six before Mitchell, the quarterback, picked up seven for a first down at the Cheverus 27. Heiman ran for four yards and on the final play of the period, Mitchell burst free for 21 yards to the 2.
Five seconds into the fourth period, Mitchell scored on a 2-yard TD run to make it 65-0 (Thornton Academy deliberately took a knee on the two-point conversion).
After Stags junior Finn Cawley ran three times for two yards, the hosts had to punt and the Golden Trojans got the ball back at their 49 with 8:15 remaining.
Two Heiman rushes moved the ball to the Cheverus 37 and after Cawley threw sophomore Athan Gikas for a two-yard loss, Heiman burst free for 31 yards to the 8.
Instead of trying to score again, Kezal had Gikas take a knee on four straight snaps and with 2:25 to play, the Stags got the ball at their 13.
Cawley ran three times for 12 yards and Cheverus’ second first down of the game. Cawley then picked up three more yards and that took the clock to zero as Thornton Academy prevailed, 65-0.
“We came ready to play,” said Laverriere. “We had a chip on our shoulder because they beat us here three years ago. We were ready to go. Four of us played as freshmen and we had that in the back of our minds. It feels good to be on this side of it.”
“It seemed like everything went our way,” Kezal said. “Last week, we got out and stopped playing hard. Today, it was nice to see us play hard the whole way. We try to be multi-dimensional on offense. Michael did a great job leading us. The backs ran hard and I was very happy with how the receivers played. We have experience on the offensive line. We only have two defensive starters back, but we had a great week of practice. Our goal was to not give up a big play and we managed to do that.”
The Golden Trojans finished with 501 yards of offense, didn’t turn the ball over and overcame four penalties for 37 yards.
Laverriere finished with 132 yards and two TDs on nine carries and 106 passing yards and two more scores on 7-of-11 passing. LaBreck had 81 yards and two TDs on 11 rushes. Heiman ran for 100 yards on seven carries in his short stint. Rosario had six catches for 88 yards and a touchdown and scored another TD and gained 39 yards on two rushes. Mitchell had 30 yards and a touchdown on three attempts.
“We’re all on the same page and communication is great,” Laverriere said. “We’ll only grow as the season goes on. We have a young team, but they’re stepping up. It’s the best group we’ve had. We have to work on our tempo, get off our blocks, get to the second level.”
Cheverus mustered just 47 yards of offense, committed two turnovers and was flagged once for 15 yards.
Benedict gained 11 yards on 13 carries, but ran hard throughout. Watson had 8 yards on six rushes and Cawley had 17 yards on seven attempts. Conant completed 1-of-4 passes for 2 yards and was intercepted twice.
Thornton Academy finally gets to play its home opener Friday when 1-1 Deering pays a visit. The Golden Trojans will play their lone home night game and it will be special for many reasons.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Laverriere said. “It’s my 18th birthday too. We’ll get to wear the black uniforms. It’ll be awesome.”
“We still have a lot of improving to do,” Kezal said. “It’s just game experience for the young kids. They work and take coaching very well. We try to get better every week.”
Cheverus will hope to get back on track Friday at 0-2 Lewiston, a team the Stags beat by a resounding 68-16 margin last fall at home.
“What’s important is that we stay together as a team and we support each other and move forward,” Vance said. “We have kids who hang in there and we always have. They’re very consistent in their effort. Win or lose, we move on and that’s all you can do. We still have six games to go. We don’t bask in any glory or dwell in any difficulties, we just have to move on.”
Cheverus defenders senior Dominic Casale, left, and junior Griffin Watson break up a pass intended for Thornton Academy sophomore Anthony Bracamonte.
Cheverus senior Rylan Benedict tries to elude Thornton Academy senior Michael Laverriere.
Cheverus junior Finn Cawley tries to tackle Thornton Academy sophomore C.J. LaBreck.
Cheverus senior Dominic Casale defends Thornton Academy senior Johnny Rosario on a pass play.
Cheverus junior Griffin Watson goes all out to attempt and catch a low pass.