PORTLAND—The Cheverus High football team, coming off a season which saw it fall one point shy of the state final, was hoping to make an immediate splash in 2010.
Friday afternoon at Boulos Stadium, the Stags left no doubt that they intend to be a top Western Class A contender from start to finish this fall, scoring on their first two offensive plays, racking up 23 first quarter points and cruising to a dominating-in-all-facets 40-6 victory over the Gorham Rams.
By the time the game was 3 minutes, 47 seconds old, junior Spencer Cooke had rumbled 45-yards for one TD, senior Evan Jendrasko raced 57-yards for another and senior quarterback Peter Gwilym converted a pair of two-point conversion runs to set the tone.
“We played well, we were ready to play,” said Cheverus coach John Wolfgram. “I thought we played well from the very beginning. We came out with a nice tempo. It’s an important win for us. It establishes momentum for us. We made the first step.”
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Cheverus went 6-2 in the regular season in 2009, then blanked Biddeford 21-0 in the quarterfinals and shocked Thornton Academy 36-7 in the semis. The Stags took an early lead at eventual state champion Windham in the regional final amid absolutely horrific weather conditions, but the Eagles converted a long second drive to eke out a 7-6 victory, ending Cheverus’ year at 8-3.
This year’s team returns several key players, including Cooke, Jendrasko and Gwilym, the school’s 2009 Fall Male Athlete of the Year. Wolfgram, our Coach of the Year in 2009, has a decades-long reputation for greatness and he now has a squad worthy of being mentioned among the elite.
Friday, in a game moved up nearly 24 hours because of the threat of Hurricane Earl, the Stags showed everyone on-hand why they should be considered a championship contender.
Gorham went four-and-out on its opening series, falling just shy of a first down on a fourth-and-2 run and Cheverus took over at the Rams’ 45. Cooke got the call, broke through the line and outran the pursuit down the right sideline for his team’s initial touchdown of the season. Gwilym then ran in the two-point conversion, beating the defense to the left pylon, and it was 8-0 just 1 minute, 58 seconds in.
On the third play of Gorham’s next possession, Gwilym intercepted a pass and had a long return that was partially nullified by a blocking in the back penalty. Regardless, the Stags began at their 43 and promptly found the end zone again when Jendrasko broke a tackle, cut back, broke another tackle, then found paydirt.
“It was great,” Jendrasko said.”(Scoring on my first carry) happened last year too. My line threw great blocks. They played hard the whole game.”
Gwilym’s second two-point conversion run (this time to the right pylon) made it a 16-0 contest.
The Rams embarked on their lone scoring drive the next time they had the ball. Starting at their 14, Gorham moved 86 yards in eight plays. A 12-yard run from junior Nick Kilborn and an 11-yard pass to Kilborn, with a roughing the passer penalty added on, got the visitors into Cheverus territory. Kilborn finished the march with a 38-yard TD scamper. Gwilym and senior A.J. Bennett combined to stuff junior Nick Chabot’s two-point run attempt and the Stags had a 16-6 lead with 4:33 to go in the quarter.
On its next series, Cheverus actually had to run nine plays to score, but it got back to the end zone when Gwilym scored from 5 yards out with just 3 seconds to go. Junior Louie DiStasio booted the point after and the Stags had a commanding 23-6 advantage after one period.
After forcing a punt on Gorham’s first possession of the second quarter, Cheverus got the ball back at its 40. Cooke got the handoff, raced up the middle untouched, then raced down the left sideline to the end zone for another long scoring run.
“Our backfield is our strength this year,” Jendrasko said. “We have to recycle our backs and keep it fresh.”
DiStasio’s extra point made it 30-6 with 10:25 to go in the half.
Junior Cam Olson had an interception on the first play of the Rams’ next series and Gwilym made the visitors pay when his 1-yard run capped an eight-play, 29-yard march. DiStasio’s point after gave the Stags a 37-6 advantage.
After a Gorham fumble was recovered by Bennett, the Cheverus starters came out of the game. Sophomore Liam Fitzpatrick led the team on one last scoring drive which culminated with a 35-yard DiStasio field goal, making it 40-6 at halftime.
The Stags had a 256-134 advantage in first half yardage and forced three turnovers, while never giving the ball away.
“We might be undersized, but we’re scrappy and we have a lot of heart,” Jendrasko said. “We had young guys step up and that’s what we needed. We need to play with maturity and poise and that’s what we did today.”
The second half featured a lot of reserves and a running clock and neither team was able to score. One final defensive stand slammed the door and Cheverus improved to 1-0 with the 40-6 victory.
“We got contributions from a lot of people and defensively, we played well also,” said Wolfgram. “Gorham’s a big, physical team. We’re not really that big, but I thought we stood up to them very well.”
For the game (even though they played less than a half) Cooke had 118 yards and two scores on six carries, Jendrasko managed 89 yards and a score on six carries and Gwilym rushed for 20 yards and two TDs on three attempts. Sophomore Brent Green showed promise off the bench, gaining 50 yards on 12 rushes. The Stasg outgained the Rams (who were led by Kilborn’s 72 yards and a TD on seven carries), 274-196 and forced four turnovers, while giving the ball away just once.
Cheverus will go to Windham Friday night for an important early-season showdown. The Eagles began their title defense Friday with a 13-6 loss at South Portland.
Opinions are mixed about the revenge factor.
“I haven’t thought about it a lick,” Wolfgram said. “I know they’re a very good team, very well coached. We’ll show up to play.”
“I can’t wait,” Jendrasko said. “I’ve thought about it every day since last year. It’s definitely going to be a challenge. It’s always fun to play in a hostile environment at night.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gorham- 6 0 0 0- 6
Cheverus-23 17 0 0-40
C- Cooke 45 run (Gwilym rush)
C- Jendrasko 57 run (Gwilym rush)
G- Kilborn 38 run (run failed)
C- Gwilym 5 run (DiStasio kick)
C- Cooke 60 run (DiStasio kick)
C- Gwilym 1 run (DiStasio kick)
C- DiStasio 35 field goal