Cheverus drubs Deering, locks up top seed
PORTLAND—The Cheverus football team capped its perfect regular season with an emphatic performance Saturday afternoon.
With the top seed for the upcoming playoffs on the line, the Stags dominated visiting Deering from start to finish, gaining over 500 yards on offense behind the dynamic tandem of senior Evan Jendrasko and junior Spencer Cooke, who combined for 391 combined rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Cheverus built a 24-0 lead at halftime and went on to a decisive 44-14 victory over the Rams, finishing 8-0 and first in Western A, while dropping Deering to 6-2 and third.
"The offensive line played well," said Stags coach John Wolfram. "We hit them with some quick ones. (Evan and Spencer are) both good running backs. We had a nice rhythm with our offense. That's what it's all about."
Cheverus, a regional finalist in 2009, was expected to make a run at the title this autumn. The Stags haven't disappointed, winning their seven contests by an average margin of 29-7. Last week, Cheverus earned a huge 23-20 come-from-behind home win over traditional power Bonny Eagle.
Deering, meanwhile, coming off a disappointing 2-6 campaign, wasn't viewed as a top contender, but has impressed from the get-go and brought a 6-1 mark to Boulos Stadium Saturday.
Last year, the Stags beat the Rams for the first time in a long time, 30-21, at Deering.
This time around, Cheverus won with ease.
The hosts set the tone with their defense when, after winning the opening coin toss but deferring to the second half, the Stags shut the Rams down on three plays, forcing a punt. On the first play of the game, Deering's standout senior quarterback Jamie Ross threw a quick pass to classmate J.J. Hardy, but Cooke planted him after a meager 2-yard gain.
Cheverus took over at its 39 and promptly matriculated down the field. On the first play of a 10-play drive, Cooke gained 15 yards and a late hit penalty on the visitors tacked on 15 more. Jendrasko and Cooke would combine to rush seven times for 43 yards, but on third-and-goal from the 8, Stags' senior quarterback Peter Gwilym was sacked by Rams' junior Nick DiBiase for a 10-yard loss.
Most high school teams in the state of Maine would be forced to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 18, but Cheverus boasts the accurate and powerful right foot of junior Louie DiStasio, who calmly booted a 36-yard field goal with 6:10 to go in the opening quarter to put the Stags on top to stay, 3-0.
The Rams gained a first down on their next series, but the Cheverus defense stiffened and forced a punt.
With 2:26 left in the first, the Stags took over at their 28. In a drive that would extend into the second quarter, Cheverus marched 72 yards in just over five minutes for its initial touchdown.
After Cooke picked up a first down with a three-yard rush on third-and-3, Jendrasko gained seven, then 14 for a first down at the Deering 41 as the first period came to a close.
In the opening 12 minutes, the Stags gained 74 yards to just 19 for the visitors.
As the second period commenced, Cheverus continued its meticulous drive, getting an eight-yard run from Jendrasko, six from Cooke and two from Jendrasko before Cooke was thrown for a one-yard loss, setting up third-and-9 from the Rams' 26.
Cooke got the handoff, twisted and turned and broke a couple tackles en route to a 12-yard run for the first down. After Gwilym ran for 12 yards to the 2, Cooke capped the drive with a 2-yard TD run over the right side. DiStasio's extra point made it 10-0 with 9:08 to go before halftime.
The Stags got the ball back with 7:33 left before halftime, but they were pinned at their 1 after a 38-yard Ross punt and a blocking in the back penalty.
Undaunted, Cheverus gained 99 yards in two huge chunks.
On first down, Jendrasko bulled his way to the 5, where he appeared stopped, but he broke a tackle and wound up racing all the way to midfield. On the next snap, Gwilym rolled out to his right and with Wolfgram yelling, "Run, Peter, run," launched a pass down the sideline to sophomore Liam Fitzpatrick, who completed a 50-yard scoring play. With 6:49 remaining in the second quarter, DiStasio's extra point gave the hosts a 17-0 edge.
Deering again had to punt and this time, the Rams' defense held, but on their next offensive series, the visitors moved into Cheverus territory before DiBiase fumbled after a reception and Stags junior Cristian Doughty came up with the recovery at the Cheverus 40 with 1:09 to go.
Not content to go into the half with a 17 point lead, the Stags essentially salted away their win when after a holding penalty pushed the ball back to the 37, Gwilym threw a bomb to Cooke, who made a fingertip catch while being hounded by Hardy, then ran in for a 63-yard TD. DiStasio's extra point punctuated a phenomenal first half and the hosts had a commanding 24-0 lead at the break.
In the first half, Cheverus gained 280 yards, while Deering managed just 62.
The Stags would keep the pressure on in the third period.
After the hosts had to punt on their first series, the defense came through, holding the Rams on downs, giving the offense the ball at the Deering 33. Three plays later, Cheverus was in the end zone again.
After Cooke had runs of 10- and 17-yards, a false start penalty pushed the ball back to the 11, but senior Liam Hobbins, on his lone carry, made two nice moves and scored on an 11-yard run. DiStasio added the point-after and it was 31-0 midway through the quarter.
On the first snap of its next series, Deering gave the ball away when Ross was intercepted by the omnipresent Cooke.
The Stags moved down the field again, highlighted by a 35-yard run from Jendrasko, on which he broke three tackles, but a holding penalty short-circuited the march and a DiStasio 35-yard field goal attempt fell short.
The Rams' offense, finally, then came to life. Deering would drive 80 yards on 13 plays to get on the scoreboard. Runs of 13- and 11-yards from junior Trey Thomes got it started. Ross hit junior Renaldo Lowry for nine-, followed by 20-yards, to put the ball at the Cheverus 14 as the fourth quarter began.
Five plays later, Ross bulled in from the 1. Ross added the extra point, but Deering still trailed, 31-7, with 9:52 to play.
The Stags weren't content to sit on their lead and drove 81-yards in nine plays, chewing up nearly four minutes. A 39-yard scamper from Gwilym and a 15-yard burst from Jendrasko got the hosts close and with 6:03 to play, Cooke scored for the third time, on a 4-yard run. DiStasio missed the extra point, but Cheverus had extended its lead to 30 points, 37-7.
To their credit, the Rams didn't quit, moving 75-yards on eight plays to get in the end zone again. The TD came from 29 yards out, as Ross hit Lowry on a slant and the speedy receiver made two moves to elude the secondary en route to paydirt. Ross' extra point made it a 37-14 contest with 3:36 left.
The Stags had one last drive and made the most of it, marching 73 yards on six plays for one final score. A 51-yard burst from Cooke put the ball at the Deering 9. Four plays later, on fourth-and-goal, Jendrasko put the finishing touches on the romp with a 1-yard TD run. DiStasio added another extra point.
The Rams moved into Cheverus territory, but with time winding down, Cheverus junior Sam Sanders delivered a punctuation mark, sacking Ross to end the game.
Cooke and Jendrasko shared the Charlie White Award, given to the Cheverus MVP in the annual Deering game. The award honors the former Stags' standout (Class of 1963).
"We did great together," Cooke said. "Peter runs it, I run it, Evan runs it. We're a three-headed monster.
Cooke wound up gaining 204 yards on 23 carries and 63 more on his one reception. He scored twice on the ground and once through the air. Jendrasko picked up 187 yards (and a TD) on 22 attempts.
Gwilym, as dangerous an offensive weapon as you'll find, rushed just four times for 57 yards. He threw only five passes, completing three, for 120 yards and two scores.
Fitzpatrick had one catch for a 50-yard score and senior Jack Bushey had one reception for seven yards. Hobbins rushed just once, but it was for an 11-yard TD.
Cheverus gained an impressive 542 yards and didn't turn the ball over. The Stags were flagged 10 times for 61 yards.
After the win, Wolfgram led the team in another version of his rousing, "Give me a S! Give me a T! Give me a A! Give me a G! Give me a S!" chant.
"Now that I'm so old, I can do that," he joked afterwards. "My daughter was a cheerleader and she taught me all that stuff."
For Deering, Ross ended up with impressive stats, but many of the yards came when the game was decided. He threw for 191 yards and a TD on 16-of-23 passing. He was also intercepted once. Ross is also a dangerous rusher, but was held to 31 yards on 14 rushes (with a score).
"We thought it would be a really close game," said Cooke. "(Deering's) a very physical team. Jamie throws all over. They're very good. Our goal on defense was to not give up a home run. They're a home run team. We stopped that today."
"(Deering's) a tough team to stop," Wolfgram added. "They have a very good offense and we're a dink-and-dunk defense. We tackled better than last week. We missed some tackles against Bonny Eagle. We kept things in front of us better and we tackled better."
Hardy had 10 catches for 96 yards. Lowry caught three balls for 58 yards and a TD. DiBiase had two receptions for 24 yards and junior Joe Hogan one catch for 13. Thomes gained 47 yards on eight rushes and DiBiase finished with 14 yards on five attempts.
The Rams wound up with 265 yards of offense, but turned the ball over twice and were penalized five times for 50 yards.
Deering will be the No. 3 seed in the Western Class A playoffs. The Rams will host No. 6 Thornton Academy (6-2) in the quarterfinals, likely Friday night. Deering made its biggest statement of the 2010 season on Oct. 2 with a 35-6 romp at the Golden Trojans. Ross threw for three TDs and ran for two others. The teams have no prior playoff history.
Cheverus goes in with the top seed for the first time since 1985. The Stags will host No. 8 Windham (4-4) in the quarterfinals Saturday. On Sept. 10, Cheverus rolled over the host Eagles, 28-0. Gwilym threw for a TD, ran for another and returned a punt for a third, while Cooke scored on an interception return. More importantly, the teams met in last year's regional final, a 7-6 victory for host Windham in the slop.
The Stags have accomplished a lot this fall, but still have incredibly lofty goals.
"We've played really well," Cooke said. "We wanted the number one seed and the homefield advantage. We have to continue to practice and prepare well and watch film. Everything we have been doing."
"Our goals are ahead of us now," Wolfgram said. "We like playing at home. We know there are some really good football teams in this league and we'll take it week to week. The kids have stayed the course all year round. Obviously, our league is a very tough league and we play some tough games. It's a testament to how we've grown during the year. It's great to be 8-0, but on Monday we'll start thinking about bigger things."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com