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Fast start, rough finish: Deering falls to 2-2 after 35-19 loss at Windham

Sports

Fast start, rough finish: Deering falls to 2-2 after 35-19 loss at Windham

WINDHAM — For much of the first half Friday evening, the Deering football
team had everything go its way as it raced to a 13-0 lead at preseason
favorite Windham.

Then, everything changed. Big time.

The Eagles' offense roared to life, scoring two TDs before the half,
then Windham added two more third period scores to cap a 29-0 run and
the Rams offense only managed one more touchdown the rest of the way as
Deering fell to 2-2 on the season with a 35-19 loss, its second in a
row.

Work in progress

As Friday evening progressed (and word got out of South Portland's
shocking win over Bonny Eagle and Portland's upset over Cheverus), it
became crystal clear that there isn't a dominant team in Western Class
A this year. Deering and Windham both view themselves as title
contenders, but both teams still have work to do.

The Rams, who downed Portland (14-0) and Gorham (35-12) to start the
year, were coming off a 41-21 setback at two-time defending state
champion Bonny Eagle. Deering came into the game with a heavy heart,
mourning senior Guy Kitoko, who was killed in an auto accident last
weekend. A moment of silence was held before kickoff.

The Eagles, meanwhile, opened with a 40-13 home win over South
Portland, then were stunned 27-13 at Cheverus before bouncing back last
week with a 40-6 home victory over Gorham.

Windham came into the game having never beaten Deering, but last
year the Eagles came close, falling 21-14 at home to the Rams in Week
1.

The Windham defense allowed a pair of Deering first downs to start
the game, but then stiffened and a pair of Ross incomplete passes
forced a punt. The Eagles took over at their 31 and promptly found
the end zone, or so they thought.

On second-and-11 from its 30, Windham appeared to take the lead when
senior Jack Mallis blew through the line and outraced the Rams defense
to the end zone. But behind the play, a flag was thrown for holding and
instead, Mallis only got credit for a 27-yard run and the Eagles
started a series at the Deering 46. The visitors allowed just four
yards on the next three plays and Windham had to punt.

The Rams then embarked on a dazzling 14-play, 94-yard drive, which
ate up almost six minutes. Four separate times, Ross converted a third
down, hitting senior Corey Van Brocklin for 18 yards the first time,
finding junior J.J. Hardy for 11 the next, hooking up with junior Sam
Balzano for 17, then finding Hardy for 8. After sophomore Trey Thomes
ran for 16 yards to the 3, Ross capped the drive with a three-yard run. Ross then added the point-after for a 7-0 lead with 56.8 seconds left
in the first period.

The Eagles gained a first down as the first quarter gave way to the
second, but on the first play of the new stanza, Mallis gained 11 yards
before fumbling the ball. Deering senior Joe Thomas pounced on the
loose ball and the Rams took over at Windham's 44.

Eight plays later, Deering was in the end zone again.

Ross did most of the damage, running twice for 13 yards, hitting
Thomes for eight yards, sophomore Renaldo Lowry for nine, then finding Hardy
in the back right corner of the end zone for a four-yard score with 8:56
left in the first half. The extra point was no good, but the Rams
appeared to be solidly in control, up 13-0.

Not so fast.

Comeback

Windham began its next drive at its 34. After an incomplete pass,
Mallis got things rolling with a hard-fought 16-yard run. Two plays
later, senior quarterback Jackson Taylor found junior Kyle Williams for
a 14-yard pass play. After Taylor ran for 15 yards to get the Eagles
close, Mallis capped the eight-play drive with a 5-yard scoring run.
When the point-after snap went awry, junior holder Cody Laberge smartly
grabbed the ball, rolled out and found junior Dylan Taylor for the
two-point conversion, cutting the deficit to 13-8.

Deering promptly went three-and-out and the hosts took over at their
34 with 4:36 remaining before halftime. A pair of 5-yard runs from
Jackson Taylor, followed by a 6-yard Mallis rush put the ball at
midfield. Taylor then hooked up with senior Matthew Gledhill for 15
yards to put the ball in Rams' territory. Mallis rushes of 10 and
9 yards and a Deering offsides penalty brought the Eagles close. Then, with
just 20.3 seconds remaining in the half, Mallis scored on a 1-yard
plunge to put Windham ahead to stay. Senior Matt Coffee added the
point-after and the Eagles led 15-13 at the break.

The Rams had a 196-183 edge in yardage and Ross was 8-of-13 for 98 yards and a TD, but suddenly, Windham had all the momentum.

The hosts' onslaught continued in the third.

Windham took over at its 28 to begin the second half and drove 72
yards on eight plays in a little over three minutes to stretch its
lead. The big play was a 52-yard Taylor-to-Gledhill pass down to the
Deering 8. After a 6-yard Mallis TD run was negated by a hold, Taylor
and Gledhill hooked up again, this time on third-and-goal from the 19,
as the receiver hauled in the pass in the end zone. Coffee's extra
point made it a two-possession game, 22-13, with 8:30 to go in the
third period.

The Rams couldn't do anything on their first possession of the
second half, going three-and-out. The Eagles took over and drove 70 yards on just
four plays to earn some breathing room. After a 19-yard Mallis run put
the ball at Deering's 46, Taylor (4-for-6 for 125 yards and two TDs in
the third period alone) hit senior Tucker Miller with a quick pass and
Miller raced to the end zone for another score. Coffee's extra point
made it 29-13 with 4:28 to go in the quarter.

After the teams traded punts, the Rams offense finally returned to
form. Starting at its 48, Deering marched 52 yards on five plays for
its final score. A 29-yard Ross-to-Hardy pass set it up. Two plays
later, Ross found Hardy on a post pattern for the TD. The Rams weren't
able to convert the two-point conversion, however, and Windham still
had a 29-19 lead as the third period gave way to the fourth. 

The hosts then embarked on their most impressive drive of the
night to put it away. Starting at their 13, the Eagles moved 87 yards
in 11 plays, eating up 5:03. Mallis did most of the work, rushing nine
times for 88 yards, capped by an 8-yard burst up the gut for the score.
Coffee's extra point was wide left, but Windham led 35-19 with 7:10 to
play.

Deering gave the ball up on downs on its next series. The hosts
then went three-and-out and punted. With 1:18 to play, the Rams
appeared to make things interesting when Ross found Balzano for a
72-yard score, but an illegal block in back penalty negated the score
and the Rams never got closer than the Eagles 28 before giving the ball
up for good. Windham took a knee, then celebrated its pivotal 35-19
triumph.

"We came together as a team," said Mallis, who wound up with 226
yards and three TDs on 32 carries. "We've preached team since Day 1.
I'm at a loss for words. When your line blocks perfectly and everything
goes well, there's not a better feeling. The game plan was to play
tough football. We came out and played tough. That's our style. When
you make mistakes you have to get past them. We went on to the next
play. When you're down 13-0, you have to focus on playing football and
not get down on yourself. Hopefully we'll take this through the rest of
the season. The Cheverus loss was a good thing. We learned from our
mistakes and kept working. We'll take it week to week."

"This is where you know you're starting to get there," added Windham coach Matt Perkins. "Down 13-0, we
just refocused. I thought we started to do
a good job on Ross. We did a good job containing him. Our defensive
backs did a good job. We had two touchdowns called back and had a
fumble. We had our hands full preparing for a dynamic team like this.
We finally beat one of the top tier teams. Even last year, we didn't
beat Bonny Eagle, Deering or (Thornton Academy). We got one now. We took a step. Last
year we lost a dogfight with Deering in the opener.

"Mallis was tremendous. The O line was a question mark. They've
faced the heat all season. They're starting to believe in themselves a
little bit. Jack saw holes well. The guys up front were phenomenal."

Taylor finished with 158 yards and two scores on 7-of-13 passing. He
also ran for 35 yards on five rushes. Windham (now 3-1, at Marshwood
next weekend) mustered 419 yards of offense, had just the one turnover
and was flagged four times for 69 yards.

For Deering, Ross finished 14-of-24 for 195 yards and two TDs. He
ran for 63 yards and a score on 21 attempts. Hardy led the receivers
with 88 yards and a TD on six catches. The Rams had 334 yards off
offense and were penalized four times for 70 yards.

Deering faces its third straight stern test Friday night when it
hosts York County power Thornton Academy (4-0) in its crossover game.
The Rams need to remain formidable on offense and somehow find a way to
step it up defensively if they want to remain in the upper echelon.
Deering also has games remaining against Westbrook, South Portland and
Cheverus.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net