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Deering dismantled by Thornton Academy, 30-0

Sports

Deering dismantled by Thornton Academy, 30-0

PORTLAND—No one was expecting this.

Friday evening, the Deering football team hosted Thornton Academy in what some thought would be a case of the Rams chopping the undefeated Golden Trojans down to size.

Instead, Thornton Academy took an early lead, took advantage of four turnovers and stymied Deering from start to finish, putting the Rams' playoff hopes in serious jeopardy with an emphatic 30-0 victory.

Senior quarterback Steve Trask led the offense to the end zone four times, but the biggest play of the night came from junior linebacker Josh Woodward, who stripped Deering junior quarterback Jamie Ross of the ball with the Rams inches from the goal line late in the first half before returning the fumble to the Deering 22. Three plays later, Trask scored on a short run and the Golden Trojans were on their way to a statement victory.

"Deering's a good team," said Trask, who ran for 94 yards and two TDs and passed for 87 yards and two more scores. "They're the best team we've played so far. They're fast. We knew we had to be physical and bump them off their routes. They played their hearts out. We came out and got it rolling."

"Our perception is that we were a pretty good football team that would come and compete," added Thornton Academy coach Kevin Kezal. "I'm proud of our kids. I figured it would be a high scoring game. Our kids played well. We were opportunistic. We wanted to establish the run game. We know we have good athletes."

Different directions

While Thornton Academy (a regional finalist a year ago) entered the contest red-hot, winning its first four games (over Kennebunk, Scarborough, Noble and Sanford) by a whopping composite 181-13 margin, Deering was heading the other way. The Rams opened with home victories over Portland (14-0) and Gorham (35-12), but dropped games at Bonny Eagle (41-21) and Windham (35-19).

The teams hadn't met since 2000 and after this one was over, it's safe to say Deering would be happy not to see the Golden Trojans again anytime soon.

Thornton Academy won the opening coin toss, but deferred possession to the second half, allowing the Rams offense to get the ball first. Deering picked up a first down on a 26-yard scamper from junior receiver Sam Balzano, but a pair of penalties prevented any further progress and the hosts had to punt.

The Golden Trojans took over at their 11 and embarked on an eight-play, 89-yard scoring drive that ate up nearly four minutes.

Senior bruiser Zach Sheehan got things started with a 14-yard burst. A 16-yard Trask run, followed two plays later by a 10-yard scamper from senior Peter Remmes, moved the ball across midfield. Two plays after that, on second down from the Deering 43, Trask dropped back and spotted senior Tim Grose behind the Rams secondary. His throw was short, however, and it appeared it might be picked off, but Grose came back for the ball and wrestled it away, tucked it home and ran into the end zone for the touchdown. Senior Alex Howard's point-after kick made it 7-0 Thornton Academy with 5:09 to play in the opening period.

"I thought it was going to be a pick," Trask said. "It was a great grab by Tim. I hung it up in the air too much. They had two guys right there. I was making my reads and I saw Tim with his hand up in the air. I knew I had to get it to him."

Disaster struck for Deering on the ensuing kickoff when Balzano was upended and fumbled. The Golden Trojans recovered at the Rams 18 and three plays later were in the end zone again, this time when Trask found junior Dimitri Skinsacos for 29-yards. Skinsacos caught the pass at the 10, broke a tackle and scored. Howard's kick gave the visitors a 14-0 lead.

"He's a big kid," Trask said, of Skinsacos. "I wouldn't want to tackle him. It's pretty much pitch
and catch with him. His yards after catch are unbelievable. He just
bounces off people."

Deering began to move the ball as the first period gave way to the second, entering Thornton Academy territory, but the drive stalled at the 48 and the Rams had to punt. This time, the Deering defense would stiffen, forcing the Golden Trojans to punt and midway through the second quarter, the Rams embarked on their best drive, one that culminated with a game-changing play.

A pair of 6-yard runs by Ross and a 12-yard burst from sophomore Trey Thomes moved the ball into Thornton Academy territory. Balzano then picked up 14 and Thomas ran for 15 to set up a first-and-10 at the 11. A short pass to junior Devin Fitzgerald, a 2-yard run by Ross and a 4-yard Ross-to-junior-J.J. Hardy pass set up fourth-and-inches at 1. Ross kept the ball, got the first down and kept churning to attempt to get in the end zone, but out of nowhere, Woodward ripped the ball free and took off down the sideline. By the time Balzano ran him down, Woodward reached the Rams 22. Three plays later, Trask scored on a 2-yard run and what could have been a 14-7 contest instead was a 21-0 Thornton Academy lead at the half.

"The key to the game was that play at the goal line," Kezal said. "It could have been
a one-TD game at halftime, but we stripped the ball and scored and had
a three-TD lead. That was huge. He took it out of his hands and went
the other way. It was the play of the game."

Thornton Academy only had 35 more yards than Deering in the first half (183-148), but the two Rams turnovers were backbreakers.

The Golden Trojans got the ball to start the third and picked up three first downs and ran almost five minutes off the clock before having to punt. On Deering's first second half possession, Ross' 49-yard run provided an opportunity, but fourth-and-2 at the Thornton Academy 13, Ross was stopped for no gain on a run and the ball went back to the Golden Trojans on downs.

The visitors ran out the rest of the third quarter clock before punting again. The Rams began their next series on their 15, gained just two yards and were forced to punt, but Ross never got a chance as the snap went way over his head and bounced out of the end zone for a safety to make it 23-0.

After Thornton Academy punted on its ensuing series, Deering gave the ball right back on a Thomes fumble (which was revoered by Skinsacos). The Golden Trojans then drove 21 yards on four plays to wrap it up, scoring when Trask barreled in from the 3. Howard's extra point accounted for the 30-0 final score.

"I had my reads and the guys got open," Trask said. "The train was rolling. We were pretty excited to come out and put up 21 points in the first half. We knew we had to hold on to the ball in the second half and came out with a win. We had confidence in our offense. We have so many weapons."

"We churned out first downs and moved the clock and shortened the game
as best we could to keep the ball out of their hands," Kezal added. "We gave up yards,
but we didn't give up big plays over the top."

Thornton Academy (which wound up with 300 yards of offense) now has the inside track for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The Golden Trojans face Marshwood, Massabesic and Biddeford the rest of the way.

"We can't look ahead," Trask said. "Each game something could happen. This builds confidence."

"It's a good win, but it's just one," Kezal said. "Come November, it won't mean anything. We stay in control of our destiny. We'd love to lock up the No.1 seed and be home for the playoffs."

The Rams got 83 rushing yards (on 12 carries) from Ross, who went 7-for-13 for 50 yards and an interception through the air. Thomes rushed for 64 yards on 14 attempts. Balzano led the receivers with three grabs for 28 yards. He also rushed twice for 40. Deering ended up with 216 yards of offense, but its four turnovers were too much to overcome.

The Rams now have some serious work to do to make the postseason and likely need to win out, which won't be an easy task. Next weekend, Deering is at resurgent South Portland (3-2). After going to winless Westbrook, the Rams are home with Cheverus in the finale.

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

Photo: Jason Veilleux
In the pivotal play of the game, Deering junior quarterback Jamie Ross fought to reach the end zone late in the first half, but was stripped of the ball by Thornton Academy junior Josh Woodward, who returned it 77 yards to set up a touchdown that gave the Golden Trojans a 21-0 lead at the half.

Photo: Jason Veilleux
Deering junior Will Richards slowed the progress of Thornton Academy senior Peter Remmes on this run.

Photo: Jason Veilleux
Deering sophomore Trey Thomes was brought down by Thornton Academy senior Steve Trask (right) and junior Josh Woodward.

Photo: Jason Veilleux
Deering senior Travis Wade had a chance at an interception Friday, but couldn't haul it in.

PORTLAND — No one was expecting this.

Friday evening, the Deering football team hosted Thornton Academy in what some thought would be a case of the Rams chopping the undefeated Golden Trojans down to size.

Instead, Thornton Academy took an early lead, took advantage of four turnovers and stymied Deering from start to finish, putting the Rams' playoff hopes in serious jeopardy with an emphatic 30-0 victory.

Senior quarterback Steve Trask led the offense to the end zone four times, but the biggest play of the night came from junior linebacker Josh Woodward, who stripped Deering junior quarterback Jamie Ross of the ball with the Rams inches from the goal line late in the first half before returning the fumble to the Deering 22. Three plays later, Trask scored on a short run and the Golden Trojans were on their way to a statement victory.

"Deering's a good team," said Trask, who ran for 94 yards and two TDs and passed for 87 yards and two more scores. "They're the best team we've played so far. They're fast. We knew we had to be physical and bump them off their routes. They played their hearts out. We came out and got it rolling."

Different directions

While Thornton Academy (a regional finalist a year ago) entered the contest red-hot, winning its first four games (over Kennebunk, Scarborough, Noble and Sanford) by a whopping composite 181-13 margin, Deering was heading the other way. The Rams opened with home victories over Portland (14-0) and Gorham (35-12), but dropped games at Bonny Eagle (41-21) and Windham (35-19).

The teams hadn't met since 2000 and after this one was over. It's safe to say Deering would be happy not to see the Golden Trojans again anytime soon.

Thornton Academy won the opening coin toss, but deferred possession to the second half, allowing the Rams' offense to get the ball first. Deering picked up a first down on a 26-yard scamper from junior receiver Sam Balzano, but a pair of penalties prevented any further progress and the hosts had to punt.

The Golden Trojans took over at their 11 and embarked on an eight-play, 89-yard scoring drive that ate up nearly four minutes.

Senior bruiser Zach Sheehan got things started with a 14-yard burst. A 16-yard Trask run, followed two plays later by a 10-yard scamper from senior Peter Remmes, moved the ball across midfield. Two plays after that, on second down from the Deering 43, Trask dropped back and spotted senior Tim Grose behind the Rams secondary. His throw was short, however, and it appeared it might be picked off, but Grose came back for the ball and wrestled it away, tucked it home and ran into the end zone for the touchdown. Senior Alex Howard's point-after kick made it 7-0 Thornton Academy with 5:09 to play in the opening period.

Disaster struck for Deering on the ensuing kickoff when Balzano was upended, forcing a fumble. The Golden Trojans recovered at the Rams 18 and three plays later were in the end zone again, this time when Trask found junior Dimitri Skinsacos for 29 yards. Skinsacos caught the pass at the 10, broke a tackle and scored. Howard's kick gave the visitors a 14-0 lead.

Deering began to move the ball as the first period gave way to the second, entering Thornton Academy territory, but the drive stalled at the 48 and the Rams had to punt. This time, the Deering defense stiffened, forcing the Golden Trojans to punt and midway through the second quarter, the Rams embarked on their best drive, one that culminated with a game-changing play.

A pair of 6-yard runs by Ross and a 12-yard burst from sophomore Trey Thomes moved the ball into Thornton Academy territory. Balzano then picked up 14 and Thomas ran for 15 to give the Rams a fresh set of downs at the Thornton Academy 11.

A short pass to junior Devin Fitzgerald, a 2-yard run by Ross and a 4-yard Ross-to-junior-J.J. Hardy pass set up fourth-and-inches at the 1. Ross kept the ball, got the first down and kept churning to attempt to get in the end zone, but out of nowhere, Woodward ripped the ball free and took off down the sideline. By the time Balzano ran him down, Woodward reached the Rams' 22. Three plays later, Trask scored on a 2-yard run.

What could have been a 14-7 contest was instead a 21-0 Thornton Academy lead at the half.

"The key to the game was that play at the goal line," Golden Trojans coach Kevin Kezal said. "It could have been a one-TD game at halftime, but we stripped the ball and scored and had a three-TD lead. That was huge. He took it out of his hands and went the other way. It was the play of the game."

Thornton Academy had only 35 more yards than Deering in the first half (183-148), but the two Rams turnovers were backbreakers.

The Golden Trojans got the ball to start the third and picked up three first downs, running almost five minutes off the clock before having to punt. On Deering's first second half possession, Ross' 49-yard run provided an opportunity. But at fourth-and-2 at the Thornton Academy 13, Ross was stopped for no gain on a run and the ball went back to the Golden Trojans on downs.

The visitors ran out the rest of the third quarter clock before punting again. The Rams began their next series on their 15, gained just two yards and were forced to punt, but Ross never had a chance as the snap went way over his head and bounced out of the end zone for a safety to make it 23-0.

After Thornton Academy punted on its ensuing series, Deering gave the ball right back on a Thomes fumble (which was recovered by Skinsacos). The Golden Trojans then drove 21 yards on four plays to wrap it up, scoring when Trask barreled in from the 3. Howard's extra point accounted for the 30-0 final score.

"I had my reads and the guys got open," Trask said. "The train was rolling. We were pretty excited to come out and put up 21 points in the first half. We knew we had to hold on to the ball in the second half and came out with a win. We had confidence in our offense. We have so many weapons."

"We churned out first downs and moved the clock and shortened the game as best we could to keep the ball out of their hands," Kezal added. "We gave up yards, but we didn't give up big plays over the top."

The Rams got 83 rushing yards (on 12 carries) from Ross, who went 7-for-13 for 50 yards and an interception through the air. Thomes rushed for 64 yards on 14 attempts. Balzano led the receivers with three grabs for 28 yards. He also rushed twice for 40. Deering ended up with 216 yards of offense (to 300 for Thornton Academy), but its four turnovers were too much to overcome.

The Rams now have some serious work to do to make the postseason and likely need to win out, which won't be an easy task. Next weekend, Deering is at resurgent South Portland (3-2). After going to winless Westbrook, the Rams are home with Cheverus in the finale.

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