Scarborough football dominates in first Class A playoff test
That’s the poignant, yet clunky battle cry that slowly began to rise from a cluster of season-long Red Storm loyalists pocketed just above the helmets near midfield in the visiting team section. With that over-prepared look and blankets to spare, this devoted crop of red had no doubt arrived in the Five Points early to reserve such a vantage point of a field that’s come to define this old milltown raised on Tigers’ football.
Nearby, the Scarborough cheerleaders couldn’t resist joining in, piping up two-by-two down neatly arranged rows until the rythmically-challenged chorus had spread to the mud-covered stars of the Red Storm football team, now helmetless basking in the uniform accomplishment of the day.
Far from the familiar Four Corners of home, the Red Storm football community was reborn in a new era and different league, in the most unlikely of places. Rare is the opposing team that celebrates a football coronation on these hallowed grounds. And for what it’s worth, it's better to be early than not show up at all.
Senior captain Dennis Liu took the opening kickoff 88 yards to the house and five others would add touchdowns as the fifth-ranked Red Storm steamrolled No. 4 Biddeford, 48-12, Saturday in the Western Class A quarterfinals at historic Waterhouse Field.
Senior quarterback Jack Adams threw for 157 yards and three touchdowns and Scarborough spread the love in first-year coach Lance Johnson’s inventive offensive attack to pile up seven touchdowns and capture the program’s first playoff win on its first try after moving up a division eight seasons ago.
Next Saturday, the Red Storm (8-1) will look to hand the top-ranked Cheverus Stags (9-0) their first setback of the year in the Western A semifinal round scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at Boulos Field.
It’s expected that senior Zach Bean will return next week after missing the last five games with a knee injury he suffered on this very field in the Red Storm’s 21-9 victory back on Sept. 24.
“I really think that our guys have improved over the season,” said Johnson. “We’re a lot more physical now and we needed that today against a tough Biddeford team. We showed up ready to play. We have a lot weapons and the threat of the deep ball is always there. We’re running the power off-tackle on third-and-15 and it works because the defense is waiting for the pass.”
If the Scarborough victory refrain was a touch out of synch in the stands, the football players on the field were anything but. From Liu’s touchdown return on, the Red Storm stayed in the same groove that’s produced a seven-game win streak to gain a 28-6 advantage by halftime.
“When coach Johnson came over he brought a lot of confidence,” said Bean. “He’s a mastermind on offense, he really is. We have so many weapons that we can beat you with. It’s the most fun I’ve had playing football and I can’t wait to get back out there."
Still leading 7-0 in the first quarter, Adams went back to work behind center and connected on his first touchdown pass of the game. The ball left his hand and spent all of a second in the air, with Adams shuffling ahead to junior fullback Scott Thibeault for a 55-yard score and a 14-0 lead.
Biddeford went three-and-out and shanked a 10-yard punt to make matters a whole lot worse. The Scarborough offense trotted back out with first-and-10 at the 20. It didn’t take more than one play for Adams to pick out another weapon and find senior tight end Mike Cyr in the end zone for a 21-0 Scarborough lead just inside the second quarter.
The Red Storm’s fast start couldn’t have come in a better game at a better time. Biddeford’s starting senior quarterback Tyler Audie and at least two other senior starters weren't available due to violation of the school's disciplinary code. Without Audie, a three-year starter, the Tigers were forced to turn to sophomore Nick Leblond a year before they would have liked. Trailing by three scores in the second quarter forced the Tigers into comeback mode, not good for a team that prefers to run the ball with senior Nick Gagne. Like every good Biddeford (7-2) team, Gagne is that horse-collared bruiser that punishes tacklers from the fullback position.
It’s not that Gagne didn’t try to lead the Tigers. He dropped back in the flat and picked off Adams on the Red Storm's next possession, and then turned into a fullback and powered in from the 2-yard line to pull Biddeford within 21-6 with 3:04 left in the first half.
With a slight twinge of momentum, the Tigers charged out on defense and forced a punt that left them in decent position to punch in another score before intermission.
But on second down inside the Scarborough 45, Leblond looked to throw right and was picked off by sophomore Dillon Russo lurking in the shadows. Russo showed off great instincts for the game on both sides of the ball, stepping in here for an interception that he returned 42 yards to the Tigers 16 with 1:20 left before the break.
For his next trick, Russo, now at quarterback after Adams; interception, picked up all 16 yards on the ground and scored to put a rather large-sized dent in any hopes that Biddeford may have been clinging to for a second half comeback.
Russo carried three times, the last one a 2-yard plunge for the touchdown. Scarborough senior Nick Provencher added the point-after and Biddeford limped to the half down 28-6.
“Coach had a great game plan we worked hard on this week in practice,” Adams said. “We watched a lot of film and saw some things we could take advantage of on offense. I’m fortunate to play with three great receivers and the offensive line gave me plenty of time. This is the most fun I’ve had playing football, hopefully we can keep rolling.”
Looking for an answer, the Tigers came out to start the second half in the "Wildcat" formation with Gagne in the shotgun. The plan worked like a charm for one set of downs as Gagne got rolling down hill to pick up a first down. But Scarborough adjusted and the Tigers went back to Leblond on third-and-10 looking to throw. Thibeault blitzed off the weakside corner and sacked him for a 7-yard loss to force another punt.
The Red Storm came right back and strung together a 10-yard, three-minute scoring drive, capped by a 14-yard touchdown catch and run from Thibeault on the bubble screen for a 35-6 lead with four-minutes left in the third quarter.
To start the fourth, Leblond was sacked again on third-and-long, this time by Scarborough senior Keoni DeBarge which led to another score. With first-and-10 at midfield, Adams handed to senior tailback Mark Pearson on consecutive plays for 16 yards to the Biddeford 34. Pearson was solid all day, rushing for 68 tough yards on a team-high 13 carries. His dirty work on this drive led to Adams' third touchdown pass. Adams dropped back and found his 6-foot-3 senior wideout Joe Viola in single coverage with a gorgeous ball that Viola went up for and took off the back of the back of the defenders helmet for a touchdown that stretched the Scarborough lead to 42-6 with 9:35 left in the game.
“Coach definitely knows what he’s doing,” said Viola. “We have a lot of weapons and he makes sure we all get involved. We run the ball to set up the pass and it was the other way around last year. It just wasn’t the same feeling.”
Each team would score late to account for the 48-12 final as the Red Storm won their first playoff game in Class A with ease and now move on to face the biggest challenge of the season in the unbeaten Stags next week for a spot in the regional final up for grabs.
The teams didn't meet this year and have no playoff history. They split the only two prior meetings (in the 2003 and 2004 regular seasons).