Cheverus goes vertical to dominate Sanford
PORTLAND—It turns out the Cheverus football team can throw the ball.
And that's an understatement.
Saturday afternoon at Boulos Stadium, the Stags rode the strong right arm of senior quarterback Cam Olson to an emphatic and surprisingly easy 41-8 victory over resurgent Sanford.
Cheverus drove the field for an Olson-to-senior Louie DiStasio touchdown pass to start the game and never let up. The defending Class A state champion Stags were up 14-0 after one quarter, 35-0 at halftime and thanks to an offense which piled up well over 400 yards, never let up en route to their fourth straight win this fall and 16th in a row overall.
Olson found DiStasio twice for TDs through the air and also hooked up with senior Spencer Cooke. Cooke scored twice more on the ground and even reserve sophomore running back Will Hilton got in on the scoring act in the second half as Cheverus dropped the Redskins to 2-2 on the season.
"Sanford's a good football team," said Stags coach John Wolfgram. "I thought we showed versatility and were efficient. I thought we played with good emotion. It definitely was a positive game for us."
Cheverus won its first Class A title in 25 years a season ago, going 12-0 in the process. Graduation losses made some pundits think that the Stags would come back to the pack, but the champs keep on winning.
After opening with a 59-21 drubbing of visiting South Portland (thanks in large part to a 42-point second half), Cheverus rolled at Gorham (35-0) and Bonny Eagle (42-18).
Sanford went 4-4 in 2010 and fell short of the playoffs. This year, the Redskins opened with a 49-30 shootout victory over Biddeford, then upset Scarborough, 23-12. Last week, Sanford went to South Portland and put up 34 points, but still lost by eight.
The teams hadn't met since Oct. 1, 2004 (a 28-13 win for the host Redskins).
This time around, Cheverus scored early and often and went on to another lopsided victory.
The Stags got the ball first and marched 71 yards in five plays to their first score. After Cooke kept the drive alive with a 2-yard run on third-and-1, Olson found junior Brent Green for a 21-yard pass play (Green made a nice play grabbing the ball which was thrown behind him). On the next play, DiStasio got behind the Sanford defense and hauled in Olson's strike for a 39-yard TD. DiStasio added the extra point and it was 7-0 Cheverus just 2 minutes, 29 seconds in.
The Redskins' first possession gained 10 yards, but set up a fourth-and-inches and Sanford chose to punt. Cheverus then went on the move again, driving from its 40 into Redskins' territory, but Green fumbled and sophomore Josh Schroder recovered for the visitors.
Sanford hoped the turnover would provide a spark, but instead, the Redskins gave the ball right back on a fumbled exchange, which was recovered by Stags senior Christian Deschenes.
Starting at the Sanford 42, Cheverus was backed up to its 49 after a holding penalty, but Olson found Hilton for 27 yards and a first down. Cooke gained 7 yards on the next snap and fumbled, but senior Mike Dedian alertly fell on the loose pigskin to allow the Stags to keep possession. On the next play, Cooke took a pitch and ran free down the left sideline for a 17-yard TD. DiStasio's extra point made it 14-0 Cheverus with 2:45 left in the opening stanza.
The visitors picked up a first down, but then had to punt again. As the first quarter gave way to the second, the Stags took over at their 11. It wasn't long before they were in the end zone again.
After enjoying a 141-32 advantage in offense in the first 12 minutes, Cheverus drove 89 yards on 10 plays for a 21-0 lead. A 15-yard Cooke scamper got things started. Olson then found DiStasio for 42 yards to the Redskins' 26. On third-and-13 from the 29, junior Donald Goodrich ran for 11 yards and Cooke gained 5 on the next snap for a first down at the 13. After Cooke ran for 5 and 4 yards, the standout senior capped the march with a 4-yard TD run, leaping a defender in the process, and after DiStasio kicked the point-after, the lead was extended to three scores with 8:35 remaining in the half.
After Sanford went three-and-out, the Stags drove 52 yards on five plays for another TD. A 13-yard Olson-to-Goodrich pass got things started. Three plays later, Olson again found DiStasio, this time on a quick slant pattern, and DiStasio did the rest, breaking a tackle and racing into the end zone to complete a 38-yard score. DiStasio's extra point made it a 28-0 contest with 3:58 still to go before halftime.
After the Redskins again went three-and-out and even though they were down 35 points, chose to punt from the Cheverus 37, the hosts ended all doubt with a four-play, 64-yard drive. Green broke free for 33 yards to the Sanford 31. Two plays later, Olson found Cooke wide open in the left flat and Cooke did the rest, completing a 24-yard TD with 50.5 seconds left in the half. DiStasio's extra point made it 35-0 and ended the competitive phase of the game.
In the first 24 minutes, Cheverus gained 340 yards to just 50 for the Redskins. Olson was a dazzling 9-of-11 for 288 yards with three scores. He wouldn't attempt another pass.
After fumbling away the first series of the second half, the Stags pulled their starters prior to their next possession. Regardless, Cheverus scored one more touchdown, driving 61 yards on five plays. Junior Liam Fitzpatrick (filling in for Olson behind center) scampered for 22 yards into Sanford territory. After junior Lucas Richio got the hosts close with runs of 8 and 10 yards, Hilton did the rest, racing through a huge hole for an 18-yard TD with 1:59 to play in the third quarter. A two-point conversion run failed, but the lead was up to 41-0.
The visitors would finally break through on their final series, in the fourth quarter.
Starting at the Stags' 37, sophomore Cameron Marshall ran for 7 and 4 yards. Then, on third-and-13, Schroder found sophomore John Morgan racing free behind the secondary and hit him for a 29-yard TD pass. Sophomore Slade Watson ran in the two-point conversion and that accounted for the 41-8 final score.
"This was huge for us," Olson said. "We didn't really know a lot about them. They're from a different region. We competed and worked hard to know what they were trying to do."
"I thought the versatility we showed was a good thing," Wolfgram added. "We have some nice athletes, good kids. They're working hard. They're good competitors. They've learned to play on the fly and compete. Some of the greenness we had early in the year, we're trying to work out.
"It's not easy. It's never easy and we don't expect it to be. Sanford's a good team, we just got a jump on them and made some big plays."
Olson finished 9-of-11 for 228 yards and three scores and acknowledged that while Saturday was his moment to shine, that Cheverus' bread and butter is still the running game.
"The most important thing my coaches advocate for me is stepping into a throw," Olson said. "When you step into a throw, it's easy. We were on the right page today. It's always about the running game. It's never not going to be. (Coach Wolfgram) sets us up in a great position to have the running game down, then switch to something else. He's the mastermind and always has been."
"(Cam's) a smart football player and he played very well," Wolfgram added. "He knows what he's doing. He was very accurate. He made good decisions."
Olson missed most of the 2010 season with injury, but did return an interception for a TD in the state final victory over Bangor. He had to replace Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Peter Gwilym under center and has more than grasped his opportunity.
"I was always eager," said Olson (who also rushed once for 10 yards Saturday). "Peter was a great player. I knew it was a great chance. I knew my abilities. I took it one step at a time. I always get help from the line."
The offensive juggernaut was more than just Olson, of course. Cooke rushed for 63 yards and two TDs on 14 carries and also caught a pair of passes, good for 31 yards and a score. Green wound up with five rushes for 58 yards and caught a pass for 21. DiStasio caught four passes for 146 yards and two TDs. Goodrich had two receptions for 30 yards.
Sanford only got 43 yards on 12 carries from its standout junior runner Alex Shain. Junior quarterback Cody Mooney wound up 3-of-10 passing for 16 yards.
Cheverus finished the game with a 458-113 domination in offensive yards.
While Sanford hopes to get back in the win column next week when it plays a third straight road game, against Gorham, Cheverus looks to keep on keeping on when it welcomes 2-2 Scarborough in a rematch of last year's regional semifinal playoff thriller (won by the Stags, 21-14).
A home game against Biddeford and trips to city rivals Portland and Deering still loom in the regular season.
"I don't want to make any predictions," Olson said. "We play extremely competitive teams, they're contenders. We know every single week is a new challenge. We play 100 percent all the time. There's always stuff to work on, either with blocking, coverage, defense, whatever it happens to be. We know Scarborough will be a tough competitor. We know what we're facing."