Sensational Stags blank Biddeford
PORTLAND—The Cheverus Victory Tour played its final regularly scheduled home date Saturday afternoon and left a throng of sun-baked rooters clamoring for more.
The defending Class A state champion Stags, for the third week in a row, had a win wrapped up by halftime, as they scored 14 points in the first quarter and 28 more in the second to race to a 42-0 lead over Biddeford. The Cheverus reserves scored twice more in the second half and the Stags improved to 6-0 with a 56-0 triumph, their 18th in succession.
On Senior Day, under a surprisingly (for October) glorious, warm sun, senior Spencer Cooke scored touchdowns on the ground, through the air and on a punt return, junior Brent Green and sophomore Will Hilton both ran for two scores and senior Louie DiStasio had a TD catch to pace the offense, while the under-appreciated defense held the 0-6 Tigers to only 22 yards and one first down in the first half.
With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, Cheverus is still looking for its first test.
"We want to come out and start right," said DiStasio, who once again not only dazzled with his receiving skills, but with both feet on this day. "We just jumped out really quick. We played good defense and that brings the offense."
The 2011 season has been one of decisive triumph for the Stags.
After opening with a 59-21 home romp over South Portland, Cheverus blanked host Gorham (35-0), rolled at Bonny Eagle (42-18), controlled visiting Sanford from start to finish in a 41-8 win and blanked Scarborough in a playoff rematch, 38-0, last week.
Biddeford is as proud as any program in the state, but has really struggled this fall, dropping its first five games by an average of 41-10.
The Stags and Tigers hadn't met for years prior to Saturday and it didn't take long for Biddeford to realize that this mountain was far too steep to climb.
Prior to kickoff, both teams had their senior players (with their parents) honored. Then, coach Mac McKew and former catcher Nic Lops from the Cheverus baseball state championship team were honored and took part in the opening coin toss.
"I was really excited to see Nic and coach McKew," said DiStasio, who was a member of the baseball state championship squad. "I'm glad they came out. It was a great accomplishment last spring."
Biddeford won the toss and deferred possession to the second half.
It took Cheverus all of three plays and 56 seconds to take the lead for good.
After Green was thrown for a 1-yard loss on a rush on first down, he caught a 5-yard pass from senior quarterback Cam Olson, setting up a third-and-6. Olson dropped back to pass again and fired a quick slant to DiStasio. The throw was low, but DiStasio went down and used his soft hands to grab it, then outraced the pursuit to the end zone to complete a 60-yard touchdown play.
"Cam's normally on the money, but the ball was dry and slipped out of his hands," DiStasio said. "I just adjusted and did the rest."
DiStasio then kicked the extra point and a mere 1 minute, 1 second in, the Stags were up, 7-0.
Cheverus' defense forced a three-and-out and the Tigers had to punt the ball back.
The Stags' second series began and their 43. This time, it took six plays and nearly three minutes to score. After an 11-yard run from Cooke on his first carry of the game, Olson found DiStasio for 7-yards and Cooke rushed for six more and a first down at the Biddeford 33. Three plays later, facing a third-and-12, Olson dropped back and launched a ball down the right sideline to Cooke, who had gotten open behind the secondary. He made the catch and sauntered into the end zone for a 35-yard scoring play. DiStasio's point-after made it 14-0 Cheverus with 5:57 still to go in quarter number one.
The Tigers did manage a first down on their next series, but soon had to punt again. This time, the Stags couldn't capitalize and had to punt the ball away. As the first period gave way to the second, Biddeford was forced to punt once more.
Cheverus took over at its 31 to start the new quarter and nine plays and nearly five minutes later, had another touchdown.
The big plays were runs of 21, 13 and 10 yards by Cooke and a 10-yard Olson-to-DiStasio pass. With 7:16 left before halftime, Cooke scored on a 7-yard run up the gut and DiStasio's extra point pushed the lead to 21-0.
On the second play of the next Biddeford possession, junior quarterback Nick LeBlond (2-for-11, 16 yards) was intercepted by Stags junior Ryan Casale at the Tigers' 40.
After Green ran for 11 yards on first down, he broke through the right side and didn't stop until he completed a 29-yard scoring run. With 5:37 still to play in the second, Cheverus had a 28-0 bulge.
After another Biddeford three-and-out, Cooke showed how dangerous he can be on special teams, as he took the punt at the Stags' 44, weaved through defenders, waited for his break, then burst into the open for a 56-yard return TD. DiStasio again nailed the extra point and it was 35-0.
After another Tigers' punt and an 18-yard Cooke return, Cheverus began at the BIddeford 19 with just under three minutes left. Green would be the workhorse on that drive, running for 10 yards, then 8, before capping the drive with a 1-yard score up the middle. DiStasio kicked the point after and the Stags had a commanding 42-0 lead at the half.
In the first 24 minutes, Cheverus outgained the Tigers, 251 yards to 22 and had eight first downs to just one for the visitors.
"We had pretty good rhythm," Stags coach John Wolfgram said. "Cam threw the ball early well. He had a couple good throws. We got a jump on them like we wanted to do. That was the difference pretty much. I thought our execution was good in the first half. Biddeford wasn't that strong on the line of scrimmage. We took some things there."
Yet again, the starters' day was cut short, but the Stags' reserves would have their moments in the second half.
Midway through the third period, Cheverus took over at its 44 and embarked on a 14-play scoring drive that chewed up almost seven minutes. Hilton was the star attraction this time, running eight times for 46 yards. The final seven came on the first play of the fourth quarter and resulted in a touchdown. With DiStasio done for the day, the Stags went for two and freshman Joe Fitzpatrick ran the ball in to make it 50-0.
Cheverus started at its 4 on its next series, but soon found the end zone one final time, when Hilton took a handoff, blew through a hole and outran the pursuit down the right sideline for a stunning 94-yard score.
"(The reserves getting playing time is) a good thing," Wolfgram said. "They executed pretty well in the second half. They took care of business in their own matter."
The two-point run failed, but the Stags had accounted for the 56-0 final score and soon ran down the clock on another emphatic win.
"We work each week and prepare a ton and it pays off," DiStasio said. "Coach Wolfgram's just a great coach. He knows what he's doing. We knew we had talent, but I don't know if we expected to go 6-0. We just wanted to come out and defend the hill."
As expected, the final statistics were mind-boggling.
Cheverus finished with 408 yards of offense, to just 69 for Biddeford (47 of those came in the final period). The Stags had 12 first downs and surrendered just four.
Individually, Hilton wound up rushing 11 times for 150 yards and two scores. Cooke gained 75 yards and a TD on eight carries. He also had a 35-yard TD reception and the punt return for a score. He wound up with 184 all-purpose yards. Olson threw just six times, but completed five of them, good for 117 yards and two TDs. Green caught a pass for five yards and rushed nine times for 65 yards and two TDs.
DiStasio had three catches for 77 yards and a score. He was also 6-for-6 on extra points and if that wasn't enough, demonstrated his superb athleticism by kicking off a few times with his left foot and still driving the ball deep down the field.
"(Louie's) very talented," said Wolfgram. "He's a very good athlete. A good competitor.
"It's a really good group (of seniors). They've worked hard. They're a big part of the program."
The defense was pretty awesome as well, as Casale had an interception and junior Donald Goodrich pitched in with a sack. Seniors Mike Dedian and Christian Deschenes ensured that the line ruled the day both on offense and defense.
"We came to play," Deschenes said. "We showed up and dominated the line of scrimmage. I think it's the coaching. He gets us motivated every week. The captains get us motivated again. We just come to play every day. The D line shows up every week. We make stops. Our linebackers make big stops. We have a lot of three-and-outs. This was my last regular season game on this hill. Obviously, I'll miss this."
Cheverus has two games left and if it wins out, it will have homefield advantage for the playoffs for a second straight year. Friday night, the Stags go to 2-4 Portland, a dangerous foe, which boasts a couple linemen who played on last year's Cheverus championship team.
"Right now, we're just looking at Portland and preparing for them," Deschenes said. "Our motto is to always get better every week. We're working on it."
The regular season concludes Oct. 21 with a rematch of last year's epic regional final, at Deering.
"We'd like to play a whole game," DiStasio said. "The last game we played pretty much the whole game was Bonny Eagle. We have to keep working on D and on O and get better from there."
"We certainly have room for improvement," Wolfgram said. "We'll continue to work at things and get better."