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Deering turns to its defense to hold off Scarborough

Sports

Deering turns to its defense to hold off Scarborough

SCARBOROUGH—The Deering football team has built its reputation on an explosive offense, but Thursday evening, the Rams bounced back from their first defeat with a stellar defensive effort in a 14-7 victory at the Scarborough Red Storm.

The Deering offense erupted early, scoring touchdowns on its first two possessions, but from there, the Rams went stagnant and it was up to the defensive unit to preserve the win.

It would do just that, consistently turning the Red Storm back in the second half and as a result, Deering improved to 5-1 on the year, dropping Scarborough to 2-4 in the process.

"It's the most complete game we've played all year, which is a good thing, bouncing back from a tough, tough game last week," said Rams first-year coach Jon Gallant, alluding to a loss to Thornton Academy a week ago. "Our kids took what happened to heart and watched film and saw where we needed to improve. They did what they needed to in a short week of practice."

Defensive struggle

Deering hasn't missed a beat in 2011, a year after falling a point short of playing for a state championship. The Rams opened with a 41-8 home victory over Noble, held off host Windham, 28-20, and host Kennebunk, 32-20, then beat visiting rival Portland, 28-7. Last week, Deering couldn't hold a 14-0 lead and lost to Thornton Academy, 28-21.

Scarborough, meanwhile, hoped to build on its eight wins and trip to the semifinals from 2010 and got off to a great start at home in the opener, downing Windham, 21-6. After a 23-12 setback at Sanford, the Red Storm blanked visiting Biddeford, 42-0, but lost senior standout Scott Thibeault to a back injury. A 34-20 home loss to Bonny Eagle followed and last Saturday, Scarborough committed nine turnovers in a 38-0 setback at Cheverus.

The Rams and Red Storm hadn't met since Oct. 8, 2004 (a 41-0 win for Deering at Scarborough).

Thursday, in a game moved up 24 hours due to the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the Rams got the jump and managed to hold on.

On the first play from scrimmage, Deering senior running back Trey Thomes set the tone with an 11-yard run. Three plays later, on third-and-9, senior quarterback Matt Flaherty found sophomore Chhorda Chorn for 25 yards to the Red Storm 25. After Flaherty rushed for 4 yards and senior Renaldo Lowry picked up 11, Thomes broke up the middle for a 10-yard TD run and the Rams were ahead to stay. Senior Nick DiBiase added the point after and just 2 minutes, 33 seconds in, Deering had a 7-0 lead.

"Trey's a great runner," said Gallant. "Once he broke through, he kept going. That touchdown run was his best run of the season. He hit the hole and exploded. There was no dancing or sliding. That's what we want."

Scarborough picked up a first down in its initial series as junior quarterback Dillon Russo picked up 21 yards on a run. After a Russo gain of 6, he was sacked by Rams senior Alex Stilphen, forcing a punt.

The Rams took over at the Red Storm 46 and nine plays later had another score.

Thomes got the drive started with runs of 5 and 4 yards. After Flaherty picked up the first down with a 12 yard scamper, Thomes rushed for 11 and a first down at the 11. Then, Deering went backwards as a bad snap set up a fourth-and-19 from the 20.

No problem.

Flaherty dropped back to pass and aired out a rainbow to the back right corner of the end zone where the ball landed in the hands of Lowry for the score. DiBiase's extra point made it 14-0 Rams with 2:47 left in the opening period.

Deering wouldn't score again.

As the first period gave way to the second (the Rams had a 108-47 edge in yardage), Scarborough moved from its 39 into Deering territory. On the second play of the new quarter, Russo ran for 20 yards to the 12. Three more Russo runs set up fourth-and-8 from the 10. Russo then bounced back and found senior captain David Conceison in the back of the end zone for the Red Storm's first touchdown in two weeks. Junior Greg Viola added the point-after and with 9:34 left in the half, Scarborough was back within 14-7.

The rest of the night would be a story of missed opportunities and no more points.

After Russo intercepted Flaherty on the next Rams drive, Scarborough only gained eight yards on four plays and lost the ball on downs. After trading punts, Deering drove all the way down to the Red Storm 8 as time wound down in the half, but Flaherty was held to no yards on a rush, then threw three incomplete passes and the hosts held and kept the score 14-7 at the break.

Scarborough got the ball to start the second half and gave it up on the first play as a fumbled exchange was recovered by the Rams. Deering would give the ball back, however, when, on third-and-goal from the 6, Flaherty was intercepted by diving senior Conor McCann.

The Red Storm got some breathing room, moving from its 12 to the 42, then had to punt. After Scarborough forced a Rams punt. The Red Storm took over at the Deering 49, but only gained a yard on three plays and had to kick the ball back to the visitors. On the punt, Scarborough got a huge break as the bouncing ball struck a Ram and was recovered by McCann.

Starting at the Deering 27, the Red Storm had a great chance to pull even, but after a 1-yard pickup by Russo, he was thrown for a 5-yard loss and on third-and-14, sophomore Ben Greenberg, who had taken over under center, was sacked, forcing a Scarborough punt.

On the final play of the third, DiBiase dropped back to punt on fourth-and-1, but the ball came to junior Kenny Sweet, who bulled forward to barely pick up the first down. The visitors soon had to punt again and with 11:01 to play, the Red Storm took over on the Deering 48.

Again, Scarborough couldn't take advantage, going three-and-out and punting again. The Rams would punt the ball back and with 7:34 remaining, the Red Storm began at its 42. On first down, Greenberg found Conceison for 31 yards to the Deering 27. Runs of 9 and 5-yards from Russo set up a first down at the 13. An 8-yard burst from Russo put Scarborough five yards from a tying score, but on the next play, Russo was thrown for a 6 yard loss and after Greenberg was dropped for a 7 yard loss, Greenberg's fourth down pass into the end zone was intercepted by Lowry.

The Rams took over at their 20 with just over four minutes to play and would gain three first downs and drive to the Red Storm 13 before giving the ball up on downs.

Scarborough then had just 9.4 seconds to drive 81 yards and before its first snap, was backed up five more yards due to a too many men on the field penalty. Greenberg's last-ditch pass was intercepted by Thomes and Deering clinched the victory when Flaherty took a knee.

"Most of the year we've jumped out early, but this game we had to step up on defense," Thomes said. "We stopped them and that's all that matters. We've got some kids that are aggressive on defense. Our whole secondary has played at least two years. Our linebackers are two-year starters. We have two-year starters on the line. We have a lot of depth that can come in."

"(Scarborough's) a good football team," Gallant said. "People in the SMAA don't roll over for you. It's a battle every week.  Their defense did a really nice job.

"I have to do a better job. The lineman in me, when we get up 14, I just wanted to run the ball and move the chains. I have to do a better job taking advantage of our good athletes and speed. We'll keep growing as a team and as coaches."

Thomes, who missed almost all of the 2010 season after suffering a broken arm in the preseason, finished with 110 yards and a TD on his 18 carries.

"Most of my runs went pretty well, I think," Thomes said. "I'm starting to realize that if I cut upfield, I'll get more yards."

Flaherty went 9-for-21 for 109 yards, with a TD and two interceptions. Lowry had four receptions for 47 yards and a TD.

Scarborough lamented a missed opportunity.

"Once we settled down on defense, it was kind of back and forth," said Red Storm coach Lance Johnson. "We just couldn't get it done. We had our chances. We had great field position. We played good defense and kept punting the ball deep. I thought sooner or later, we'd get one to tie it up, but we just couldn't get one when we needed to."

Russo wound up gaining 129 yards on 28 carries. He also completed 1-of-3 passes for the 10-yard TD.

"Dillon had a rough week last week, but he's a competitive, tough kid," Johnson said. "He just played hard. He does whatever we ask him to do. We wanted to play Greenberg some at quarterback and use Russo more as a wildcat-type quarterback and use him as a tailback. We're searching right now for some backfield help."

Deering finished with a 230-159 edge in total yardage.

Two left

Scarborough hopes to get Thibeault's services before the season ends, but is now behind the eight ball, needing to beat host Thornton Academy (5-1) and host Gorham (3-2) in its final two contests to qualify for the postseason.

"I'm pretty sure we have to win out," Johnson said. "I don't think three wins will get us in. We have two left and we have to win them both."

As for Deering, it has its sights set on at least one home playoff game, but the Rams have two tough tests to close the regular year. Next Friday, Deering goes to resurgent and desperate Bonny Eagle. Last year, the Rams lost to the Scots at home in the regular season, 34-12, then romped in Standish in the semifinals, 28-6. After that contest, Deering finishes at home against undefeated, defending state champion Cheverus.

"Things are going well," Thomes said. "We lost one game we shouldn't have lost. We need to get so everyone plays as a team and get the offense going and put more points on the board."

"We've met one of our goals, to have a winning record," Gallant said. "Being 5-1 should get us a seat at the table. When you get to that ninth game, it's a whole new season. Anything can happen. We'll focus on getting better. It's not about being the best team in September or in October. It's about being the best team at the end of October and in November.

"We have big games coming up. The SMAA is best league in the state. Every week's a big week. (Bonny Eagle's) become a great rivalry over the years. We know we'll get a great game. It should be a lot of fun. We know each other really well."

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Deering's senior speedster Renaldo Lowry tries to elude the tackle of Scarborough senior Ben Alper. Lowry did have a touchdowns reception, which proved to be the difference in the game.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Deering senior quarterback Matt Flaherty breaks free on a run Thursday night.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Scarborough junior Dillon Russo, who made big plays all over the field for 48 minutes Thursday, eludes the tackle of Deering senior Alex Stilphen on one of his big runs.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Scarborough sophomore Ben Greenberg looks for running room during the second half Thursday.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Deering senior Renaldo Lowry steps in front of Scarborough senior Conor McCann to make an interception that helped clinch Thursday's victory.