STANDISH — Ever since Kevin Cooper arrived, the road to Super Saturday has, in one way or another, done a stretch out west where Congress Street ends in a different world from the one it has always divided.
Where in November, it’s football games they remember and right there where Standish or Buxton begins, future legends are born, championships won or lost.
This fall it would be no different. Second-ranked Bonny Eagle would indeed host the Western Class A semifinal round game. Folk heroes would be born.
This time he would wear purple-and-white. Deering senior quarterback Jamie Ross strolled out Joe Montana-cool and dropped a “Tim Tebow” on a proud Scots team in a performance that will come to define his record-setting career.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Ross had it all going on in this one, putting his own identity crisis to work for No. 3 Deering, passing for 137 yards and two touchdowns and rushing 29 times for 106 yards and two more scores, pacing a Rams team that left no doubts behind in a 28-6 victory over Bonny Eagle (8-2) in the mud and gray of Saturday to advance to the regional title game.
“(Jamie’s) a special player,” said Deering coach Greg Stilphen. “We want the ball in his hands. We look to showcase and maximize his talents. He’s a guy we expect a lot of and he’s delivered. He’s been tremendous for us all season and was again today.”
For the eighth time in 10 games, Ross scored three or more touchdowns for the Rams, with his four at Bonny Eagle boosting his season total to 36. The right-handed thrower and powerful runner collected 17 through the air and 19 on the ground this year. His 243 total yards on Saturday tally up to a season total of 2,335 from scrimmage. That argument’s over.
Only one remains.
Saturday at 12:30 p.m., Ross and a Deering (8-2) defense that’s finally all grown up, will travel just a few short miles for a dream matchup in the regional final with the unbeaten and top-ranked Cheverus Stags (10-0) at Boulos Field.
The Stags had their hands full in the other semifinal game back in Portland, outlasting fifth-ranked Scarborough when a late defensive play led to a score and a 21-14 win. The Stags dismantled the Rams, 44-14, on a nasty day in the Back Bay in the regular season finale. But then again, in Week 3 back on Sept. 16, Bonny Eagle made off with a 34-12 victory at Deering that looked nothing at all like the Rams’ methodical win in the semifinal on Saturday.
In no particular rush by any means, Ross was locked in from jump at Bonny Eagle and his steady confidence sent a message to the rest of the Rams. On the game’s fourth play from scrimmage, Ross hit senior Renaldo Lowry for a 67-yard touchdown on a slant and then late in the fourth dropped in a dagger to senior John Hardy on a 4th-and-12 play with less than two minutes left in the game for a 28-6 lead.
The Rams had forced a turnover on downs when Bonny Eagle senior quarterback Matt Rollins twice looked deep down the sideline, but had both attempts knocked down in perfect coverage by the Deering secondary. Senior Trey Thomes was excellent in the defensive backfield all day and Lowry has grown into a key component of the Rams attack on both sides of the ball. Lowry caught his seventh touchdown from Ross on the season and intercepted Rollins back in the second quarter.
With four minutes left in the game, Deering took over 1st-and-10 at the 29. Ross took his sweet old time in the huddle and behind center as an anxious Bonny Eagle crowd watched the seconds tick away. Ross carried six straight times on the power for 56 yards down to the Scots’ 15 with 2:03 left in the game. The Rams were called for a motion penalty on 4th-and-7 at the 15 and pushed back to the 20.
Bonny Eagle called a timeout and when the teams lined back up for the play, Stilphen relayed in an audible from the sideline. Ross took the snap, stood up and angled a perfect ball over the outside shoulder of the Scots’ cornerback and Hardy ran underneath it for a beautiful 20-yard touchdown. Hardy hipped the corner to gain separation and made the catch for a 28-6 lead that would send the Rams off to the next round looking for their first regional title since 2003.
“We had a run play called and coach wanted to keep the ball in Jamie’s hands,” said Hardy. “He led the offense and this team the whole day. Luckily he trusted me and switched it up and put the ball in my hands.”
Deering would score a touchdown in each quarter to stretch a 7-0 edge after the first to 14-6 at the half and 21-6 after three quarters. In between two scoring strikes through the air, Ross ran in a pair of short touchdowns in goal line situations after the Rams had come up with two of the four turnovers they would cause and recover in the middle quarters.
“Everything was just working for us today,” said Ross. “We had a couple of big turnovers and that helped. Even the muddy field worked in our favor. We seemed to get a lot of great bounces punting and it deadened a lot of the kickoffs and kept them inbounds.”
The Scots had scored to pull within 7-6 on a two-play drive with 9:12 left in the second quarter. Senior Ethan Thorne rushed for 156 yards on 19 carries in the game, including an 18-yard burst on first down and a 34-yard touchdown run on the very next play. Deering senior Will Richards bulled in from the middle of the line and blocked the PAT. Richards would later block a punt much in the same fashion, but the Rams would not capitalize on his second huge special teams play.
Ross would leave his footprint all over this game, playing a role in all four Deering scores and putting together a clinic in the kicking game. His best play of the game could have been his leaping recovery of a high snap and ensuing 52-yard punt. In the second quarter, Ross boomed a 61-yard punt that sailed on the Scots’ return man and was recovered by Mike Marzilli at the Bonny Eagle 17.
Just five plays later, Ross would do the honors on a five-yard keeper that he bounced to the sideline and then cut up inside for the score and a 14-6 lead with 5:00 left to play in the first half.
“We made a decision to change our offense,” said Stilphen. “Basically, I got tired of playing against nine men in the box. We’re long, lean, fast and strong. We’ve grown as a team and now we’ve earned the right to play again next week. This is when it gets fun. November is when you need to be good.”
In the third quarter, Ross would once again run in a score after a huge turnover on Bonny Eagle set the Rams up with a 1st-and-10 at the 22-yard line. Ross carried three times for 13 yards inside the 10-yard line, but a holding penalty moved the Rams back to the 24. This set up a 3rd-and-14 situation and the play of the game from Ross. Rolling to his right, Ross looked over the middle for the tight end but instead pump faked, pulled the ball back in and let go a rocket to the front pylon. Hardy, the second option running the fade pattern, broke for the sideline and tip-toed the boundary while hauling in the catch at the 1. Ross bulled in on first down for a 21-6 Deering lead with 5:49 left in the third quarter.
“We lost to Bonny Eagle in Week 3 and sort of used that as our baseline,” said Ross. “Bonny Eagle being the team that they are and the program they are, like every team probably does, we compare ourselves to them. This is a great moment for us. It’s not a championship but it’s where we need to be.”
Deering and the Scots have met five times in the playoffs since 2004. The Rams win gives Bonny Eagle a 3-2 edge.
Next week, Deering and Cheverus meet in November for the first time. The winner draws either Lewiston or Bangor in the Class A Final Saturday, Nov. 20.