Those predicting an easy win for Bonny Eagle in Saturday’s Western Class A quarterfinal football game hadn’t studied recent history.
If they had, they wouldn’t have been so quick to discount the Deering Rams, who in 2006 and again last year avenged a decisive regular season loss with a win at the Scots in the postseason.
Saturday afternoon, Deering did it again.
The fourth-ranked Rams, who lost three of their final four regular season games to drop to the No. 5 seed, went to Standish for the second time in three weeks to meet No. 4 Bonny Eagle, which overcame an 0-3 start to its season with five straight victories, including a 41-7 drubbing of Deering Oct. 15.
This time around, the Scots appeared on their way to an expected and highly anticipated semifinal round showdown with defending Class A champion Cheverus, but Deering came back and set its own date with the Stags.
Bonny Eagle got an early touchdown to set the tone, but the Rams answered and made it 7-7 after one quarter on a TD pass from senior quarterback Matt Flaherty to junior James Doyle. The Scots then seemingly made the pundits look astute when they outscored Deering 14-0 in the second period to go up 21-7 at halftime.
The Rams could have rolled over and gone home, but it didn’t happen. First, senior Trey Thomes scored on a long run. Then, senior Renaldo Lowry, who missed the regular season finale with a concussion, gave Deering a huge spark with an 85-yard punt return for a score which made it 21-21 after three quarters. When Thomes scored on a short run after a turnover in the fourth period, the Rams were on the brink of victory, but Bonny Eagle drove the field and scored in the final minute to force overtime.
Deering got the first chance in overtime and went back on top on a one yard dive by Flaherty. The Rams defense then needed a stop and got one when junior Kenny Sweet intercepted a pass, making the upset official.
“Our kids were excited to play (the Scots) again,” said Deering coach Jon Gallant. “We feel like everyone was writing us off. Our kids finally realized that enough was enough and that they were better and capable of putting points on the board and stopping them. The second half was Deering Rams football. It was fun to be a part of and impressive to watch. We just needed one positive thing to happen. After Renaldo’s return, you could feel the confidence on the sidelines grow.”
Also advancing Saturday was top-ranked Cheverus, which increased its two-year win streak to 21 games with a 35-7 win over No. 8 Scarborough.
The Stags eliminated the Red Storm, 21-14, in last year’s semifinals and decimated visiting Scarborough, 38-0, back on Oct. 1, in a game which saw the Red Storm commit nine turnovers.
This time around, Scarborough had the services of standout senior running back Scott Thibeault, while Cheverus lost its star runner, senior Spencer Cooke, who will miss the rest of the postseason with a leg injury.
Junior Donald Goodrich hopes to help fill Cooke’s shoes and made an immediate impact Saturday, returning the opening kickoff 85 yards to paydirt to put the Stags on top to stay. Goodrich scored on runs of six and four yards in the second period for a 21-0 lead at the break. After a scoreless third quarter, Goodrich (44-yard run) and junior Brent Green (five-yard run) sandwiched TDs around a Red Storm scoring pass to account for the final score.
Goodrich finished with 100 yards and three TDs on 15 carries and also scored on the kickoff return. Green rushed 13 times for 55 yards with one score. He also had an interception. Junior Ryan Casale excelled on defense with ten tackles.
“We had a good day,” said Cheverus coach John Wolfgram. “We played and executed very well. We had a good jump start with that kickoff return. We were expecting a tighter game this time. The defense played well at the line of scrimmage, ran to the ball and didn’t allow (Thibeault) a long run. He’s an excellent back.
“We’ll miss Spencer. He’s a great player and he’s been outstanding as a leader. He’s great on offense, but we’ll miss his defense too.
“Donald did a nice job. Brent Green did a nice job too. We had to have some people step up and distribute the offense.”
Cheverus has beaten Deering four straight times. The most memorable was last year’s regional final, when the Stags held on by the skin of their teeth to win, 35-34, in an instant classic. In the regular season finale, Oct. 21, Cheverus scored two third quarter TDs to break a scoreless tie and went on to a 14-0 victory.
This time around (kickoff is at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Boulos Stadium), the Stags look to keep marching inexorably toward their goal, while the Rams enter with a new-found confidence and feel they have nothing to lose.
“Deering played well (at Bonny Eagle),” Wolfgram said. “It’s an athletic team. It’s kind of the same scenario as last year. You have to change things up. There’s a lot of familiarity. We’ll make adjustments. It’s going to be an even game. We’ll have to prepare well.”
“Cheverus has won 21 in a row and they haven’t done that because of one player,” said Gallant. “It’s a good team. John Wolfgram won’t change what he does. We’re excited to get another chance. Our focus is on sticking with our mentality and our brand of football that we’re capable of playing. We’ll try to take away what they like to do. I know that last year bothers a lot of our kids even though we haven’t talked about it.”
Saturday’s winner will move on to the regional final Nov. 12 to meet either No. 2 Thornton Academy (8-1) or third-ranked South Portland (7-2).