SACO—Jamie Ross and the Deering High football team sent a rather loud message out to the rest of the league with a big time drubbing of previously unbeaten Thornton Academy on a perfect Saturday afternoon where Western Class A football was king and the Rams were in charge of everything else.
Ross was special in this one. The senior quarterback overpowered a Trojans defense that had been uncommonly stingy in four lopsided wins to start the season. Ross rang up another 258 yards of total offense and five touchdowns, throwing for 126 yards and three scores and rushing 21 times for 134 yards and two more, leading the Rams in a dominating 35-6 victory that made both squads 4-1, soured Homecoming for Thornton Academy and sent 1,700 patrons home with sunburns and lots of questions.
This one was hyped in large part as Thornton Academy senior quarterback Josh Woodward’s chance to bolster his stock for this year’s Fitzpatrick Trophy balloting on crossover weekend. Instead, Woodward was outplayed by Ross in a big way, and his Trojans were toppled with relative ease after outscoring their opponents 201 -13 in a blistering start to the season. Ross followed last week’s three touchdown performance in a 21-7 win over Windham with five more scores to bring his total to 15 already on the season. He also kicks the extra points for Deering and finished a perfect 5-for-5 against the Trojans.
Before this game was just six-minutes old, Ross had connected for two of his three touchdowns through the air to senior wideout John Hardy for a pair of 30-plus yard touchdown strikes to take a 14-0 lead. It should be noted that all three of Hardy’s touchdown catches came on the same play and were helped along by great downfield blocking after the catch by fellow wideout junior Renaldo Lowery coming back to pickoff the cornerback in the open field.
The Trojans would answer the Rams’ second touchdown with their only score of the afternoon to pull within 14-6 on a three-play drive that featured a huge catch and run on second down by senior tight end Dimitri Skinsacos for 23-yards down inside the 2. Lined up in the wishbone two-plays later from the 1, Woodward handed to freshman halfback Andrew Libby for the touchdown. Deering senior linebacker Johnny Miranda turned Woodward around as Thornton Academy failed to run it in for the conversion but it still had something to cling to trailing 14-6 after the first quarter.
Deering and Ross dashed any hopes the Trojans might have been entertaining of crawling back even before the half in a grinding drive that went 80 yards on 16 plays and devoured seven minutes of the second quarter. Ross completed 3-of-5 passes for 38 yards on the march, but it was his 53 yards on seven carries that took its toll on the Trojans defense. Ross powered in off-tackle to cap the Rams methodical march and take a 21-6 advantage with 2:14 left in the first half.
“It was important to come out fast against them on the road,” said Ross. “Everything just came together for us today. We had a lot of guys on the offense make big plays and everyone contributed. Hardy had a couple of big catches, Renaldo made some big plays, and because of those guys I was able to make a few plays. This is a big win for us and good for our confidence at this point in the season. We’ve always known how good we could be if we played a complete game together. Now we’ve seen it.”
Thornton Academy still had time on the clock to score before the break and got the great return and field position they needed when Libby turned in a sensational run back all the way down to the Rams 25. What happened next is a true microcosm of the game for the Trojans and not in the least bit by accident. Given the assignment of shadowing Woodward’s favorite target in Skinsacos for the day, junior linebacker Nick DiBiase put together a game that was eerily reminiscent of some of the great linebackers the Rams have featured over coach Greg Stilphen’s 14 seasons.
DiBiase flashed his speed and ability to cover in the field with a lockdown effort that led to a pair of Deering interceptions at crucial moments in the game. On 1st-and-10 from the 32 with 33 seconds left in the first half, Woodward thought he had a sure score when he threw to an open Skinsacos in full stride at the front of the end zone, but at the last second, DiBiase left his feet and pulled down the interception to finish out the half with Deering in control leading 21-6 and getting the ball after the break.
“We knew that we had to key on No. 85 out there,” said DiBiase. “Skinsacos is their best receiver and probably their best player. Coach had us prepared to go out and stop him. I was able to focus and slow him down.”
Late in a scoreless third quarter, Libby made a costly error when he stepped up to try and make a play on a punt from Ross and had it bounce off his fingertips and roll free. At first it looked like he had recovered it himself but in the pile, Deering junior Steve Doman pulled it away from him and the Rams took over with two minutes left in the third in great field position. Ross went back again to find Hardy and made a great throw that led to a 21-yard touchdown and a 28-6 lead for the Rams after three quarters.
Hardy caught 97 yards worth of touchdowns from Ross in the game.
For his final deed, Ross broke a 42-yard touchdown run with 3:25 left in the game, steamrolling out of the backfield and finding paydirt with Thornton Academy players nipping at the back of his cleats as the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder rumbled in to put an exclamation point on a complete football game by a good team with a formula for success.
It’s not that same vintage toss-play Deering used with great success when Brian Sandora and Jack Heary were in the backfield, but with Ross able to control the ball and the clock in the ground game, the Rams are free to play Stilphen’s particular style of football that when done right at any level of the game will produce wins. Protecting the football, controlling the clock and forcing turnovers always pays off and the whole scenario of the season took an upswing Saturday when the Rams went from a 3-1 team with a tough loss to Bonny Eagle working against them, to one game later sitting right at the top of the standings at 4-1 with a major win over a high-caliber team.
“We wanted to put our name back in the conversation,” said Stilphen. “The only way to do that is by winning football games. We used the loss to Bonny Eagle as motivation and figured out what we needed to work on. This team wants to leave their mark on Deering football and they’re ready to work for it. The reality is that people need to start looking at us. These kids need to get the credit they deserve. It was time to talk about it or start walking the walk.”
It’s not all gravy quite yet for Ross and the Rams with three games still left in the regular season. Deering (third in the latest Western A Crabtree Points standings) still has two big tests coming up next week at home against a tough South Portland (3-2) team and then in the season finale at Cheverus (5-0). In-between, Deering hosts Westbrook.