Revenge, domination, just desserts on a banner football weekend
(Ed Note: For the complete Cheverus-Thornton Academy game story, with additional photos and a detailed box score, please visit theforecaster.net)
For the first time this autumn, all three city football teams enjoyed a victorious weekend.
Cheverus avenged its loss from last year's regional final with a 56-7 home romp over defending Class A champion Thornton Academy, Portland made it five straight victories with a 57-14 home drubbing of Windham and Deering earned a well-deserved first win, 18-8, at Oxford Hills.
After the sixth referendum of the 2013 season, the verdict is in.
Whatever the motivation, without a doubt, the Cheverus football team is once again truly amazing.
Saturday afternoon at Boulos Stadium, the Stags hosted Thornton Academy, the one team to beat them since the start of the 2010 season, a loss which came last year in the regional final, snapping Cheverus' Class A state record 34-game win streak.
After a sluggish start, the Joe Fitzpatrick Show began midway through the first quarter, as the standout junior back broke free for a 65-yard touchdown run to put the Stags ahead to stay. Another Fitzpatrick TD run, this time from just 2-yards out, with a little extra flair (an ankle-snapping spin move) thrown in for good measure, made it 14-0 Cheverus after one quarter.
"I just sort of go with the flow," said Fitzpatrick. "I see the blocks and go the opposite way. Once I'm in the open field, I try to never get caught from behind. The spin move was kind of an accident. A great accident. I try not to think a lot. I just try to have fun out there."
The Stags then ended all doubt in the second period, scoring four touchdowns, two on short Fitzpatrick runs and two more from unheralded junior Liam LaFountain, who scored on a 23-yard rush , then was the beneficiary of a perfectly placed 38-yard scoring pass from senior quarterback Ethan Jordan, to make it 42-7 at halftime.
The will of the defending Class A champions had long been broken by that point and Cheverus put its win on ice in the second half, as Fitzpatrick ran for two more scores and the Stags went on a mindbogglingly easy 56-7 triumph.
Fitzpatrick had a day to remember, rushing 30 times for a whopping 265 yards and six touchdowns, but he was only part of the story. Senior backfield mate Cody O'Brien had 114 yards rushing and spearheaded a defensive effort with his devastating hits.
Cheverus played its best game to date this fall, produced 477 yards of offense (464 on the ground), improved to 6-0, extended its regular season unbeaten streak to 31 games and made it 40 victories in its last 41 outings.
"There was a lot of lingering emotion, but it wasn't about payback, more about making a statement for this year," O'Brien said. "This was a long time coming and it feels very good."
"Preparation this week was the same as any other week," said Fitzpatrick. "It went extremely well. That was the biggest key to how we performed today. We were mature in practice so we could be mature today. We knew it was a big game just because of what happened last year, but we never get too ahead of ourselves."
"We're more into statements about 2013 than we are about payback for 2012," added legendary Stags coach John Wolfgram. "(The Golden Trojans) were a good team last year, but it's not last year. We did a good job making a statement of who we are this year. We played more consistently today than any other game. In all phases, defense, kick game and offense, we executed well."
The Stags (a solid first in the Eastern Class A Crabtree Points standings) go to No. 4 Bangor (3-3) Saturday afternoon, then close at Deering Oct. 25.
Portland made quick work of Windham, racing to a 23-0 lead after one period and a 43-7 advantage at halftime. Quarterback Jordan Talbot got things started with a touchdown pass to Joe Fusco. After a safety, the Bulldogs got a pair of touchdown runs from Justin Zukowski. After an Eagles' TD pass, Zukowski scored on another run and Talbot twice hooked up with Ronald Hargrove for the halftime discrepancy. Zukowski scored a fourth touchdown in the third period and after the visitors got a score on a fumbled recovery in the end zone, Alex Oja accounted for the 57-14 final score with a TD run.
"We had a little too much on the outside for them," said Portland coach Jim Hartman. "We had more experience. Jordan had an extremely good night. Zuk had a great night with 210 yards. Defensively, we played extremely well. We were nervous about that before the game, but we came through. Special teams were solid."
Portland (5-1 and second to Cheverus in the Eastern A Crabtrees) goes to fifth-ranked, 2-4 Lewiston Friday night. The schools have met 76 previous times dating to 1900, with the Bulldogs holding a 40-30-6 advantage. Portland returns home for its season finale Oct. 25 against South Portland in the annual "Battle of the Bridge."
"Lewiston didn't beat Bangor by accident," Hartman said. "They're coming around. They have the best special teams we'll see all year. They come with speed. They're one of the few teams who can match us athletically. We'll have to tackle and play solid football. The kids are starting to believe that they can be pretty good. That's a key for us. We're focusing on getting better, earning a bye and getting a Gold Ball."
In the win column
Deering hadn't had much go its way when it traveled to Oxford Friday night and down, 8-0, late in the first half, appeared destined for a sixth straight loss, but this time, the Rams rallied and gave interim coach Matt Riddell, in just his second game, his first victory.
Senior Geoff Mathews who gave the Rams the spark they needed trailing 8-0 late in the first half. He took advantage of the Vikings being a man short in punt protection and got a hand on Patrick Macro's punt at the Viking 21 with 32 seconds left.
"We worked on that blocked punt," Riddell said. "We had something specific for this team and it worked for us."
After two incompletions, sophomore Max Chabot, who split duties under center with senior Mike Marzilli in the first half, found sophomore Dominick Bernard over the middle for the touchdown that put the Rams on the board with 14 seconds left, pulling them within 8-6 at halftime.
Marzilli then took over the duties full-time to lead a Rams' offense that tallied 203 of its 275 total yards in the second half, scoring on a sneak from two yards out to put Deering on top once and for all, 12-8, with 11:22 left.
A touchdown run from sophomore Dan Marzilli accounted for the 18-8 final score.
"We've had a rough couple of weeks and we came together as a team finally and showed the rest of the class what we could actually do," said Mike Marzilli, who had 84 yards and a TD on 15 rushes. "It's amazing to finally get a win under our belts. There's some weight that's been lifted off our shoulders, definitely."
"Some things weren't working in the first half, so we went to (Mike's) senior leadership and he led this team, on both sides of the ball," Riddell said. "I think this is a game that is hopefully going to catapult us to something real big, not only this season but as a program. This is a very young team, and our seniors came out tonight, all six of them, and played their butts off."
Deering (1-5 and eighth in the standings) still has a chance to finish in the top six and be a playoff team, but to do that, the Rams must win at home Friday against No. 6 Edward Little (2-4). Either that or win its finale Oct. 25. The problem with that scenario, however, is that Cheverus is the foe on that night.
Sun Journal staff writer Randy Whitehouse contributed to this story.