Stags stand alone; Win over Deering gives Cheverus record streak
PORTLAND—It truly is Cheverus and everybody else.
The two-time defending Class A state football champions have done it all the past three seasons, winning games in blowout fashion, in nailbiting fashion and in title-winning fashion, but the one constant has been victory.
And now, the Stags belong to the ages.
Saturday afternoon at a muddy Boulos Stadium, Cheverus handled visiting rival Deering in the Senior Day regular season finale, 21-0, finishing the year 8-0 and locking up homefield advantage once again for the upcoming playoffs, but transcending those feats is the number 32.
As in consecutive victories.
The Stags' triumph (which left Deering 3-5) made it 32 straight over three seasons, allowing Cheverus to leapfrog South Portland (1995-1997) into the top spot in the state's annals for a Class A program.
"It's great for the program," said Stags coach John Wolfgram, who held the previous consecutive wins record as well, from his days at South Portland. "We'll put it behind us now. Now, we have to focus on the most important thing. Streaks are nice, but the important thing is to create excellence by getting to the top. That's where we want to get."
When Cheverus dropped a gutwrenching 7-6 decision in utterly miserable weather conditions at Windham in the Western Class A Final, Nov. 14, 2009, no one could have imagined that three seasons would pass without the Stags stumbling again.
There were some close calls along the way, but Cheverus got the job done week after week after week (please see sidebar, for game-by-game breakdown).
In the 2010 regular season, the Stags had to rally for regular season home wins over Portland and Bonny Eagle, then were pushed to the limit in all three rounds of the regional playoffs. Cheverus came from behind to down defending champion Windham in the quarterfinals, made key defensive plays to deny Scarborough in the semis, then, in the most thrilling of all the wins over the past three years, escaped Deering, 35-34, in an epic regional final, before handling Bangor in the state game.
In 2011, Cheverus wasn't pushed until late in the season, but it fended off upset bids from Portland and Deering. The only close call in the postseason came in the regional final when Thornton Academy held a 3-0 halftime lead, but the Stags came alive in the second half to advance to the state final where they dominated Lawrence.
This fall, Cheverus was in a close game for three quarters at Sanford in the opener before pulling away. After four straight romps, the Stags were pushed by visiting Bonny Eagle, but prevailed, 21-7. Last week, in a highly anticipated showdown of unbeatens at Thornton Academy, Cheverus tied the record with a 28-14 triumph.
Deering struggled mightily this fall, but has been a vastly different squad in the season's second half. After falling at Thornton Academy in the opener, 44-14, it lost at home to Sanford (24-6), at Massabesic (56-32) and at home to Scarborough (28-21). The Rams then underwent a resurgence, sparked in part by the move to quarterback by senior workhorse Kenny Sweet. Deering got in the win column with a 28-9 home victory over Biddford, then handled host Noble, 45-32, and visiting South Portland, 57-32.
Saturday, however, the Rams became the latest Cheverus victim and dropped their sixth in a row to their city rival (please see sidebar), although, as expected, Deering didn't make life easy.
With the rain having departed and balmy 62 temperatures at kickoff, the Rams had an early chance to strike, but couldn't capitalize.
After Deering went three-and-out, Fitzpatrick fumbled the ensuing punt and Deering senior Adam Rodriquez recovered at the Stags' 40. Two runs from senior Dominic Lauture lost a yard and on third-and-11, Sweet's pass was incomplete, forcing a second punt, which was downed by Rodriquez at the Cheverus 3.
The Stags made the most of their wait for the football, driving 97 yards in 11 plays in just under five minutes to score the game's first touchdown.
Senior quarterback Liam Fitzpatrick got the march started by gaining 10 yards on a rollout right on third-and-6 from the 7. After a facemask penalty gave the hosts some breathing room, the drive appeared to stall, but on third-and-17 from the 29, Fitzpatrick lofted a strike down the right sideline to junior Noah Stebbins, who would catch the ball over Rodriquez for a first down at midfield. Senior running back extraordinaire Donald Goodrich then broke his first long run of the day, 29 yards, to the Deering 21. After a loss of a yard on a run from junior Cody O'Brien, Fitzpatrick threw incomplete, but on the next snap, he found Goodrich down the left sideline. Goodrich hauled in the pass at the 5, bounced off Lauture's tackle attempt and crossed the goal line.
"We try to go through our tiers of plays," said Goodrich. "We always have the pass in our back pocket. It's always an option."
Sophomore Patrick Mourmoruas' extra point put Cheverus ahead to stay, 7-0, with 3:33 to play in the first period.
The Rams appeared to have a good drive going the next time they handled the ball, as Sweet ran for 22 yards to the Stags' 48, but after Lauture picked up 4, a delay of game penalty backed them up five yards. On third-and-10, however, Sweet broke several tackles to pick up a first down at the 34. A gain of 3 by Lauture gave Deering a second-and-seven at the Cheverus 31 as the second period began. Sweet ran for 4 yards, then lost one, setting up a fourth-and-4 and the drive would stall as Sweet's high pass went through the hands of junior Ricardo Delgado.
The hosts would then drive 72 yards in 5:03, needing 14 plays to double their lead.
On third-and-8 from the 30, Fitzpatrick hit Goodrich with a screen, which turned into a 15 yard pickup, moving the chains. Goodrich was hurt on the play, but only missed two snaps. On third-and-1 from the Deering 46, Goodrich returned and a second effort picked up the needed yard for a first down. A pass of 15 yards from Fitzpatrick to senior Jackson McMann set up first-and-10 at the 30. Two plays later, on third-and-3 from the 23, Fitzpatrick hit senior Ryan Casale for 8 to pick up another first down. After Goodrich was held for no gain and Fitzpatrick threw incomplete, the quarterback hit Goodrich in the flat and the bruiser broke three tackles, including one by Sweet, en route to the end zone for a touchdown. Mourmouras' extra point made it 14-0 Stags with 5:33 left in the first half.
Again, the Rams moved the ball into Cheverus territory behind Sweet's rushing, but back-to-back false start penalties short-circuited the drive and Deering had to punt.
The Stags took over at their 22, but this time went three-and-out.
The Rams did nothing with the ball and Cheverus got it back at the Rams' 40 after a personal foul penalty with 31.9 seconds left before the break.
A 32-yard Fitzpatrick-to-Stebbins pass play set up first-and-goal, but Deering's defense would step up, as Sweet threw Fitzpatrick for a 12-yard loss (which was somewhat negated by a dubious personal foul call) and on the final play of the half, senior lineman Matt Fechenda tipped a Fitzpatrick pass and Sweet intercepted, keeping the Rams within 14-0 with 24 minutes to play.
Cheverus had a commanding 204-70 edge in yardage and a slight advantage in time of possession, but knew it still had work to do.
Sure enough, the champions got the second half kickoff and drove 74 yards on eight plays, eating up 3:26, for even more breathing room.
This time, almost all the damage came on the ground, as Goodrich ran four straight times for a total of 40 yards, O'Brien gained 4, then Goodrich picked up 4 and 1, setting up fourth-and-1 from the Deering 25. Fitzpatrick dropped back to pass and went for the home run, lofting a pass over Lauture to Casale at the 5 and Casale dragged a tackler into the end zone for a touchdown. Mourmouras' kick made it 21-0 with 8:33 left in quarter number three.
From there, the Stags' defense took over.
Three Sweet runs for 19 yards helped the Rams enter Stags' territory, but on third-and-1 from the 45, Sweet's pass was intercepted by Fitzpatrick, who returned it 20 yards.
Cheverus moved into Deering territory, but stalled at the 37 and punted.
After the Rams went three-and-out, the Stags got the ball and as the third period gave way to the fourth, again embarked on a time consuming drive.
Goodrich rushed for 11 yards on third-and-9, dragging Sweet 10 yards in the process. A run of 11 by O'Brien on third-and-6, moved the chains and Goodrich picked up 10 on the next down, but on third-and-5 from the 20, O'Brien fumbled and Lauture recovered at the Deering 12.
The Rams picked up a couple first downs on a facemask penalty and a 10-yard Sweet run, but on third-and-3 from the Cheverus 49, junior Mike Marzilli was thrown for a 2-yard loss and with time getting late and the result assured, Deering punted.
The Stags ran two plays and at 2:21 p.m., the final horn sounded.
Cheverus 21 Deering 0.
"(Deering's) a tough team," said Goodrich. "They played us tough last year too. It doesn't change with them. They came out and gave us a tough game."
"(Deering's) a very good football team," said Wolfgram. "They're physical. I thought we executed pretty well. Physically, I thought we played pretty well. We had some mental breakdowns in the first half that hurt us a little bit. We have to work on those. The kids worked hard and played hard. It's a smart group. High character group of kids. Their concentration throughout the year has been very good."
Afterward, the Stags were matter of fact about the record, with Goodrich saying he will, "think about it when the season's over."
Senior defensive stalwart Parker Doyon elaborated a little more.
"I've only been on the team two seasons, so I'm not that important to the streak," Doyon said. "I just don't want to lose a game."
Doyon also paid tribute to his coach.
"Coach Wolfgram is the heart behind our team," Doyon said. "He sacrifices so much time watching film. He knows the other teams better than they know themselves. I don't know about the other guys, but I recognize he's an incredible coach. It's been really eye-opening for me."
Statistically, Cheverus had a big edge pretty much across the board.
The Stags finished with a 359-135 edge in total yardage, as the defense continued to impress. Cheverus' first string defense didn't surrender a touchdown at home all season.
"We stayed physical," said Doyon. "We stayed low on defense. We're all about defense."
The offense was led once again by Goodrich, who gained 136 yards on 28 carries, but perhaps more impressively, caught three passes for 52 yards and a pair of touchdowns. O'Brien gained 39 yards on nine rushes and Hilton 3 on one attempt. Fitzpatrick ran for 7 yards on five carries and completed 8-of-15 passes for 153 yards with three TDs and one interception. Casale had two catches for 33 yards and a TD, Stebbins caught two balls for 53 yards and McMann had one reception for 15.
Cheverus had a 25:25-22:35 edge in time of possession. The Stags did have three turnovers and were flagged twice for 10 yards.
For Deering, Sweet was the story, gaining 110 yards on 18 rushes. He was 1-of-6 passing for 7 yards with an interception.
"He does what we ask," said Rams coach Jon Gallant. "He plays as hard as he can. He doesn't have any regrets and it shows."
Sweet made an impression on the Stags.
"It was a pleasure to play against (Sweet)," Goodrich said. "I love going against good competition. He's a great athlete, a great kid. I really enjoyed playing against him today."
"He's a great player, a great athlete," said Doyon. "Strong and physical. We had trouble wrapping up, but we made it work.
"Sweet's one of the top players in the state," Wolfgram added.
Lauture rushed for 28 yards on 17 attempts and caught a pass for 7 yards. Marzilli rushed three times for 5 yards.
The Rams committed seven penalties (all in the first half) for 58 yards and had a turnover.
"We didn't back down," said Gallant. "We battled. They're obviously a great team. That's been evident the past three years. At times, we showed we can play. Everybody has played well. The only thing we've asked of our kids since week four is to keep getting better and they've done that. It may not have shown on the scoreboard today, but we are getting better. They're obviously better than we are in some areas. Goodrich is an unbelievable runner. A great athlete. He never stops. It's hard sometimes to match that."
See you Saturday
Although the final Crabtree Points weren't official at press time, it appears Deering will be No. 8 in Western Class A and will be right back at Boulos Stadium Saturday to face the top-ranked Stags in the quarterfinals.
The teams have met in each of the past two postseasons, with Cheverus taking both.
Now, the fun really begins for the defending champs, who won't be satisfied until they win another championship.
"We love coming down and playing on Boulos," said Goodrich. "That's the goal each year. We need to keep executing our game plans and keep working hard in practice. We wanted the first seed and that's what we came out and took."
"We like our chances," Doyon said. "There's nothing better than playing at Boulos."
"Our first goal was to get the top seed," Wolfgram added. "We'll enjoy that this weekend and pick up the pieces Monday. We need to continue to get better. We take things one day at a time and one week a time. That's the only way to play football."