Cheverus blanks Deering again, this time in quarterfinals
PORTLAND—While state record-tying consecutive win number 31 and last week's record breaking number 32 got a ton of attention, the 33rd straight victory for the Cheverus football team was much more meaningful.
Saturday afternoon at Boulos Stadium, the top-ranked Stags opened the postseason phase of their quest for a first-ever Class A three-peat with a thoroughly one-sided 49-0 win over No. 8 Deering in a Western Class A quarterfinal.
After dodging an early bullet, Cheverus went ahead for good when senior standout Donald Goodrich raced 88 yards for a touchdown, opening the floodgates.
A 1-yard TD run from junior Cody O'Brien made 14-0 after one period and two more O'Brien scores, another long Goodrich TD and a scoring run from senior quarterback Liam Fitzpatrick pushed the advantage to 42-0 at halftime.
A TD run from sophomore Joe Fitzpatrick early in the third quarter accounted for the final score and even better, injured senior Brent Green returned to action in the second half as the Stags improved to 9-0, shut Deering out for the fourth straight meeting, ended the Rams' season at 3-6 and advanced to set up a semifinal round showdown versus No. 5 Portland (6-3) Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
"All week in practice we were all business," Goodrich said. "We just came out to win the game."
Becoming a habit
Prior to 2010, despite the schools' long football histories, the city rivals had never met in a playoff game.
When that finally occurred, in the regional final two years ago, it was very much worth the wait as Cheverus eked out a 35-34 victory in one of the finest high school games ever seen locally.
The Stags and Rams played again in last fall's semifinals, but this time, Cheverus dominated from start to finish in a 45-0 triumph.
Last week, on the same field, Cheverus fought off a Deering scare to prevail, 21-0, capping an eight-game steamrolling of the competition, to the tune of a composite 299-41 margin. Prior to the win over the Rams, the Stags had their way with host Sanford (43-6), visiting Portland (42-0), host South Portland (42-0), host Windham (47-0), visiting Gorham (55-14), visiting Bonny Eagle (21-7) and host Thornton Academy (28-14), in the "Game of the Century."
Deering's march to the postseason couldn't have been any different. The Rams lost their first four games: 44-14 at Thornton Academy, 24-6 at home to Sanford, 56-32 at Massabesic and 28-21 at home to Scarborough. Deering turned it around, however, with wins over visiting Biddeford (28-9), host Noble (45-32) and visiting South Portland (57-12) before closing with the loss at Cheverus last week.
This time around, on a beautiful late-October day, Deering had an early chance, but once that went by the wayside, the champions pulled away for a decisive victory.
Cheverus got the ball first and on its first play, disaster struck as Goodrich had the ball wrested away by Rams senior standout Kenny Sweet, who recovered at the Stags' 35.
The Rams had a golden opportunity to deliver an early punch when Sweet ran for 27 yards on fourth-and-3 from the 28, cutting back three times before racing down the left sidelines before Liam Fitzpatrick brought him down at the 1.
But even on the doorstep, Deering couldn't got on the board. Sweet was held for no gain on first down and senior Dominic Lauture had the same result on second down. Sweet then took the snap and took a step back, looking to hand off, but Goodrich blew up the play, soaring into the backfield, and in the process, he atoned for his fumble by taking the ball away from Sweet at the 4, allowing Cheverus to dodge a bullet and essentially rip away the Rams' upset hopes in one fell swoop.
"It was big," said Goodrich. "To be honest, I was really disappointed with myself. It's unacceptable. I can't put the ball on the ground. I had to get back up for my team and keep playing. It was the same exact thing that happened to me. I tackled the ball and it's hard to hold on with just your biceps."
"Our defense is strong," said Green. "When there's a changing point in the game, it's a big gutcheck. We knew how to handle turning the ball over. We didn't overreact. "
"We made a big play," Cheverus coach John Wolfgram added. "I thought we played with a lot of will on the goal line. That's really only the first time we've been on the goal line like that all year. We really played well. If they score there, it boosts their confidence and makes it a different game. We turned it around. That was big at that point of the game."
If the turnover wasn't enough to bring Deering's spirits crashing, three plays later, Goodrich did it singlehandedly, taking a handoff, finding room on the left side, turning the corner and racing up the sideline, before cutting back to avoid a tackle attempt by Rams junior Mike Marzilli, before racing untouched to the end zone to complete an 88-yard dash. Sophomore Patrick Mourmouras kicked the extra point and the Stags had a 7-0 lead, which felt like much more considering what had transpired in the game's first four minutes, 22 seconds.
After Deering went three-and-out, Cheverus began its next possession at its 45. Six plays later, the Stags doubled their lead.
A late hit penalty on the Rams moved the ball across midfield. Runs of 13 yards by O'Brien and 12 by Goodrich set up first down at the Deering 15. An unsportsmalike conduct penalty moved the ball to the 6 and after O'Brien ran to the 1, he culminated the drive with a 1-yard plunge. Mourmouras' extra point made it 14-0 Stags with 4:43 to play in the first quarter.
Sweet got the Rams moving on their next series with a 34 yard scamper on third-and-10, but a holding penalty short-circuited Deering's hopes and Sweet threw incomplete on fourth down, giving the ball back to Cheverus on downs at its 27.
The hosts rolled down the field in six plays as the first period gave way to the second.
O'Brien got the drive started with bursts of 11 and 19 yards. After Fitzpatrick gained eight yards on a scramble, O'Brien ran for 8 and Goodrich picked up 20 to the Rams' 7 as the first quarter ended (with the Stags having outgained Deering, 218 yards to 70).
On the first play of the second period, Liam Fitzpatrick rolled left, found running room and got to the stripe from 7-yards out for the score. Mourmouras' extra point made it 21-0 Cheverus.
After another Rams' three-and-out, it took the Stags just four plays to march 52 yards for a fourth touchdowns.
O'Brien ran for 13 yards and Goodrich 24 to put the ball at the Deering 8, where O'Brien finished the drive with an 8-yard TD run. Mourmouras drilled the extra point to make it 28-0 with 9:29 remaining in the first half.
The Rams soon had to punt again and after starting at its 31, Cheverus marched 69 yards in six plays for another score, this time with Goodrich capping it with a 38-yard run down the left sideline. Mourmouras' extra point pushed the lead to 35-0 with 5 minutes still to play before halftime.
The hosts weren't done scoring.
After Deering had to punt following another three-and-out, the Stags began at their 44 and after runs of 10 yards by O'Brien and 32 by Goodrich, O'Brien found the end zone again, this time from 2 yards out, and Mourmouras hit the extra point to give Cheverus a commanding 42-0 lead at halftime.
The second period was even more dominant than the first as the Stags managed 184 yards of offense to just 2 for the Rams.
In the first half alone, Goodrich rushed 11 times for 244 yards and two TDs, while O'Brien gained 115 yards with three scores on 16 attempts.
Deering got the ball to start the second half, but a Lauture fumble (recovered by Cheverus junior Will Hilton) gave the Stags the ball at the Rams' 31.
With several second stringers on the field, the hosts drove to the end zone in six plays for their final score of the day. This time, O'Brien shared the ballcarrying duties with Joe FItzpatrick, who capped the march with a 1-yard TD with 9:18 remaining in the third quarter.
With the game decided, the biggest drama came with 4:37 to go in the third quarter as Green returned to action and took a handoff at the Stags' 45, bulling forward for 10 yards in his first action since hurting his knee early in the win over Bonny Eagle Oct. 6.
"I never really felt like I left," said Green, who was very vocal on the sidelines during the games he missed. "I tried to help out however I could. They originally thought it was my ACL again, like in eighth grade, but luckily, it was just a couple bone bruises on my tibia and femur, a bunch of little fractures. They said I wouldn't be running for six to 12 weeks, but I worked three hours a day in the weight room. It meant so much for me to get back out here. I feel great. I wish I could play more. We'll see. We'll take it one week at a time and see how I progress in practice."
Green's teammates and coach were happy to have him back.
"It's a huge emotional lift to have Brent back," Goodrich said. "He's a captain, he's a friend of mine. It was fun to have him back out. He's in such good shape. He's not limping at all."
"It lifted all of our spirits up to have him back," O'Brien said. "It was good to see him."
"He only practiced one day this week, so he just saw spot play, but it's good to have him back," Wolfgram added. "He's one of our emotional guys on both sides of the ball."
The rest of the contest featured the teams swapping punts and losses of downs as the Stags coasted home with a 49-0 win.
"I wasn't sure what to expect," said O'Brien. "We always prepare for the most intense situation possible. We expected it would be close. Coach always tells us to keep our heads on our shoulders during sudden changes, do what we're taught and just play football."
"We were very efficient in the first half," said Wolfgram. "We executed well. They shut us down pretty well last week, so we made some adjustments and I think we moved the ball very efficiently. We changed some formations and blocking schemes. The changes we made worked well. In the second half, we wanted to put in our (second string), but they kept their (first string) in the entire way. This was a good test for us. Deering's good. They were very hot. They manhandled Noble and South Portland and some other teams. We played well, particularly defensively. If we're efficient on offense, we're solid on defense. They didn't score on us in two games, which I think shows the character of our defense."
Statistically, not surprisingly, it was all Cheverus, which had a 490-179 advantage in total yardage.
Goodrich never touched the ball in the second half, finishing with 244 yards and two scores on 11 carries.
O'Brien, who has done a superb job filling in for Green, gained 125 (with three TDs) on 18 rushes.
"Cody's been amazing," Green said. "He had a lot of yards and is blocking well. At the beginning of the year, he was behind me in practice and paying attention a lot. Coach told him from day one to be ready to go."
"Cody's a great kid, a great football player," said Goodrich. "He comes out and works hard every day, just like everyone else on the team."
"Cody hasn't gotten enough credit," Wolfgram added. "He's a different type of player than Brent, but he plays hard, he's quick, he's aggressive. He's done an excellent job. He was a linebacker before and now he's playing both sides of the ball."
O'Brien credited his teammates.
"The line does a really great job," O'Brien said. "They're the heart of our offense. Until I get by the front line, I look for blocks, then I make choices. It felt great to score in a playoff game. It was definitely challenging (replacing Brent). The first week I started was against Thornton Academy, which was a little nervewracking."
Joe Fitzpatrick managed 91 yards on 13 carries, all in the second half, Green ran for 25 on five tries, Liam Fitzpatrick had two rushes for 15 yards and a score and sophomores Lowell Harmon and Jack Zinn both had one carry for 2 yards. The Stags didn't complete a pass, as Fitzpatrick threw incomplete in his one attempt. Cheverus was penalized four times for 45 yards and had the one turnover. Defensively, Hilton had two fumble recoveries and Goodrich one. Seniors Ryan Casale and Brad Kritzer, along with Goodrich, forced turnovers.
For Deering, Sweet capped his tremendous season and stellar high school career with a 129 yard rushing effort on 23 attempts. He was also 1-of-8 for 7 yards through the air. Lauture gained 37 yards on 16 attempts and had the one reception for 7 yards, Marzilli had 15 yards on five rushes and senior Adam Rodriquez had 2 yards on one try. The Rams were flagged five times for 54 yards and committed three costly turnovers.
Cheverus pounded Portland (6-3) in the regular season, to the tune of 42-0 back on Sept. 8.
The Stags and Bulldogs have met just once before in the postseason, a 21-12 Portland triumph in the 2003 quarterfinals.
The fifth-ranked Bulldogs are coming off a 35-21 quarterfinal round win at No. 4 Windham Saturday and will come to Cheverus with nothing to lose.
Regardless, it's hard to find reason to bet against these record-setting, champion Stags, who will stay grounded and focused.
"We just need to prepare well and focus next week in practice," said O'Brien.
"We're looking forward to the next game," said Goodrich.