The Scarborough football team certainly made the most of its first Class A playoff appearance.
Saturday afternoon, the Red Storm went to storied Waterhouse Field to face a team with an impressive pedigree, the Biddeford Tigers, and dominated from start to finish in a 48-14 victory. Scarborough (8-1) will visit top-ranked, undefeated Cheverus Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in the semifinals.
South Portland wasn’t as fortunate in its first postseason game since 2002, losing, 32-0, at Bonny Eagle, to finish 5-4.
In Western B, Cape Elizabeth’s playoff hopes were on hold following a 25-0 setback at Mountain Valley Friday night, which left the Capers, Falmouth and Greely in a three-way deadlock at 6-3 for the two final playoff spots.
Saturday afternoon, the Capers won a coin toss and became the third seed, setting up a semifinal round date at No. 2 Wells Friday night.
Scarborough only won once in 2009, but new coach Lance Johnson has turned this program around in dizzying fashion. The Red Storm won seven of eight regular season games and made the Class A playoffs for the first time (they won Class B in 2002). Scarborough, the No. 5 seed, went to No. 4 Biddeford Saturday in a rematch of 21-9 Red Storm victory back on Sept. 24.
Scarborough got the jump when senior captain Dennis Liu returned the opening kickoff 88-yards for a TD. Senior quarterback Jack Adams threw a 55-yard TD pass to junior Scott Thibeault, then found senior Mike Cyr for 20-yards, for a 21-0 lead. After the Tigers broke the ice, sophomore Dillon Russo set up a score with an interception, then ran for a score, to make it 28-6 Red Storm at the half.
In the second half, Scarborough put it away behind TD receptions from Thibeault and senior Joe Viola and went on to a 48-14 victory.
“Coach had a great game plan we worked hard on this week in practice,” Adams said. “We watched a lot of film and saw some things we could take advantage of on offense. I’m fortunate to play with three great receivers and the offensive line gave me plenty of time. This is the most fun I’ve had playing football, hopefully we can keep rolling.”
“I really think that our guys have improved over the season,” added Johnson. “We’re a lot more physical now and we needed that today against a tough Biddeford team. We showed up ready to play. We have a lot weapons and the threat of the deep ball is always there. We’re running the power off-tackle on third-and-15 and it works because the defense is waiting for the pass.”
Scarborough and Cheverus (which had to rally to advance, 34-27, over No. 8 Windham, the defending state champion, in its quarterfinal) didn’t meet in the regular season and have no playoff history. The victor will face either No. 2 Bonny Eagle (8-1) or No. 3 Deering (7-2) in the Western A Final. The Red Storm didn’t play either the Rams or Scots in 2010.
When South Portland was ousted by eventual state champion Portland in the 2002 Western A quarterfinals, little did the Red Riots know that their 12-year streak of making the playoffs (and their run of 16 appearances in 17 seasons) was over.
South Portland won just 15 total games between 2003 and 2009, but barely missed the postseason last year. This year, the Red Riots opened with a victory over Windham and managed to secure the No. 7 seed after a 5-3 campaign. That sent them to perennial powerhouse Bonny Eagle, the No. 2 seed, Friday for the quarterfinals. South Portland had played the Scots as well as anyone the past couple years, upsetting them at home in 2009 and falling, 21-14, Sept. 24 in Standish.
This time around, it wasn’t close. The Red Riots had plenty of chances in the first quarter, but couldn’t convert and the hosts grabbed a 7-0 lead. Bonny Eagle extended it to 19-0 at halftime, then tacked on two more TDs in the second half to cruise, 32-0, ending South Portland’s season at 5-4.
“We moved the ball against them at times, but we couldn’t finish,” said Red Riots coach Steve Stinson. “They have a good defense and they stiffened when they had to. We actually gained more yards than we did against them the last time. We had a few long plays in that game, but tonight we put a few drives together we just didn’t finish.”
South Portland will graduate 10 seniors from the team that finally ended the postseason drought. The list includes captains Evan Indorf, offensive linemen Matt Welch and Alex Martin-Wallace, along with Darling. Also moving are Nick Conti, Ellis, Steve Hodge, Keithly Harrison and Ben Ely.
Cape Elizabeth, the defending Western B champion, has had its ups-and-downs in 2010. The Capers, hard-hit by graduation losses and injury, managed to tread water, but suffered tough defeats at Wells and Greely. Friday night, Cape Elizabeth went for broke at rival Mountain Valley, but senior quarterback Kyle Danielson’s four interceptions (replacing the injured Derek Roberts) were costly and the Falcons took advantage. Senior Jack Barber had 93 yards on 30 carries in the setback.
“We rolled the dice, trying to develop a new quarterback,” said Capers coach Aaron Filieo. “We had the mindset of not playing conservative and opening it up. We played toe-to-toe with good defense and field position. We turned them away, but threw a pick. They scored, then we threw another pick and we were two scores down.”
The season then hinged on a coin toss Saturday at Yarmouth High.
Cape Elizabeth athletic director Jeff Thoreck represented the team, joining Falmouth AD Todd Livingston and Greely’s Mike Griffin with Yarmouth administrator Susan Robbins overseeing the proceedings.
All three ADs tossed their coin at once. Thoreck’s landed heads, Livingston’s tails. Adding to the drama, Griffin’s coin didn’t land flat, instead rolling from side to side for a few seconds before landing.
By pre-agreement, the “odd man out,” in this case, the Capers, earned the No. 3 seed and the fourth spot was determined by head-to-head matchup (Falmouth won at Greely the night before and survived, ending the Rangers’ fine campaign).
“It was a relief,” said Filieo. “We were thrilled. It’s been a tough year. We hadn’t caught a lot of breaks. We hoped to get one and we did. I’m sure all three coaches had our speech prepared had we been eliminated and they probably sounded similar. I would have told the guys it’s a tough way to learn an important lesson about taking care of business and not putting off to tomorrow what you can do today.”
Cape Elizabeth will go to 8-1 Wells Friday night for the Western B semifinal round. On Oct. 8, the Capers lost at the Warriors, 14-7. The lone previous playoff encounter came in last year’s semifinals (a 35-14 Cape Elizabeth triumph).
“The way I look at it is that we don’t have anything to lose,” said Filieo. “We’ll try to play a complete game with as few mental mistakes as possible. We’ve beaten ourselves this year. Wells is a good football team and they’ve had a great year. They don’t need any help from us. “I feel like we match up well and I expect another good game like the last one.”
Freelancer Eric Carson contributed to this story.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Scarborough senior Mike Cyr dives to make a touchdown catch during the Red Storm’s 48-14 Western A playoff victory at Biddeford Saturday.
Red Storm junior running back Scott Thibeault finds a hole and picks up yardage in first half action. Scarborough dominated from start to finish and advanced to meet top-ranked Cheverus in the semifinals Saturday afternoon.