SCARBOROUGH—It’s time to believe in the Scarborough football team.
While the Red Storm was the feel-good story of the 2010 season, winning eight times and reaching the playoffs for the first time at the Class A level, its success came largely at the hands of a York County schedule.
Friday night, in the 2011 opener, Scarborough welcomed a Windham squad which won the Class A championship in 2009 and entered this fall as one of the favorites to capture another title.
Opening night belonged to the hosts, however, as the Red Storm emphatically announced it came to win with an impressive opening drive and never let up from there in a 21-6 victory over the Eagles behind a sensational individual performance from senior Scott Thibeault, who rushed for a whopping 274 yards on 28 carries, with two TDs, in his first game as a tailback.
“We know we can compete at this level,” Thibeault said. “Our senior class is hungry for more. We worked hard all offseason. The talk about Windham really helped us. We heard it. We worked very hard and really wanted to come and show everybody. I’m really happy. It’s good to get the first game out of the way.”
Thibeault and his teammates, under the guidance of first-year coach Lance Johnson, made the jump into contention last fall, winning eight games (four fewer than they had in their previous seven Class A seasons combined) before going down to a 21-14 loss at Cheverus in the semifinals.
Windham struggled in its title defense, but peaked late and also put a scare into the eventual champions, leading 27-14 in the third period, before losing, 34-27, in the quarterfinals, winding up 4-5.
This year, both teams are expected to contend, but the Eagles were getting most of the preseason publicity.
Friday night, the Red Storm delivered a haymaker to start the game and never let up.
After Windham won the opening toss but deferred possession to the second half, Scarborough drove 71 yards in just five plays to take the lead for good.
Starting at the 29, the Red Storm set the tone immediately when Thibeault took a pitch and found a big hole to his right. He wasn’t stopped until he reached Windham’s 35, a 36-yard pickup.
After Thibeault gained five yards on his next carry, he broke free for 24, setting up a first-and-goal at the 6. After junior quarterback Dillon Russo found classmate Merrick Madden for five yards through the air, Russo capped the drive with a 1-yard burst. Junior Greg Viola kicked the extra point and Scarborough had a quick 7-0 advantage, just 2 minutes, 11 seconds in.
“It was huge to come out (like that),” Thibeault said. “We had confidence, but it’s different to put it into plays. That helped get us going. We were confident the rest of the game and that carried through.”
“(Windham) deferred and kicked off to us and for us to drive down and score, that gave us confidence,” Johnson added.
The Eagles’ first drive resulted in one first down, but eventually Windham had to punt away. The Red Storm then got a 17-yard pass from Russo to senior Kolbey Adams and on the next play, Thibeault erupted for a 63-yard scamper to the Windham 15, but the gain was negated by penalty and the drive soon stalled.
On their next series, the Eagles moved deep into Scarborough territory, thanks in large part to a 29-yard pass from senior quarterback TD O’Brien to classmate Jeremy Peavey, but on third-and-3 from the 12, senior Kyle Deschenes was stopped for no gain and fumbled and the hosts recovered to dodge a bullet.
The Red Storm then moved to Windham’s side of the field, thanks to four straight runs, good for 20 yards by Thibeault, and a 12-yard pass from Russo to Adams, but as the first period gave way to the second, Russo’s pass on fourth-and-3 from the Eagles’ 33 fell incomplete.
Again, the visitors drove looking for the equalizer, but despite a 36-yard pass from O’Brien to senior Nolan Allen, the score never came. On second-and-7 from the 14, Scarborough senior captain Conor McCann threw Deschenes for a five yard loss. O’Brien then threw incomplete twice to give the ball back to the Red Storm.
The hosts would again drive into Windham territory, thanks to a roughing the punter call, but a fourth down pass by Russo fell incomplete.
The Eagles took over at their 29 with 1:37 to go in the half, but two plays later, O’Brien threw a pass that Madden intercepted and returned to the Windham 39.
One play later, Thibeault made the Eagles pay.
With 55.7 seconds showing, Thibeault broke through on the left side and outran the pursuit to paydirt. Viola added the extra point and it was 14-0 Scarborough.
After senior captain Kellen Smith intercepted O’Brien on the next Windham series, the Red Storm looked to add more points before the break. A 17-yard pass from Russo to McCann put the ball at the 3. The hosts appeared to have time to run one more play, but Johnson sent Viola out to attempt a 20-yard field goal. The kick was no good, wide left, and the game remained 14-0 at the break.
Scarborough’s bruising rushing attack (Thibeault had 16 carries for 169 yards and a TD) and timely passing led to a 259-122 edge in yardage in the first 24 minutes, but the Red Storm hadn’t delivered the knockout punch and at the start of the third quarter, the visitors got right back in the game.
Windham started at its 31 and drove 69 yards in 10 plays and 4 minutes, 51 seconds to make things interesting. O’Brien found dangerous junior receiver Damien Shepard for 28 yards to get things started. Three successive O’Brien runs gained 19 yards and got the Eagles close. A 4-yard scamper from junior Todd Allen produced the touchdown, but Nolan Allen’s extra point was blocked, leaving the score Scarborough 14-6.
The Windham defense then rose to the occasion, forcing a punt, but the visitors went three-and-out and the Red Storm got the ball back late in the third period.
Two Thibeault runs, good for nine yards and three Russo scampers for 25 put Scarborough at the Eagles’ 6 to start the fourth quarter.
The Red Storm appeared primed to extend the lead, but on second-and-goal from the 4, a bad snap resulted in a 10-yard loss and Scarborough wound up giving the ball away on downs.
Windham had another chance to get closer or even tie the score, but a 4-yard O’Brien run was followed by a pair of incomplete passes and the Eagles were forced to punt.
This time, the hosts would take advantage.
A 15-yard punt return by Madden set the Red Storm up at the Windham 37. Runs of 3- and 15-yards by Thibeault then set the stage for the backbreaking touchdown.
With 7:14 remaining, Thibeault broke free, shook two tackles and wound up in the end zone. Viola’s point-after made it 21-6 and essentially broke the Eagles’ will.
Windham’s last-ditch drive ended in Scarborough territory, when, on fourth-and-1 from the 20, O’Brien was thrown for a 3-yard loss by (who else?) Thibeault.
The hosts ran out the final 5 minutes, 22 seconds and celebrated its unexpected and emphatic 21-6 triumph.
“It’s a big win for us,” said Johnson. “I was very nervous about Windham. They looked good on film. They’re big up front and there was a lot of talk about our bigs not being to able to matchup to their bigs. It was very competitive up front. We controlled the line of scrimmage, especially when we had to at the end. We did what we had to do. It gave us a lot of confidence playing Cheverus last year in the playoffs when we were right there with them. Our guys work hard in the weight room and with conditioning and it showed tonight.”
Thibeault absolutely stole the show with his career (to date) effort. What made it even more impressive was that it was the standout’s first game at tailback (moving over from receiver to fullback and then to the feature spot).
“The offensive line just worked incredibly hard,” Thibeault said. “They got every assignment down. I just follow them to wherever I run. It’s practice. Coach always teaches me to read blocks and get behind the blockers and run. I loved fullback. You hit someone every play as hard as you can, but this is more open running. “
“We call (Scott) the ‘Bulldog,'” said Johnson. “He’s a great kid. No one’s worked harder than him. He deserves it.”
Russo was also impressive on the night, rushing for 49 yards and a TD on 10 carries and completing 6-of-10 passes for 59 yards. Adams caught two balls for 29 yards, Thibeault two for 16 and Madden two for 14.
Scarborough finished with a 396-237 edge in total yardage (O’Brien wound up 9-of-22 passing for 155 yards and two interceptions).
While the Red Storm dazzled in the win, its coach wasn’t completely happy.
“We can’t have field position like that and not finish drives,” Johnson lamented. “We still have stuff we need to clean up.”
Windham goes home to face dangerous Deering Friday night, while Scarborough goes on the road for the first time, at Sanford, which outslugged Biddeford, 49-30, in its first contest.
Life won’t get easier for the Red Storm, who, after facing Sanford and Biddeford, run the gauntlet of top contenders.
After the opening night win, the sky’s the limit.
“Sanford is much improved,” Johnson said. “Then we have Biddeford. Then we go on a tough stretch, Bonny Eagle, Cheverus, Deering, (Thornton Academy). We’re going to play the big boys.”
It looks like Scarborough is up to the task.
Scarborough sophomore Dan LeClair looks for a hole during another successful Red Storm running play.
Scarborough junior quarterback Dillon Russo lofts a pass over a Windham defender.
Scarborough junior Merrick Madden, who was active all over the field Friday night, gets the edge on a Windham defender.
Scarborough senior Scott Thibeault races down the sidelines toward a touchdown during the Red Storm’s impressive 21-6 win over Windham Friday night. Thibeault finished with 274 yards and two TDs.
More photos below.
W- 0 0 6 0- 6
S- 7 7 0 7- 21
S- Russo 1 run (Viola kick)
S- Thibeault 39 run (Viola kick)
W- T. Allen 4 run (kick blocked)
S- Thibeault 19 run (Viola kick)