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Thornton Academy senior Anthony Bracamonte seemingly has the whole Scarborough defense chasing him as he gains some of his 300 yards during the Golden Trojans’ 53-21 win in Saturday’s Class A South Final. Thornton Academy ended the Red Storm’s title defense and will meet Portland in next week’s state game.
Derek Davis / Press Herald photos.
More photos below.
S- 0 7 14 0- 21
TA- 14 6 20 13- 53
TA—Logan 18 pass from Gaudette (Forbes kick)
TA—Bracamonte 38 run (Forbes kick)
TA—Gaudette 18 run (kick failed)
S—Quintiliani 5 pass from Cleary (Alofs kick)
TA—Bracamonte 82 kickoff return (Gaudette pass from Bracamonte)
S—Flaker 80 kickoff return (kick blocked)
S—Flaker 38 pass from Cleary (Alofs pass from Cleary)
TA—Bracamonte 78 run (kick blocked)
TA—Dow 4 run (rush failed)
TA—Dow 1 run (Forbes kick)
TA—Bracamonte 92 run (kick blocked)
SACO—For a fleeting moment Saturday afternoon at Hill Stadium, Scarborough’s hopes for a repeat championship flickered.
And then, Thornton Academy senior Anthony Bracamonte ripped them away.
In a highly anticipated Class A South Final between arguably the state’s two finest football teams, the high-powered, second-ranked Red Storm were able to generate a few of the big plays they’re known for, but Scarborough had no answers for Bracamonte and his top-ranked Golden Trojans teammates, who avenged back-to-back postseason losses to the Red Storm in emphatic fashion.
Thornton Academy started strong with a lengthy drive and went on top to stay when junior quarterback Kobe Gaudette hit senior Ethan Logan with an 18-yard touchdown pass.
On the final play of the first quarter, Bracamonte first made his presence felt by weaving through the Scarborough defense en route to a 38-yard score and a 14-0 advantage.
After the Red Storm fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, Gaudette stretched the lead to 20 with an 18-yard run.
Scarborough needed a jolt and got it in the final minute of the half, when it forced and recovered a fumble and with 5.8 seconds to go, the visitors got on the board with a 5-yard TD pass from junior quarterback Chase Cleary to senior Jared Quintiliani.
Any momentum the Red Storm took into the second half was gone in 16 seconds,however, as Bracamonte returned the opening kickoff 82 yards, then threw a two-point conversion pass to make it 28-7.
On the ropes, Scarborough responded like a champion, as junior standout Jarett Flaker returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown and with 4:40 left in the third quarter, Flaker caught a 38-yard TD pass from Cleary to make it a one-score game, 28-21.
And then, Bracamonte took matters into his own hands, scoring on a 78-yard run to turn the tide for good.
Late in the frame, senior Grant Dow scored on a 4-yard run for a 40-21 advantage heading to the fourth quarter.
There, Dow scored on a 1-yard run and Bracamonte brought the curtain down in style, scampering for a 92-yard touchdown, and Thornton Academy went on to a 53-21 victory.
Bracamonte finished with 300 yards rushing and scored four touchdowns as the Golden Trojans improved to 10-0, ended Scarborough’s reign and its season at 7-2 and advanced to face A North champion Portland (9-1) in the state championship game next Saturday at a time to be announced at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
“I hadn’t beaten Scarborough in the playoffs since the eighth grade, so winning with this group of seniors means so much,” said Bracamonte, who helped his Fitzpatrick Trophy hopes immensely Saturday afternoon.
Ever since the preseason, Scarborough and Thornton Academy were viewed as the top two teams in the state and the Golden Trojans and Red Storm did not disappoint.
Thornton Academy won its eight regular season contests by a composite score of 405-48 (an average margin of 51-6). As the top seed in Class A South, the Golden Trojans earned a bye into the semifinals, where they had no trouble ousting fourth-seeded Sanford, 47-7.
Scarborough defended its title in impressive fashion, winning six of seven regular season games (a home contest versus Massabesic was canceled due to foot, hand and mouth disease) and finishing second in the region (see sidebar, below, for links to previous stories). After a quarterfinal round bye, the Red Storm crushed No. 3 Bonny Eagle, a perennial power, 61-23, in last week’s semifinals.
On Oct. 6, Scarborough went to Saco and after a sluggish first half, which ended, 7-7, the Golden Trojans came to life in the second half and prevailed, 35-13.
Entering play Saturday, the teams had met five previous times in the playoffs (see sidebar, below). Thornton Academy won the first three encounters by an average 45-11 margin, but the Red Storm broke through with a 36-29 upset in the 2016 Class A South semifinals and last year, on a frigid evening, Scarborough rolled, 49-7, at home in the regional final, en route to the championship.
This time around, on a chilly (43 degrees at kickoff) afternoon, which featured gusty winds and even a few raindrops at times, the Golden Trojans lived up to their preseason billing as the team to beat and served notice that they aren’t done yet.
Thornton Academy won the opening coin toss, but deferred possession to the second half.
The Golden Trojans’ defense then set the tone.
The Red Storm started at their 20 after a touchback and after Cleary ran for three yards, senior Zach Alofs was held to no gain by Thornton Academy senior Athan Gikas and on third-and-7, Cleary ran for three yards, necessitating a punt.
With 9:46 left in the first quarter, the Golden Trojans got the ball for the first time at their 40.
Twelve plays, 60 yards and 7 minutes, 7 seconds later, Thornton Academy went ahead for good.
Bracamonte got the ball first and ran for five yards. Junior Isaac Ofielu then moved the chains with an eight-yard gain. After Bracamonte lost two yards and Gaudette kept the ball for three, Scarborough had a chance to get off the field on third-and-9, but Gaudette hit Logan with a screen pass and he cut through the defense for 11 yards and a first down at the Red Storm 35.
Gaudette was held to no gain, then picked up four yards after a low snap. After Ofielu gained four yards, the Golden Trojans faced fourth-and-2 and again, Scarborough couldn’t get the stop, as Bracamonte picked up six.
After Gikas gained two yards and Gaudette ran for one, Thornton Academy had a third-and-7 and again converted, as Gaudette dropped back and spotted a wide open Logan behind the defense. Logan bobbled the ball momentarily, but ultimately hauled in the pass and strolled into the end zone for an 18-yard TD completion and after sophomore Brady Forbes added the extra point, the Golden Trojans had a 7-0 lead with 2:39 remaining in the first quarter.
The Red Storm couldn’t answer, as Flaker ran for four yards, Flaker was dropped for a one-yard loss by junior Cole Paulin and after a false start penalty, Cleary threw incomplete, forcing another punt, which Gikas returned 16 yards.
With 44.5 seconds left in the first period, Thornton Academy started at the Scarborough 45 and in the matter of seconds, the hosts doubled their lead.
After Ofielu ran for seven yards, Bracamonte looked to hit sophomore Peyton Jones on a halfback pass, but he threw incomplete. Then, on the final play of the quarter, Bracamonte got the call, ran to the left, then cut back and weaved through the defense before crossing the goal line 38 yards away. The clock expired on the play and Forbes’ extra point made it 14-0 Golden Trojans after 12 minutes.
“A fast start was really important,” said Bracamonte. “We knew they were a great team and we wanted to jump on them early.”
“You obviously want to come out and play well,” said Thornton Academy coach Kevin Kezal. “We had the wind and wanted to take advantage. We did that early on. It was good to get an early lead.”
The Golden Trojans held a 105-4 edge in yardage in the first quarter and continued to impress in the second period.
The new frame began disastrously for the Red Storm, as senior Connor Oliver fumbled on the kickoff and sophomore Costa Gikas recovered for Thornton Academy at Scarborough’s 36.
Four plays later, the Golden Trojans found the end zone again.
Bracamonte got things started by slipping through tacklers for 15 yards. After Alofs held Ofielu to no gain, Ofielu ran for three yards, setting up third-and-7, where Gaudette kept the ball, ran to the right and bulled into the end zone for an 18-yard score with 10:22 to go in the half. Forbes was wide right on the PAT, but Thornton Academy’s lead was 20-0.
The Red Storm finally got their offense in gear on their next series, but couldn’t get the ball in the end zone.
After Flaker fell on the kickoff at the Scarborough 29, Cleary found Alofs open over the middle and Alofs took the ball all the way to the Golden Trojans’ 15 for a 56-yard pickup. Flaker then ran for six yards and Cleary kept the ball for three more, but on third-and-1, Dow dropped Flaker for a two-yard loss and on fourth-and-3, Flaker only gained a yard, giving Thornton Academy the ball back on downs.
Starting from their 7, the Golden Trojans got a two-yard run from Bracamonte, then a 15-yard scamper by Ofielu moved the chains to the 24. After Ofielu ran for two yards, Gaudette gained two and Bracamonte did the same, forcing a punt.
With 4:51 to play before halftime, the Red Storm got another chance from their 48, but after Cleary was held to no gain, Cleary threw a deep pass intended for Flaker, but Flaker never saw the ball and Athan Gikas intercepted at the Thornton Academy 20 and returned it 11 yards.
The Golden Trojans hoped to end all doubt by halftime, but wound up giving the ball away, which gave Scarborough life.
A two-yard run by Gaudette, a seven-yard rush by Ofielu and a two-yard run by Dow moved the chains to the 42. Ofielu then ran for five yards and Bracamonte picked up 10 for a first down at the Red Storm 43, but on the next play, Bracamonte fumbled and junior Max Pilspanen recovered for the visitors and returned the ball 18 yards to the Thornton Academy 38.
Only 49.4 seconds remained before halftime, but Scarborough managed to cut into the deficit.
After Flaker was held to no gain and Cleary threw incomplete, Cleary kept the ball for a dozen yards and a first down at the Golden Trojans’ 26. Out of a timeout, Cleary scrambled for 15 yards and a first down at the 11 with 22.7 seconds to go. After Cleary threw incomplete, the Red Storm tried some razzle-dazzle, as Flaker got the ball, handed it off to Oliver and Oliver attempted to hit Cleary in the end zone, but the pass fell incomplete. On the play, however, pass interference was called on Thornton Academy, putting the ball at the 5. Cleary then hit Quintiliani over the middle and Quintiliani managed to extend the ball over the goal line for the touchdown with 5.8 seconds to go. Alofs added the extra point and Scarborough only trailed by 13, 20-7, heading into the half.
In the first 24 minutes, the Golden Trojans enjoyed a 192-106 advantage in yardage and held Flaker to just 8 rushing yards on six carries. Ofielu rushed for 51 yards and Bracamonte ran for 78 yards on nine carries, but he was just getting started.
The second half began with a dizzying display of individual brilliance.
Bracamonte received the kickoff at his 18, broke through the wall, then took off down the right sideline. Flaker gave chase and caught up to Bracamonte around the Red Storm 15, but Bracamonte broke the tackle, then completed the 82-yard touchdown return just 16 seconds into the third period.
“I think we tricked them,” said Bracamonte. “They thought I would be up front, but they kicked it deep and I took it to the house.”
Speaking of trickery, on the ensuing two-point conversion, Athan Gikas took the center snap, handed the ball to Bracamonte and in Thornton Academy’s version of the Philadelphia Eagles’ “Philly Special,” Bracamonte passed to Gaudette for the two-point conversion and a 28-7 advantage.
That would have been fireworks enough for some games, but Flaker said, “Anything you can do, I can do better” on the ensuing kickoff, taking the ball at the 20, running to his left and after he was seemingly penned in, he cut back to his right, finding a hole, and once Jarett Flaker finds a hole, no one is going to catch him and Flaker raced to the end zone to complete the 80-yard return. Alofs’ extra point was blocked and after 32 dramatic second half seconds, Scarborough was back within two scores, 28-13.
The ensuing kickoff resulted in a touchback, meaning the Golden Trojans’ offense finally got a chance again.
Thornton Academy started to march, as Gaudette ran for a yard, Ofielu gained six and on third-and-3, Bracamonte got out of trouble with his nonpareil elusiveness and picked up eight yards for a first down at the 35. A five-yard Bracamonte run, a Red Storm offsides penalty and a three-yard Dow run set up first down at the 48. The Golden Trojans then escaped disaster as a fumbled exchange put the ball on the ground for anyone to collect, but it was Logan racing back a good 15 yards to recover it at the 40, allowing Thornton Academy to keep possession. Bracamonte ran for 14 yards on second-and-18, but on third down, Bracamonte was held to no gain by Alofs and Pilspanen and the Golden Trojans had to punt, a 34-yard boot by Dow which pinned Scarborough at its 12.
The Red Storm then produced their best drive of the game, marching 88 yards in just four plays and 98 seconds to momentarily make things very interesting.
Scarborough went into its bag of tricks on first down, as Flaker took a handoff, then threw a pass to senior Robert Cleary for 27 yards to the 39. Flaker then ran for two yards and after Cleary kept the ball for 21 yards and a first down at the Thornton Academy 38, Cleary dropped back, hit Flaker on a slant and Flaker did the rest, outrunning the defense to the end zone with 4:40 to go in the third. Cleary then found Alofs for the two-point conversion pass and the Red Storm were within seven, 28-21.
Athan Gikas returned the ensuing kickoff to the 22 and on the first snap, Bracamonte got the ball, ran to the right, then burst through the defense and he wasn’t touched en route to a 78-yard score.
“They started to come back and we knew we needed a big play and we got one,” Bracamonte said.
“(Anthony’s) one of our best players,” Dow said. “He’s the number one kid on the team. I love watching him run. He always makes something out of nothing. When he did that, we got so hyped. It was an amazing run.”
“(Anthony’s) a fantastic player,” Kezal added. “It’s been fun watching him. He put on a show today.”
Forbes’ PAT was blocked by Alofs, but with 4:22 left in the eventful third quarter, Thornton Academy led, 34-21.
The Golden Trojans’ momentum carried into the ensuing kickoff, as a squib kick sat free and senior Ean Patry recovered it at the Red Storm 41.
Three plays later, Thornton Academy extended its lead back to three scores.
After Ofielu ran for 10 yards, he picked up 27, setting up first-and-goal at the 4. Dow then did the honors, scoring on a 4-yard run with 3:23 remaining. A bad snap short-circuited a two-point conversion attempt, but the Golden Trojans held a 40-21 advantage.
Scarborough got the ball back at its 36 and hoped to answer, but after two Flaker rushes gained 10 yards and moved the chains, Chase Cleary was sacked by senior Thomas Palmer for a seven-yard loss. Alofs gained 25 yards to the Thornton Academy 36, but on the next snap, Cleary was intercepted by Dow, who returned the ball to the Thornton Academy 35.
In a drive which ate up the end of the third period and nearly four minutes of the fourth, the Golden Trojans ended the competitive phase of the contest.
Bracamonte gained 20 yards on the first play, moving the ball to the Red Storm 45. After Ofielu ran for seven yards and Bracamonte gained one on the final play of the third quarter, Dow gained nine yards on the first snap of the fourth for a first down at the 28. Ofielu picked up one yard and Gaudette threw a pair of incomplete passes. On fourth-and-9, Gaudette missed again, but pass interference was called, giving Thornton Academy a first down at the 13. Ofielu rushed for five yards, Robert Cleary held Ofielu to no gain, Bracamonte picked up four yards and on fourth-and-1 from the 4, Dow picked up three yards to extend the drive. On the next snap, Dow bulled in from the 1 with 8:13 to go, culminating a 13-play, 65-yard, 4:51 drive.
“We had to keep the momentum going,” Dow said. “There’s nothing like running into the end zone and scoring in a regional final.”
Forbes added the extra point to make it 47-21.
Scarborough began its next drive at its 33 and after Flaker was held to no gain, he broke free for 51 yards and a first down at the Golden Trojans’ 16. A false start penalty backed up the Red Storm five yards and on the next play, Chase Cleary was intercepted by Athan Gikas again at the Thornton Academy 5.
The Golden Trojans appeared pinned, but Bracamonte had something to say about that.
After Ofielu ran for three yards, Bracamonte got the ball and again broke away en route to a 92-yard score, which gave him exactly 300 rushing yards on the day. With 4:56 to go, Alofs blocked Forbes’ PAT again, keeping the score, 53-21.
Scarborough brought out its second team offense for its final drive.
Sophomore Jacob Keim took over under center and rushed for 35 yards on the first play, but sophomore Alexander Callahan was dropped for a two-yard loss, Keim lost a yard, Keim ran for two, then threw incomplete to give Thornton Academy the ball back at its 41.
Senior Fredrik Boersheim took over at quarterback and ran for three yards. Sophomore Gabe Older than ran for three yards, lost five and on the final play of the game, Older picked up 11 and the clock expired, allowing the Golden Trojans to celebrate their 53-21 victory.
“(Losing to Scarborough) last year and the year before was a terrible feeling, but it’s a great feeling this year,” Dow said. “It’s really exciting. We keyed on (Quintiliani) and Flaker. We shut them down and that was the end of it.”
“Scarborough’s a really good football team and we knew it would be a back-and-forth game,” Kezal said. “We hoped to make more plays and that’s how it worked out. They have so many athletes and they make you defend the whole field. We bent a few times and gave up a couple plays, but I’m proud of the kids. It’s not what happens, but how you respond and we did that today.”
Thornton Academy produced 517 yards of offense (over 600 yards when special teams returns were factored in) and was only penalized once for five yards.
Bracamonte had the game of his life, rushing for 300 yards and three touchdowns on just 18 carries. He also had the long kickoff return for a TD, completed a two-point conversion pass and threw one other ball that fell incomplete.
“I couldn’t have done it without my linemen and my receivers creating holes,” Bracamonte said. “Everyone had a 100 percent effort.”
“We had (Bracamonte) bottled up at times, but we had a hard time tackling him,” Scarborough coach Lance Johnson lamented. “We tried to get guys to understand and not overreact to him, but he squeaked out. He’s an excellent player and he made the plays he had to make in the second half.”
Ofielu gained 108 yards on 17 attempts.
Gaudette ran for 31 yards and scored a touchdown on eight carries and threw for 29 yards and a TD on 2-of-4 passing.
Logan had the two receptions, good for 29 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Golden Trojans had a sack and forced four turnovers.
“We made some big plays, got some big interceptions,” Kezal said. “We knew they’d move the ball, but we wanted to get turnovers.”
Thornton Academy didn’t face Portland this year. The Bulldogs have lost just once in 10 games, at Bonny Eagle, and are coming off a dramatic overtime win over Oxford Hills in their regional final.
The Golden Trojans beat Portland, 24-14, in the 2015 Class A state final, evening the all-time postseason series at 2-2.
Thornton Academy will be a heavy favorite next weekend and looks forward to putting a championship cherry on its superb season sundae.
“It’s the greatest feeling ever,” Bracamonte said. “We’ll enjoy this for the weekend, then get ready. We have to play hard. If we play our best game and don’t make mistakes, we’re tough to beat. Portland’s a good team though, so we’ll need to lock it in.”
“We can’t be cocky,” Dow said. “We have to just keep our heads up.”
“It’s been a very enjoyable fall with these guys,” Kezal added. “They work their tails off. It’s great to see these kids get a chance to play next week. Last time we played Portland (in the state game), it was a heck of a game. We’ll enjoy this today and tomorrow, then it’s back to work on Monday.”
Scarborough mustered 302 offensive yards.
Flaker carried 11 times for 71 yards, caught one pass for a 38-yard score and a touchdown and completed his lone pass, good for 27 yards. He also had an 80-yard kickoff return, but for the most part, Thornton Academy limited his damage.
“Playing against Flaker is tough,” said Bracamonte. “He’s a great player, an outstanding athlete. Our defense steeped up big.”
Cleary ran for 51 yards on six attempts and completed 3-of-10 passes for 99 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Alofs had one catch for 56 yards and rushed twice for 25 yards.
Robert Cleary had one reception for 27 yards.
Quintiliani caught one ball for 5 yards and a score.
Oliver went 0 for 1 passing.
The Red Storm were flagged four times for 29 yards.
“We got within a score, but that’s as close as we could get,” Johnson said. “I’m proud of my guys. We graduated a lot from last year, but we worked really hard. They learned and got better and better as the season went on, but we just ran into a really good team today. I thought we made a run in the second half, but then we couldn’t stop them.”
Scarborough’s seniors became the first class in program history to play in three straight regional finals.
“We have a big group of seniors,” Johnson said. “Twenty kids. Some guys don’t play a lot, but they work hard during the week. They’re great kids and they worked hard year-round. They had to replace some key guys and they did a good job.”
The Red Storm will return some talent in 2019, led by Cleary and Flaker, and will be on the short list of title favorites again.
“We have a good group coming back,” Johnson said. “We have to replace some guys up front, but we have good skill kids. We have a good sophomore group.
“The expectations are to be there every year. We hope to work hard and be right back in it next year.”
Thornton Academy senior Ethan Logan hauls in the game’s first touchdown.
Scarborough senior Jared Quintiliani reaches over the goal line as Thornton Academy senior Athan Gikas makes the tackle.
Scarborough senior Robert Cleary is brought down by a host of Thornton Academy tacklers.
Scarborough junior Jarett Flaker is corralled by Thornton Academy junior Cole Paulin.
Scarborough junior Chase Cleary is sacked by Thornton Academy senior Thomas Palmer.
Thornton Academy senior Raine Bagudu, left, and senior Tom Wermenchuk celebrate after a fumble recovery in the second half.
Thornton Academy senior Anthony Bracamonte and his teammates celebrate one of Bracamonte’s four touchdowns.
Thornton Academy coach Kevin Kezal celebrates the victory.
Thornton Academy seniors Derek Madore, left, Anthony Bracamonte, Ean Patry and Athan Gikas receive the regional championship plaque.
2017 Class A Final
Scarborough 49 Thornton Academy 7
2016 Class A South semifinals
Scarborough 36 Thornton Academy 29
2015 Class A South semifinals
Thornton Academy 35 Scarborough 0
2014 Western A South semifinals
Thornton Academy 50 Scarborough 20
2012 Western A South semifinals
Thornton Academy 49 Scarborough 14