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Thornton Academy senior Athan Gikas intercepts a pass intended for Scarborough senior Connor Oliver during the second half of the teams’ showdown Saturday. The Golden Trojans rode a 21-point third quarter to a 35-13 victory in a regional final rematch/battle of unbeatens.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
S- 0 7 0 6- 13
TA- 7 0 21 7- 35
TA- BaileyCottle 63 run (Forbes kick)
S- Flaker 8 run (Alofs kick)
TA- Dow 5 run (Forbes kick)
TA- Bracamonte 9 run (Forbes kick)
TA- Jones 41 pass from Gaudette (Forbes kick)
S- Cleary 4 run (kick failed)
TA- Bracamonte 3 run (Forbes kick)
SACO—The back-and-forth, wild shootout so many expected never materialized Saturday afternoon at Hill Stadium, but the host Thornton Academy Golden Trojans got a measure of revenge nonetheless.
Hosting defending Class A state champion Scarborough in a rematch of last year’s regional final, the Golden Trojans overcame a challenging first half, in which they were their own worst enemy, to roar to life in the second half and go on to an impressive victory.
Just 15 seconds into the contest, Thornton Academy took a 7-0 lead when junior Julien BaileyCottle broke off a 63-yard touchdown run, but the Golden Trojans did little offensively the rest of the first half and the Red Storm drew even with 9:05 left before halftime when junior standout Jarett Flaker scored on an 8-yard run.
Thornton Academy then broke the 7-7 deadlock and went on top to stay early in the third quarter, as after senior Athan Gikas intercepted a pass, the Golden Trojans marched for the go-ahead tally, as senior Grant Dow scored from 5-yards out.
After a long Flaker touchdown reception, which could have tied the score, was called back for a Scarborough blocking in the back penalty, Thornton Academy got some breathing room on a 9-yard scoring run from senior Anthony Bracamonte.
Before the third period was over, the Golden Trojans scored again, as junior quarterback Kobe Gaudette hit sophomore Peyton Jones for a 41-yard touchdown and a 28-7 advantage.
The Red Storm attempted to rally when junior quarterback Chase Cleary scored on a 4-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter, but Thornton Academy milked over five minutes off the clock and put it away on a 3-yard Bracamonte TD run and the Golden Trojans went on to a 35-13 victory.
Thornton Academy remained undefeated all-time against Scarborough in the regular season, improved to 6-0 and in the process, handed the Red Storm their first loss in five outings.
“We talked at halftime that elite teams answer the bell,” said Golden Trojans coach Kevin Kezal. “Things didn’t go right in the first half, but you have to move on.”
This one was long circled on the calendar as “the” game of the regular season and it meant even more since neither powerhouse had broken much of a sweat to date.
Thornton Academy crushed host Deering, 70-0, in the opener, then manhandled visiting Lewiston (47-7), visiting Massabesic (63-7), host South Portland (50-0) and host Windham (52-0) for an average margin of victory of 56-3.
Scarborough began its title defense with a 41-13 win at Sanford. After a 46-7 home victory over Deering, the Red Storm pulled away to beat host South Portland, 33-14, then enjoyed a 53-7 home victory over Windham in a state game rematch. Last week, Scarborough was scheduled to host Massabesic, but an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease canceled the contest.
“I don’t think (the layoff) hurt us,” said Red Storm coach Lance Johnson. “Our guys practice hard. It’s been a long time since we played, a little long at this point of the season.”
Last year, the teams produced a dramatic game in the regular season, as visiting Thornton Academy scored the game’s final 18 points to spring a 32-28 upset.
The squads met again in a frigid regional final and this time, host Scarborough rolled to a 49-7 win, en route to the championship.
That cut Thornton Academy’s advantage to 16-2 all-time (see sidebar, below).
Saturday, on a quintessential fall afternoon (59 degrees, partly cloudy with foliage ringing the trees around the stadium), the Red Storm had their chances to hang around, but the Golden Trojans imposed their will in the third quarter to provide the margin of victory.
Scarborough won the opening coin toss and chose to defer possession to the second half.
That was just fine with Thornton Academy, which needed all of 15 seconds to grab the lead.
The Golden Trojans started at their 37 and Gaudette gave the ball to BaileyCottle, who broke through the line, raced into the secondary and left the Red Storm’s defense in his wake en route to a 63-yard touchdown dash. Sophomore Brady Forbes added the extra point for a quick 7-0 advantage.
Scarborough got the ball for the first time at its 33, but went three-and-out, as senior Tyler Gobeil ran for six yards, Cleary kept the ball for two, then Cleary’s pass over the middle, intended for senior Jared Quintiliani, fell incomplete, even though the Red Storm sideline felt that pass interference should have been called.
Scarborough then punted and got a break, as Thornton Academy fumbled and senior Colin Weed recovered for the Red Storm at the Golden Trojans’ 26.
Scarborough couldn’t take advantage, however.
After Flaker’s first touch resulted in a one-yard run, Cleary kept the ball for two. On third-and-7, Cleary threw to junior Zach Alofs, but Alofs was dropped for just a one-yard gain by junior Arttu Tapola. Cleary kept the ball on the ensuing fourth down snap and was dropped for a one-yard loss by junior Cole Paulin, giving Thornton Academy the ball back on downs at its 23.
The Golden Trojans began driving again, as junior Isaac Ofielu ran for four yards and Gaudette hit Bracamonte, who made some nice moves, for 23 yards to midfield. Penalties then doomed Thornton Academy’s hopes.
After Gaudette was dropped for a three-yard loss by senior Jake Pilspanen and junior Sean Shackford, a holding penalty set up second-and-22 and after a 62-yard Bracamonte TD scamper was called back by another holding penalty, Ofielu and Bracamonte each picked up a yard and the hosts had to punt.
With 4:19 left in the first quarter, the Red Storm got the ball back at their 47, but after Alofs ran for three yards, Cleary twice threw incomplete and Scarborough punted.
The Golden Trojans started at their 23 and went three-and-out, as Gaudette was held to no gain on a broken play, BaileyCottle ran for one yard and after a false start penalty, BaileyCottle only picked up two yards on third-and-14.
With 1:07 to play in the opening stanza, the Red Storm began at their 39. Flaker ran for a yard, then picked up five on the final play of the quarter (Thornton Academy had a 64-20 edge in yardage). On the first play of the second period, Cleary just missed senior Connor Oliver on a deep pass and Scarborough had to punt.
The hosts weren’t able to do anything with the ball on their next series, as after Bracamonte ran for six yards, Ofielu lost a yard and Gaudette threw incomplete.
On the ensuing punt, Flaker got some room, danced down the left sideline and returned the ball 37 yards to the Golden Trojans’ 34.
Four plays and 54 seconds later, the Red Storm pulled even.
Flaker lost a yard on first down, but on the next snap, Cleary hit Flaker with a short pass and the speedster gained 17 yards for a first down at the 18. Cleary then connected with Gobeil for 10 more yards and a first-and-goal at the 8.
Flaker did the rest, running to the left before cutting back and crossing the goal line for an 8-yard score with 9:05 left in the half. Alofs added the PAT to tie the game, 7-7.
Neither team was able to do much the rest of the half.
Thornton Academy started at its 28 and after Gaudette kept the ball for three yards, BaileyCottle gained 10 for a first down at the 41. After Alofs dropped Bracamonte for a one-yard loss, Gaudette hit Bracamonte for nine yards, but on third-and-2, Tapola could only run for one and the Golden Trojans punted.
With 5:22 on the first half clock, Scarborough started at its 24, but the Red Storm went backwards, as a holding penalty set up first-and-17, Cleary twice threw incomplete and a five-yard Flaker run only got the ball back to the 22.
Thornton Academy then had a great opportunity, as it began at the Red Storm 47, but a disputed illegal man downfield penalty negated a 37-yard pass from Gaudette to senior Derek Madore. The Golden Trojans did move the chains when Bracamonte ran for seven yards, then caught a pass from Gaudette and toe-tapped down the right sideline for 16 yards to the Scarborough 29. After Bracamonte ran for six yards, a fumbled snap forced Ofielu to fall on the ball for a six-yard loss and Gaudette threw two incomplete passes and the Red Storm held on downs at their 29.
Scarborough couldn’t do anything before the half, as Cleary kept the ball for four yards and after a false start penalty and a four-yard Alofs run, Cleary threw incomplete.
With 8.3 seconds remaining, Thornton Academy got the ball back at its 39, but Gaudette took a knee and the game went to the break deadlocked at 7-7.
In the first 24 minutes, the Golden Trojans managed 85 yards to the Red Storm’s 55. Six costly penalties kept the hosts from holding the lead.
Thornton Academy would finally hit its stride in the third period, however.
Scarborough did get the ball first, but after Cleary ran for eight yards, the Red Storm moved too early and Cleary was thrown for a five-yard loss by junior Cole Paulin. That set up third-and-12 and Cleary tried to go deep to Oliver, but Gikas intercepted the pass and the Golden Trojans took over at their 45 with 10:16 remaining in the third quarter.
“For emotion, that was a big play,” Kezal said. “That got us going and then the offense finally settled down.”
It took nine plays and 3 minutes, 20 seconds, but Thornton Academy managed to re-take the lead.
This time for good.
After Shackford held BaileyCottle to no gain and Gaudette threw incomplete, Gaudette threw his best and most impactful pass of the afternoon, rolling right and hitting Bracamonte in stride in the middle of the defense. Bracamonte wound up picking up 20 yards and a first down at the Red Storm 35.
On Bracamonte broke tackles en route to a nine-yard gain, Gaudette twice threw incomplete, but on fourth-and-1, Jones broke free for 17 yards and a first-and-goal at the 9. BaileyCottle ran for four yards, then Dow did the rest, scoring from 5-yards out with 6:56 on the clock. Forbes’ extra point gave the Golden Trojans a 14-7 lead.
Scarborough then tried to answer and for a split second, appeared to do so.
Starting at their 20 after a touchback, the Red Storm got a three-yard run from Flaker, then Flaker caught a short pass in the right flat, got out of trouble, turned the corner and didn’t stop until crossing the goal line 77 yards away.
Problem was, the score didn’t stand, as a block in the back penalty brought the ball back to the 16.
Cleary ran for three yards on the next play, but then threw incomplete and Scarborough had to punt.
“We had that penalty and the TD got called back and we couldn’t get out of our zone,” Johnson said. “That was a big play because it would have been 14-14 and instead, we had bad field position.”
With 5:08 left in the third, after a short kick, Thornton Academy began at the Red Storm 39.
This time, it took just five plays and 90 seconds for the Golden Trojans to strike.
Gaudette kept the ball on first down and ran for 13 yards. After Ofielu and Gaudette both ran for two yards, Ofielu broke free for 13 yards and a first down at the 9. Then it was Bracamonte’s turn to score, as he ran up the middle before cutting to the left into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown with 3:38 remaining. Forbes added the PAT for a 21-7 advantage.
Scarborough got the ball back at its 24, but couldn’t answer, as Cleary threw incomplete, Gobeil caught a pass for a two-yard loss and while Cleary found senior Jared Quintiliani for 12 yards, it left the Red Storm inches short of the marker and they punted.
With 1:45 on the third quarter clock, Thornton Academy started at its 30 and in just two plays and 16 seconds got even more breathing room.
After Bracamonte ran for 29 yards on a sweep to the right, Gaudette play-actioned, dropped back and hit Jones behind the defense and Jones completed a 41-yard touchdown reception with 1:29 left in the period. Forbes again nailed the extra point for a 28-7 lead.
The Red Storm would answer in a drive that ate up the rest of the third quarter and began the fourth, as they marched 62 yards in six plays in 92 seconds.
Starting at its 38, Scarborough started inauspiciously, as Alofs was held to no gain by senior Thomas Palmer, but Flaker ran for 13 yards to the left and after Cleary threw incomplete and Cleary ran for four yards, Flaker got the ball, but instead of running, he threw it downfield to Oliver for a 41 yard gain, setting up first-and-goal at the 4 as the third period came to a close.
On the first play of the final stanza, Cleary kept the ball and scored on a 4-yard run, but the point-after was botched, keeping the Red Storm behind by 15, 28-13.
The Golden Trojans then embarked on a clock-killing drive that ate up 5:33 and used 10 plays to traverse 64 yards.
Starting at the 36, Thornton Academy got things started with an 11-yard run by Ofielu. After Ofielu was held to no gain, Gaudette ran for nine yards and BaileyCottle barely got the yard he needed for a first down at the Scarborough 43. After Bracamonte moved the chains with an 11-yard scamper. Ofielu gained nine and Gaudette ran for 14 and a first down at the Red Storm 9. After Ofielu twice ran for three yards, Bracamonte delivered the dagger, a 3-yard scoring run with 6:19 to play. Forbes’ PAT extended the lead to 35-13.
Any lingering Scarborough hopes were dashed on the ensuing kickoff when the visitors fumbled and Dow recovered at the Red Storm 43.
The Golden Trojans weren’t able to add to their lead, but did bleed some more time off the clock.
After BaileyCottle ran for three yards, he was held to no gain and Gaudette’s five-yard pickup forced a punt.
With 3:44 left, Scarborough started at its 6. After a Cleary five-yard run and an incomplete pass, Cleary hit Oliver for five yards and a first down at the 16. Cleary found Quintiliani for eight yards, then Cleary scrambled for 17 yards and a first down at the 41. After an incomplete pass, Cleary found Alofs for 13 yards and a first down in Thornton Academy territory, at the 46. After Flaker caught a pass for six yards, Cleary threw incomplete and offensive interference was tacked on, moving the ball back to the Red Storm 45. Alofs caught a pass for five yards, Quintiliani had a reception for nine more, but on fourth-and-5, Golden Trojans sophomore Daniel Tarbox knocked down Cleary’s pass and Thornton Academy got the ball back on downs with 12.4 seconds to play.
One kneel-down later, the Golden Trojans celebrated their 35-13 victory.
“We made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes in the first half, missing blocks, jumping offsides, but in the second half, we relaxed,” said Kezal. “The defense played well again. They’ve done it all year. They responded well, like we knew they would.
“We’ve had great games with Scarborough the past few years. They do a great job over there. It’s a great rivalry.”
Thornton Academy finished with 320 yards. The Golden Trojans weren’t penalized in the second half and only committed one turnover.
Gaudette wound up 5-of-10 for 109 yards with a touchdown. He also ran eight times for 43 yards.
BaileyCottle ran nine times for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Bracamonte got it done on the ground (10 carries, 80 yards, two scores) and as a receiver (four catches for 68 yards).
Ofielu ran 11 times for 31 yards.
Jones had one catch for 41 yards and a TD and he rushed once for 17 yards.
Dow ran just once, but it was good for a five-yard score.
Scarborough managed 177 yards. The Red Storm turned the ball over twice and were penalized five times for 39 yards.
Flaker was held relatively in check, as he ran eight times for 35 yards and a TD, caught two passes for 23 yards and threw once for 41 yards. Flaker also had 47 return yards.
Cleary completed 10-of-24 passes for 86 yards with an interception. He ran 11 times for 43 yards and a touchdown.
Alofs caught three balls for 19 yards and had three rushes for 7 yards.
Quintiliani also had three receptions for 29 yards.
Oliver caught two passes for 46 yards.
Gobeil had two receptions for 8 yards.
“(Thornton Academy) controlled the line of scrimmage more in the second half,” Johnson said. “They played well up front and ran the ball well. We weren’t able to get guys blocked off the edges or get space. They got off the edge on us and get their running back on the front side. They had field position throughout the third quarter. That was a tough quarter for us.
“I think our guys competed. We have athletes and we can compete up front. I’d like us to move the ball more consistently. We couldn’t set up things we wanted to run and we couldn’t overcome field position.”
Thornton Academy (currently second behind Bonny Eagle in the Class A South Heal Points standings) has another key showdown Friday when it goes to the undefeated Scots. The Golden Trojans then close at home against vastly improved Sanford.
“We control our destiny for playoffs,” Kezal said. “This is one game and we’ll enjoy it today, but Monday we have to move on. We can’t dwell on it, but it was a really good win.”
Scarborough (third in Class A South) is on the road Friday at Lewiston, then closes at home versus Bonny Eagle.
“We’ve got things to work on,” Johnson said. “Our season’s not over and we’ll learn from this. We’ll keep working and try to improve so we can win the next two (games) and get a home playoff game and a bye.”
Scarborough junior Jarett Flaker breaks the tackle of Thornton Academy sophomore Costa Gikas.
Scarborough junior quarterback Chase Cleary throws a pass.
Scarborough senior Connor Oliver reaches in vain for a pass as Thornton Academy junior Jackson Cochrane gives chase.
Scarborough junior Zach Alofs is held by Thornton Academy senior Derek Madore, negating what would be a long touchdown run by Golden Trojans senior Anthony Bracamonte.
Scarborough senior Jared Quintiliani reaches in vain for a pass.
Scarborough senior Tyler Gobeil is brought down by Thornton Academy junior Colby Bolduc and senior Athan Gikas.
Scarborough senior Connor Oliver breaks up a pass attempt.
@ Thornton Academy 48 Scarborough 7
Class A South semifinals
@ Thornton Academy 35 Scarborough 0
Thornton Academy 54 @ Scarborough 0
Western A semifinal
@ Thornton Academy 50 Scarborough 20
@ Thornton Academy 19 Scarborough 15
@ Thornton Academy 35 Scarborough 7
Western A semifinal
@ Thornton Academy 49 Scarborough 14
@ Thornton Academy 28 Scarborough 14
Thornton Academy 33 @ Scarborough 7
@ Thornton Academy 14 Scarborough 6
Thornton Academy 35 @ Scarborough 6
@ Thornton Academy 34 Scarborough 0
Thornton Academy 22 @ Scarborough 13
@ Thornton Academy 7 Scarborough 6