TA rallies past Scarborough to capture instant classic, earn dose of revenge

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Scarborough senior Anthony Griffin bears down on Thornton Academy sophomore quarterback Will Mitchell during the teams’ showdown Friday night. The Red Storm held a 14-point fourth quarter lead, but let it slip away and the Golden Trojans got a measure of revenge from last year’s playoff ouster with a palpitating 32-28 triumph.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.


Thornton Academy 32 Scarborough 28

TA- 7 0 7 18- 32
S- 7 0 14 7- 28

First quarter
S- Garrard 1 run (McDonnell kick)
TA- LaBreck 18 pass from Mitchell (Forbes kick)

Second quarter
No scoring

Third quarter
S- Garrard 14 run (McDonnell kick)
TA- Montano 2 run (Forbes kick)
S- Flaker 28 run (McDonnell kick)

Fourth quarter
S- Dudley 74 pass from Panyi (McDonnell kick)
TA- Mitchell 5 run (kick failed)
TA- LaBreck 70 pass from Mitchell (pass failed)
TA- Bracamonte 8 pass from Mitchell (pass failed)

SCARBOROUGH—It was, as expected, another down-to-the-wire instant classic.

With a twist.

This time around, Scarborough was the favorite and Thornton Academy the underdog and after the Red Storm ended the Golden Trojans’ title reign a year ago with a last-minute touchdown, this time around, Thornton Academy would save its best for last.

Scarborough got off to a fast start when it drove 50 yards in 10 plays to grab a 7-0 lead on senior Owen Garrard’s 1-yard touchdown plunge.

The Red Storm’s defense then held and the hosts got the ball back with a chance to grab a commanding early advantage, but in an ominous sign of things to come, a bad center exchange led to a fumble and the Golden Trojans got the ball in good field position and they capitalized, as sophomore quarterback Will Mitchell hit junior C.J. LaBreck for an 18-yard score to tie it, 7-7.

Despite ample opportunities, neither team could score again the rest of the first quarter, nor in the second and the game went to the half still deadlocked.

All kinds of zaniness then broke out in the second half, as the shootout everyone expected finally broke out.

As it did to start the game, Scarborough produced a touchdown on its first second half drive, as Garrard broke free for a 14-yard run and a 14-7 lead.

Again, a Red Storm turnover gave Thornton Academy a short field and the Golden Trojans would draw even when junior Jason Montano scored on a 2-yard burst.

Scarborough went back on top, when its big play capability began to assert itself later in the third. After senior quarterback Zoltan Panyi broke free for a 38-yard run, sophomore Jarett Flaker scored on a 28-yard scamper.

Early in the fourth period, Panyi and senior Cody Dudley hooked up for a 74-yard TD and the Red Storm were poised to break away, leading, 28-14.

But just when Thornton Academy appeared on life support, it dug deep into its reservoir of championship heart and embarked on a palpitating rally.

Twice Mitchell hit LaBreck for long passes, setting up a 5-yard scoring run by the quarterback. The extra point failed, but the Golden Trojans were back within a score.

After a Scarborough punt, Thornton Academy struck quickly again, as Mitchell found LaBreck for a 70-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, but with 4:51 to play, the Golden Trojans’ deficit was 28-26.

Thornton Academy wasn’t finished and it got the ball back with 1:49 remaining. After Mitchell hit LaBreck for 40 yards to get into scoring position, Mitchell found junior Anthony Bracamonte from 8 yards out with 45 seconds remaining to put the Golden Trojans ahead for the first time.

A last-ditch Red Storm drive couldn’t produce any points and Thornton Academy was able to escape with a surprising 32-28 victory.

The Golden Trojans stayed perfect all-time in the regular season against Scarborough, improved to 3-0 and dropped the Red Storm to 2-1 in the process.

“The kids had a great effort tonight,” said Thornton Academy coach Kevin Kezal. “Both sides of the ball. What I liked is that our kids showed great resiliency. They’re young, but they just worried about the next play. It’s a good win. It’s good for our psyche. To win it gives the guys big-game experience.”

“We wound up on the wrong side of it, but I’m proud of our guys,” said Scarborough coach Lance Johnson. “We played hard.”

First test

Both teams rolled in their first two outings.

Thornton Academy was a 46-6 winner at Massabesic in its first game, then dominated Deering in its home opener last weekend, 55-12.

Scarborough blanked host Deering, 43-0, to start, then enjoyed a 49-15 home win over Sanford last week.

Until last November, this rivalry had been all Thornton Academy, which won all 12 previous regular season meetings, including a 34-19 decision last year at Scarborough, and the first three postseason encounters. That all changed in last year’s Class A South semifinal when the Red Storm drove for a shocking late touchdown to end the Golden Trojans’ title reign, 36-29.

No one would be surprised if the teams play twice again this fall, but just one meeting was guaranteed and that one kicked off Friday night under pleasant 65-degree skies and ultimately, after a 48-minute struggle, went the way of the visitors.

Scarborough won the opening coin toss and elected to receive. After a rarely seen off-sides penalty on the kickoff, Thornton Academy booted the ball away and the Red Storm started at midfield after Dudley returned a squib kick 16 yards. Scarborough would march 50 yards in 10 plays and 4 minutes, 29 seconds to grab a quick lead.

The opening drive relied mostly on Garrard’s skills, as he ran for four-, then seven-yards to move the chains. After Panyi’s first pass resulted in a four-yard pass to senior Connor Kelly, Panyi kept the ball and ran for nine yards and a first down at the Golden Trojans’ 26. Garrard then ran for eight- and two-yards for another first down at the 16. After Panyi kept the ball for four yards, Panyi threw a quick pass to senior Jaquan Seme, who was brought down by his shirt-tail after a seven-yard gain to set up first-and-goal at the 5. Garrard then carried for four yards and on the next snap, Garrard bulled in from the 1 with 7:27 to play in the opening quarter. Sophomore Liam McDonnell added the extra point and the Red Storm had a 7-0 lead.

Scarborough was also off-sides on its initial kickoff and Thornton Academy wound up starting at its 46. The Golden Trojans got runs of five yards by Bracamonte and two yards by junior Grant Dow and a two-yard pass from Mitchell to Bracamonte to set up fourth-and-1, where Montano moved the chains with a two-yard pickup. Dow then ran for two yards, but a bad snap led to a nine-yard loss and a Mitchell pass to Bracamonte only gained one yard, forcing a punt.

With 5:06 remaining in the opening quarter, the Red Storm took over at their 17 and after Panyi rolled left and threw a pretty pass to Seme for 16 yards, a bad snap put the ball on the turf and Thornton Academy senior Cam Jones pounced on it at the Red Storm 30.

The Golden Trojans took advantage and marched 30 yards in four plays and 87 seconds to pull even.

After Bracamonte ran for two yards and Mitchell kept the ball for three, Mitchell ran again for seven yards and a first down at the 18. On the next snap, Mitchell hit LaBreck with a quick slant and LaBreck broke a tackle and eluded several other defenders en route to an 18-yard TD reception. With 3:05 left on the first quarter clock, sophomore Brady Forbes added the PAT to tie it, 7-7.

Scarborough went three-and-out on its next series, which started with a delay of game penalty. Panyi sandwiched incomplete passes around a seven-yard sweep by Seme and after a punt, Thornton Academy started at the Red Storm 48.

Scarborough’s defense then stepped up, as after Mitchell threw incomplete and ran for four yards, Mitchell’s pass was intercepted by Seme at the 30. Seme ran up the left sideline 43 yards to the 27 to seemingly put the Red Storm in business, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty brought the ball all the way back to the Scarborough 36.

After Dudley ran for five yards and Garrard kept the ball for one to bring the curtain down on the opening stanza (the Red Storm had a 71-35 edge in yardage), Panyi hit Seme for four yards on the first play of the second period to move the chains. After Garrard picked up another first down with a 12-yard rumble, Panyi threw incomplete. He kept the ball on the next snap for nine yards, then, after scooping up another bad snap, Panyi rolled right and hit Seme for 13 yards and a first down at the Thornton Academy 20. The drive wouldn’t end in points, however, as Panyi ran for three yards, Garrard picked up three more, then ran for an additional three, setting up fourth-and-1 at the 11. An apparent four-yard run for a first down by Dudley was negated by a holding penalty and Panyi’s subsequent pass was incomplete, giving Thornton Academy the ball back at its 20.

The Golden Trojans hoped to drive for the lead and moved the chains, as Dow ran twice for three yards and on the second carry, a five-yard facemask penalty was tacked on, setting the stage for a four-yard run by Montano for a first down at the 32. After Mitchell threw incomplete, Bracamonte was held to no gain by senior Jeremy Sendrowski and on third down, Mitchell’s pass to LaBreck was only good for one yard.

After a punt, with 4:33 to play in the half, the Red Storm started at their 40 and again threatened, only to shoot themselves in the foot once more.

Panyi threw incomplete on first down, but Seme gained 12 yards on the next snap for a first down in Thornton Academy territory. After Garrard gained three yards, Dudley ran for eight and a first down at the Golden Trojans’ 37. Panyi threw incomplete, but on the next snap, Panyi kept the ball, ran for 12 yards and lowered his head to inflict pain upon a defender at the end of the play. After Panyi threw incomplete, Garrard ran for five yards, but a false start penalty was followed by a bad snap that resulted in a 10-yard loss. After another false start, on fourth-and-25, Panyi hit Dudley for 19 yards, but Thornton Academy got the ball back at its 21.

Dow ran for six yards and that brought the curtain down on a first half which ended tied, 7-7.

In the first 24 minutes, Scarborough outgained Thornton Academy, 154 yards to 55. Garrard gained 53 yards on 12 carries, while Panyi was 6-of-13 passing for 63 yards. He also ran for 37 yards. The Red Storm were done in by six penalties for 62 yards. Each team turned the ball over once.

A defensive struggle would turn into the offensive thriller that everyone expected in the second half.

The Golden Trojans got the ball first in the third quarter, but after Mitchell ran for two yards and Bracamonte ran for one, Mitchell dropped the snap and lost three yards, necessitating a punt.

Scarborough then got its offense going again, starting at its 46 and marching 54 yards on four plays in 1:58 to go back on top.

Dudley ran twice for a total of two yards before Panyi dropped a gorgeous pass into the arms of Kelly on a pass down the left sideline for 38 yards to set up first down at the Thornton Academy 14. On the next play, Garrard got the call and burst free for a touchdown. McDonnell added the extra point and with 7:40 to play in the third, the Red Storm were on top, 14-7.

The Golden Trojans gave the ball right back, as after sophomore Julian Bailey-Cottle ran for two yards and Mitchell threw incomplete, Mitchell’s third down pass was intercepted by junior Tyler Gobeil, who made a nice play to cut in front of junior Ethan Logan, giving Scarborough the ball back at its 37.

The hosts couldn’t take advantage, however, as after Panyi kept the ball for three yards and a holding penalty cost the Red Storm a dozen yards, another bad snap led to a fumble which Thornton Academy sophomore Tanner Lynn recovered at Scarborough’s 26.

For the second time in the game, the Golden Trojans took advantage of a short field to tie the score, needing six plays and 2:26 to reach paydirt.

After Mitchell hit junior Derek Madore for 13 yards, Bailey-Cottle ran for four. Mitchell found Bracamonte for five yards, setting up third-and-1, where Montano appeared to be held to no gain by Garrard, but the ball was spotted at the 3 for a first down. Mitchell ran for a yard and Montano got the next opportunity and he scored from the 2, backing across the goal line. With 3:27 left in the third, Forbes’ PAT tied the score again, 14-14.

Scarborough quickly shook that off with a lightning-fast touchdown drive of its own.

The Red Storm started at their 18 after an illegal block penalty on the kickoff, but needed just five plays and 1:42 to go back on top.

Panyi ran for five yards on first down and Seme moved the chains with a seven-yard burst. Panyi then found daylight and ran 38 yards to the Thornton Academy 32. After a four-yard run by Garrard, Flaker, a state champion sprinter, made a tremendous individual play to put Scarborough ahead.

First, Flaker somehow managed to corral an errant Panyi pitch with his left hand. Then, apparently sealed in by the defense, Flaker broke a tackle, squeezed through a small hole and turned on the jets en route to a 28-yard touchdown. McDonnell added the extra point for a 21-14 lead with 1 minute left in the frame.

As the third period gave way to the fourth, Mitchell hit LaBreck for 28 yards on a slant and Bailey-Cottle ran for three yards. On the first play of the new quarter, Mitchell found LaBreck again for 11 yards and a first down at the Red Storm 21. Scarborough’s defense would rise up, however, dropping Bracamonte for a three-yard loss on a screen pass, forcing an incomplete pass, then, after Mitchell caught a pass that was tipped by sophomore Zach Alofs, he was stripped of the ball and senior Reece Lagerquist recovered at the Red Storm 26.

Scarborough then quickly added what appeared to be an insurance touchdown.

After a false start penalty, Dudley lost two yards and Panyi ran for seven. On third-and-5, Panyi dropped back and threw a strike to Dudley over the middle around midfield. Dudley turned on the afterburners and left the Golden Trojans’ defense in his wake en route to a 74-yard score, which capped a three-play, 74-yard, 1:40 drive. With 9:27 on the clock, McDonnell’s PAT pushed the lead to 28-14.

But just when it appeared the Red Storm were home free, Thornton Academy had them right where it wanted them.

Starting from their 48, the Golden Trojans needed only three plays and 44 seconds to make things interesting.

On first down, Mitchell hit LaBreck for 22 yards. On the next snap, Mitchell found LaBreck for 25 more to the Scarborough 5. Mitchell then did the rest himself, spinning and fighting his way into the end zone with 8:36 still to play. Forbes pulled the extra point to the left, but Thornton Academy was back within one score, 28-20.

“We responded quickly there, which was nice,” Kezal said.

The Red Storm couldn’t milk much clock or extend their lead on their next drive. After Garrard ran for three yards, then caught a pass for 12 yards and a first down, Flaker was thrown for a one-yard loss by senior Eric Heiman, Flaker got the ball again and was tackled for no gain on a play where it appeared his facemask got twisted, leaving Scarborough’s coaching staff apoplectic. On third down, Panyi threw incomplete and the hosts had to punt.

With 5:41 to play, the Golden Trojans took over at their 25 and in just 50 seconds, Thornton Academy was in the end zone again.

After Bracamonte caught a pass for five yards, Mitchell hit LaBreck on a quick slant over the middle. Two defenders went for the interception and came up short and LaBreck bobbled the ball before corralling it and racing up the field 70 yards for another score. Lagerquist knocked down Mitchell’s two-point conversion pass, but with 4:51 remaining, the Red Storm’s lead was cut to 28-26.

Scarborough then gave the ball right back, as after Panyi was held for no gain, a bad snap was recovered by Heiman at the Red Storm 27 with 3:59 to play.

Senior captain and center Ben Hughes was unavailable due to injury and that loomed large in this one.

“That’s football,” Johnson said. “I’m proud of (sophomore backup Max Piispanen) for competing. Sometimes those things just happen.”

Scarborough’s defense would stiffen, however, and for the moment, hold on to the lead.

After Mitchell threw incomplete, Alofs held Bracamonte to no gain on a reception. Garrard then knocked down a pass and on fourth down, Seme broke up a pass to LaBreck, giving the Red Storm the ball back at their 27 with 3:01 on the clock.

Scarborough had a chance to gain a couple first downs and salt away a victory, but it couldn’t do so.

An ill-time false start penalty got the drive off to an inauspicious beginning. Garrard picked up nine yards on the next step, then gained two, setting up third-and-4. Seme got the ball, but fumbled it. Lagerquist recovered, but the play lost 10 yards, forcing a punt.

Dudley managed to avoid disaster by snaring a high snap and getting the punt airborne and the hosts got better news when a block-in-the-back penalty on Thornton Academy forced the Golden Trojans to begin their final drive at their 31 with 1:49 to go.

Thornton Academy still had the momentum, however, and soon marched for the winning score.

The drive began with an eight-yard run by Bracamonte. Mitchell then hit LaBreck on a quick slant and LaBreck took it 40 yards to the Scarborough 21.

The Golden Trojans were already in Forbes’ field goal range, but went for the touchdown and were rewarded.

Bracamonte ran for five yards and after Mitchell threw incomplete, Bracamonte ran for eight yards and a first down at the 8. With the clock under a minute, Mitchell dropped back and hit Bracamonte in the back right corner of the end zone for the go-ahead score.

“I saw they played Cover 2 (defense) at first, then we called a fade,” said Mitchell. “I knew that Anthony had great agility and he’d make a move. He was there.”

“Our line did a great job protecting, we executed well and Will put the ball on the money to C.J.,” Kezal said.

The two-point conversion pass was off target, but with only 45 seconds remaining on the clock, Thornton Academy led for the first time, 32-28.

With Panyi’s arm and Scarborough’s fine receivers, the game wasn’t over yet and the Red Storm got the ball back at their 24 with 38 seconds left. On first down, senior Cameron Houde broke up a pass intended for Dudley. Panyi missed again on second down, then scrambled for no yardage on third. Panyi kept hope alive by hitting Kelly for 13 yards, but after an incomplete pass, Panyi dropped back for one final throw, only to see it fell incomplete as time expired and the Golden Trojans rushed the field to celebrate their 32-28 triumph.

“We just trusted our offensive line and our defense,” Mitchell said. “I knew we’d come out on top. We try and get better every day. We grew up tonight.”

“It was two great teams making plays,” Kezal said. “We must made a couple more than they did. Pride is good and we talk about it, but it comes down to execution. We’ve had so much turnover. Only like three kids played in that (playoff) game last year. I was more worried about our young guys playing a real quality opponent on the road and being able to compete. We wanted to play with great effort. These kids have done everything we’ve asked of them. They’ve gotten better every time.”

Thornton Academy finished with 316 total yards.

Mitchell completed 17-of-27 passes for 246 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

“We had more time to pass the ball in the second half and things opened up,” Mitchell said. “I just had to see my reads.”

LaBreck had an exceptional receiving game, catching eight passes for 215 yards and two scores.

Bracamonte had seven catches for 18 yards and a TD.

On the ground, Bracamonte had seven rushes for 29 yards, Dow gained 15 yards on five attempts and Mitchell had seven carries for 19 yards and a touchdown.

The Golden Trojans overcame three turnovers and were only penalized twice for 10 yards.

Scarborough mustered 372 yards, but was short-circuited by three turnovers and 10 penalties for 94 yards.

“We didn’t play smart and we made too many mistakes,” Johnson said. “It’s the same story three weeks in a row, too many penalties, too many mistakes.”

Panyi wound up 10-of-21 for 200 yards and one TD. He also ran 11 times for 90 yards. Dudley caught two passes for 93 yards and a touchdown. Seme had four catches for 40 yards. Kelly had three receptions for 53 yards.

Garrard had 17 carries for 85 yards and two scores.

Seme ran four times for 16 yards.

Flaker had three carries for 27 yards and a touchdown.

“We felt good after the touchdown to Dudley, but they hung tough and made the plays they had to make,” Johnson said. “Bracamonte and C.J. LaBreck and Mitchell, there aren’t three better athletes on any team. They’re tough to handle and they responded and played well in the second half.”

Back to business

Thornton Academy looks to stay perfect Saturday when it hosts Cheverus.

“It’s great for us to celebrate this win, but we know it’s not over,” Mitchell said. “We’ll probably see (Scarborough) again in playoffs.”

“So far, so good,” Kezal said. “It’s a good win, but it’s just the regular season. This is one that down the line will pay dividends for us.”

Scarborough travels to 0-3 Massabesic Friday.

“The good thing is that the season isn’t over,” said Johnson. “We’ll show up and get back to work. The guys understand what it takes to keep it going and bounce back. I’m not disappointed with the effort. We just have to get better.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Scarborough senior quarterback Zoltan Panyi looks for a receiver.

Scarborough sophomore Zach Alofs pressures Thornton Academy sophomore quarterback Will Mitchell.

Scarborough senior Owen Garrard rides the blocking of sophomore Max Piispanen.

Scarborough senior Jaquan Seme finds daylight.

Scarborough junior Tyler Gobeil, left, and senior Jeremy Sendrowski combine to bring down Thornton Academy sophomore quarterback Will Mitchell.

Scarborough senior Cody Dudley races free.

Previous Scarborough-Thornton Academy results

Thornton Academy 34 @ Scarborough 19
Class A South semifinal
Scarborough 36 @ Thornton Academy 29

@ 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

Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.