SOUTH PORTLAND – Cheverus got tested, if however briefly, for the first time this season, and responded in a big way Friday night.

The Stags scored 31 unanswered points, ignited by an 88-yard kickoff return by Spencer Cooke, to roll past South Portland 45-21 in a Western Class A game at Martin Memorial Field.

Cheverus (3-0) took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, only to have South Portland (2-1) tie it.

“It was gut-check time,” said Cooke.

On his kickoff return that swung the momentum back to the Stags, Cooke said: “I followed my blockers and got a seam.”

Cooke scored two touchdowns and gained 130 yards, but again, Cheverus showed balance with fullback Evan Jendrasko and quarterback Peter Gwilym.

Gwilym scored two touchdowns and finished with 63 yards rushing. Jendrasko scored once and had 90 yards rushing.

“I liked the way we got physical with our run game in the second half,” said Cheverus Coach John Wolfgram.

Cheverus intercepted two passes and recovered two fumbles.

“We made way too many mistakes to have any chance against a talented team like Cheverus,” said South Portland Coach Steve Stinson.

“I thought we came out a little tight, which surprised me. Once we settled down, we started to play well.”

A interception by Liam Fitzpatrick led to the Stags’ first score. Cheverus scored in five plays from the South Portlasd 28 with Cooke going the final 2 yards. Louis DiStasio kicked the extra point.

Cheverus stopped the Red Riots on their next series. Starting from the 39, the Stags were set back on a motion penalty but converted a third-and-11 when Jendrasko ran for 13 yards. Six plays later, Jendrasko scored from the 1.

The Riots rallied on two plays, both by elusive quarterback Tommy Ellis.

After taking advantage of a personal-foul penalty on Cheverus, Ellis gained 39 yards around left end to the Cheverus 12. After moving to the 3 on three running plays, Joey DiBiase went off tackle for the touchdown on fourth down.

On the ensuing kickoff, Harrison Kiethly of South Portland recovered a fumble to give the Riots the ball at the Cheverus 30. On first down, Ellis cut through the defense to score.

Brenden Horton’s point after made it 14-14.

Cooke followed with his kickoff return to put Cheverus on top. DiStasio then kicked a 28-yard field goal with 14 seconds left in the half to make it 24-14.

“DiStasio’s field goal was big,” said Wolfgram. “It put us up by two scores.”

Cheverus was penalized 15 yards for coming out late to start the second half.

But the Stags turned it into their favor when a jarring tackle on the kickoff forcd a fumble that was recovered by Dan Peabody-Harriman. Cheverus then scored in 10 plays, with Gwilym sweeping left end on a 1-yard touchdown run.

Jendrasko ran 16 yards on the first play of the drive.

Gwilym added another 1-yard touchdown run later in the third quarter, and Liam Hobbins had a 1-yard run in the fourth.

The Riots scored with 1:20 remaining when Jacob Stanley ran 20 yards.

“South Portland had three big plays,” said Wolfgram. “There was a swing in momentum early in the game that we handled.”

Ellis led the Riots in rushing with 92 yards on 14 carries. He completed three passes for 30 yards. Gwilym hit 2 of 5 passes for 20 yards.

 

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at: [email protected]