PORTLAND – The Bonny Eagle punt bounced off a Bonny Eagle lineman, then bounced on the ground several times.

One player touched it, then another, then one more.

Finally, Ryan Casale took action.

Casale, a sophomore linebacker for Cheverus, smothered the loose ball in the end zone and made sure nobody else could get a hand on it.

Casale’s fourth-quarter recovery, punctuating a game dictated by special teams and defense, helped Cheverus to a 23-20 victory Saturday in a meeting of the final two unbeaten teams in Western Class A at Boulos Stadium.

“Bonny Eagle has one of the best offenses I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Cheverus defensive back Liam Hobbins.

“They’re very multiple, they run a ton of different things, and it came down to the defense in the end.”

Hobbins intercepted Scots quarterback Matt Rollins at the Stags’ 1 with less than six minutes left.

But when the game was over, the punt that ended up as a Cheverus touchdown was the biggest topic.

“I was about 5 yards off the ball and I didn’t even see it, to be honest with you,” Hobbins said.

“I just saw a bunch of kids going for the ball and somehow we came up with it.”

Peter Gwilym, Cheverus’ quarterback and punt returner, stood at midfield and watched the play unfold.

“I just saw it get blocked and then I saw the scrum for the ball,” he said.

Even Cheverus Coach John Wolfgram had to wonder how it happened.

“I have no idea,” Wolfgram said. “They use a rugby punt, which has some advantages but also has some disadvantages.”

The touchdown was one of several special-teams plays that helped steer the game in Cheverus’ favor.

The Stags (7-0) capitalized on a pair of blocked punts, including the one that hit a Scots lineman in the back and landed in the end zone to set up Casale’s touchdown. The Scots also struggled on kickoffs and conversion plays.

Nate Martel’s extra-point attempt with 38 seconds left in the first quarter went wide left, and Rollins’ 2-point conversion pass attempt less than three minutes into the third quarter also failed. Twice, Cheverus started near midfield after short kickoffs, and another Bonny Eagle kickoff went out of bounds.

“Special teams was a huge factor,” Bonny Eagle Coach Kevin Cooper said. “We didn’t do a good job on special teams and we’ve been having some problems on special teams. Right now that’s my fault.

“We’re not getting our team to play better in that area of the football game, but that just goes to show you that a football game is made up of a lot of different components.

“If you’re weak in one area, a team like Cheverus is going to take advantage of it.”

Casale recovered a Bonny Eagle fumble on the opening kickoff to put Cheverus at the Scots’ 10, and the Stags took a 7-0 lead on Gwilym’s 1-yard run just 3:12 into the game, followed by the first of Louie DiStasio’s three point-after kicks.

Bonny Eagle cut Cheverus’ lead to 7-6 on Cam Cooper’s 60-yard touchdown reception from Rollins (6 of 15, 145 yards, two interceptions) with 38 seconds left in the first quarter.

Just 11 seconds later, Evan Jendrasko’s 65-yard touchdown run gave Cheverus a 14-6 lead.

Rollins connected with Cooper for a 46-yard touchdown pass with 1:28 left in the half, followed by Nick Adkins’ 2-point conversion run that tied the game.

Bonny Eagle running back Ethan Thorne’s 45-yard touchdown gave the Scots a 20-14 lead 2:44 into the third quarter, but Rollins’ conversion pass failed.

Two minutes later, the Cheverus defense tackled Rollins in the end zone for a safety, one play after a punt was downed at the 1.

Casale’s fumble recovery gave Cheverus a 23-20 lead with 9:28 left.

“We should have taken the safety there and we didn’t,” Cooper said of the second blocked punt.

“Had we taken the safety, the game might have ended 20-18 with us winning.”

 

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: [email protected]