SACO – Kevin Kezal, the football coach at Thornton Academy, calls his offense “a work in progress.” Good thing the defense is a finished project.

Bolstered by the return of defensive end Dakota Tarbox from a concussion that kept him out of Week 2, the Trojans pitched a shutout Saturday at Hill Stadium — and needed it.

John Remmes scored the only touchdown in the first quarter as Thornton Academy edged Windham 7-0, dropping the Eagles to a stunning 0-3.

Tarbox had one of the two Thornton interceptions and also disrupted several other passing plays, knocking down two passes and rushing Eagles quarterback T.D. O’Brien.

“Just read our keys, ran to the ball. I think the biggest thing was we played with emotion today,” said Kezal, whose team is now 2-1 in a tight Western Class A. “That was something that was kind of missing last week at South Portland (a 20-16 loss). One thing we stressed all week was to go out and play hard. And we did that.”

Linebackers Bobby Begin (15 tackles) and Chris Madden (10) combined with Tarbox to make big play after big play. Begin continually clogged the middle and put pressure inside, Madden made a huge play on a screen pass (dropping the Eagles for a 4-yard loss) and Tarbox provided an edge rusher.

“This was really big after that loss,” said Begin. “We just need to keep it up, week after week.”

Begin knew the Trojans’ defense was going to be ready.

“During the week of practice, if we don’t have a good week we won’t play well,” he said. “And last week we had a really good week.”

They needed it because Windham’s defense also was good. The Eagles also intercepted two passes, recovered a fumble and sacked Thornton quarterback Eric Christensen four times.

But Windham’s offense struggled, as it has all year, to finish drives. Three times in the first half, bad shotgun snaps resulted in lost yards, and three dropped passes on third down ended drives. “You can’t do that stuff against good teams and expect to win,” said Windham Coach Matt Perkins.

The lone score came at the end of an impressive drive. Taking over on their 35 after a punt, the Trojans moved 65 yards in four plays for the score.

It began with a 41-yard counter run by Dylan Morton, followed by a 21-yard pass from Christensen to Tarbox to the Eagles’ 3. Christensen fumbled the snap but recovered for a gain to the 1. From there, Remmes powered in over the right. Brandon Briggs’ kick made it 7-0 with 4:07 left in the first.

And that was it. While Thornton’s defenders were hoping for some insurance, Tarbox said, “I believed we could do it. The defense definitely stepped up.”

Windham moved several times into Thornton territory, but each time was stopped short.

“I put a lot of that on myself,” said O’Brien. “I think I’m one of the leaders on the team and throwing picks, you can’t do that. We just can’t finish drives. We just have to finish drives.”

For the Trojans, who go on the road for three games, the win was a huge step after last week’s blip.

“We’re 2-1, that means we’re playing hard,” said Madden. “It’s a very close league so any win you can get is great. Just play hard every game and bring it. Being 2-1 is much better than being 1-2.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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