PORTLAND – Colie Walsh didn’t think twice. The football was out of someone’s grasp, loose and rolling on the field. He dived for it and wouldn’t let anyone pry it from his hands.
Walsh played the fumble as if he had done it countless times before.
Except he hadn’t. Not in a game like this, playing for the Western Class A championship.
Not at a moment in the fourth quarter when Thornton Academy was trying to rally against Walsh and his Cheverus teammates.
Cam Olson took the snap from center and rolled to his right. Would-be tacklers loomed. Olson glanced to his left and saw open spaces.
He reversed field and ran to the middle, lowering his helmet as he plunged into the end zone, scoring Cheverus’ first touchdown.
The quarterback ran the play like he had run it before. Except he hadn’t, not with a bid to the state championship game at stake.
Donald Goodrich accelerated through a hole created by his Cheverus offensive line, quickly shifting into another gear. The footrace between him and Thornton Academy’s defensive backs wasn’t a race at all in the end. His touchdown run was for 54 yards.
Goodrich has flashed this speed before. But not in a game of this magnitude.
“Last year at this time I was sitting on my couch. Football was over for me.” He was a sophomore cornerback for York High then. He transferred to Cheverus and was a backup to Spencer Cooke until a broken bone in his right leg put Cooke on the sideline three weeks ago.
Ask Goodrich if he’s living a pinch-me, am-I-dreaming moment and he shakes his head. Don’t go there. Ever since landing at Cheverus it’s been an awakening. He’s not played with teammates like these or for a coach like John Wolfgram.
You may think Cheverus’ unbeaten run to the state title game is just a continuation of last year’s championship success and be partly right. Walsh, Olson and Goodrich are just three examples of what the Cheverus banner read behind the end zone: New year, new team, one championship.
The constant, of course, is Wolfgram and his intense thoroughness. There’s a certain security playing for the man, said Walsh and echoed by Goodrich. Channel his instructions and his philosophy into your performance, and chances are good things will happen.
Walsh is a senior fullback and defensive end. He got into games last year when Evan Jendrasko came out. Jendrasko didn’t go to the sidelines much. Saturday, Walsh carried the ball some but was more a factor in helping a defense led by big tackle Christian Deschenes and linebacker Ryan Casale in taking away any flow to Thornton Academy’s offense.
Olson missed most of last season with an injury. He was in street clothes on the sideline when Peter Gwilym led Cheverus to its epic 35-34 victory over Deering in the Western Class A title game last November. All he could do was listen when Gwilym ran off the field late in the game, venting his frustrations.
Olson didn’t rattle when Andrew Libby interecepted his pass in the end zone or when Brandon Briggs’ field goal gave Thornton Academy the game’s first lead. This outcome was up for grabs in the first half.
Early on, Goodrich and running mate Brent Green weren’t finding the room to run. Big games can grow big doubts but Goodrich said he didn’t have any. He trusted his linemen, he said.
They and the others had accepted him when he came to the first Cheverus practice sessions in August. He was the new kid from York looking to join a championship team.
Goodrich smiled when asked about the transition. “It was all good.” Saturday it was better than that.
Cheverus beat a stubborn Thornton Academy team, 21-10. After Walsh recovered the fumble that snuffed out Thornton’s last hopes, he held the football in his raised hand. Then he turned around and prepared to play offense.
After the last second ticked off the scoreboard, the celebration was muted. As a team, if not as individuals, Cheverus acted like they’d been there before.
Wolfgram, said Walsh, is real good in teaching his players how to respond.
Sports Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: [email protected]