PORTLAND — The longest winning streak in Class A football history is over. A determined and physical Thornton Academy saw to that.
Andrew Libby scored three touchdowns and the Golden Trojans shut down the Cheverus offense to win the Western Class A title with a 20-13 victory Saturday at Boulos Stadium.
Cheverus had its Class A-record consecutive win streak end at 34 games.
Thornton (10-1) advanced to Saturday’s state final against Lawrence High of Fairfield at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. It will be Thornton’s first appearance in a state championship football final since beating Lawrence in 1988.
The Stags (10-1) won the last two state championships and hadn’t lost since a 7-6 setback to Windham three years ago in the regional final.
A year ago, Thornton lost in the regional final, and also lost 28-14 to Cheverus a month ago in their regular-season meeting at Saco.
But this time was different. Thornton played with confidence.
“I think our kids learned from our first game with Cheverus,” said Thornton Coach Kevin Kezal. “You could see they dialed it up a notch in the last two weeks.”
Thornton, bigger and stronger, battered Cheverus on off-tackle plays.
“The field was a little slick and we wanted to play physical football,” said Kezal. “The line did a great job. (Libby) had a great game on both sides of the ball.”
Libby, a junior, carried 28 times for 130 yards. On defense, he laid some hard shots on the Cheverus backs.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Libby. “We were here a year ago with pretty much the same team. Our goal was to play with as much intensity and to fight for everything. My plays started working well and we stayed with it. The blocking by our line was amazing.”
After being penalized for blocking from behind on the opening kickoff and being called for procedure on first down, Thornton, starting on its 11, gave the ball to Libby, who bulled his way for 10 yards. It was an indication of things to come.
The Golden Trojans scored on their next possession after a short punt. Thornton converted a fourth-and-4 on the 18 when Eric Christensen passed to Libby for 7 yards. Libby scored from the 6 on third down.
The Stags missed a chance to tie it early in the second quarter. On fourth down at the goal line, quarterback Liam Fitzpatrick bobbled the snap and fell on the ball.
But the Stags soon tied it, taking advantage of a short Thornton punt. Donald Goodrich, held in check for most of the game, gained 11 on first down. Two plays later, Fitzpatrick rolled left and scored from the 16.
Libby scored his second touchdown on a 4-yard run with 32 seconds left in the half, one play after converting on a fourth-and-3.
The Stags fumbled on the first play of the second half with Thornton recovering. The drive ended with Brandon Briggs missing a 32-yard field goal.
Cheverus pulled within 14-13 on an 18-yard run by Goodrich with 7:18 left, but the point- after kick was blocked by the middle of the line.
The Stags got the ball back two more times, but each time the defense rose up.
Cheverus went for it on fourth-and-8 on its 19, but Fitzpatrick was pressured and dropped after a short gain.
On first down, Libby then powered his way through the middle behind strong blocking to score from the 20 to make it 20-13. Thornton went for the 2-point conversion to put it out of reach, but Libby was stopped just short.
Cheverus had one last chance, and a Fitzpatrick to Noah Stebbins pass gained 21 yards to the Thornton 23. But consecutive sacks by Dakota Tarbox, Bobby Begin and Quinlan O’Brien pushed the Stags back to midfield. A fourth down incompletion meant the Golden Trojans were heading to the state final and Cheverus’ reign was over.
“Thornton is a big and physical team,” said Cheverus Coach John Wolfgram. “It was tough for us to stop them and tough to run against them. We had to go to a few other things. Our kids played with a lot of will.
“We had to play our A game to beat Thornton. We did in the first game; we didn’t this game. Losing is part of the game, unfortunately. We haven’t been involved in that end of it for a long time. This is a great group of kids. This is the first time they’ve lost in three years. That’s a pretty good tribute. I couldn’t be more proud of my kids.”
Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org