SACO — A goal-line stand just before halftime — and a page pulled from the school’s history books — lifted Thornton Academy to a 19-15 victory over Scarborough on Friday night before a crowd of 1,698 at Hill Stadium.
It was the first home night football game for Thornton Academy since October of 1938, and the widow of TA’s captain in that long-ago contest — played against St. Louis High of Biddeford with help from lights mounted on fire-truck ladders — was on hand for the pre-game coin toss.
“This is a special place,” said Thornton Academy Coach Kevin Kezal. “We talked about the history, and to have the captain’s wife out here, I think our kids understand that they’re playing for something bigger than themselves.”
Thornton Academy (2-1) took the lead midway through the third quarter, when Demel Ruff ran 22 yards for a touchdown following a short Scarborough punt under heavy pressure. The Red Storm (1-2) had four more possessions, but two ended in fumbles, one in a punt and the other in an end zone incompletion on fourth down.
“We had our chances,” said Scarborough Coach Lance Johnson, whose team held advantages in rushing yardage (167-124) and passing yardage (154-117) but turned the ball over five times, two on fumbles and three on interceptions. “The kids played hard. They gave everything they had. We just came up on the wrong end of a very good high school football game.”
Scarborough had taken a 15-13 lead into halftime after failing to score on six plays inside the 10 in the final two minutes of the second quarter. Dan LeClair broke a 56-yard run for the Red Storm before C.J. Michaud made a touchdown-saving tackle at the 9.
“I just couldn’t get past that last guy,” LeClair said. “If I had to do it over, I definitely would.”
From there, Scarborough tried two running plays and four passes — a blow-to-the-helmet penalty on the Trojans resulted in an automatic first down at the 4 — and the final pass was intercepted two yards deep in the end zone by Greg Ruff, who returned it nearly to midfield.
“We couldn’t punch it in,” LeClair said. “Offensively, we did a lot better with getting the ball down there. But their defense was tough. Near the goal line, it was really tough to jam it in there.”
LeClair led all ball carriers with 86 yards on 11 carries. Quarterback Ben Greenberg ran for 59 yards on 12 carries.
The Red Storm had taken leads of 7-0 and 15-7. Greenberg (9-for-25 passing for 154 yards) connected with Chris Cyr on consecutive passes, the first a diving catch good for 26 yards and the second good for 14 and a touchdown in the final minute of the first quarter.
Jesse Meikle answered immediately for Thornton Academy by returning the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown to tie the score at 7.
Undaunted, Scarborough drove 63 yards on eight plays to retake the lead. The big play was a screen pass to Zach Carrierio to convert a third-and-16 situation into a first down. LeClair also ran for 14 yards on third and inches.
Finally, Greenberg found tight end Brendon Smith on a crossing pattern and Smith rumbled into the end zone to complete a 27-yard scoring play.
A high snap on the point-after kick forced Greenberg, the holder, to scramble to his right, and his pass to Cyr was complete for two points and a 15-7 lead.
Once again, the Golden Trojans answered. Carter Davis returned the kickoff 43 yards before Scarborough kicker Cam Langlois dragged him down at the Scarborough 37. From there, Thornton’s offensive line opened holes for Meikle, Ruff, Davis and Owen Elliot, who helped grind out three first downs before Ruff bulled in from the 1.
A conversion pass attempt to tie the score was tipped away by the Scarborough secondary to preserve the Red Storm’s lead at 15-13.
TA’s winning drive was set up with heavy pressure on a Scarborough punt from its end zone, giving the Trojans the ball at the Red Storm 25. Two runs by Ruff was all it took for the go-ahead score.
Scarborough’s longest drive of the game, both in number of plays and yardage covered, wound up fizzling just before intermission when Thornton Academy stuffed two running plays, overcame the personal foul penalty, and survived four passing attempts.
“That was huge,” Kezal said. “We bent, but we tightened when we needed to. We told them to go out and battle for 48 minutes and they made the plays they needed to and found a way to win.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: