After Biddeford High started the football season with a 48-14 thumping at the hands of Bonny Eagle, no one was quite sure what to expect from the Tigers.
But after their convincing 28-6 win Friday night over Sanford, the Tigers stand 4-2 and have a chance for a bye in the first round of the Western Class A playoffs. Biddeford is fourth in the Crabtree standings, with games remaining at No. 3 South Portland and at No. 2 Thornton Academy (both 4-2).
Brian Curit, who returned this year to coach the Tigers after resigning in 2006, isn’t entirely surprised.
“We played Bonny Eagle, and if you think of it, that was a heck of an opener,” Curit said of the Scots (6-0). “And we played Cheverus the week before (in an exhibition). Think about it, those two teams, for all intents and purposes, could be playing the week before Thanksgiving (for the Class A state championship).
“And I knew, keep in mind how young we are. We’re young everywhere. And I think we had that deer-in-the-headlights look at the beginning of the year. Now they’ve started to get it. I’ve never questioned how hard they work. I think they had to believe they could compete.”
Senior running back Corey Creeger, who scored a touchdown against the Spartans, added, “The first game, we (had) a devastating loss. And every week we’ve been progressing. We’ve been moving forward, fixing things that need to be fixed. The one time we didn’t come out on top (a 41-21 loss to Scarborough), they were just a better team than us. But we’ve been progressing every week.”
The Tigers converted four fourth-down plays in the first half, three for touchdowns and the other a 27-yard completion. Curit felt the Tigers had to play aggressively.
“Sanford is a good team, take a look at how they’ve played everyone all year,” he said. “We knew if we didn’t do that, it could be trouble. I never felt the lead was safe against them.”
SINCE GETTING past Portland in the season opener, 35-25, the Cheverus football team has dominated all of its opponents. The average score in the Stags’ last five games is 56.4-7.4.
Despite the almost perfectly average score, Saturday’s 56-7 win against Thornton (4-2) was an above-average effort.
“We’ve played fairly well this year but I think that was our best game,” Coach John Wolfgram said. “They’re a real quality opponent is the thing.”
“We get better week-to-week. We’re improving,” senior two-way tackle Greg Grinnell said. “We’ll just see how next week goes. We have Bangor. Every team we play is good. We prepare the same way.”
After his six-TD, 261-yard effort, junior running back Joe Fitzpatrick has 21 touchdowns (20 rushing) this season.
Cheverus allowed only 171 yards — 80 coming on a long touchdown run by Demel Ruff. TA’s passing game was stifled and held to six short completions in 17 attempts for just 30 yards.
Sophomore cornerback Isaac Dunn was on the spot for an early interception that he returned 30 yards to set up a touchdown.
When the Cheverus offense made its one mistake — a fumble by Cody O’Brien — the defense got it right back, forcing a Thornton fumble two plays later that Will Hilton recovered.
“Fumbles are not acceptable, as Coach says, but they do happen sometimes,” O’Brien said. “We’ve got to handle sudden changes. We played on defense. We had our heads in it and we got the ball back.”
O’Brien, a senior captain, had three tackles for losses and a pass break-up from his inside linebacker slot. He also gained 115 yards on 15 carries.
“Preparation-wise we prepared the best we have all year. We had an awesome week of practice,” O’Brien said.
Cheverus’ first-team offense was on the field for a drive that started with 9:16 remaining and the Stags leading 49-7. It produced a 10-play, 70-yard scoring drive.
“We were playing our starters. I’m glad they were playing theirs,” Thornton Coach Kevin Kezal said.
“We’ve got to improve. They’re a good football team, so I’m glad they played their starters. If we want a chance at the end you’ve got to play the best teams. This is one of the better teams.”
FANS OF high-scoring football got their money’s worth Friday night at Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex in Scarborough, where the Red Storm edged South Portland 58-57 in double overtime.
Some gaudy numbers led to the 115 points. For the Red Storm (3-3), quarterback Ben Greenberg ran 24 times for 200 yards and four touchdowns. He also completed 6 of 12 passes for 104 yards.
Halfback Dan LeClair ran the ball 28 times for 198 yards and four touchdowns, including the Red Storm’s final TD in the second overtime. Receiver Chris Cyr won it, rushing into the end zone on a jet sweep around right end.
For the Red Riots (4-2), quarterback Duncan Preston ran 13 times for 69 yards and three TDs. He also completed 11 of 20 passes for 155 yards and a TD. Halfback Joey DiBiase had 19 carries for 114 yards and three TDs.
South Portland trailed 27-6 at halftime, but Preston, DiBiase and the Riots’ running game rattled off three TDs to tie it at 27.
“We just knew how good they are with their skill kids and how quickly they can score,” said Scarborough Coach Lance Johnson. “We knew it was far from over at halftime.”
The Red Storm responded with a 17-play, 66-yard drive capped by Greenberg’s 7-yard TD run. “That was a great drive,” Johnson said. “Every time we got down, the kids dug in and fought. I’m very proud of them.”
Back and forth the teams went, tying the score at 42 to force overtime.
“We were a completely different team in the second half,” South Portland Coach Steve Stinson said. “I’m very proud of how we played in the second half and both overtime periods. We were playing at a completely different level. It was too little, too late, though. We shouldn’t have spotted them the whole first half.”
The victory gave Scarborough a two-game winning streak, and it ended South Portland’s unbeaten run at three games.
Falmouth Coach Spike Herrick jokingly said after the Yachtsmen secured another Class A state championship Saturday at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro that the program’s success was because of great coaching.
Herrick is the first to admit that a major reason for the program’s success is location, location, location.
Herrick has a built-in feeder system with the help of the fact that the town has three private golf courses. Many of the Falmouth players have parents who are members of Portland Country Club, the Woodlands Club or Falmouth Country Club.
Falmouth alternates playing its matches between the Woodlands and Falmouth Country Club.
The players get started young in those clubs’ junior programs, and by the time they reach high school they have a strong foundation in the game.
“We’re a wealthy community,” said senior Joe Lesniak, Falmouth’s top player. “But the kids work hard on the game. We’re at every practice and we continue working outside of practice.”
Falmouth has won eight state titles, four in Class C and two each in B and A.
“This is the deepest team I’ve had,” said Herrick.
With the town continuing to produce strong golfers, it’s clear Falmouth is going to keep vying for state titles. It just stands to reason, because places like York, Cape Elizabeth have had their high school teams dominate in the sport. Those communities also have private courses where the players learn the game.
And then there are the teams that are by-products of exceptionally strong junior programs, such as Greely, Gorham and Thornton Academy, who have also produced their share of state championship teams.
– Staff Writers Mike Lowe, Steve Craig and Tom Chard and correspondent Greg Reid contributed to this report.