SACO — A week ago, Sanford High was nearly unstoppable in an upset win in the first round of the Western Class A football playoffs.
Saturday afternoon, the Spartans could never get going. Spurred by a defensive front that dominated the inside, second-seeded Thornton Academy defeated Sanford 35-6 in a semifinal at Hill Stadium.
The Trojans held Sanford to 141 yards and were especially tough against the run. They tackled a Sanford runner either for no gain or behind the line of scrimmage 13 times – including the first three offensive plays of the game for the Spartans. Thornton also had three sacks.
“They set a physical tone,’’ said Sanford Coach Mike Fallon. “Their kids came out strong and physical. At times it felt like they had 14 guys in the tackle box.’’
Thornton (7-2) will play at top-seeded Bonny Eagle in the regional championship game at 7 p.m. Friday. The Trojans defeated Bonny Eagle 30-21 in the regular season.
Sanford finished 5-5.
“Our kids have been resilient all year,’’ said Thornton Coach Kevin Kezal. “We’ve had to overcome a lot already this season. And I think we’ve played some of our best football of the season at the end.’’
With a stiff wind blowing throughout the game, both teams had trouble moving the ball. But Thornton took advantage of having the wind at its back in the second quarter to get two touchdowns, both by Cody Lynn in a span of 1:17.
The first touchdown came on a perfect 33-yard lob pass from Austin McCrum, who hit Lynn in stride down the left sideline with 2:45 remaining in the first half. Chris Camire’s PAT made it 7-0.
“We thought we could pound the ball, pound the ball, pound the ball,’’ said Lynn. “Then when we would get our chance, take a shot down the field. With the wind at our back there was no reason not to.’’
The Trojans then stopped Sanford on three consecutive plays, calling two timeouts to make sure the Spartans would have to punt into the wind. Kezal called for a punt block and Jimmy Remmes broke through the line.
‘I dove and it hit my helmet,’’ said Remmes. “Not the best way to block it but it got it done.’’
The ball bounded back into the end zone, where Lynn chased it down, and Thornton had a 14-0 lead with 1:28 left in the half.
“That was a huge momentum swing,’’ said Lynn.
The Spartans were never able to recover. They had just 5 yards of offense in the third quarter as Thornton’s line, led by Jordan Berube and Elijah Ayotte, continually broke down the blocking schemes.
“We feel if we do what we’re supposed to do, you know, our jobs on the line, and we each do it to the best of our ability, we should be fine,’’ said Berube. “We were definitely psyched, pumped up for this game. It’s a playoff game and we knew we had to come in strong.’’
Thornton’s Demel Ruff (98 rushing yards) scored on a 10-yard run late in the third quarter. Then the Trojans made it 35-0 with two touchdowns just 1:49 apart early in the fourth, Owen Elliott scoring on a 3-yard run and Justin Boure on a 1-yard run after an interception by Greg Ruff.
Sanford got a late 9-yard touchdown run from Peter Hegarty.
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at: