Demel Ruff broke through the line and saw open field. His 46-yard run midway through the third quarter not only tied the game, but it began an onslaught that carried Thornton Academy to the Class A football state championship with a 35-14 win Saturday over Windham at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Trailing 14-7 at halftime, the Golden Trojans (10-1) scored 28 unanswered points. After Ruff’s touchdown, Windham (9-2) fumbled on first down and defensive lineman Elijiah Ayotte recovered at the 16. Two plays later, quarterback Austin McCrum scored from the 15, and Cameron Cadorette’s point after made it 21-14.

The turnaround was sudden and decisive. The Golden Trojans scored 14 points in both the third and fourth quarters.

Windham carried play in the first half. The Eagles scored first, and after Thornton tied it a 7-7 with 5:26 left in the half, Windham covered 65 yards in eight plays to regain the lead.

Then, early in the second half, things looked even better for Windham when Eric Webb intercepted a McCrum pass at the Windham 19.

Two fumbles swung the momentum in favor of the Golden Trojans, however.

Ruff said the realization that this was the seniors’ last game together sunk in at halftime.

“We knew how much we wanted this,” he said. “We play for each other.”

The difference in the second half for Thornton?

“We made some adjustments and had a lot better execution,” said Coach Kevin Kezal. “We kind of settled down in the second half and played great defense.”

It was the Golden Trojans’ second state title in three seasons and their fourth overall (1986 and 1988) since the state playoff system began in 1967.

Thornton’s receivers got open in the second half and McCrum put his passes on the mark. The defense stopped Windham twice on fourth-and-4 inside the 20.

“We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities and that was the shift in the game,” said Windham Coach Matt Perkins. “The turnovers cost us.”

Trailing 21-14, Windham had Thornton pinned deep and forced a punt. Webb made a shoestring catch on the run but fumbled after a few steps, and Matthew Cleary recovered for the Golden Trojans at the 29. Thornton drove 71 yards in nine plays to take a two-touchdown lead with 8:07 left.

McCrum riddled the defense during the drive with completions of 15 yards to Ben Lambert and 24 to Corey Hart. McCrum then threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Hart to make it 28-14.

A 51-yard kickoff return by Matt Roy to the 24 gave the Eagles hope that they were still in it. On second-and-3, Desmond Leslie passed to a wide open Zach Davis at the front corner of the end zone. Davis caught it, but the officials ruled he had one foot out of bounds. A third-down pass to Webb in the end zone was well covered, and on fourth down Leslie was pressured by Jimmy Remmes and threw another incompletion with 7:04 left.

The Golden Trojans then drove 78 yards in nine plays to make it 35-14. Ruff carried four times for 48 yards. His brother, Greg, scored from the 5.

Windham scored on its third series of the game to take a 7-0 lead. Leslie passed to Webb for 27 yards. Josh Dugas kicked the point after.

Thornton tied it on a 2-yard run by Michael Laverriere. The key play was a fourth-and-18 pass from McCrum to Hart for 22 yards and a first down at the 2.

Hart caught the ball down the sideline.

“That play got us going,” said Kezal. “It was a great throw by Austin and a great catch by Corey.”

Demel Ruff carried the ball 15 times for 117 yards. McCrum completed 8 of 18 passes for 97 yards.

Windham was in the state championship game for the second time. The Eagles beat Bangor in 2009 for the title.

A junior-laden team with a sophomore quarterback in Leslie, Windham might have reached the state final a year ahead of schedule this season.

“So much of the credit to our season goes to the seniors and their leadership,” said Perkins. “Our program is in a good place.”