Dakota Tarbox, making the tackle, and Andrew Libby, moving in to assist, were dynamic on defense in the Western Class A final against Cheverus, and hope to be a force again Saturday in the state championship game against Lawrence.
PORTLAND — Thornton Academy honored the school’s 1962 state championship football team in September on the 50th anniversary of its title.
It would be 24 years before the Trojans won another, defeating Bangor in 1986.
And now, 24 years after their last state championship game appearance – a victory against Lawrence in 1988 – this year’s team is playing for the Gold Ball again.
And again the opponent will be Lawrence, at 11 a.m. Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
The Golden Trojans are hoping the 24-year wait works again.
“We have to come out with the same intensity we had against Cheverus,” said Andrew Libby, a junior running back and safety. “It’s been 24 years since Thornton’s last state championship. We’re going to bring all the intensity we can. Lawrence is a good team. They run hard but I feel we can stop them if we play hard.”
Thornton’s 20-13 victory against Cheverus a week ago in the regional final stopped the Stags’ win streak at 34 games and denied them a shot at three straight state titles.
Libby scored all three of his team’s touchdowns as Thornton used its size advantage to overpower Cheverus. For the most part it was straight-ahead running by Libby in the wildcat formation and outstanding defense that decided the game.
The Golden Trojans are confident they can bring the same level of intensity against the Bulldogs, who will be determined to rebound from last year’s 49-7 loss to Cheverus in the state final.
“Lawrence is very athletic,” said Thornton Coach Kevin Kezal. “Their offense is a lot like Cheverus’. They run out of the wing-T and I formations. Lawrence runs right at you. They have good size up front. On defense they’re very scrappy. They get a lot of tacklers to the ball. Lawrence’s secondary is talented.”
On offense the Bulldogs are led by quarterback Spencer Carey, and running backs Anthony Sementelli and Josh Doolan.
Lawrence felt it would get back to the state championship game this year.
“After last year we knew we would come back this year,” said Sementelli. “We had a huge senior group and a lot of the same starters.”
The Bulldogs are 1-6 in Class A state finals, beating Gorham 14-13 in 2006.
Thornton will give the ball to Libby, the team’s leading rusher with 973 yards. He carried 28 times for 130 yards against Cheverus.
The Golden Trojans will position him in different spots in the offense.
“We want to get the ball in Andrew’s hands as much as possible,” said Kezal.
Thornton has plenty of other threats, so Lawrence won’t be able to focus solely on Libby.
Fullback Nick Kenney has 920 yards rushing. Quarterback Eric Christensen has a strong arm and likes to throw to tight ends Dakota Tarbox and Cody Lynn. Libby and slotback Dylan Morton are also favorite targets. Christensen likes to run straight ahead and is tough to bring down. He has 1,000 yards passing and 420 yards rushing.
Defensively, the Golden Trojans are led by tackle David LaPauloue, linebackers Bobby Begin, Tarbox and Lynn, and Libby at safety. Libby handles the punting, and kicker Brandon Briggs boots them deep on kickoffs, is accurate on PATs and can kick a field goal if needed.
Big games often come down to limiting turnovers and field position. Thornton had only one turnover against Cheverus and won the battle of field position.
The Thornton coaches noticed renewed intensity from the players in the 49-14 win over Scarborough in the regional semifinals. It continued in the Cheverus game and the Golden Trojans will look for it again against Lawrence.
Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:
Eric Christensen is a threat running and passing as the quarterback for Thornton Academy, which is seeking its first state championship since 1988.