A year ago through two games, the Thornton Academy football team allowed just six points.

This season the Golden Trojans (2-0) have yet to allow any.

All this from a defense that graduated six starters from the 2014 state championship team.

“We had to replace a bunch of defensive tackles and linebackers who played at a high level,” said Coach Kevin Kezal, whose team won its second Class A state title in three seasons a year ago. Thornton plays Friday night at Deering (2-0).

Entering the season, Kezal wondered if the defensive line would be physical enough. So far it has been.

“We’re not as big as last season but I think we’re a little quicker,” he said. “The players have worked hard and done a nice job in the first two weeks. You want to get a little bit better every week and they’ve done that so far.”

Because of lopsided victories – 49-0 over Sanford and 57-0 over Cheverus – and the need for additional players on special teams, Kezal has been able to shuttle players in and out. A lot of those subs are likely to be starters next season.

“You know you’re going to have a constant turnover of players in high school football,” he said. “We have a short window to get them ready. A player has to make the most of his opportunity. We try to give the nonstarters some game action each year. That’s something we’ve always done.”

Senior co-captains Owen Elliott, a fullback/linebacker, and Elijah Ayotte, a guard/defensive tackle, are three-year starters.

“We’ve filled in from what we lost,” said Elliott, who missed the first game with an ankle injury and was replaced by sophomore Cameron Houde. “The younger kids put in a lot of work and it has paid off.”

Senior defensive end Issac Patry is an example of a player who moved into a starting role. On the defensive line, Thornton lost D’Andre Morgan, the SMAA lineman of the year; Ben Zuke, a Gaziano lineman finalist; and Ashton Lord to graduation.

Patry, who started at offensive guard last season, is starting on both lines now.

“I definitely have to be in better condition to play both ways,” he said. “But I prepared for it.”

Patry spent hours in the weight room, a theme that runs through the team. The upperclassmen set the example in the weight room and on the field, said Patry.

“We really pushed the younger kids in the offseason,” Patry said. “We got the team together and worked really hard.”

The Golden Trojans also needed to replace three graduated linebackers. Jimmy Remmes and Tyler Fleurant were fixtures at those positions. Matt Cleary, an outside linebacker, also graduated. Rome Pura, who saw action as a sophomore, replaced Remmes. Tyler Lynn, who also saw action as a sophomore, replaced Fleurant and senior Evan Russell replaced Cleary.

Kyle Holman and Jonah Wells, who saw action last season, have joined Patry as defensive line replacements.

“Thornton Academy is very athletic at all three levels of their defense,” said Sanford Coach Mike Fallon.

“Their size, strength and speed make you work hard at the line of scrimmage to get their front five blocked, which in turn makes it difficult to effectively block their linebackers. Their secondary is extremely athletic and physical.”


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