WINDHAM — Windham High took the lead early and controlled the game in a 24-0 rout of the Cheverus Stags Friday night in a season openers.

Thanks to two Cheverus turnovers, Windham grabbed a 21-0 halftime lead. The Eagles managed only a 22-yard Liam McCusker field goal in the second half, but dominated.

Junior running back Stuart Salom was the workhorse with 29 carries for 179 yards and a touchdown. Salom had 54 yards in the first half and began to break open runs in the second half.

“We just had to keep running, keep playing hard,” Salom said. “The line began to wear them down a little.”

But wasn’t Salom getting gassed?

“Oh, I did get a little tired,” he said.

“Yeah,” said Windham Coach Matt Perkins, “he’s a tough kid.”

Perkins was also pleased with senior Tanner Bernier, the Eagles’ new quarterback who played defensive end and defensive back last year.

Bernier ran for 80 yards, all in the first half, and completed 10 of 22 passes for 80 yards, 72 of them in the first half.

“He’s learning.” Perkins said. “He’s getting better each day.”

Windham gained a total of 437 yards – 357 on the ground.

Cheverus was led by running back Max Coffin’s 101 yards on 14 carries. But the rest of the Stags offense totaled minus-6 yards, giving Cheverus 95 yards.

The Eagles’ longest touchdown drive was 43 yards, but Windham didn’t need long marches. Cheverus fumbled away the ball three times in the first half, with the first two converted into touchdowns by the Eagles.

“We were playing with a hole in each foot because we shot ourselves early,” Stags Coach Mike Vance said. “We’re going to have to learn quickly how to come out and play clean football. Tonight wasn’t very clean.”

On the Stags’ second play, Windham’s Logan Emerson stripped the ball and recovered at the Cheverus 30.

Then on fourth-and-2, Bernier dropped a low shotgun hike. The busted play turned out well as Bernier sprinted around the right side for a 22-yard touchdown run. McCusker hit his first of three extra points for a 7-0 lead.

On Cheverus’ third series, the Stags fumbled on the snap on the first play. Windham recovered at the 20. The Eagles went up 14-0 on a 7-yard pass from Bernier to Garrett Peeples.

“That’s just tough to overcome when you do that,” Vance said. “We really hurt ourselves.”

In the second quarter, the Eagles started a drive on the Cheverus 43 following a punt kicked from the Stags’ end zone. With the help of two Bernier completions, Windham drove to the 11, where Salom capped the drive with an 11-yard run for a 21-0 halftime lead.

Cheverus began the second half with a 54-yard run by Coffin, to the Eagles 12. But the Stags stalled and, on fourth down, Colby Blake ended the threat with a sack.

Another Coffin run, of 16 yards, plus a late-hit penalty, sent the Stags to the Windham 29. But again, Cheverus stopped there, with the drive ending on a Braxton Cassidy sack.

Windham’s drives were often set back by penalties. McCusker’s field goal late in the fourth quarter completed the scoring.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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