TOPSHAM — Last year, the Kennebunk High School football team visited Mt. Ararat, a two-win team at the time struggling to find itself under first-year coach O’Neil LaPlante.

In a season where the Rams eventually advanced to the Class B state title game, longtime head coach Joe Rafferty remembered the struggles his Kennebunk team had that day, a last second field goal giving the Rams a hard-fought 24-21 victory. 

“It was one of the toughest games that we had all season,” said Rafferty after his Rams methodically ran past the Eagles this time around, 37-0, Friday night. “I remembered it. I can’t say they did. Those things stick with me forever.”

Behind the running of backs Dante DeLorenzo and Derek Smith, the Rams took control, especially in the first half when Kennebunk ran 41 plays for 305 yards while carrying a 24-0 lead to the intermission. 

“I see Kennebunk and Marshwood as being the two toughest teams in our league,” said LaPlante, whose Eagles fell to 2-4. “They are well-coached, no nonsense, not dirty, and just play football the way it is supposed to be played.” 

DeLorenzo helped the Rams take control of the clock, rushing 18 times in the first half for 125 yards, leading to Kennebunk possessing the ball for over 15 minutes. 

However, it was the outside speed of Smith the did the most damage. Smith scored three touchdowns, picking 94 yards on just eight carries, while quarterback Tripp Bush was 9-of-15 in the air for 106 yards, his favorite target being Zack Sullivan (six receptions, 78 yards). Bush also picked up 24 yards on the ground, including a 16-yard TD run late in the second quarter. 

“Toss was wide open and Derek has great breakaway speed on the edge,” said Bush of Smith. “We knew (Mt. Ararat) was a tough team and that we had to come in with a tough mindset. We couldn’t take them lightly. We did a great job this week.”

Opening drive

After the Kennebunk defense forced a three-and-out to open the game, the Rams offense went to work. Starting at the 41-yard line, Kennebunk quickly marched down field, with Smith breaking two tackles on the way to the endzone. Tom Madden made the point-after kick for a 7-0 Rams lead 2:52 into the game. 

Mt. Ararat made some noise on its next drive, with quarterback Ryan Mello (5-of-19, 78 yards, two interceptions) finding Austin Damon (four catches, 82 yards) for a 36-yard gain to the K-47. However, the Rams held and forced another punt. 

The Eagles came up with a big play later in the opening quarter as Garrett Moody intercepted a Bush pass in the end zone. 

Early in the second quarter, Madden split the uprights on a 23-yard field goal for a 10-0 Rams lead, and Smith later scored on a 25-yard romp, followed by Bush’s late score for a 24-0 lead at the half for Kennebunk. 

Despite gaining only 65 yards in the first half, Mt. Ararat continued to fight. 

“It shows the caliber of kids that we are drawing to the game here,” said LaPlante, after watching Ryan Mello, Riley Morin, Nate Leslie, Jared Balser and Liam Huston come up with big hits on defense. 

But, the Rams were just too tough, with Smith again busting into the endzone on a 25-yard TD run, and backup Aiden Shields also scoring, again from 25-yards out.

For Rafferty, this season, despite the 6-0 record, has been a challenge.  

“Honestly it has been tougher coming in, being labeled a target. Last year we snuck in. We didn’t have that high rating. I have been pleased with how the kids have handled it,” said the Kennebunk coach, whose Rams face fellow Class B South unbeaten Marshwood at home next Saturday at 2 p.m. “Marshwood is an outstanding team and has been for years. They are well-coached and deep. You look at our sideline and we have a lot of kids. Look at their sideline, it is the same with a lot of kids.”

“This year we are focused, knowing we got so close last year. We want to get back to the state title game again,” said Bush. 

Kennebunk’s defense was led by Cam Lovejoy, who made 11 tackles and intercepted a pass. Jacob Sullivan also intercepted a Mt. Ararat pass, while DeLorenzo had eight tackles.

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