SCARBOROUGH — Ever since the preseason, it was clear the Class A South regional final would be a battle of Maine high school superpowers.

The only question was which two of the three dominant teams would be playing.

Now we know. It’s No. 2 Thornton Academy (8-1) playing at No. 1 Scarborough (8-1). Both are here, essentially, because they beat defending champion Bonny Eagle.

Thornton earned its berth with a 28-24 semifinal win against the Scots. Scarborough made its path to the regional final much easier by winning at Bonny Eagle in the final week of the regular season to get the top seed. The Red Storm cruised past No. 5 Sanford in their semifinal, 53-15.

Thornton is the only team to beat Scarborough, rallying from a 14-point deficit with three touchdowns in the final 8:36 for a 32-28 victory.

“I think we’re just excited to be in the game. A lot of these guys, it’s been their goal since last winter to get here. We really didn’t have a preference who we played,” said Scarborough Coach Lance Johnson.

But Scarborough senior quarterback Zoltan Panyi remembers his team lost three fumbles, had several other recovered fumbles that derailed drives, coughed up a lead, and couldn’t contain Thornton receiver CJ LaBreck (eight catches, 216 yards).

“This is kind of like a revenge thing,” Panyi said. “They took us down in the regular season, so now let’s take them down when it matters.”

Both teams have clearly improved since that Week 3 game.

It’s worth noting Thornton also had three turnovers that night. Against Bonny Eagle, with JV quarterback Kobe Gaudette starting in place of Will Mitchell, the Trojans were crisp and efficient on offense and didn’t commit a turnover.

Mitchell, who missed the Bonny Eagle game for undisclosed reasons, is expected to be the starting quarterback Friday night. Whoever is behind center, they’ll be trying to get the ball to elusive Anthony Bracamonte (493 rushing yards; 401 receiving yards) and LaBreck (37 catches, 551 yards).

That means Scarborough’s defense has to do a better job of tackling than it did in the first meeting.

“Defensively, we’ve adapted well,” Johnson said. “The guys have gotten real good at really flying to the ball and playing more physical up front.”

Thornton’s defense faces even more challenges. Four Scarborough players have at least five rushing touchdowns, and five have caught at least two touchdown passes.

Owen Garrard (103 carries, 926 yards, 19 TDs) and Panyi (55 carries, 439 yards, 5 TDs) get the bulk of the carries, and each is capable of busting big runs. Then there’s the big-play duo of Jarret Flaker and Cody Dudley. Both get limited touches but are highly productive. Including receptions, Dudley has 34 touches for 497 yards with nine touchdowns. Flaker’s stat line is nearly identical: 33 touches, 498 yards, eight touchdowns.

Add in tight end Reece Lagerquist (37.2 yards per catch, six TDs) and receivers Connor Kelly (19.7 yards per catch) and Jaquan Seme (22.1 yards per catch), and Scarborough makes teams defend the entire field.

THE CLASS A North final – Portland at Windham – also wouldn’t have surprised anyone in the preseason. Windham had been to three straight regional finals and Portland had won the last two.

But at midseason, after Windham hung on for a 7-6 win against Portland at Fitzpatrick Stadium, neither team looked ready to make it this far. The Eagles’ offense was ineffective, and they lost their next three games to fall to 3-4. Portland was 0-4 and would lose the next week, too.

“Oh, we’ve both had our ups and downs,” said Portland Coach Jim Hartman.

“We’ve both had a lot of adversity that we had to face along the way,” agreed Windham Coach Matt Perkins.

Each team has won a pair of playoff games. Windham (6-4) is coming off a strong effort in “all three phases” in a 21-12 win at No. 1 Edward Little. The Eagles were helped by running back Stuart Salom’s return from injury. A quick slasher, Salom did not play against Portland in the regular season.

Portland (4-6) has won four of its last five games – including a convincing 27-13 semifinal win against No. 2 Lewiston – and quarterback Terion Moss (867 rushing yards, nine TDs) has emerged as arguably the top running threat in the league.

In the first meeting, Portland missed three field goals. Both coaches think special teams – a Windham strength – will be critical in a game likely to go down to the final minutes.

“It usually does with those guys,” Hartman said. “It’s just going to come down to whoever wants it most. These teams are so evenly matched.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

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