Bonny Eagle is the only team to come within 20 points of unbeaten Thornton Academy this season, and the Scots pinned the lone loss on Portland High.

So for perspective on the Class A football championship game Saturday between the Golden Trojans (10-0) and Bulldogs (9-1), Bonny Eagle Coach Kevin Cooper is the man to ask.

For Portland to have a chance, Cooper said, the Bulldogs have to take to the air.

“I think it’s going to be tough for them,” he said. “They don’t pass very much but I think you have to do that against Thornton.”

All three Bonny Eagle touchdowns in a 40-21 loss to Thornton last month came on pass plays of at least 20 yards.

“That’s where we had success,” Cooper said. “You have to be able to mix in the run and the pass against Thornton if you want to move the ball.”

Without some aerial success, Thornton’s defensive backs will creep closer to the line and make running the ball even more challenging. The Trojans haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown in their past four games.

“You can’t let Thornton sit in one defense and just defend the run,” Cooper said. “You’ve got to be able to throw it on them and get behind them. Portland plays a similar-style defense. Really, the team that can have some success through the air has a big advantage in this game.”

Portland quarterback Sam Knop averages only 7.5 attempts and 3.8 completions per game. His primary target, Ben Stasium, has 17 catches. No other receiver has more than six.

Instead the Bulldogs rely on a running game built around Zack Elowitch, who averages 171.3 yards per game with 19 touchdowns.

“Even if people hit him at the line of scrimmage, a lot of times he can break away,” Thornton Coach Kevin Kezal said of Elowitch. “We’ve got to make sure that we gang-tackle him. They have some good athletes at some of the other skill positions and they just grind out first downs. They can really wear down teams.”

Thornton quarterback Kobe Gaudette throws about as often as Knop, but has 13 touchdowns and 17.6 yards per reception, compared with Knop’s five TDs and 15.9 average. Isaac Ofielu is Thornton’s workhorse running back and Anthony Bracamonte the breakaway threat.

In last weekend’s 53-21 Class A South championship victory over Scarborough, Bracamonte scored four touchdowns, including runs of 78 and 92 yards, and a kickoff return of 82. It was his second kickoff return for a TD this season. He’s also run back four punts, scored eight times through the air and nine on the ground.

“Anthony’s a special kid,” Kezal said. “It’s been a lot of fun coaching him. He’s had a great career here and I get to watch him one more time.”

The goal for every team facing Thornton has been to hang close until the fourth quarter and hope for a big play.

The reality is no team has been within striking distance late in the game.

Part of the reason for that is a talent disparity. Another factor is depth. Portland, the smallest school in Class A North except for Cheverus (which petitioned in), has a roster of 38. Thornton, the largest school in Class A South with a student population second only to Lewiston, has 61 varsity players.

“They’re playing almost two-platoon football,” Cooper said of the Golden Trojans, who will seek their fourth state title in seven years. “They’re not playing very many guys both ways so their guys come in fresh. For the rest of us, it’s just an unrealistic thing.”

The last time Thornton and Portland met was the 2015 state championship game, when the Bulldogs rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to tie the score in the fourth quarter before Thornton came away with a 24-14 victory.

For some among Portland’s 14 seniors, Saturday will be their third state-title appearance, and they get to dress in their own locker room and play at familiar Fitzpatrick Stadium.

“That’s a big help,” Portland Coach Jim Hartman said. “They’re not too intimidated by the surroundings and the nature of the game, and all that stuff. It’s just another football game.”

Two years ago Portland lost the title game 34-14 to Bonny Eagle. Last year Scarborough thumped Windham, 57-0. The regional champion from Southern or Western Maine has won 11 straight in Class A, dating to a 14-13 victory by Lawrence in 2006 over Gorham.

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

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