SACO — The question before the game was how much difference is there between a Class A champion and a Class B champion in Maine high school football.

Apparently the answer is inches. And on an overcast Saturday with a playoff atmosphere at Hill Stadium, that tiny edge went to Class A Thornton Academy.

The defending Class A champion Trojans rallied from a 14-point deficit and then needed a final stop on a 2-point conversion with 18 seconds to play to nip defending Class B champion Marshwood, 28-27. It was Thornton’s 13th straight win, and its second straight second-half comeback after never trailing in 2018’s 11-0 season.

Marshwood, the Class B champion four of the past five seasons, is now 1-1.

“This is definitely one of the toughest opponents I think I’ve ever played,” said Thornton senior defensive tackle Tanner Lynn. “They were really good. I can see why they’re so successful in Class B.”

Thornton grabbed its first lead of the game, 28-21, with 1:43 to play when junior slot receiver Hayden Pomerleau scored his third touchdown of the game on a 75-yard run. Brady Forbes added its fourth extra point.

But Marshwood, which had a significant edge in plays (72 to 41) and total yards (514 to 361), responded with one more long drive behind quarterback Connor Caverly, who completed 17 of 27 passes for 201 yards.

Caverly’s sixth completion of the drive went for a 13-yard score to Cameron Cornett.

Marshwood, which was 1 for 2 on extra point kicks and had a field goal blocked, opted to go for the win. The Hawks called a quick pitch to John Valentine behind pulling linemen. The play had worked all game, but this time, cornerback Sam Edborg set the edge a bit better, defensive end Daniel Tarbox had better penetration, and the entire defense ran to the ball harder, halting Valentine inches from the goal line.

“It was two teams battling to the last play,” said Thornton Coach Kevin Kezal. “They’ve got a great program and we made one more play than they did.”

After Thornton quarterback Kobe Gaudette (4 of 6, 165 yards, two TDs) took a knee to run out the clock, all the players on the field exchanged hugs that signaled their mutual respect.

“It was a great game,” Caverly said. “We were excited to come up here because we knew they were the top team in A and we’re the top team in B and we were ready to play, and it just didn’t go our way.”

Marshwood showed immediately it was ready for the challenge, with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that showcased its wing-T running attack, as well as Caverly’s ability to throw and the playmaking ability of wideout Cullen Casey (11 catches, 147 yards). Fullback Justin Bryant (19 carries, 124 yards) scored on a 2-yard run, and the point-after gave the Hawks a 7-0 lead.

Marshwood missed another scoring chance on a fumbled exchange at the Thornton 13. It was the first of three times the Hawks failed to score after getting inside the 20.

“That’s a big lesson right there,” said Marshwood Coach Alex Rotsko. “You’ve got to finish drives.”

Marshwood did take a 13-0 lead with 38 seconds left in the first half when  Caverly’s 1-yard sneak finished a 13-play drive that included a pair of third-down conversions.

That’s when Pomerleau, a junior varsity quarterback last season until he broke his hand, first made his presence felt for Thornton. He broke off a 47-yard run on a jet sweep, which set up a Gaudette-to-Peyton Jones 12-yard scoring pass just seven seconds before halftime.

Marshwood dominated most of the third quarter, too. Aidan Sullivan stripped the ball from up-man Tarbox on the second-half kickoff, but Thornton held at the 9, and Tarbox blocked a field-goal attempt.

“I told everybody, I know I fumbled, but if we want to win, we need to all come together,” Tarbox said.

Marshwood did score on its next possession. Bryant popped an inside run for 38 yards, and two plays later Valentine swept right end untouched on a quick pitch play. Caverly connected with Sullivan for the 2-point conversion and a 21-7 lead.

But Thornton rallied with its big-play ability.

A Gaudette-to-Jones pass of 56 yards set up Pomerleau (7 carries, 133 yards) for a 5-yard touchdown run before the third quarter ended.

Thornton’s defense made a rare fourth-down stop, stuffing Bryant inches short. On the next play, Gaudette found Pomerleau behind the defense for a 60-yard score. Forbes’ PAT tied the game at 21-21.

“I think we just kept fighting, and we knew if we kept fighting we had a chance,” Pomerleau said.


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