Sean Tompkins of Cheverus High tries to elude Oxford Hills defenders during a game last fall. Tompkins changed his uniform number to 7 this season to honor his late friend, Steel Crawford of Freeport. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Sean Tompkins’ greatest strengths on a football field are his combination of breakaway speed and passionate intensity.

But there are times when the Cheverus High senior realizes he needs to slow down, catch his breath and refocus.

That’s when he glances down at his jersey, where the No. 7 has replaced the 82 he wore his first three seasons for the Stags.

Tompkins changed his number to honor his friend, Steel Crawford of Freeport, who died in a swimming accident in August at age 17.

Crawford, a lacrosse standout at Freeport High, wore No. 7. Tompkins, who lives in Portland, met Crawford a couple summers ago and the two quickly became friends.

“If I’m ever distracted in practice or on the field, if I ever need to get my mind right, I just look at my jersey number and think of what I’m playing for,” said Tompkins, who has scored 19 touchdowns this fall. “It really helps me to calm myself down.”

In a Class B South semifinal Friday night, Kennebunk (7-2) also will be focused on Cheverus’ No. 7. The Rams opened their season with a 48-13 win over Cheverus. In that game, still wearing his old number, Tompkins scored both touchdowns for the Stags.

Since then, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound wingback and safety has been lighting up the scoreboard. He has scored two or more touchdowns in six games, helping Cheverus (5-4) get to the semifinals after starting the season 0-2.

Twelve of Tompkins’ touchdowns have come from beyond 50 yards. He has rushed for 1,308 yards and 16 touchdowns on 87 carries (15 yards per carry), also scored on an 87-yard kickoff return, and has caught two touchdown passes.

In the Stags’ 36-34 quarterfinal win at No. 3 Massabesic, Tompkins scored on runs of 54, 61 and 78 yards and caught a 12-yard touchdown pass.

Cheverus Coach Mike Vance said Tompkins is “the fastest kid I’ve ever coached.”

If it weren’t for Scarborough senior Jarett Flaker, Tompkins would be the fastest football player in the state. In outdoor track last spring, Tompkins ranked No. 2 behind Flaker in the 100 (10.85 seconds), 200 and 400 meters when it came to season-best times.

But track speed is just a part of Tompkins’ game. Vance talks about Tompkins’ leadership and his role as Cheverus’ defensive play caller. Tompkins says he actually likes playing defense more than offense. He likes to dissect the opponents’ game plan and “it feels really good to just go out and rock somebody, too.”

Tompkins says when people think track is his primary sport, “that’s another thing that gets me fired up. I’m a football player who runs track to get better at football. That’s the point I want to prove.”

HAS CHEVERUS IMPROVED enough to make up 35 points and knock off Kennebunk?

“Absolutely,” Vance said. “They’re very good. They’ve got some real nice athletes there and they’re very well coached, but our kids believe in themselves, and we can beat them.”

Vance said the biggest difference is that his team of 30 players has “grown up,” which translates to better execution and fewer mistakes.

SOUTH PORTLAND (7-2) will try to pull an even bigger upset in a Class B South semifinal at top-seeded Marshwood (8-1), the two-time defending state champion. Marshwood’s loss was to Class A unbeaten Thornton Academy. The Hawks have outscored their Class B opponents 394-50.

South Portland already has exceeded expectations. Last year, the Red Riots were 1-7 in Class A and opted to skip a playoff game because of a precariously thin roster. This season, they have a roster of 70 and are riding a five-game winning streak under first-year coach Aaron Filieo.

Filieo, a former South Portland player, credits his senior class for reigniting South Portland’s community passion for football. When he first met his senior leaders, he told them they would play a big part in the program’s future, for better or worse.

“I thought I might be laying this heavy level of almost unbearable expectation on them, and they looked me in the eye and said, ‘Yeah, we know,'” Filieo said. “That’s when I knew we might be able to expedite the shifting culture sooner that I thought.”

Marshwood Coach Alex Rotsko said two things jump off the tape he’s viewed of the Red Riots: South Portland’s multiple shifts and formations on offense require lots of preparation, and the Red Riots “play hard.”

“That maybe sound simplistic, but in high school football, that’s half the battle, if not more,” Rotsko said. “If you get a team to play hard, they will be successful.”

FOR WELLS (7-2) to win at York (8-1) on Saturday in a Class C South semifinal and retain a chance for a fourth straight state title, the Warriors must find a way to slow down York’s offense, which averages 41 points per game. They had no answers in York’s 48-27 regular-season win. Wildcat junior quarterback Teagan Hynes threw for 370 yards and four scores in the first half. Pressure on Hynes would be a good start, but he was not sacked in the regular season. Getting off the field on third down would also help. York converted five of its first six third downs against Wells while building a 48-21 lead.

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