(Ed. Note: With high school sports currently on hiatus, please join me in a look back at some of the finest teams our coverage area has produced this century. To help us get through the summer, each week, I’ll present the top 10 teams from a different sport…four honorable mentions, then our “Super Six,” These rankings are put together with help from coaches and others, including a Twitter poll each week at twitter.com/foresports, but the final decision is mine. This week it’s football. Boys’ soccer is on deck…)

No sport draws our attention quite the way football does every autumn.

Whether it’s Friday night under the lights or a perfect fall Saturday afternoon.

Over the past two decades, local schools have produced an abundance of championship-caliber squads, including many that live on in lore.

Narrowing that list down to the 10 best is more difficult than converting on 4th-and-20, but here’s one writer’s attempt to do so:

Honorable mentions (in chronological order)

Scarborough Red Storm, 2002 Class B state champion

File photos

The Red Storm were only in their fourth varsity season, but finished atop the heap with a dramatic state game victory which gave their beloved coach a long overdue championship. Scarborough got to the Western B Final in 2001, but lost to York. A solid senior core was in place. It was led by Jack Flynn, the longtime South Portland coach who had experienced nothing but bad luck in championship games, but who had turned the nascent Red Storm program into a budding power and it all came together over three memorable months.

Scarborough, behind the potent running of Nial DeMena and Mike Slovak and a smothering defense, paced by Travis Hitchcock and Ryan Libby, won seven of eight regular season games, losing only to Brewer by a point. The Red Storm capped their regular season with an 11-8 double-overtime victory over Gorham, then entered the playoffs as the top seed in Western B. Scarborough would be pushed to the brink twice in the postseason, but showed its championship heart and finished the job.

After a 27-0 victory over Gorham in the regional semifinals (DeMena ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries), perennial power Mountain Valley paid a visit in the Western B Final. After losing in that round the year before, the Red Storm weren’t about to fall again. DeMena ran for 141 yards on 28 carries and the defense allowed just one score as Scarborough prevailed, 12-7. That set up a state final date versus Belfast, where the Red Storm needed a tremendous effort from every player who took the field and they got exactly that. Scarborough fell behind, 12-0, but rallied, as DeMena scored on a 28-yard run (quarterback Drew Crandall and Slovak connected for a two-point conversion) in the third period, then Crandall threw a picturesque 63-yard bomb to Steve McNaughton for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. Belfast answered late, getting as close as the Red Storm’s 2, but in the greatest defensive stand in program history, Scarborough held and the title belonged to the Red Storm. Flynn, who retired following the season, finally had his elusive championship. You couldn’t write a better ending to a story.

Coach Jack Flynn: “It’s wonderful for everyone. We really thought we could hang in there and we just needed to get the offense going and we did. What this says, I think, is that if you’ve got good athletes and they’re willing to work, good things can happen. We have good players and good athletes can do a lot of things.”

Deering Rams, 2008 Western A semifinalist

Arguably the second-best team in the state that fall, the Rams won their first nine contests before finally meeting their match in the playoffs against the eventual champion. Deering’s offense featured work-horse running back Jack Heary and sophomore quarterback Jamie Ross, as well as a defense anchored by Ernie Salamone.

The Rams got three touchdowns from Heary in a season-opening 21-14 win at Windham, then after crushing Westbrook, 55-0 (Ross ran for two TDs and threw for another), out-lasted Gorham, 49-32, as Heary rushed for nearly 300 yards and scored four times. After decisive wins over rival Portland (34-7, behind Heary’s five scores) and Marshwood (49-7), Deering enjoyed its final hour, rallying to stun defending champion Bonny Eagle, 29-28, in Standish, as Salamone forced a pivotal late fumble before Ross threw a long go-ahead TD pass to Sam Balzano to complete the shocker. Wins over South Portland (27-7) and Cheverus (40-6) capped a perfect regular season, just the second in program history. The Rams then turned their attention to winning the championship, but it wasn’t to be.

Deering opened the Western A playoffs by dominating Gorham, 48-6, as Heary ran for nearly 200 yards and scored five more TDs. That allowed the Rams to host Bonny Eagle in the semifinals, but this time, there would be no happy ending, as a fumble on the opening kickoff was returned for the Scots for a touchdown and this time, Deering’s late rally fell short in a 26-14 loss. Heary (who ran for over 1,500 yards and scored 27 times in 2008) was held to just 68 yards and the Rams’ season came to a close with a loss at the worst possible time. Bonny Eagle, meanwhile, went on to win its fourth Class A championship in five years.

Jack Heary: “We had tremendous confidence and we never quit. Our offensive line dominated and gave me some big holes to run through.”

Yarmouth Clippers, 2011 Class C state champion

The second of back-to-back Class C state championship teams, these Clippers were unstoppable, outscoring the opposition, 466-66, and winning every game by at least 10 points. Yarmouth had captured its first title the year before in just the program’s fourth varsity season. The 2011 Clippers played smothering defense and relied on a multi-headed rushing attack of Anders Overhaug, Caleb Uhl and Matthew Woodbury, with the occasional throw from sophomore quarterback Brady Neujahr mixed in, as they frustrated foe after foe.

A 41-0 victory over Old Orchard Beach set the tone. Yarmouth then shut down Oak Hill in its home opener, 51-7, as Overhaug ran for 150 yards and three scores on just six carries. After a relatively competitive 27-7 win at Traip Academy, the Clippers destroyed Sacopee Valley (54-0, as Overhaug had four TD runs), handled Lisbon (34-6, as Overhaug ran for four touchdowns and had one receiving as well), held off Boothbay in their closest game (24-14), then closed with emphatic wins over Telstar (47-6, as Uhl and Woodbury both had two touchdown runs) and Freeport (50-6, as Overhaug ran for 236 yards and three touchdowns and Uhl added three TDs for good measure). Yarmouth earned the top seed for the Western C playoffs and continued to break the will of the opposition.

In the quarterfinals, the Clippers defeated Oak Hill, 45-6, as Uhl ran for 108 yards and Overhaug scored three times. Lisbon was next and Yarmouth got defensive, blanking the Greyhounds, 38-0, as the Clippers held Lisbon to 124 total yards and Overhaug and Uhl each ran for two touchdowns. The regional final versus Traip Academy would be a test, but Yarmouth passed it, 14-0, again thanks in large part to the defense (which forced three turnovers) and the running of Uhl (175 yards) and Overhaug (105 yards), who each scored a TD. The state final versus Bucksport was a coronation nearly from the get-go, as Overhaug ran for six touchdowns, including one on a 92-yard kickoff run, the Clippers forced three turnovers and even blocked a punt en route to a decisive 41-14 victory. Yarmouth’s 24th straight victory spelled its second consecutive championship and the program hasn’t returned to such hallowed ground since.

Coach Jim Hartman: “These kids never whined or complained. They picked themselves up and kept on going. It’s a tremendous tribute to these guys. They have so much heart. They’re quiet, but at game-time, they’re amazing. We have studs. We’re not doing this with plow horses.”

Portland Bulldogs, 2015 Western A champion

These Bulldogs returned the program to prominence behind the dogged running of eventual Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Joe Esposito, strong contributions from numerous members of the supporting cast and a tenacious defense. They even gave heavily favored Thornton Academy a mighty scare in the state final before falling just short.

Portland made a powerful opening statement, winning, 47-26, at Scarborough, as Esposito ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns, Jake Knop and quarterback Issiah Bachelder each scored twice and Dylan Bolduc intercepted a pass and returned a kickoff 86-yards for a backbreaking TD after the Red Storm had cut a 20-point deficit to seven. After blanking Edward Little, 33-0 (Esposito and George Chaison-Lapine each ran for two scores, while Knop returned an interception to paydirt), the Bulldogs avenged the previous year’s playoff loss with a 10-3 home win over Windham. Bolduc turned the game with a 97-yard interception return for a score just before halftime and after Nick Archambault connected with Jake Hunnewell on a fake punt, John Williams’ 42-yard field goal provided the final margin. Portland went on the road to handle Oxford Hills, 41-0 (Bachelder threw for two scores and Chaison-Lapine and Esposito each had two rushing TDs), then came home and held off Cheverus, 16-14, for its first win over the Bulldogs in six seasons (Esposito became the feature back for good after Chaison-Lapine suffered an ankle injury and ran for 161 yards and two touchdowns). Portland didn’t allow a single point the rest of the regular season, rolling at Lewiston (65-0, Esposito ran for 185 yards and five TDs and the Bulldogs’ defense held the Blue Devils to minus-28 yards), Bangor (59-0) and at home over South Portland (31-0, as Esposito caught two of Bachelder’s three TD passes and also had an interception return for a score). After going undefeated for the first time in a decade, Portland embarked on its quest for their first regional title in 13 years.

As the top seed in Class A North, the Bulldogs earned a bye into the semifinals, where they again crushed Bangor, this time, 56-7, as Esposito ran for 290 yards and even better, tied a nearly century-old program record with six touchdowns. The regional final would be more challenging as Windham paid a visit, but Portland got the job done, 24-7, behind Esposito’s 194 yards rushing and an 80-yard TD scamper, along with another superb defensive effort. The Bulldogs weren’t given much of a chance going into the state game against defending champion Thornton Academy and sure enough, fell behind, 14-0, but in one final show of heart, battled back to tie, on a Bachelder-to-Knop scoring pass and an Esposito TD run. The game was deadlocked entering the fourth quarter, but there, the Golden Trojans got the go-ahead field goal, then, after a couple tough calls didn’t go Portland’s way, they put it away with a touchdown and won, 24-14. The Bulldogs didn’t quite capture the championship, but captured the hearts of their followers and another memorable season, punctuated by a trip to the state final (and a loss to Bonny Eagle) would follow in 2016.

Coach Jim Hartman: “This is an exceptionally tough team that answers the bell and won’t back down to anyone. I’m proud of the boys. We weren’t supposed to be able to come back, but we damn well did and we should have come out of here with a victory. They’ll see what they accomplished after Thanksgiving, or maybe 10 years from now, but not until then. Coming into the season, I knew we’d be good. We have good players.”

The Super Six

6) Cheverus Stags, 2013 Eastern Class A champion

The last great Cheverus team. One that came thisclose to a third title in four seasons only to fall in the state final in improbable fashion. After going undefeated and winning state titles in 2010 and 2011, the Stags eventually extended their Class A win streak to a state record 34 games before being dethroned by Thornton Academy in the 2012 Eastern A Final. Undaunted, behind the running brilliance of Joe Fitzpatrick and a solid defense anchored by Zordan Holman and Cody O’Brien, Cheverus went undefeated for the fourth consecutive regular season in 2013 and appeared primed for another coronation.

The Stags survived a scare from Portland in the opener, but prevailed, 35-25, as Fitzpatrick ran for 155 yards. The remainder of the regular season saw Cheverus crush every foe. First, it was a 67-8 victory over Lewiston, as Fitzpatrick ran for 192 yards with five touchdowns. Then, a 54-0 blanking of Oxford Hills (Fitzpatrick had three more TDs and 182 yards on the ground). After shutting down Windham (57-22, behind 249 yards and four TDs from Fitzpatrick), the Stags blanked Edward Little (48-0) and earned a big measure of revenge with a 56-7 romp over Thornton Academy, as Fitzpatrick ran for 265 yards and six TDs and O’Brien added 114 yadrs, before closing with victories over Bangor (49-7) and Deering (56-12, as Fitzpatrick scored four times and Liam LaFountain added two touchdowns). As the top seed for the Eastern A playoffs, Cheverus eventually found the going a little more challenging.

After earning a bye into the semifinals, the Stags blanked Bangor, 37-0 (Fitzpatrick ran for five TDs and Cheverus added a safety), then they got a stern test from Portland in the Eastern A Final. Cheverus didn’t get a touchdown from Fitzpatrick and was down, 19-7, at halftime, but cranked up the defense (allowing the Bulldogs a mere 16 second half yards) and got a TD run from O’Brien and a breathtaking, game-winning 65-yard scoring pass from Ethan Jordan to Kenny Drelich to survive and advance, 22-19. The Stags were favored against Bonny Eagle in the what proved to be a state game for the ages, but fell behind, 7-0 (then tied it on a Fitzpatrick TD run), 14-7 (and tied it on a Fitzpatrick TD run), 17-14 and then 24-14 before roaring back to go on top as Jordan hit Sam Cross with a TD pass and O’Brien scored on a short run. Cheverus clung to a 28-24 lead as time wound down, but the Scots drove the field and scored the winning touchdown with 22.8 seconds showing and went on to a 31-28 victory. The Stags played like champions, but this time, had no Gold Ball to show for it and for just the second time in 46 outings, they left the field on the wrong end of the scoreboard.

Coach John Wolfgram: “We kept coming back. We expected to win. We coached to win. We were prepared to win. We just didn’t win. That happens. We just came up a little bit short. We showed the resiliency and character we needed to be successful. I have great kids with high character.”

5) Cheverus Stags, 2010 Class A state champion

Cheverus’ first champion in a quarter-century was the culmination of John Wolfgram’s reclamation project and was led by one of the great athletes in school history, Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Peter Gwilym. The Stags were strong from start to finish, but had to survive three tests in the regional tournament before pulling away in the second half of the Class A Final to capture an elusive state title.

After falling by a point in the regional final in 2009, Cheverus was the favorite entering the 2010 campaign and started fast, rolling past Gorham (40-6, as Spencer Cooke and Evan Jendrasko ran for long touchdowns on the game’s first two plays), Windham (28-0, as Gwilym returned a punt for a TD and Cooke returned an interception for a score) and South Portland (45-21, thanks to three second half scores). The Stags’ first test came in a home game versus Portland, but they held off the rival Bulldogs, 22-19, on fourth quarter TD runs from Gwilym and Liam Hobbins, to reach the midway point undefeated. Cheverus then blanked Kennebunk (40-0) and Westbrook (35-0) before being pushed by Bonny Eagle only to prevail by three (23-20, as senior inspirational leader Zach Dulac blocked two second half punts with Ryan Casale falling on the second one for the winning points). A 44-14 victory over Deering in the finale capped a perfect regular season and gave the Stags the top seed for the Western A tournament. And that’s where the going got tough.

Cheverus beat Windham by four touchdowns in the regular season, but in the rematch, in the quarterfinals, the Stags got taken to the wire by the Eagles before prevailing, 34-27. Cheverus trailed, 27-14, in the third period, but went ahead to stay on Gwilym’s 19-yard TD pass to Jack Bushey and the Stags scored the game’s final 20 points. Cheverus got pushed by Scarborough in the semifinals as well, but a fourth quarter touchdown run from Jendrasko was the difference in a 21-14 triumph. That was a mere appetizer for an epic regional final versus a Deering squad the Stags had beaten by 30 just three weeks earlier. The rematch was far closer. Cheverus, aided in part by a Gwilym 105-yard interception return for a touchdown, rolled to a 29-6 lead, but the Rams roared back to go up, 34-29. Jendrasko scored on a 1-yard dive with just 30 seconds to play, but the Stags had to hold on for dear life as Deering’s bid for a game-winning field goal sailed just wide, allowing them to survive and advance, 35-34. The final act, versus Bangor in the state final, was close for a half, but ultimately turned into a rout and a coronation. Leading just 9-8 at the break, Cheverus erupted in the second half, as Spencer Cooke ran for four scores, including one of 87-yards, and Cam Olson returned an interception 36-yards for a TD as the coup de grace and the Stags finished off their perfect, championship season with a 46-8 triumph.

Coach John Wolfgram: “(State championships are) all spectacular. It’s a great moment for Cheverus football. It’s exciting with this group of kids. We set a goal and did it. It takes time to build a program. It takes a lot of hard work in the offseason. A lot of preparation and commitment. We played hard for 48 minutes. These kids are very, very competitive, they’re resilient and they’re just really good kids.”

4) Scarborough Red Storm, 2017 Class A state champion

A nearly unstoppable offense combined with under-appreciated defense produced the best team in program history, one that won Scarborough a Class A Gold Ball for the first time and were it not for one regular season slip-up, would be ranked higher on this list. The Red Storm had upset Thornton Academy the year before and got to the Class A South Final before losing to eventual champion Bonny Eagle. Scarborough entered 2017 as the favorite and the Red Storm’s high-powered attack, featuring bruising running back Owen Garrard, the eventual Fitzpatrick Trophy winner, and the passing of Zoltan Panyi, clicked from start to finish and the wins quickly added up.

Scarborough made a powerful opening statement with a 43-0 win at Deering, as Garrard had four rushing touchdowns and Payni threw for two more. After a decisive 49-15 victory over Sanford (speedster Jarett Flaker returned the opening kickoff 86-yards to paydirt and the Red Storm never looked back), the only blemish of the season followed. Leading Thornton Academy, 28-14, early in the fourth period, Scarborough surrendered 18 straight points and went down to a 32-28 defeat. That game served as a wakeup call and the rest of the league paid the price. In the final five games of the regular season, the Red Storm tallied 261 points while surrendering only 56. Victims included Massabesic (63-14, behind five Garrard TDs), South Portland (48-21), Windham (66-7), Oxford Hills (49-0) and Bonny Eagle (35-14). The final victory was Scarborough at its most prolific, as Panyi completed just three passes, but all three went for scores, as he finished with 200 yards and Flaker and Garrard each ran for long scores. That win gave the Red Storm the top seed for the Class A South playoffs and they would roll to the title.

After earning a bye into the semifinals, Scarborough raced to a 40-0 halftime lead and enjoyed a 53-15 win over Sanford, as Panyi passed for two scores and ran for three more. The Red Storm were expected to get a tough test from Thornton Academy in the Class A South Final, but on one of the coldest nights in memory (25 degrees, 11 degrees with the wind chill factored in), Scarborough ran wild, as Flaker set the tone with a 73-yard burst and Garrard and Cody Dudley also broke free for long scoring runs in a surprisingly emphatic 49-7 triumph. The Red Storm had an even easier time of it in the state game versus Windham, leading from start to finish in a dominating 57-0 victory. Garrard ran for five scores, Panyi combined for 263 yards passing and rushing and Flaker and Jeremy Sendrowski paced a superb special teams effort. Scarborough had its coronation and there wasn’t a shred of doubt that the Red Storm were something special.

Coach Lance Johnson: “My expectations were high, but these kids really exceeded them. They’re just such good kids. They work hard. They work hard in the offseason and you add talent to the hard work and the intellect, you end up with the season we had this year. It’s the culmination of all the hard work these guys put in. It’s rewarding. It’s a very good feeling.”

3) Cheverus Stags, 2011 Class A state champion

The second straight undefeated Stags’ championship team won in even more emphatic fashion than the year before, won every game by at least two touchdowns and produced the first back-to-back title in program history. Cheverus replaced Fitzpatrick Trophy-winning quarterback Peter Gwilym (who went on to walk-on at Ohio State) with Cam Olson and didn’t miss a beat behind standout running backs Spencer Cooke, Brent Green and Donald Goodrich and a superb defensive effort from start to finish.

The Stags opened with a 59-21 home win over South Portland, as Cooke and Green combined for 349 rushing yards and six touchdowns. After blanking Gorham, 35-0 (Olson threw three TDs, including a pair to Louie DiStasio), Cheverus won decisively at Bonny Eagle, 42-18 (Cooke did everything in that one, running for four scores, passing for another and taking an interception to the house for his sixth touchdown), then handled visiting Sanford (41-8, behind three Olson touchdown passes), Scarbrough (38-0) and Biddeford (56-0). Ancient city rivals pushed the Stags at the close of the regular season, but Cheverus won at both Portland (21-7, behind second half TD runs from Cooke and Olson) and Deering (14-0, as Cooke and Goodrich had second half scoring rushes) to finish 8-0 for the second straight year and again earn the top seed for the Western A playoffs, where the Stags would continue to turn aside every foe.

The first postseason test came against Scarborough and it came under a cloud, as Cooke suffered a season-ending leg injury, but thanks to the effort of Goodrich (three rushing TDs and a kickoff return for a score), Cheverus passed, 35-7. Next up was Deering in the semifinals and unlike the teams’ epic regional final of the year before, this time, the Stags rolled, 45-0, as Green scored twice on the ground, brought back an interception for a touchdown and DiStasio returned an interception for a TD as well. Cheverus’ only postseason scare came in the regional final against Thornton Academy, which held a 3-0 lead at halftime, but the Stags came to life again in the second half, as Olson and Goodrich scored on the ground and Olson connected with DiStasio through the air for the dagger in a 21-10 victory. This time, it would be Lawrence awaiting in the state final and unlike the year before, when Bangor played Cheverus close for a half, the Stags quickly put their title on ice, as Green scored early from a yard out, Goodrich had consecutive TD runs, then, after the Bulldogs scored their lone points, Goodrich returned the ensuing kickoff 91-yards for a 28-7 halftime lead. In the second half, Cheverus got a pair of Goodrich scoring runs sandwiched around another from Green and the final score read, 49-7. The Stags had won two straight championships, 24 consecutive games and it appeared there was no end in sight to the Cheverus football dynasty, but it proved to be the Stags’ most recent title.

Coach John Wolfgram: “This never gets old. It’s the most exciting thing in the world. We came together. The kids were pretty well focused. They knew how difficult it was to repeat, but they were set on repeating. We strapped it up every game and played hard. I’m so proud. It’s a great group of kids. It’s a great group of student-athletes. Good competitors.”

2) Portland Bulldogs, 2002 Class A state champion

Rising from the depths of a state game heartbreak the year before, the Bulldogs, behind a superb core of athletes, survived a couple close regional tournament calls, then went on to win the program’s first Gold Ball in 20 years. Portland had fallen, 20-14, to Bangor in the 2001 Class A state final, but no one would get the better of the Bulldogs in 2002. The offense featured Keith Derrig under center and eventual Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Carl Frye as the lead running back, with Will Hews opening holes and seeing some carries as well. Portland boasted a strong line and could also move the ball through the air, as was most evident when the Bulldogs needed their biggest play of the season.

Portland started with a 41-13 win over city rival Cheverus, as Derrig threw three touchdown passes, including a pair to David Philbrook. After blanking Marshwood, 27-0, the Bulldogs met rival Deering, and not for the last time, and prevailed, 20-9, as Trey Gadbois did a little of everything, including catching a pivotal touchdown pass. Next up was Thornton Academy, which had beaten Portland the year before, but this time, the Bulldogs blanked the Golden Trojans, 19-0, as Frye ran for 219 yards and three TDs. The second half of the regular season saw Portland handle Bonny Eagle (36-6, behind five Frye touchdown scampers), blank Massabesic (47-0, behind Frye’s 313 yards and five scores) and Westbrook (27-0), then rally to edge South Portland in a thrilling ‘Battle of the Bridge” contest, 21-20, as Hews played the hero in lieu of an injured Frye, rushing for 173 yards and a crucial touchdown (Lavon McKoy’s two-point conversion rush provided the winning points). The Bulldogs wound up undefeated for the second time in three years, but this time, they wouldn’t be denied in the playoffs.

Portland, the top seed in Western A, met South Portland again in the quarterfinals and this time, the Bulldogs blanked the Red Riots, 21-0. The semifinal against Deering would be memorable and difficult, but Portland found a way. The Bulldogs led, 14-0, early, but found themselves down, 21-14, in the fourth period. Then, Derrig hit David Philbrook for a 43-yard score to tie it. With just over a minute to go and the game hanging in the balance, Portland had the ball at its 7, but in one of the most legendary plays in program history, Derrig threw a long prayer which was caught by McKoy, who ran into the end zone to complete an improbable 93-yard touchdown pass which gave the Bulldogs a 28-21 win. The regional final versus Biddeford saw just one touchdown scored and it was Portland which scored it. Frye’s 2-yard scamper was enough to give Portland a 7-2 win, as the Bulldogs’ defense played brilliantly and Hews and Philbrook intercepted passes late to send Portland to the state final for the second year in a row. This time, Portland finished the job, decisively, versus upstart Edward Little. Derrig threw for 239 yards and three touchdowns, Frye ran for 159 yards and had two TDs and Hews caught a touchdown pass and returned an interception to paydirt as the Bulldogs romped, 41-6. Portland enjoyed the finest season in program history, but five days after the state game, it would lose to Deering on Thanksgiving, sending the Rams on their way to something special the following year.

Coach Mike Bailey: “This wasn’t a surprise. We expected to be here. The players were close. They went everywhere together. Our goal was to get back to the state championship game. Defensively, we came up with some really big stops. Our athleticism was too much.”

1) Deering Rams, 2003 Class A state champion

Brunswick coach Dick Leavitt: “Deering is as good a team as I have seen in Maine high school football.”

Deering’s first state championship team in 44 years featured some stellar athletes and was part of arguably the finest year an athletic program has ever enjoyed. The Rams faced high expectations, met them and allowed just one touchdown during a dominant postseason run (in fact, they outscored the opposition, 522-46, for the season and posted seven shutouts). The year before, Deering had lost a semifinal round heartbreaker to eventual champion Portland, but in the teams’ annual Thanksgiving Day showdown, the Rams beat the Bulldogs in overtime, setting the stage for a championship run nearly a year later.

Deering boasted a ton of talent, as Ryan Flaherty (who went on to play Major League Baseball), Ryan Reid (another future Major Leaguer), Mike Joyce and Joey Marsh paced the offense, while Tyler Holden, Jon Presby, Ryan Piacentini, Reid and Robert Sampson were stalwarts on defense. The Rams got a test from South Portland in the opener, but prevailed, 19-7, as Marsh ran wild for 321 yards and three touchdowns. Deering then handled Cony, 43-6, blocking a pair of punts and getting a punt return for a score from Marsh. The good times kept rolling, as the Rams defeated Massabesic (53-13, behind three Flaherty touchdown passes), avenged the previous year’s playoff loss with a 41-0 win over Portland (Marsh ran for 185 yards and the defense was sensational), then defeated a Bonny Eagle team on the rise, 28-7 (Flaherty twice hit Joyce for long TDs), before having their way with Scarborough (40-6), Westbrook (49-0) and Cheverus (51-0, behind two touchdown runs apiece from Marsh and Reid). Deering completed the regular season perfect for the first time, but the big goal was the Gold Ball and four games later, the Rams added that to their collection.

After 56-0 blanking of Marshwood in the quarterfinals (Reid ran for three scores and Joe Melcher returned a fumble for a touchdown), Deering met up with Portland again in the semifinals and left no doubt, shutting out the Bulldogs, 33-0, as Marsh ran for three touchdowns and Sampson returned a blocked punt for a score. Due to the vagaries of the Crabtree Points standings, the Rams had to go to Biddeford for the regional final, but after a scoreless first half, they pulled away and rolled, 32-7, to punch their state game ticket. Marsh ran for 222 yards and four touchdowns and Deering forced five Tigers’ turnovers. The state game versus Brunswick was expected to be a coronation and it was that very thing, as the Rams won once more by shutout, this time, 28-0, as again Marsh put up 222 yards and scored three times. Deering had a goal-line stand which turned momentum early and after the Rams drove 99-yards for the only TD they would need (a 19-yard Marsh scamper), the result was never in doubt. At the final horn, the celebration began for a team for the ages. We haven’t seen one Deering’s equal since.

Coach Greg Stilphen: “I’ve been blessed. They were willing to sacrifice their individuality for the team. We always knew we had the ability to do it. It was just a matter of doing it. We learned our lessons well. We didn’t ever want to say, if only we had done this or if only we hadn’t done that.We played great defense. That’s due to the character of our seniors. We line up and come right at you. That’s what we do.”

Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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