SACO — Trailing at halftime with a trip to the Class A state championship game in the balance, Thornton Academy’s unbeaten football went to tried and true formula for success in high school football: power running and strong defense.

Top-seeded Thornton (10-0) scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to defeat No. 5 Scarborough, 28-12, in front of 1,248 fans at sunny Hill Stadium.

“Step up. Our coach came in (at halftime) and told us what we needed to do, and we executed,” said senior quarterback Jack Emerson. “Do what coach said.”

Thornton will meet second-seeded Oxford Hills in the Class A final next Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium. Thornton won the regular-season game, 31-23, in Paris.

The Golden Trojans received the second-half kickoff and drove 71 yards in seven plays, keyed by two jet sweeps by Anthony Jones that gained 38 yards. Emerson bulled his way in from the 8 and then rushed in for 2-point conversion and a 15-12 lead.

Scarborough (5-4) had to punt on its first possession of the second half. Behind a wall of blockers, Isaiah Jones returned it 49 yards to the 28.

On first down, Emerson found Anthony Jones on a skinny post for another touchdown, and Oskari Tapola’s PAT made it 22-12.

Scarborough continued to move the ball well, driving inside the Thornton 20 three times in the second half. But the Red Storm were stopped on downs twice, and another drive ended with an Isaiah Jones interception late in the fourth quarter.

“I feel like in the second half, our defense definitely stepped it up a notch,” said standout outside linebacker Cody Ruff. “Effort’s a huge part of it. Giving it all every single play, those six seconds that that play lasts, doing your all to help out the team.”

Thornton effectively put the game away with an 87-yard fourth-quarter drive. Alex St. John (15 carries, 82 yards) put in extra effort on a third-down run to keep the drive moving and also popped a 25-yard gain after escaping a blitzer in the backfield. Emerson barreled in from the 11 for the score.

“I’m really proud. We didn’t panic,” said Thornton Coach Kevin Kezal. “Give (Scarborough) all the credit. They played a great game. We had some things that didn’t go our way in the first half and we regrouped and played a really good second half.”

From the opening minutes, the Red Storm showed they were ready to compete at a high level and were not intimidated by either Thornton’s unbeaten record or the Trojans’ 51-0 win in the regular season, when Scarborough was coming out of a two-week COVID-related hibernation.

Scarborough broke on top with a 15-yard pass from Rumelhart to Ryan Kelly (four catches, 108 yards), completing a nine-play, 89-yard drive. A trick play on the conversion attempt failed, leaving Scarborough ahead 6-0.

Thornton scored midway through the second quarter on a 12-yard run by St. John, with Tapola’s PAT making it 7-6.

Scarborough answered quickly with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Rumelhart (13 of 24, 218 yards) to Kelly.

“This was a rough season for us. We had a lot of injuries, a lot of COVID issues, and we were just coming off of all of that,” said Scarborough Coach Packy Malia. “We just finally got all our guys back and got things rolling in the right direction, and this is more the football team we thought we would have all year. We had our chances.”


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