STANDISH — Round One in the Maine vs. New Hampshire high school football battle went to Bonny Eagle.

But it was far from easy. The Scots had to rely on big plays on offense and capitalized on two fumbles and a blocked punt to pull out a season-opening 33-27 win against Merrimack.

Bonny Eagle senior quarterback Cam Marcello connected with sophomore CJ Cooper on three touchdown passes, and Cooper, the son of Scots Coach Kevin Cooper, blocked a punt to set up Marcello’s fourth touchdown pass of the game – a 15-yard crossing strike to Cade Dixon that stemmed a Merrimack rally and put Bonny Eagle ahead 33-20.

“I was just so hyped up to be able to play a team from out of state and really show what Maine football is all about,” CJ Cooper said.

Friday’s game at Bonny Eagle was the first of five this season between Maine Class A and New Hampshire Division I teams. The games count in Maine’s Crabtree standings. They will only be used as a tiebreaker, if necessary, in New Hampshire. Most of all, they were designed to give Maine’s large-school teams another chance to schedule a competitive opponent.

Merrimack provided that for Bonny Eagle. The Tomahawks, with a 55-player roster, showed an effective passing game run by quarterback Trent Jackson, who completed 23 of 37 passes for 241 yards, and a physical defensive line that kept the Scots’ ground game in check. Merrimack’s best asset was senior running back Reimello Hyde. Hyde gashed the Bonny Eagle defense for 188 yards and scored on runs of 61, 35 and 11 yards.


“Credit to Merrimack, those kids played really hard,” said Kevin Cooper. “We feel fortunate to win. There are a lot of things that we strive to do on a regular basis in games, like run the ball, and we really couldn’t do it tonight. Reimello Hyde, he’s a player. I think he’d be a good player in any state.”

Bonny Eagle led 26-7 after the third touchdown pass by Marcello to Cooper early in the third quarter – a 26-yarder into the end zone, where the 6-foot-3 Cooper used a subtle arm extension to get separation before leaping to make the catch. Cooper’s other touchdown catches of 41 and 79 yards also came on well-thrown deep balls by Marcello after Cooper had gotten behind the secondary. Marcello finished 10 of 17 for 221 yards.

“Me and Cam, when we were younger we were neighbors and we used to play pass together all the time,” CJ Cooper said. “We’ve always had that connection together, and I’m glad that he’s our quarterback because he can sling it.”

But Merrimack responded with two touchdowns in just over two minutes before the third quarter was over, cutting the lead to 26-20. Jackson zipped a pass over the middle that Owen Sadowski took 47 yards, and after Merrimack’s defense forced a three-and-out, Hyde went 35 yards up the middle on a draw, running through arm tackles.

Bonny Eagle got a needed stop when its defense hustled to a couple of quick swing passes for little gain, forcing a punt. On fourth down, with the punt block called from the sidelines, Cooper came through unblocked and was able to easily swat down the ball, which he then recovered at the 15.

On the next play, Marcello hit Dixon for a touchdown with 10:20 remaining It was the third time in the game Bonny Eagle scored on a one-play possession.


Merrimack cut the lead to 33-27 on Hyde’s 11-yard burst with 2:51 to play. Merrimack got the ball back one more time, but Bonny Eagle’s win was secured when Trevor Nevells intercepted an errant pass with 1:21 left.

“They were keeping score. We weren’t just coming up here to have an exhibition, we were playing to win,” said Merrimack Coach Kip Jackson. “We made too many mistakes to beat a bad team, much less a really good team like Bonny Eagle, and we have to clean some of that stuff up.”

Merrimack was the faster, more physical team in the opening minutes and struck first on a 61-yard run by Hyde, as he made an impressive jump cut against the grain, broke a tackle and showed a burst to run away from the Scots’ secondary.

Merrimack hurt itself with two first-half fumbles, the second coming after its second high snap from center.

Bonny Eagle converted both into touchdowns: a 41-yard pass from Marcello to Cooper, one play after the first turnover, and then a 1-yard run by Trevor Perkins (15 carries, 55 yards) 13 seconds before halftime for a 19-7 lead.

In between those scores, Cooper got behind the Merrimack defense a second time for his 79-yard touchdown. That TD came one play after a Merrimack drive stalled in part due to a holding penalty that wiped out a first down.

Merrimack was 3-6 in New Hampshire’s Division I in 2021. Bonny Eagle, with a varsity roster (grades 10-12) of 35 players, was 6-4 in 2021, losing in the state semifinals to Oxford Hills.

“We expected it to be a fight,” said Bonny Eagle senior captain Nick Riker, a linebacker and offensive tackle. “We knew we were going to have to play all four quarters. We were all amped up for the first game of the season and we had to show up for Maine. But once we got into (the game), I was just trying to win. New Hampshire, Maine, it doesn’t matter to me, we still have to go out there and play.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.