STANDISH — Thornton Academy quarterback Wyatt Benoit said his team never lost confidence after a tough 0-2 start to the season.

But late in Friday’s game at longtime Class A rival Bonny Eagle, things were looking much like they had the first two weeks for the Trojans in seven-point losses to Portland and Oxford Hills. Once again, they were locked in a tie with a tough opponent.

“We obviously were still confident. We played two top teams. We knew we were 0-2 and the question was what if TA goes 0-3, but we couldn’t let that happen,” Benoit said.

This time, Thornton made the key plays. The defense rose up and got a fourth-down stop to end a 15-play Bonny Eagle drive. Then came the break the Trojans needed when Bonny Eagle mishandled a punt midway through the fourth quarter. Thornton’s Mauricio Sunderland converted Ryan Camire’s recovery into a 3-yard touchdown run for the go-ahead score, and Benoit raced 42 yards for the clinching touchdown a few minutes later in a 28-14 win.

Thornton is 1-2, and injury-riddled Bonny Eagle is 2-1.

“We played with a sense of urgency for the whole game. We’ve done that in phases in the first two games,” said Thornton Coach Kevin Kezal. “No one’s played a tougher three-game stretch than we have, and I’m really proud of our kids to come over here, chips down, everyone’s talking about the demise of Thornton Academy football. Can put that on hold for a little while.”


Both teams were quarterback driven. Benoit rushed for 105 yards on nine carries. He only threw four passes, but three were completed, including first-half touchdowns of 36 yards to Xander Cantara and 77 yards on a deep ball up the right sideline to Jackson Paradis.

Bonny Eagle was playing without top wide receiver CJ Cooper, son of Coach Kevin Cooper, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last week in a 45-14 win at Noble, and senior captain tight end/inside linebacker Connor McAvoy. Early in the game, slot back Connor Johnson went down with an apparent knee injury. Owen Sperry (five catches, 64 yards) and Brandt Abbott (four catches, 41 yards) stepped into larger roles and made key catches for quarterback Terrell Edwards, but Sperry had to come out in the second half and Abbott was limping by game’s end.

That put the onus on Edwards, who rushed for 90 tough yards on 24 carries, with the yards increasingly harder to come by as the game went on. Edwards completed 16 of 28 passes for 152 yards. He also threw two touchdown passes in the first half – a 5-yarder to Kyle Blaney to cap the game-opening drive, and then a 12-yard slant pass to Abbott with 5 seconds left in the half.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, but it looked like the Scots were slowly taking control. Bonny Eagle stuffed a fourth-and-1 run to halt a Thornton drive at the 10.

Then Bonny Eagle went on a time-consuming march to get inside the Thornton 35. On fourth-and-3, Edwards was stopped just short.

“Games like this between pretty good rivals come down to inches. I mean, we were 3 inches away from getting a first down,” said Kevin Cooper. “We get the first down, we have a decent chance of getting some points there. We come up with a great stop, and then we mishandle a punt. Those are the plays you have to come up with to win a game like that. They made them. We didn’t make them.”

Thornton could only muster one first down and was forced to punt from its own 43. Fernando Ongay’s high punt was not handled and scooted away, eventually being recovered by Camire at the Bonny Eagle 13. Sunderland pushed the pile for 10 yards, and then found clean sailing over left tackle on his 3-yard score.

“That (defensive) stop really turned us up and the dropped punt return, that was really the icebreaker for us,” said Thornton linebacker Harry Bunce. “As soon as that happened, all the energy was 100 percent Thornton, zero percent Bonny Eagle.”

The Scots turned the ball over on downs, and on the next play, Benoit ran left, got to the sideline, then cut it up and outran the deflated Bonny Eagle defense.

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