Thornton Academy and Bonny Eagle have met in the playoffs five times in the previous nine postseasons, including Bonny Eagle’s 34-21 victory in the 2019 Class A state championship game. Ben McCanna/Press Herald file photo

The Thornton Academy and Bonny Eagle football teams have dueled often for Class A supremacy over the years.

They’ll meet again Saturday – and once again, championship hopes will be on the line.

The South final between the Golden Trojans and Scots will be one of many intriguing matchups involving southern Maine teams on a busy weekend of regional title games.

In Class A North, defending champion Oxford Hills meets unbeaten Portland. In Class B South, Kennebunk faces Massabesic, while undefeated Leavitt plays Fryeburg Academy in Class C South and Wells takes on Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale on Friday night in Class D South.

The state championships in eight-man football will take place Saturday, with Greely facing Mount Desert Island in the Large School final and Old Orchard Beach squaring off against Orono in the Small School division.

The Thornton-Bonny Eagle matchup will pit two teams that have won eight of the last 10 Class A titles, and 17 altogether. The teams have met in the playoffs five times in the previous nine postseasons.


“It’s probably our rivalry game. Both of us seem to be there in the end,” Thornton Coach Kevin Kezal said. “I think they bring out the best in us, and we certainly bring out the best in them.”

Thornton (6-4) beat Bonny Eagle (7-3), 28-14, in September, when back-to-back fourth-quarter touchdowns by Mauricio Sunderland and Wyatt Benoit allowed the Trojans to take the lead for good.

Thornton Academy’s Mauricio Sunderland breaks free from a Portland defender during the season opener for both teams on Sept. 1 in Saco. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Both teams are coming off impressive victories in the regional semifinals – Thornton defeated Sanford, 45-0, while Bonny Eagle beat Noble, 47-6. Both are led by dual-threat quarterbacks. Terrell Edwards threw for a touchdown and ran for three more in the Scots’ victory on Monday, and the Trojans’ Wyatt Benoit can make big plays rushing or throwing the ball.

Edwards completed 16 of 28 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns while running for 90 yards against Thornton in September. Benoit ran nine times for 105 yards while throwing two touchdown passes.

Both teams struggled during the regular season because of hard schedules. Thornton was 4-4 at one point and Bonny Eagle was 3-3, but both have recovered to put themselves in championship contention again.

“It’s been an unbelievable year with resilience,” Kezal said.


POWERHOUSE TEAMS are lined up on the other side of the Class A bracket. Defending champion Oxford Hills is playing for its third straight trip to the state final, while Portland, the Class B runner-up a season ago, is vying for its fifth state final in eight seasons. The Bulldogs made it to the Class A title game in 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Oxford Hills is 8-2, having played a difficult schedule, like Thornton and Bonny Eagle, but Coach Mark Soehren said the team has also had its share of mistakes. The Vikings slipped past Windham, 6-0, to reach the regional final.

“We have moments of greatness, and then moments that I’m not sure it looks like I’ve ever coached them before,” he said. “I just don’t think we’ve put together a really complete game yet.”

Joseph Dube of Lewiston is brought down by a host of Portland defenders during Monday’s Class A North semifinal. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The Vikings will have to find that consistency against a fast Portland defense.

“Defensively, they’re in a very tight man. They’re very aggressive,” Soehren said. “They blitz a lot, they stunt a lot, which you don’t see a lot of. … We’re going to have to be able to handle their aggressiveness.”

Portland (9-0) knows to be wary of the Vikings’ firepower, led by quarterback Brady Truman, running backs Hunter Tardiff and Jacob Carson and receiver Braden Murch.


“They probably have one of the best passing attacks in the state,” Bulldogs Coach Sean Green said. “They present problems in all phases.”

It’s been a dream season for the Bulldogs under their new coach, but Green said they’re looking for more.

“We don’t feel like we’ve reached our potential yet,” he said.

A DROUGHT WILL END in Class B South. Either Kennebunk (8-1) will reach its first state title game since 2016, or Massabesic (5-4), playing in its first regional final since 2005, will make its first trip to a state final since 2000.

Kennebunk, led by hard-charging running back Jonah Barstow, rallied late to edge Westbrook, 23-22, one week after nipping Marshwood, 41-40. It’s been a change from the Rams’ dominant victories earlier in the season, but the Rams’ first-year head coach, Keith Noel, said it’s typical for games to tighten late in the season.

Kennebunk Coach Keith Noel instructs a player during a preseason practice in August. “You always want to see how your kids respond in pressure situations,” Noel says. “Our kids have made some big plays in those pressure situations.” Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

“Winning is tough. You can’t take anything for granted,” he said. “You always want to see how your kids respond in pressure situations. … Our kids have made some big plays in those pressure situations.”


The Rams beat Massabesic 38-6 in September. Noel expects a different game Saturday against the Mustangs, who beat Marshwood, 14-7, in the semis.

“They’re definitely different than what they were doing against us in Week 2,” Noel said. “You can tell they’ve turned it on of late.”

IN CLASS C SOUTH, the question remains: can anyone stop the Leavitt machine?

Fryeburg (8-1) is the latest team to face that question. The Raiders defeated Cheverus, 34-15, to reach the regional final, on the strength of three Gunnar Saunders touchdowns. Fryeburg lost to Leavitt in the season opener, 45-8, but has won eight games in a row and has held five of its last six opponents to single digits.

Leavitt’s Noah Carpenter fires a pass against Medomak Valley during the 2022 Class C state championship game. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Still, toppling the 9-0 Hornets, who roughed up Cape Elizabeth 59-26 last week, will be a demanding task. Leavitt has proven itself by handling even the best Class A competition in the state, and with quarterback and Fitzpatrick Trophy candidate Noah Carpenter leading a deep roster of playmakers, Fryeburg’s margin for error is razor thin.

IN CLASS D SOUTH, Wells (6-3) is in the regional final for the first time since winning the last of three straight state championships in 2018. The Warriors defeated Freeport 42-7 last weekend, getting four rushing touchdowns from Eli Potter.

Their opponent will be a Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale team that knocked off Oak Hill, 17-14, behind a late rally and last-second Gabe Robinson field goal. The Ramblers (7-3) are playing for a spot in the state final for the fourth straight season.

Wells beat the Ramblers 41-0 in Week 3. Potter ran for two touchdowns and Riley Murphy had two touchdown receptions.

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