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Bonny Eagle holds off Deering, advances to regional final

Sport: Football  Posted: November 11th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR

'Sponsored by Rivalries'
"Where every day is a victory celebration"

PORTLAND—Class A football teams, consider yourselves warned:

Don't get the Bonny Eagle Scots angry and if you're going to beat them, make sure you do so when you won't have to see them again with the season on the line.

The Deering Rams learned that painful lesson Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium where the vengeful Scots returned a fumble for a touchdown on the game's first play and never trailed en route to a 26-14 victory.

Bonny Eagle led by as much as 20-0 early in the second half, but Deering, seeking to replicate its scintillating rally of four weeks ago, scored two quick TDs. Undaunted, the Scots wouldn't be denied, getting a touchdown run from senior Josh Ruby and some timely defensive plays to earn a date in Saturday's Western Class A Final at undefeated Thornton Academy.

“Our goal is to win a state championship and we obviously knew when we lost (29-28 to Deering in Week 6) that we'd probably be here for the semifinals,” Bonny Eagle coach Kevin Cooper said. “We really didn't hammer it into the kids' heads this week, going to get revenge at Deering. Deering just happened to be a team to beat to get there.”

The Scots have won three of the past four state titles and had another stellar regular season, even though their 6-2 record might have hinted at mortality. Bonny Eagle had to forfeit an early-season victory over Westbrook after self-reporting the use of an ineligible player. The Scots then failed to hold a 28-14 lead with just over three minutes to play against visiting Deering Oct. 10 and were relegated to the No. 4 seed for the Western A playoffs.

The Rams, meanwhile, enjoyed their first unbeaten regular season since their championship year of 2003. Deering crushed virtually every foe with its high-powered offense and featured a defense that simply got better and better as the year progressed.

Both teams easily took care of business in the quarterfinals. The top-ranked Rams pummeled No. 8 Gorham 48-6, while the Scots downed No. 5 Cheverus 35-0 to set up a fourth postseason showdown in five years.

Bonny Eagle eliminated Deering in the 2004 (40-7) and 2007 (28-13) semifinals round, while the Rams pulled a 28-20 upset at the Scots in the 2006 semis.

While Saturday's contest didn't match the drama of the regular season meeting, it certainly had its moments.

Bonny Eagle won the opening coin toss and deferred possession to the second half.

It turned out to be a brilliant move.

After sophomore Sam Balzano returned the opening kick 10 yards to the Deering 21, disaster struck for the hosts. Senior standout Jack Heary took a handoff, was hit at the line of scrimmage and fumbled. The ball bounced right into the eager and waiting hands of Scots' senior star Nate Doehler at the 24 and Doehler raced down the right sideline into the end zone to give Bonny Eagle a 7-0 lead it wouldn't relinquish.

The Rams gained a first down on their next possession when sophomore quarterback Jamie Ross rolled left for 21 yards on third-and-12, but Deering eventually had to punt and the Scots took over offensively for the first time at their 44.

Back-to-back runs by Doehler both lost two yards and an incomplete pass forced a Bonny Eagle punt. The Rams then moved into Scots' territory on a 33-yard pass play from Ross to Balzano. A personal foul penalty and two false starts ultimately doomed the drive and Deering had to punt again.

Bonny Eagle took over at its 16 late in the first quarter and embarked on a march that would extend its lead.

An 11-yard run by Doehler, a 28-yard Doehler-to-junior Joe Davis pass play and an unsportsmanlike conduct call on the hosts moved the ball into Rams' territory. The Scots faced a fourth-and-12 at the Deering 28, but Doehler threw a gorgeous fade to the right sideline where senior Travis Dunn came down with it (barely getting a foot inbounds) for a first down at the 6. Three plays later, Doehler dove over from the 1. He then added the extra point and Bonny Eagle led 14-0 with 6:48 to go in the first half.

The drive encompassed 13 plays and 7 minutes, 9 seconds.

The Rams moved to the Scots' 14 on their next drive, but Heary was thrown for a 4-yard loss on third-and-5 and after a timeout, Ross' pass fell incomplete, giving Bonny Eagle the ball with 1:54 to go. Three runs for 13 yards brought the curtain down on the first half.

The teams combined for just 189 yards of offense (Deering had a 96-93 edge). Heary managed just 42 yards on 12 carries.

The Scots got the ball to start the second half and threatened to put the game out of reach with another scoring drive. A 23-yard pass from Doehler-to-junior Donald Hildreth got things started. Doehler then broke a pair of tackles en route to a 38-yard scamper to put the ball at the Rams' 14. After Doehler ran for 11 more, Ruby got in on the act, scoring on a 3-yard run. Doehler's extra point was blocked, but Bonny Eagle led 20-0.

As it turned out, the Rams had the Scots right where they wanted them.

On the first play of the ensuing series, Ross faked a handoff, dropped back and unleashed a bomb down the middle that was snared by Balzano running free. Balzano outraced the pursuit to the end zone, capping a 77-yard scoring play and putting Deering on the board. Ross' extra point was no good, but with 9:12 to play in the third, it was a 20-6 game.

Bonny Eagle then went three-and-out and after a high snap, Doehler's punt was blocked by Rams' senior Ernie Salamone. Senior Ben Sawyer pounced on the loose football and Deering was in great shape at the Scots' 16. After Heary was thrown for a 3-yard loss on first down, Ross rolled left, threw a rainbow toward the left pylon and Heary leaped and wrestled the ball away from Ruby before landing in the end zone. Ross then hit Balzano (who caught the ball after it was tipped) for the two-point conversion and suddenly the Rams were right back in it, down 20-14.

Bonny Eagle momentarily restored order on its next drive when six Doehler runs led to a pair of first downs, but ultimately the Scots had to punt from the Deering 49 and the Rams got the ball back with a chance to improbably take the lead.

Deering started at its 14 and picked up a first down, but on second-and-9 from its 25, Ross was intercepted by Davis. After Doehler was held to no gain on a run that ended the third quarter, the Rams got the ball right back on the first play of the fourth when Doehler's pass to Davis in the end zone was tipped by Heary and snared by junior Travis Wade.

Unfortunately for the hosts, the turnover-fest continued on the next play when Ross was picked by Bonny Eagle junior Stephen Martin, who returned the ball to the Deering 31.

“It was two hard, physical football teams playing and trying to make plays,” Cooper said. “Everyone talks about the offenses, but these are good defenses too. A lot of the turnovers were defenses making plays. Wade made that pick where we thought we had six. They had pressure on Nate. It was a great defensive play on them. Then we came back and made an unbelievable defensive play.”

This time, the Scots took advantage and earned a little breathing room. Ruby ran for 6 yards on first down and Doehler followed with runs of 2 and 6-yards for a first down at the 17. Ruby then took the ball and ran up the gut untouched until Heary leveled him at the goal line. Ruby broke the plane, however, and after a two-point conversion pass was picked off, Bonny Eagle was up 26-14 with 9:23 to go.

Order had been restored.

“We knew they had a chance to come back,” Doehler said. “We remembered back to week 6 when the same thing happened. We just couldn't take that feeling again. No one gave up. Everyone stayed focused and played hard.”

“How could we not be worried?” Cooper added. “They're good and can score in a hurry. We just tried to stress to the guys that we were still ahead and we had to keep playing.”

The Scots defense, which excelled from start to finish, especially in preventing Heary from enjoying his usual rampage, then stepped up and forced a three-and-out.

Bonny Eagle took over at its 38 with 8:52 to go and began thinking about milking the clock. Unfortunately, the first snap of the series was fumbled and Rams' senior Matt Becker recovered at the 39.

Deering couldn't capitalize. After Heary twice ran for 2 yards, Ross dropped back and was hit by Scots' senior Dayton McPherson. Junior Josh Lund helped finish Ross off for a 16-yard sack.

“What it did was put Deering in a tough fourth down play,” Cooper said. “Dayton came up with the sack and they had 4th-and-20 or so. That's obviously a play where the defense has the advantage. Dayton's a fantastic player. He played great today. That sack was huge.”

On fourth-and-22, Ross ran for just 9 yards, turning the ball over on downs.

A holding penalty short-circuited Bonny Eagle's bid to ice the game and the Scots had to punt once more. With 4:27 to play, the Rams began at midfield. Despite the lack of time and a 12-point deficit, Heary ran three straight times. After an incomplete pass, Deering took a timeout with 2:26 to go. Ross then tried to hit Salamone for a first down, but the Scots broke it up, and the win was all-but-official.

Four plays later, Doehler broke free for a 33-yard scamper to the Rams' 27. He then took two knees and the clock ran out. Bonny Eagle moved on with the 26-14 win.

“We've been waiting for this for awhile,” Doehler said. “We wanted to see them again and show them what we have. We didn't show everything we have back then. Everyone, the whole community, just supports us. They're the greatest. We're all proud of that. We all love to play for this team and wouldn't want to play anywhere else.”

Deering (9-1) only managed 208 yards of offense and was hindered by eight penalties for 73 yards and three turnovers. Heary was held to 67 yards on 19 carries. He did catch the one pass for 19 yards and a TD. Ross went 6-for-18 for 162 yards and two TDs. He was also intercepted twice. He ran five times for 34 yards. Balzano was the leading receiver, making three grabs for 121 yards and a score.

Cooper tipped his cap to the vanquished.

“They treat the game of football like we treat it,” he said. “Their kids play with a lot of passion. It was fun for me to be a part of it.”

While Bonny Eagle turned the ball over twice and had seven penalties for 62 yards, it did enough to hold on. Doehler ran for 137 yards and a TD on 25 carries. He also threw for 100 yards on 8-of-17 passing with an interception. Ruby wound up gaining 33 yards and scoring twice on eight carries.

The Scots (8-2) now turn their attention to visiting another undefeated team in the regional final Saturday. Thornton Academy (10-0 after a stirring 35-28 come-from-behind win over Windham in its semifinal) is desperately seeking respect after being in Bonny Eagle and Deering's shadow all fall.

Cooper expects a challenge.

“(Thornton Academy's) very skilled on offense,” he said. “It's very sophisticated, a lot like us, trying to get a lot of guys involved. They're very well coached. I think it's going to be a great battle down there next week.”

BE-    7    7    6    6-    26
D-    0    0    14    0-    14
First quarter
BE—Doehler 24 fumble return (Doehler kick)
Second quarter
BE—Doehler 1 run (Doehler kick)
Third quarter
BE—Ruby 3 run (kick blocked)
D—Balzano 77 pass from Ross (kick failed)
D—Heary 19 pass from Ross (Balzano pass from Ross)
Fourth quarter
BE—Ruby 17 run (pass failed)

BE- Doehler 25-137-1, Ruby 8-33-2, Davis 1 (-4), Adkins 1-4
D-Heary 19-67, Ross 5-34, Alves 1-1
BE-Doehler 8-17-100-1-0
D-Ross 6-18-162-2-2
BE-Davis 2-35, Dunn 2-27, Ruby 2-14, Hildreth 1-23, Alfiero 1-1
D-Balzano 3-121-1, Heary 1-19-1, Alves 1-15, Hardy 1-7
D- 3

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