Bonny Eagle throttles Thornton – and any debate about who's on top right now

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Scots Greg Emerson (rear) and Chael Anastacio (14) team up to drive Trojan Anthony Bracamonte out of bounds.

SACO—Bonny Eagle flayed Thornton Academy 49-14 on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 30 – and in the Trojans’ home stadium, no less. TA played well, to be sure; the Scots, with their vast array of weapons and their pleasure-to-behold execution, simply proved an overwhelming force. Alex Sprague, Kordell Menard and Nick Thorne tallied two TDs apiece as Bonny Eagle annihilated any doubts that they remain the dominant force in Maine high school football.

“It’s a great win, no doubt about it,” said Bonny Eagle head coach Kevin Cooper. “It’s tough to beat TA here as it is, so this is pretty special, this afternoon.”

“Honestly, no, I didn’t,” Menard said, asked if he thought the result would be so wide-open. “I thought it would be closer. But stuff happens, I guess.”

“When we came into this game, we were expecting it to be a shootout,” Thorne said. “Battle of the trenches, big hits, big plays. So we were ready for anything – we were ready to fight to the last second on the clock.”

Again: Thornton performed admirably; they didn’t commit many glaring errors – except, perhaps, for a couple ill-advised passes, two of which nearly resulted in interceptions for Scot Greg Emerson, and one of which did result in an interception for Scot Chael Anastacio. In fact, TA kept pace with Bonny Eagle for a quarter and a half, give or take, and even briefly held the lead. But once the Scots figured out just how to clamp down on the Trojans’ chief threats, especially wide receiver Anthony Bracamonte, they ran away with the action.

Bonny Eagle opened the game in possession. Uncharacteristically, Sprague bobbled the kickoff near the sideline and the ball fell out of bounds; having to begin from their own 17, however, didn’t impede the Scots on their ensuing drive. After TA handed them five yards on an encroachment flag, Bonny Eagle quickly picked up speed and marched down the field: Sprague battled for three up the middle; QB Connor Sirois chucked to Menard for six; Sprague broke away left for – count ‘em – 32, then galloped 17 more up the right-middle. Finally, Sprague and Sirois turned in a pair of short runs to advance the team to third and one at TA’s 10.

From there, Sprague showed off his power: With help from his teammates, propping him up and pushing  him from behind, Sprague plowed headlong into the TA defense and proceeded to carry several of them with him into the end zone. Ace kicker Christian Napolitano capped the series with a pretty PAT for 7-0.

Thornton soon answered, though the Scots didn’t make it easy on them. For one, Thorne – a 230-lb kid with a fairly terrifying Viking beard – is shockingly fast, and dropped Bracamonte, the TA kick-returner, at the Trojans’ own 10, forcing them to begin driving from terrible field position. 

“You ever seen a fat man run so fast? That’s the joke on the team, ‘Have you ever seen a fat man run so fast?’” Thorne said, before turning serious. “Every week, Coop drills into us that special teams are the most important plays of the game. So I could be like most teams, where their starters aren’t on special teams, but I love getting out there. I’ll take a defensive rep off just to go out and kick off and try to make a play for the team for a big stop.”

Still, TA made their way down the field, if in fits and starts; Bracamonte, CJ LaBreck, Grant Dow and Will Mitchell all contributed, with Cameron Houde ultimately breaking loose from third and one at the Bonny Eagle 27 and dashing all the way into the end zone. 7-7.

“To start the game, we were struggling a little bit,” Thorne said. “But I think that was just adjusting from a Friday to a Saturday game. I don’t know anyone that likes playing a Saturday game, besides Thornton. Once our line could adjust to it, we were able to open it up between inside and pass game and outside run. With Kordell on the outside and me and Alex and Connor in the backfield, it’s a guessing game. You can key in on what we run, but you’re going to get hit in the face with something else.”

Sprague immediately responded to the Trojans’ touchdown, kidney-punching them by returning the ensuing kickoff roughly 97 yards for the Scots’ second strike. Bonny Eagle’s attempt, however, at rushing a two-point conversion failed, and the scoreboard lodged at 13-7. 

In a game that looked fated to seesaw back and forth, the botched PAT boded ill.

The Scots assembled a huge stop on TA’s next series, but couldn’t manage to wring any points out of their own possession either. Spying an opportunity, Thornton seized the lead: Bracamonte and Co. capitalized after retaking the ball and methodically hopscotching it upfield; Bracamonte himself did the honors from third and three at the Scots’ seven, slipping through the middle and tying things up. The Trojans opted to – and succeeded in – kicking for one. 

They moved out front, 14-13.

“Anthony Bracamonte’s a heck of a player,” said Cooper. “Tough to defend, because we can’t simulate what that kid is able to do on the football field. So it certainly took us about a quarter and a half before we finally kind of settled down and could keep him somewhat contained – and even then it was hard. We needed, really, all 11 guys. Chael Anastacio played great; our other defensive backs played great today; Christian Napolitano – who had some bad plays early – rebounded, played great in the second half. But we really needed all 11 guys on [Bracamonte], because he’s so good.”

“We’ve been studying them all week,” Menard said, “so we pretty much knew what they were going to do, coming out. And coach has been harping on us about 21, Bracamonte.”

“From the beginning of the week, we were already focused on Bracamonte,” Thorne said. “After hours, literally, of studying film, we could determine when they were running those plays. So our d-line was calling out when they were running it, where they were running it, and once our secondary could really adjust to it, and understand what we were saying, we were able to lock him down, and keep him to negative, one-to-two yard gains. That came from just, every day at practice, repping it over and over and over again. That’s what Coop’s good at: keying in on their best plays and us repping them over and over again on d.”

That’s when Bonny Eagle cracked their collective knuckles, rolled their collective shoulder blades and flipped the switch on beast mode. Sprague, Thorne, Sirois and Menard shuttled the ball the length of the field in under four minutes, and Sirois connected with Menard for a 22-yard pass TD on a fade route. Thornton blocked Napolitano’s extra-point kick to keep themselves close, but the Scots were about to pull away.

“If the corner’s inside of me,” Menard said, describing what he sees on a fade, “I know I’ve got it, because I can just go like this and jab-step inside and go out, and then my quarterback throws it right where I need it and I just high-point it, like the coaches taught us.”

Great defensive work by the likes of Zach Klein, Aaran Hodgman, Anastacio and others allowed the Scots to halt the Trojans’ follow-up drive. Bonny Eagle took over at their own 35. With a mere 1:16 remaining before the break, though, their odds of snatching up even a field goal looked slim. 

But this is Bonny Eagle we’re talking about. The team expertly put together a rapid-fire series to find the end zone once more. Sirois began it, running left for 10 and slicing out of bounds at just the right moment to both secure the first down and stop the clock. He pitched to Menard for 16. Sprague ran for 14. Even when the snaps on that drive didn’t unfold in the Scots’ favor, the team performed exactly as they needed to: Sirois knew when to ditch a ball for a timely incompletion – it gained no yards, but it did stop the clock again – and when Sprague fumbled behind the line of scrimmage, he immediately recovered. The team had saved their timeouts, and called them exactly when they needed to, wasting no time in the process.

The end result was another pass TD for Sirois, this one a 21-yard bullet up the middle to Arlo Pike. Sirois followed that throw with one to Sprague for a two-point conversion. 27-14. Left with a measly 14.8 seconds till halftime, Thornton simply took a knee.

“Our offensive philosophy, we’re going to try to mix it around,” Cooper said. “Use both our backs, use our quarterback, try to use all our receivers. We kind of did that today, I thought. When we do that, we’re pretty hard to defend. Our offensive line, we only had one returning starter coming back, but they’re really starting to gel more and more. It’s pretty nice when, as a coach, you have those types of weapons out on the field.”

The Scots forced another TA punt to begin the third – whatever regrouping the Trojans had hoped to do during the break, they hadn’t managed to do it. Nor would they regroup at all in the downhill 24 minutes: not on a huge run or a huge pass, not during a timeout, and not on a big stop. 

“I thought all three of our corners played very well,” Cooper said. “Chael Anastacio, but also Will Whyte and Zach Maturo, I thought they played great today on defense. Zach had a couple of pass interference calls – I don’t know, I didn’t really agree with those calls. Bracamonte and LaBreck are two great receivers, so we really asked a lot of our secondary today, and I thought they played really well.”

Thorne took a moment to applaud Maturo and Whyte as well. “Zach Maturo, he’s a sophomore this year, and all he really did was kick-return last year, but he’s really stepped up this year on special teams and on defense. He played a lot of lockdown on LaBreck. Him and Will Whyte – they’re big contributors on defense.”

Bonny Eagle proceeded to tally three more touchdowns: Sirois connected with Menard from fourth and goal at the Trojans’ 12 in the middle of the third, Thorne bulldozed home a 14-yard rush four minutes later, and Thorne (again) bulldozed home a 14-yard rush two and a half minutes after that.

When the dust settled, the Scots had simply overmatched an outstanding opponent. 49-14 the final.

“Right now, we have some guys playing at a very high level,” Cooper said. “Our quarterback is playing great; our line is really coming along – I don’t think a lot of people thought our offensive line was really going to be a strength for us, but they’ve really raised their games. Like I said, it’s pretty fun to coach when you’ve got kids like that.”

“We made some halftime adjustments,” Menard said, “and just came out and fixed it…I’ve never won here, so I just wanted to come out and do everything I can for my team and win – and we did.”

Menard was quick to praise his teammates. “Our whole offense and defense – I can’t really point out someone particular. But Sprague, obviously. That kickoff is huge, at the beginning of the game, we went up 13-7.”

Bonny Eagle moves to 5-0 on the season. The Scots host Massabesic in week six, travel to Deering in week seven, and welcome Scarborough – A South’s No. 3 tribe – in week eight. Thornton, meanwhile, slips to 4-1. The Trojans travel to Oxford Hills/Buckfield next Friday, host South Portland eight days later, and visit Sanford to close out their schedule.

Adam Birt can be reached at abirt@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.

Scots Greg Emerson (rear) and Chael Anastacio (14) team up to drive Trojan Anthony Bracamonte out of bounds.

In a moment that perhaps sums up the entirety of Saturday’s BE @ TA bout, umpteen Scots – including Zach Maturo (7), Aaran Hodgman (52), Alex Sprague (23), Zach Klein (57) and Nick Thorne (25) – line up to thoroughly pound Trojan Grant Dow into the turf.

Scots QB Connor Sirois fires off a pass – one of numerous laser completions.

Arlo Pike grabs a TD pass.

Scot Jake Sperrey smashes into a TA opponent.

Christian Napolitano carries up the sideline for the Scots.

Alex Sprague runs harder than most. Exhaustion shows on his face after he reels in a two-point conversion pass. Teammates Christian Napolitano (5) and Aidan McGlone (58) congratulate him.

Kordell Menard reels in one of his two TDs.

Kordell Menard raises the ball in celebration after scoring. Teammates Will Horton (75) and Casey Maturo (6) congratulate him.

Having penetrated the Trojans’ o-line, Scot Zach Klein clutches at TA QB Will Mitchell.

Zach Maturo tracks – he’s about to tackle – top Thornton threat Anthony Bracamonte.

Chael Anastacio snags an interception for the Scots late in their win over Thornton.

Nick Thorne scored twice for the Scots, including on this run.

Kordell Menard – no doubt one of the best receivers in the State – reels in one of his two touchdowns, despite tight TA coverage.

Connor Sirois runs a QB keeper for the Scots.

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