STANDISH—The Red Storm pulled off an upset when they dropped in at Bonny Eagle on Friday evening, Oct. 20. Touchdowns by Scots Alex Sprague and Connor Sirois weren’t enough to keep the home team on their feet vs. Scarborough, who piled five TDs on their hosts en route to victory. Zoltan Panyi threw for three scores and Jarett Flaker and Reece Lagerquist each found the end zone twice for the 35-14 final.
The Storm got on the board first, Panyi hooking up with Lagerquist on the game’s opening drive for a 74-yard six points. Bonny Eagle blocked the Scarborough extra point attempt, though, doing themselves an early favor. The Scots then answered with a TD of their own, Sirois (the team’s QB) finding Sprague on a 39-yard hookup. Ace kicker Christian Napolitano recaptured the lead for his boys with a successful PAT.
Bonny Eagle head coach Kevin Cooper was satisfied with the energy his boys brought to the field to begin the game. “If you look at the first series for them, we had a great kickoff coverage; we had a couple of good plays on defense,” he said. “We got hit by a long pass – that happens; we come right down and score. I don’t think we came out flat. We were ready to give up points. You’re not going to shut Scarborough out.”
“Giving up that first touchdown, the first series, that happens in football,” Cooper said. “I thought our kids bounced back. We had a great kickoff return, we put it in the end zone with a great throw-and-catch, Connor to Alex. We were back in good shape. Just, as the battle went on, Scarborough won it and we didn’t.”
Flaker returned the next kickoff all the way, notching another Storm score – or, nearly notching one: A Scarborough block in the back erased Flaker’s run. The team managed a couple first downs before a pair of successive Panyi incompletions lead to a punt. The Scots, however, fumbled on the return, generously handing the ball back to their guests. Panyi, apparently not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, promptly connected with Flaker for a 40-yard touchdown. This time, kicker Liam McDonell split the uprights. 13-7.
More than any other team the Scots have faced this season, Scarborough resembles them in featuring a wide spread of weapons. “Yeah; they’re tough to stop,” Cooper said, asked what Bonny Eagle keyed on defensively in the bout. “Once their guys get in the open field, they’re really dangers. Lagerquist is really fast for a tight end, obviously Flaker’s the fastest kid in the State. You can’t make mistakes. We tried hard this week not to let receivers behind us; it happened tonight.”
For their part, the Storm very effectively shut down some of Bonny Eagle’s most notorious threats. Kordell Menard, for example – Menard is among the best receivers in Maine, hands down – simply couldn’t reel in the spectacular sorts of passes he typically does.
“They certainly did a better job taking away our weapons,” Cooper said, “than we did on theirs. They did a great job on Kordell, no doubt. We struggled to throw it to him; made us kind of go away from him later in the game and go to Greg Emerson, who played a great game, coming in on offense. Again, give credit to Scarborough for a great defensive plan.”
Neither team found the end zone again until late in the second. Napolitano launched the Scots’ next – and last – scoring push by returning a short Cody Dudley punt all the way to Scarborough’s 43. A bevy of Nick Thorne and Sirois runs and a Sirois hookup with Casey Maturo advanced the Scots to second and 10 at the Storm’s 17. Sirois tried to connect with Menard, but the pass fell incomplete; he then took a hard hit while unwinding into another throw, which also missed its target.
Fourth and 10. Determined, Sirois found Thorne for 11 and a fresh set of downs on Scarborough’s threshold. Sirois needed one snap to cap the possession, rushing six yards to kick down the Storm’s door. Napolitano again added the extra point. 14-13.
“I thought we responded great at times in the first half,” Cooper said. “Being able to put a touchdown drive together at the end of the first half and take the lead going into halftime was really great by our guys.”
One factor that seemed obviously to play a role in the way the game went was the body count – i.e., the injuries: Bonny Eagle racked up several as the snaps elapsed, while Scarborough stayed mostly healthy. Sprague checked out of the action after scoring the Scots’ first touchdown and never returned, for instance. Bonny Eagle is a resilient football machine with a great many moving parts, but even a tank becomes just a big metal box on treads when its biggest guns start going down.
Cooper preferred to focus, though, on factors more within the Scots’ control, and to give credit where credit was certainly due – namely, to Scarborough. “I don’t know about that,” he said, asked what effect the injuries had on the ultimate outcome. “I think we were outcoached, outplayed tonight by a better team. We’ve got to be ready to win with the guys that are in there, that can play…Guys that stepped up and played, they did as good a job as they could.”
“To talk about what happened to us takes away from the great job Scarborough did,” Cooper said. “They deserved to win.”
Still, the teams were hitting one another hard: This was knock-down, drag-out football. Both quarterbacks proved vulnerable, and suffered sack after sack as each team’s d-line slid through the other team’s o-line too often for anyone’s comfort – especially Panyi’s and Sirois’s.
It was a level of physicality Bonny Eagle – who’ve essentially steamrolled every opponent they’ve faced – really hasn’t encountered this season. “Certainly not,” Cooper said. “We haven’t played a game this year that was as physical as it was tonight. Again, give credit to Scarborough for really bringing it.”
The Storm outlasted the Scots through the second half; Bonny Eagle didn’t make things easy on them, but Scarborough nevertheless posted three more TDs. Flaker broke away up the right side for a 77-yard rushing score early in the third, Panyi-to-Dudley converting for two on the PAT; Lagerquist grabbed another huge Panyi hurl for an 86-yarder a few minutes later; and Owen Garrard iced the evening’s cake with a 40-yard run in the fourth.
Cooper took a moment to applaud a couple of his kids: Sirois first, for his sheer grit, and Emerson once more, for grabbing several key catches and running some slick routes. “Our quarterback’s a tough kid; he took a beating out there tonight,” Cooper said. “We, obviously, didn’t do a good enough job coaching up our offensive protection to help him out back there. Greg Emerson is a warrior too, for us; I thought he played great in the second half.”
“And our guys—” Cooper hastened to add, “that came in because of injuries. Will Whyte ran the ball tough at the end, had a couple good runs, played great on defense. A guy like Brian Dupuis had to play both ways. Aidan McGlone had to play both ways on defense. Guys like that haven’t had to do what they did tonight.”
The result shuffles the rankings around in the last week of the regular season. The Scots, who’ve held the No. 1 slot all fall, drop to No. 3. The Storm take their place in first. Thornton Academy, meanwhile, moves into second. All three teams close their schedules at 7-1.
Had Bonny Eagle won, they would’ve remained on top, and retained their bye through the tournament first round as well as homefield advantage all the way through to the Regional Final. Instead, the Scots will Deering on Oct. 27 in the prelims. Scarborough, meanwhile, earns a bye and homefield advantage throughout the bracketing.
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
Both quarterbacks – including Bonny Eagle’s, Connor Sirois – suffered hit after hit on Friday night.
Will Whyte stepped in late in the game for Bonny Eagle and turned in more than one excellent run.
Greg Emerson played a critical role for the Scots on Friday night, recording some great plays despite the team’s eventual loss.
Aidan McGlone lines up at center for the Scots.
Nick Thorne carries for Bonny Eagle.
Casey Maturo runs up the sideline for Bonny Eagle.