Bonny Eagler Alex Sprague tallied five – count ’em, five – TDs at South Portland on Friday night, Sept. 2 – including three on kickoff returns. Obviously that kind of performance hints at a W, and indeed the Scots emerged victorious from their matchup with the Riots, 60-20 in the end.
“Our guys really came out, ready to play, tonight,” said Bonny Eagle head coach Kevin Cooper. “That’s what was impressive to me. I’m proud of our guys because of that. We had a great week of practice and it showed tonight.”
“We knew it was going to be a big challenge tonight,” said South Portland head coach Steve Stinson, “but we needed the challenge to kind of come out and see where we’re at. We’ve got a pretty young group.”
“To Bonny Eagle’s credit, great, great football team,” said Stinson. “Really hurt us in the special teams game tonight.”
SoPo received to begin the game, and would’ve gone three-and-out on their opening drive. When the time came to punt, however, the Scots roughed the Riots’ kicker and resurrected their hopes for a strong start. South Portland couldn’t make anything of the opportunity, though, and Bonny Eagle got their gloves on the ball midway through the first.
They immediately capitalized. QB Cam Day converted fourth-and-inches into a 34-yard keeper to put the Scots on South Portland’s 11. From there, Nick Thorne powered up the middle and across the goal line. 6-0.
On the second play of the Riots’ follow-up series, QB Matt Crockett threw his first of two picks on the night – this one straight to Kordell Menard. Barely 20 yards from the SoPo end zone, Bonny Eagle took over again. Sprague covered 17 of those yards on the Scots’ first play, and Day covered the remaining three on their second. 12-0.
Cooper applauded his boys’ execution. “We were making plays on both sides of the ball, special teams – that allowed us to get out to a pretty big start. I’m glad that we played the full 48 and were able to keep our offense going.”
Crockett threw another pick – to Cam Theberge – on the Riots’ next drive. The Scots’ offense then returned to the field and chipped away at the distance between them and another TD. A big run, 15 tank-like yards by Thorne up the middle, gave Bonny Eagle first and goal, and soon Sprague ushered the ball home, his first score of the night. Christian Napolitano added the PAT for 19-0.
“He’s coming along,” Stinson said of his QB. “What we’ve got to marry up is, obviously, we brought back all our skill guys this year, but we’re totally new up front. And that’s a long process, getting the o-line squared away. So, there’s some protection issues early, you get a little happy, not trusting the protection. But when Matt can plant and feel confident and throw from a platform, we’ve got some skill guys that can catch the ball and make some plays.”
“Crockett’s a good quarterback,” said Cooper. “He doesn’t just throw it to us; you have to be in the right spot. Guys were in the right spot to be able to get those interceptions. Our defense was ready to go tonight, and I think that’s why we got those turnovers early.”
Late in the second quarter, Day lobbed a 20-yard ball to Theberge (and Napolitano split the uprights) to give the Scots 26-0, but then – then! – it was finally SoPo’s turn to strike. The team shifted tactics and, in all of 60 seconds, marched the length of the field. Crockett settled down and connected on a pretty series of short- and medium-range passes to Spencer Houlette and Finn Zechman. Crockett and Zechman capped the push with a six-yard hookup to put the Riots on the board, 26-6.
Sprague quickly bit back, though, returning the South Portland kickoff 78 beautiful yards to put the Scots up (PAT by Napolitano) 33-6 at the break.
Then, evidently still thirsty, Sprague returned the Riots’ kickoff at the start of the third 90 yards for yet another six points. 39-6.
“Yeah,” said Cooper, asked if Sprague’s brilliant running was typical. “You know, he’s coming up, he played JVs for us last year, he was close to being on the field for us. We didn’t think he was quite ready last year. But what Alex Sprague did tonight is no surprise to anybody wearing a green helmet. That kid is a great player; he’s going to burst on the scene. Everybody talks about Nick Thorne, Cam Day and Cam Theberge – with good reason – but Alex maybe had a coming-out party tonight.”
The Bonny Eagle defense withstood a respectable Riots’ follow-up drive, and forced a short Zack Johnson punt. The Scots then moved determinedly into South Portland territory, covering a huge chunk of yardage when Day connected with Theberge for 28. On first and 10 at the 15, Sprague smelled (more) blood and pounced (yet again), scoring his fourth touchdown of the evening and ratcheting the board to 45-6.
Following a quick series in which Jeremiah Sheehan sacked Crockett for a loss of 13, the Scots forced another SoPo punt. But Bonny Eagle couldn’t convert, stalling out and turning the ball over on downs at the Riots’ 12. Shortly, Crockett and Zechman combined for South Portland’s second TD – on a 31-yard long-bomb – and for the team’s first extra points of the night, a successful two-point conversion.
But Sprague responded by returning one last kickoff for one last notch on his belt, this one an 80-yarder. Late in the fourth, both teams would add another TD, Crockett finding Johnson on a 15-yarder for the Riots and Jake Cook running in a 67-yarder for the Scots. 60-20 the final.
The one-two punch of their own turnovers and The Ghost of Alex Sprague put the Riots back by a margin they were unlikely to chew through. Clearly the Scots deserve some credit for forcing the turnovers, and South Portland bears some blame for failing to lock down Sprague – who presumably is not an actual ghost – but barring those two factors, the game might’ve been much closer.
Stinson acknowledged as much. “Certainly, when you come out – I think we ended up with three total turnovers, two picks early, and in plus territory, you’re playing a team like Bonny Eagle, it’s not a good thing. You don’t have to be a genius to figure that out. We’ve got to clean those things up; you can’t turn the ball over. We harp on that a lot. The kids, the attitude, the effort is here; we have a team we can coach and correct.”
Similarly, Stinson was upbeat when asked about his squad’s obvious bright spots – the Crockett-Zechman combo, for instance.
“There were a lot of positives to pull out, and that’s where the film’s going to show us a lot of good things we can start to build upon and continue to improve,” he said. “I was telling the kids, ‘The season’s a process; nobody’s at their finished product before Labor Day.’ We really want to be a team that, end of October, November, we’re really improving. So there were some positives.”
Zechman, once he’s got his hands on the ball, appears remarkably hard to bring down. “Finn’s a tough, tough kid,” said Stinson. “A dynamite kid. He yearns and turns and gets everything he can out of it. He’s always been like that. He’s an impressive kid.”
The Scots travel to Scarborough on Friday, Sept. 9, for a showdown with the 1-0 Storm, hot off an upset of Portland.
Bonny Eagler Alex Sprague races up the sidelines on one of many long runs at South Portland on Friday.
Alex Sprague runs in a TD for the Scots.
Crockett to Zechman scores for the Riots.
South Portlander Zack Johnson chases after Bonny Eagle’s Cam Theberge in the teams’ bout Friday night.
Scot Nick Thorne runs in his team’s first TD – of many – against South Portland on Friday night.
Bonny Eagle QB Cam Day jukes through coverage on a keeper.
South Portland QB Matt Crockett needed a few drives to work out some kinks on Friday night, but soon settled down to look flat-out impressive at times.
SoPo’s Finn Zechman is a challenge to bring down, as Bonny Eagle’s Chael Anastacio can no doubt attest.
Riot Spencer Houlette carries a long-bomb pass from QB Matt Crockett for 35 yards.
South Portland’s Devin Dupis jumps out to block for QB Matt Crockett.
Bonny Eagle’s Alex Sprague tallied five TDs at South Portland on Friday night.