Big plays spark Scarborough past SP in football opener
Scarborough 40 South Portland 3
S- 7 14 0 19- 40
SP- 3 0 0 0- 3
SP- Demers 29 FG
S- Flaker 91 kickoff return (Moore kick)
S-Flaker 30 pass from Weed (Moore kick)
S-Denbow 45 fumble return (Moore kick)
S- Lancaster 6 run (kick failed)
S- Clough 12 pass from Crockett (Moore kick)
S- Crockett 26 run (conversion failed)
SOUTH PORTLAND—Scarborough’s football team can score anytime, from any spot on the field.
Whether the Red Storm have the ball or not.
Friday evening at Martin Memorial Field, Scarborough and host South Portland met in the long-awaited renewal of high school football and while the Red Storm didn’t see much of the ball in the first half, it didn’t matter.
Scarborough fumbled on the game’s first play and the Red Riots drove to the Red Storm 1 with a chance to make an early statement, but after being backed up by penalties, the hosts had to settle for a 29-yard field goal from junior Brady Demers.
Any momentum South Portland might have had went out the window on the ensuing kickoff, when Scarborough senior standout Jayden Flaker caught the ball at his 9, found a hole and raced 91-yards to paydirt to put the Red Storm ahead to stay.
In the second period, after another lengthy Red Riots drive failed to produce points, Flaker scored his second touchdown, catching a 30-yard pass from junior quarterback Keegan Weed.
After South Portland drove again, it fumbled the ball away and junior Griffin Denbow scooped up the ball and ran 45 yards to produce a 21-3 halftime lead.
The Red Riots never seriously threatened Scarborough’s end zone in the second half and after failing to score in the third quarter, the Red Storm ended all doubt in the fourth, getting a 6-yard touchdown run from bruising senior running back Andy Lancaster, a 12-yard TD pass from junior Tim Crockett to classmate Brady Clough and finally, a 26-yard Crockett touchdown scamper which brought the curtain down on a 40-3 victory.
Scarborough won its opener for the fifth consecutive season and gave new coach Packy Malia a victory in his debut.
“It’s the first time for a lot of these guys on a varsity field and I’m proud of them,” Malia said. “I told them all week to weather that early storm and that we’re the better team.”
To say the 2020 season was one of frustration and disappointment for Maine high school football players would be an epic understatement, as teams were allowed to practice and take part in seven-on-seven scrimmages, but there was no hitting to speak of and no countable games.
Scarborough and South Portland were hoping to build on the momentum they created in 2019, when the Red Storm got to the Class A state semifinals (losing to eventual champion Bonny Eagle in overtime) and the Red Riots had their best season in years, reaching the Class B South semifinals before losing to eventual champion Marshwood.
South Portland returns this fall with virtually no varsity experience, while Scarborough, now coached by Malia, a longtime assistant to Lance Johnson, has a few players who played key roles in 2019.
The teams hadn’t met since 2018, when the Red Storm beat the host Red Riots, 33-14.
That gave Scarborough a 6-2 all-time advantage in the series, which dates to 2003 (see below).
Friday, on a comfortable evening for football (69 degrees at kickoff), in front of a large and vocal crowd, South Portland sought its first win over the Red Storm since a 13-7 triumph Sept. 17, 2004, but instead, it was Scarborough opening on a high note.
Flaker nearly broke the opening kickoff for a touchdown, collecting the ball at his 14 and racing into Red Riots territory before being brought down at the 44.
But on the first play from scrimmage, Scarborough fumbled the exchange and junior Jaelen Jackson pounced on it for South Portland.
The Red Riots then embarked on a drive that appeared end zone-bound, but ultimately the home team shot itself in the foot.
After senior Finn O’Connell ran for four yards on first down, senior Ryan Thurber picked up two on second down. Jackson, the quarterback, then kept the ball and gained 10 yards for a first down at the Red Storm 40. A quick slant from Jackson to Thurber gained 29 yards for a first down at the 11. After O’Connell was dropped for a three-yard loss by senior Brady Reed, a false start penalty backed South Portland up five more yards, but O’Connell got free through the left side of the line and wasn’t brought down until reaching the 3. When Jackson gained two yards on the next snap, it set up first-and-goal, but there would be no touchdown.
First, a bad snap led to a five-yard loss. Then, another false start penalty moved the ball back to the 11. Jackson found junior Nolan Hobbs for nine yards, then Jackson ran for one to set up fourth-and-goal from the 1. On the next play, Jackson appeared to score on a rush, but the touchdown was negated by a holding penalty, backing the ball up to the 12. It remained fourth down and Red Riots coach Aaron Filieo opted for the field goal. On came Demers, who was true from 29 yards and with 5:26 to play in the first quarter, after an 11-play drive that ate up over six minutes, South Portland had a 3-0 lead.
Then, in a matter of a dozen seconds, Flaker turned the game on its ear, collecting the ensuing kickoff at his 9, then running left through a big hole before easily leaving the Red Riots special teams in his wake for a 91-yard touchdown.
“I saw that gap open up and I just took off,” said Flaker. “The kicker was standing still and I just went for it.”
“I was a little surprised they kicked it to him because he almost took that first one back,” said Malia. “He’s one of the most explosive guys I’ve seen. He covers some ground. He’s a special player.”
The extra point made it 7-3 Red Storm.
South Portland got the ball back at its 25 with 5:09 left in the frame and would hold the ball the rest of the quarter, but ultimately had nothing to show for it.
After O’Connell was held to no gain, then picked up just two yards, Jackson threw incomplete and it appeared the Red Riots would punt. After Scarborough jumped offsides and South Portland returned the favor with a false start penalty, Lancaster broke through and almost blocked the punt of junior Josh Sparacio, but on the play, Lancaster was called for a personal foul roughing the punter penalty, giving the Red Riots first down at their 42.
Senior Nate Rende took over under center and immediately hit Hobbs for four yards. After junior Johnny Poole ran for five yards, Rende was stuffed for no gain, but on fourth-and-1, Rende pushed forward for two yards to move the sticks. O’Connell then gained six yards, but on the final play of the opening stanza, Poole was dropped for a one-yard loss.
In the first period, the Red Storm ran just one offensive play that took up all of four seconds, but thanks to Flaker’s return, they held the lead, even though South Portland gained 77 yards in the quarter.
Scarborough would get some breathing room, thanks to more explosive plays, in the second period.
On the first play of the second quarter, Rende ran for three yards, setting up fourth-and-2. Rende then kept the ball again, but Weed and Lancaster teamed to hold him to just one yard and the Red Storm took over on downs at their 38 with 11:06 to go before halftime.
Eight plays and 4:01 later, they extended their lead.
Scarborough’s drive began inauspiciously with a false start penalty and after Lancaster ran for four yards, the Red Storm had another false start, followed by an incomplete pass, to set up third-and-16.
Weed then did a nice job breaking the pocket and eluding pressure before throwing to Flaker. Flaker then broke a tackle and gained the first down, picking up 19 yards on the play. After Lancaster ran for four yards, an incomplete pass set up third-and-6, but Lancaster would move the sticks with an eight-yard pickup. After Weed scrambled for seven yards, on second-and-3 from the 30, Weed dropped back and threw a bomb to the end zone, which Flaker caught just before the end line for a touchdown with 7:05 remaining in the half.
“It was a play action and I faked the block, the safety bit up and I took off,” said Flaker. “It was a perfect throw to the end zone.”
“Jayden’s a really good player and our game plan was to keep him out of the end zone,” Filieo said. “We knew it would be tough.”
Junior Andrew Moore added the PAT for a 14-3 advantage.
After the ensuing kickoff sailed out of bounds, South Portland began at its 35. With Jackson again running the offense, Clough threw Thurber for a two-yard loss, but O’Connell picked up 10 yards and Jackson gained five more for a first down at the 48.
Then, disaster struck for the home team, as a fumbled exchange put the ball on the ground and Denbow was more than happy to pick it up and race 45 yards, untouched, to extend the lead.
“We have a lot of athletes on the field and I think we’ll make big plays all year,” Malia said.
“Three big plays put us down three scores,” Filieo lamented. “One on offense, one on defense and one on special teams.”
Moore’s extra point made it 21-3 with 5:17 still to go in the half.
The Red Riots started their next possession at their 41 after a nice kickoff return from senior Brady Frank. Rende got things started by hitting Hobbs for 20 yards and a first down at Scarborough’s 39 and an offsides penalty on the visitors moved the ball five yards farther, but a pass to Jackson resulted in a loss of a yard and Poole and Rende were both held to no gain, setting up fourth-and-6. Rende found O’Connell on the left sideline, but Flaker soared in out of nowhere to make the tackle and the play gained only five yards, not the necessary six, and the Red Storm took over again at their 30, with 1:29 remaining.
After an offsides penalty on South Portland, Weed ran for a yard and Flaker gained seven for a first down at the 43. After an incomplete pass, junior Charlie Murray rushed for 11 yards to the Red Riots’ 46. Weed then dropped another bomb right into the hands of Flaker, who accelerated past the secondary in breathtaking fashion, for another apparent touchdown, but it was called back due to an illegal shift penalty. Weed then ran for seven yards before twice throwing incomplete to end the first half with Scarborough on top, 21-3.
South Portland hoped to answer to start the second half when it took over at its 27, but couldn’t do so.
After Jackson kept the ball and ran for three yards, he rolled left and threw through traffic to Thurber for 10 and a first down. A fumbled exchange and a four-yard pass to O’Connell set up third-and-10, but Jackson connected with Thurber on a slant for 19 yards and a first down at the Red Storm 41. After Jackson kept the ball for six yards and hit Thurber again for four more and a first down, Jackson’s pass down the left side, was deflected, then intercepted by Denbow, who returned the pick 24 yards to the 42.
Scarborough couldn’t capitalize, however, as after Lancaster ran 13 yards for a first down and a five-yard Lancaster run and an eight-yard burst by Weed moved the chains again, Weed was intercepted by Thurber and the Red Riots took over again at their 31.
After Rende threw incomplete, a bad snap led to a loss of 15 yards, but on third-and-25 from the 16, Rende found Jackson deep down the right sideline for 33 yards and a first down at the 49. After an incomplete pass, Jackson got open behind the defense again, but the sure touchdown pass was over his opposite shoulder and he couldn’t bring the ball in while running full speed.
“We’ll convert those plays,” Filieo said. “We just didn’t tonight.”
After a false start, senior Cam Freedman brought down O’Connell for a two-yard loss and an incomplete pass on fourth down gave the Red Storm the ball at South Portland’s 46 with 2:08 to go in the third quarter.
In a drive that would span the end of the third period and the start of the fourth, Scarborough marched to effectively put the game away.
Lancaster got things started with an 11-yard scamper. After an illegal motion penalty, Flaker ran for 19 yards and a first down at the 21. Weed kept the ball for 10 more before Lancaster was stopped for no gain on the final play of the quarter.
On the first play of the fourth period, Weed passed to Denbow for five yards, setting the stage for Lancaster to bull six yards into the end zone with 11:05 remaining, capping a six-play, 46-yard, 3:03 drive. A bad snap prevented Moore from kicking the point-after, but the Red Storm held a 27-3 advantage.
A 13-yard pass from Rende to Hobbs got the Red Riots going, but after Rende kept the ball for five yards, then hit Thurber for two, both Poole (tackled by Clough) and Rende (brought down by junior Isaac Glidden) were held to no gain, giving the ball back to Scarborough at its 48 with 8:04 to go.
Crockett came in to play quarterback and after a false start penalty, the Red Storm began marching again, as Murray picked up seven yards, Lancaster ran for four and after scrambling, Crockett passed to Clough for eight yards and a first down at the Red Riots’ 38. Lancaster then ran for five yards before senior Reno Karageorge broke away for 25 and a first-and-goal at the 8. Crockett kept the ball for six yards, then he appeared to score on a 2-yard run, but the touchdown was nullified by a holding penalty.
But after an incomplete pass, on third-and-goal from the 12, Crockett hit Clough with a quick pass in the center of the field and Clough rumbled into the end zone for the score with 4:14 remaining. Moore kicked the extra point and after an eight-play, 52-yard, 3:50 drive, Scarborough’s lead was 34-3.
South Portland quickly went three-and-out, as O’Connell ran for four yards, Rende threw incomplete, then Thurber caught a pass for a yard.
With 2:30 to go, the Red Storm took over at the Red Riots’ 41 and after Crockett kept the ball for 12 yards and senior Wilfred Nji picked up three more, Crockett kept it again and broke free for a 26-yard TD with just 1:28 to go. Scarborough couldn’t score on a two-point conversion, but that was that and the Red Storm celebrated their 40-3 victory.
“We settled down and executed,” Flaker said. “We have a lot of new players, so it took awhile to get the nerves out. We have a lot of dogs on the team.”
Scarborough finished with 249 yards of offense.
Weed, filling in for senior Sam Rumelhart, completed 3-of-8 passes for 54 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran five times for 33 yards.
“I’m proud of our junior quarterback,” Malia said. “He’s a backup. He was calm under pressure and did a good job back there.”
Crockett’s limited action produced 44 yards and a touchdown on three carries and 2-of-3 passing, good for 20 yards with a score.
Lancaster gained 61 yards on 11 carries and scored once.
Flaker touched the ball just four times on offense, gaining 26 yards on two carries and catching a pair of passes for 49 yards with a score.
Clough caught two passes for 20 yards with a TD.
The Red Storm were flagged 10 times for 70 yards.
South Portland finished with 214 yards of offense.
Jackson ran eight times for 18 yards, caught two balls for 32 yards and completed 6-of-7 passes, good for 75 yards with an interception.
Rende wound up 7-of-10 passing for 57 yards. He ran six times for 10 yards.
O’Connell rushed eight times for 39 yards. He also caught a pair of passes for 9 yards.
Thurber caught six balls for 65 yards.
Hobbs had three catches good for 26 yards.
The Red Riots were penalized seven times for 40 yards.
“We had too many miscues and we didn’t execute up front,” Filieo said. “Schematically, we did do some things we liked,”
South Portland will travel to Massabesic next Friday as it seeks to get in the win column.
“We have some things we like, but we’re very unrefined right now,” Filieo said. “We’re a young team as far as experience goes. We’ll get there one game at a time. Scarborough’s a good team and it was a good test for us. We learned a lot about ourselves. We’ll watch film and learn even more and be ready to go next week. Massabesic runs the triple-option. Same offense but a new coaching staff. They’ve got a good, young team.”
Scarborough plays its home opener versus Bonny Eagle next Friday. The Scots defeated Edward Little in their opener Friday.
“I’m excited to see how we play,” Flaker said. “We have some injured guys coming back next week. We have to clean up the line a little bit and execute the offense and we should be good.”
“I’ll have to see some film on Bonny Eagle, but we’ve always had a pretty good rivalry with them, especially the past five, six years, so we’re excited to play them,” Malia said. “Obviously, we have do better offensively. I think defensively we can hang with them. I’m looking forward to it.”
Scarborough 33 @ South Portland 14
@ Scarborough 48 South Portland 21
Scarborough 38 @ South Portland 6
@ Scarborough 40 South Portland 7
Scarborough 25 @ South Portland 7
@ Scarborough 58 South Portland 57 (OT)
@ South Portland 13 Scarborough 7
@ South Portland 37 Scarborough 0