High School Football Notebook: Strong Matchups Highlight Week 1 Schedule

Members of the Thornton Academy soccer team lift the Ballon d’Or after winning the Class A championship last fall. The Trojans enter Friday night’s game in Scarborough with a 33-1 record over the past three seasons. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The first game of the season won’t necessarily make or break a high school football team, but it sure does set the tone.

“Winning that first game is a huge confidence boost for any program, against anyone,” Scarborough coach Packy Malia said.

That would certainly apply to Red Storm if they can beat defending Class A champion Thornton Academy at 7pm on Friday at Scarborough High.

Thornton beat Scarborough twice last season, 51-0 in the regular season and 28-12 in the state semifinals, a game Scarborough led 12-7 at halftime.

“They pushed us to the limit last year in that semi-final game and they’ve got a lot of kids back,” Kezal said. “It is a great challenge. And, it is in the way, a difficult place to play. It’s a great early season game.”

Thornton is 33-1 overall in the last three seasons with two state championships (2018 and 2021). His only loss was in the 2019 title game to Bonny Eagle. Malia said he’s been emphasizing to his players that Scarborough is Thornton’s equal, noting that both Scarborough and Thornton have reached the semifinals (regionals before 2019, state semifinals since) for nine straight seasons, the longest active streaks in Class A. “We’ve also been in the bottom four teams overall (in Class A) since 2016, longer than TA or Bonny Eagle,” Malia said.

TWO CLASS B The southern games will provide a good look at the four main programs. On Friday, Marshwood begins his quest for a fifth straight state championship in South Portland at 7 p.m. The following night at 6 p.m., Kennebunk hosts Portland at Biddeford’s Waterhouse Field, the Rams’ home away from home as they settle into his new artificial surface field. . Portland was undefeated in the regular season a year ago.

Marshwood coach Alex Rotsko said he considers South Portland one of the top four teams.

“I think so. They were a playoff team last year,” Rotsko said. “They look pretty athletic in the movie and their quarterback (Jaelen Jackson) is really athletic. He is the key to their offense, no doubt.”

Marshwood will start sophomore Cullen St. Cyr at quarterback. Rotsko said the Hawks “struggled in both of our practices.”

While winning Game 1 “is always important for team morale,” Rotsko said, he also pointed to his 2021 team that went 5-3 in the regular season and didn’t cement it until a regional semifinal victory in Kennebunk.

“If we learned a lesson last year, it’s that if you keep working at it, you’ll get better,” Rotsko said. “If you don’t win the first game, it’s not the end of the world. You still have another seven weeks to prepare, and the good thing about Maine is that there are only a few teams that won’t make the playoffs. You have a second chance.”

Portland opened against Kennebunk in 2021 and posted an impressive 30-18 win. From there, Portland went 10-0 before losing to Marshwood in the regional final.

“We came out and played fast, played physically on both sides of the ball, and it definitely set the tone,” Portland coach Jason McLeod recalled.

McLeod cautioned that while Game 1 will give coaches insight into their own team, the results “won’t tell us much” about the league as a whole.

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“It’s not a good indication of how the whole season is going to go,” McLeod said. “The Marshwood you see in Week 1 is probably not Marshwood in Week 10. The same can be said for a lot of teams, including us.”

NEW COACH DEERING Leon Smith and his 42-man roster kicked off their season Thursday night against Massabesic with a Class B South game in Waterboro. Smith, 60, was an assistant coach at Westbrook (five seasons), Falmouth (10 seasons) and the last two seasons at Deering, where he was defensive coordinator.

Smith, hired in June, is Deering’s seventh head coach since 2012. It is his first head coaching role. Smith replaces John Hardy, a former Deering and University of Maine player who was signed in March 2020. Deering went 0-8 in 2021.

Smith said he has been emphasizing discipline and responsibility and will continue to do so.

“You miss two days of practice and you’re a starter, you’re not playing,” Smith said. “These kids understand that. I put my rules this summer and I will abide by them.”

“So far it’s been perfect and the kids have been coming all summer. Dedicated. And when you get dedication like that, you’re going to be successful,” Smith said.

A native of Richmond, Virginia, Smith played linebacker for Norfolk State from 1981 to 1984, earning all-conference honors as a junior and senior.

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