November 17, 2012

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL STATE CHAMPIONSHIP: Lawrence takes on Thornton for Class A title

By Travis Lazarczyk tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Lawrence and Thornton Academy haven't played a football game against each other in two and a half decades, but that doesn't mean they're completely unfamiliar with each other.

click image to enlarge

Staff photo by Jim Evans Cony High School's Tayler Carrier, left, gets an eyeful from Lawrence High School's Xavier Lewis Saturday.

Staff photo by Jim Evans

Lawrence (11-0) vs. Thornton Academy (10-1)

When: 11:06 a.m. today

Where: Fitzpatrick Stadium, Portland

Last state final appearance: Lawrence, 2011; Thornton Academy, 1988

Key players: Lawrence — HB/CB Anthony Sementelli, QB/S Spencer Carey, HB/LB Josh Doolan, HB/DE Jake Doolan, TE/LB Luke Lawrence, T/DT Eriq Stewart, TE/DE Robbie Liberty, HB/DB Xavier Lewis, C/LB Kyle McLain, DT Spencer Sweat, G Caleb Champagne. Thornton Academy — RB/DB Andrew Libby, FB/LB Nick Kenney, QB/DB Eric Christensen, WR/LB Dakota Tarbox, TE/DB Cody Lynn, C/LB Bobby Begin, G/DT David LePauloue, G/DT Michael Granger, T/LB Connor McCrum, T/DT Ian Paul, RB/DB Dylan Morton.

Outlook: Lawrence and Thornton have met once in the state championship game, in 1988. Thornton won 47-13. This is Thornton’s first state championship appearance since that game, while Lawrence is playing for the gold ball for the eighth time in 25 years, the most by any Class A school. Thornton is coming off a 20-13 win over two-time defending state champ Cheverus. The Trojans’ win snapped the Stags’ 34-game win streak. Both teams feature a strong running game. For Thornton, Libby is the top scoring threat. He scored eight touchdowns in the Western Maine tournament, and will line up in a number of positions. Kenney is Thornton’s leading rusher, and Christensen is a big and mobile quarterback. For Lawrence, Sementelli and Josh Doolan have split most of the carries, with Doolan scoring twice in the Pine Tree Conference Class A championship game. Stewart and Sweat lead a talented defensive line, while Luke Lawrence is one of the top linebackers in the state. A safety, Carey can line up anywhere on the defensive side and is strong in coverage and against the run.

"Lawrence has some good players at the skill positions. I coached a few of them at a Boston College 7x7 football camp. I worked with (Spencer) Carey and (Anthony) Sementelli. They're pretty good players," Thornton Academy head coach Kevin Kezal said. "We obviously didn't see each other, but Lawrence looks like a great football team."

Kezal's Golden Trojans are making their first appearance in the state championship since 1988. Thornton (10-1) defeated Lawrence for the Class A state title that year, and they'll have a chance to beat the Bulldogs again when the teams kick off Super Saturday at 11:06 a.m. at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.

Lawrence (11-0) is playing in its second consecutive state championship game and four in seven seasons. The Bulldogs lost to Cheverus last year, 49-7.

"Definitely the way the game ended for us last season, it really wasn't a good feeling for us. We definitely feel we have a lot to prove this second time around," Lawrence head coach John Hersom said. "We're going down there with the intention to win, rather than just feel good about our accomplishments."

Despite its undefeated record, Lawrence enters the game as the underdog. Only twice since 1987 has a Pine Tree Conference team won the Class A state title, Bangor in 2001 and Lawrence in 2006. With this likely the last championship before the Maine Principals' Association splits football from three classes to four, this could be Lawrence's last chance to crack Western Maine's dominance of Class A.

It won't be easy. In the Trojans, Lawrence faces an opponent much like itself. Thornton has a strong run game, with a handful of game-breaking threats.

For the Trojans, it starts with Andrew Libby. The junior scored all three touchdowns in Thornton's 20-13 win over Cheverus in the Western Maine championship game and scored eight touchdowns in Thornton's three regional playoff games. At times, Thornton will line up in the Wildcat formation with Libby at quarterback.

"In the Western Maine game, they seemed to be in that (Wildcat) a good portion of the time with Libby at quarterback. It might be where they feel they just want to come out and win the football game that way, if that's what it takes. We're kind of expecting that might be the case. That was their game plan against Cheverus last week. We're gearing for that as well as some of their spread stuff," Hersom said.

Fullback Nick Kenney leads Thornton in rushing. At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, quarterback Eric Christensen is a rugged runner who is just as likely to take off with the ball as he is to pass. The Trojans run behind a line led by center Bobby Begin.

"They've got a pretty impressive line. They've got some nice run schemes in their offense. They do get it to Libby a good part of the time, but they've also got some other backs who do some things very well," Hersom said. "It's going to be a nice challenge for us to keep their run game under control."

Lawrence's run game is led by Sementelli and Josh Doolan, who have combined for 1,976 yards rushing and 33 touchdowns. Carey, the quarterback, is a threat to run on waggle or bootleg plays, and also has 555 yards passing. Guard Caleb Champagne, tackle Eriq Stewart and center Kyle McLain lead the Bulldogs' offensive line.

"Offensively, Lawrence is a lot like Cheverus. They run it really, really well," Kezal said. "Lawrence also has some big, strong linemen. They're physical and we're going to have to match that."

Defensively, the Bulldogs are led by Stewart, Spencer Sweat and Jake Doolan on the line, with Luke Lawrence at linebacker and Carey, Sementelli and Xavier Lewis in the secondary.

Dakota Tarbox, Libby, Begin and Quinlan O'Brien lead Thornton's defense.

This Lawrence team has a few ties to the team that lost to Thornton in the 1988 championship game. Brett Witham, Lewis' uncle, was a captain and the quarterback for the Bulldogs that year. Jay Rowe, who was a two-way lineman and captain in '88, has a nephew, Jake Gerow on this year's team. Chad Martin, the son of 1988 center Tim Martin, is a sophomore on Lawrence's roster.

Travis Lazarczyk -- 861-9242

tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com

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