SKOWHEGAN — Turns out Thornton Academy is far more than the Hayden Whitney show.

The Golden Trojans used a balanced offensive attack and an unforgiving defense to send Skowhegan to its first loss of the season with a 47-7 rout in an interclass matchup Saturday night at a packed Reginald P. Clark Memorial Field.

Class A Thornton improved to 5-2, while Class B North Skowhegan fell to 6-1.

Whitney, a senior running back, has had a dominant season for the Trojans, and Saturday’s 97-yard rushing performance capped with his 11th touchdown of the year was no exception. But he wasn’t the only star. Quarterback Ryan O’Keefe was 4-for-8 passing for 153 yards, with three of his completions going for touchdowns. Caden True, the other half of Thornton’s two-headed QB monster, ran for 50 yards and a TD on eight carries. The Trojans found the end zone on six of their first seven possessions.

On the other side, senior defensive tackle Ryan MacPhee was in the face of the River Hawks’ running backs all night, and he registered 1 1/2 sacks on Skowhegan QB Adam Savage, who was 10-of-17 passing for 151 yards and two interceptions. The Trojans forced four turnovers, with Tommy Johnson and Connor Shea pulling down interceptions.

Not bad for a team that returned only two offensive starters and four defenders from last year’s 11-0 Class A state champ.


“We try to spread the ball around, and we have a lot of playmakers. Fortunately tonight, we were able to make a lot of plays,” veteran Thornton coach Kevin Kezal said. “Caden and Ryan (O’Keefe) complement each other really well. They’ve both bought into and they’ve done a great job. (MacPhee) is tough to block, he’s quick, he plays with a great motor, he had a great game and the whole defense did a great job.

“It’s good to see how this group has evolved. We were very young, very inexperienced, but they come to practice every day and work their tails off.”

Skowhegan’s proud defense, meanwhile, surrendered nearly as many points Saturday (47) as it had through the season’s first six games (48), and the offense suffered a season-low in points.

Tyler Annis led the River Hawks with 26 rushing yards, followed by Savage with 22. Brenden Dunlap ran for Skowhegan’s only score, a 1-yard plunge in the second quarter that cut an early deficit to 14-7 before Thornton pulled away.

“They’re a great team,” Skowhegan coach Ryan Libby said. “Our defense was not really able to slow them down. Playing a caliber team like that it is always a challenge, it doesn’t matter when it is in the season. Hopefully, you can get yourself better playing better opponents, so there should be some takeaway there.”

Skowhegan’s Quintcey McCray (3) tries to tackle Thornton Academy’s Carlos Eboli (88) on the two-point conversion during a football game Saturday in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Added Kezal: “They’re an explosive team, they’ve got a lot of great playmakers, we wanted to keep the ball in front and make them draw the field and we did a really great job of doing that.”


Thornton scored on its first possession of the game when runs by Whitney and True set up O’Keefe’s 17-yard TD strike to Carlos Eboli that made it 6-0 after a missed 2-point conversion. On the Trojans’ next series, O’Keefe found Xander Cantara for a 62-yard TD pass, and O’Keefe’s 2-point pass made it 14-0.

Dunlap’s TD and Annis’ extra point midway through the second seemed to put Skowhegan back into the game, but Thornton’s Henry Lausier returned the ensuing kickoff to the 50-yard line, and Whitney took O’Keefe’s handoff to the end zone on the very next play. Cantara’s extra point gave the Trojans a 21-7 lead at the half.

In the third, Whitney’s 44-yard reception set up a Harry Bune 1-yard plunge, and Johnson’s pickoff set up maybe the game’s prettiest play. On third-and-10 from the Skowhegan 29, O’Keefe tossed a perfect rainbow to Lausier, who was in the end zone in double coverage. Lausier leaped and came down with the ball to make the score 33-7.

“I just wanted to give him a shot; I felt like we need a big play, so I just game him a chance,” O’Keefe said.

“We took this team very seriously in practice this week. We knew they were going to come out and have a great defense, and they’re very well-coached and they’re always in the right place,” O’Keefe added. “So our goal was just to be disciplined in our fundamentals and come out and play good football.”

Fourth-quarter TDs by True and Mason Collins capped the scoring for Thornton. J.P. Baez kicked the extra points on both scores.

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