PORTLAND — So many numbers, and none of them lied.
The Cheverus High School football team erased an early deficit with 43 unanswered points Saturday to defeat Bangor 46-8 in the Class A football state championship game at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
The Portland-based Stags capped off a 12-0 season in winning the West its 27th Class A state title in the last 29 years and also earning John Wolfgram his ninth state title as a head coach but first in five seasons at Cheverus.
Junior tailback Spencer Cooke led the way, rushing for 251 yards and four touchdowns on 28 carries, with all four scores and 225 yards coming after intermission as the Stags extended a 9-8 halftime lead.
“We’re not the biggest team in the league, but we have great heart and play every play like it’s our last play,” said Cooke. “We play for 48 minutes every game, and we did that today.”
This marked the second straight year Bangor was in contention at halftime of the state final only to be swept away. A year ago, the Rams led Windham 14-7 at the break but were outscored 28-7 in the second half of a 35-21 loss.
“It wasn’t the lobster this year because we didn’t have lobster (Friday) night,” said Bangor coach Mark Hackett, referring to the meal the Rams ate the night before the 2009 state game. “I think when we didn’t get in (early in the second half) when we had the chance, we were banged up and exhausted. They may have been banged up, too, but it didn’t show. They went right down and scored, and I think they scored every time they had the ball.”
Fullback Evan Jendrasko added 81 rushing yards for Cheverus, while quarterback Peter Gwilym rushed for 57 yards and completed seven of nine passes for 80 yards in helping the Stags outgain Bangor 469-177 in total yardage and 389-83 on the ground.
So many numbers, and none of them lied.
“They’re a big team, but they got tired easily and at the end of the first half we wore them down,” said Gwilym. “Then we came out with some momentum and took it right to them and that enabled us to keep the momentum.”
Cheverus scored on its first four possessions of the second half on runs by Cooke of 3, 42, 88 and 6 yards.
“We weren’t planning on it,” said Gwilym of the Stags giving the ball to Cooke 21 times after intermission, “but we ran a rip to him on the left side and it worked, so we kept going back to it and he broke a couple for long runs. He’s got a lot of speed, so when he gets into the secondary it’s hard to catch the kid.”
Bangor’s best chance to stay close came after Cooke capped off a 12-play, 68-yard drive with his 3-yard scoring run with 7:08 left in the third quarter to give Cheverus a 17-8 lead.
The Rams drove from their 29-yard line inside the Cheverus 20, but a 32-yard field goal try by Carl Farnham on fourth-and-4 fell short.
Cheverus struck again quickly, going 80 yards in five plays, with the last three plays a 12-yard pass from Gwilym to Liam Hobbins, a 20-yard run by Jendrasko and Cooke’s 42-yard sprint around the left corner to the end zone.
Bangor went three-and-out in its next possession before Cooke ripped off his 88-yard touchdown run to give Cheverus a 32-8 lead with 11.7 seconds left in the period.
Cooke added his final score in the fourth quarter, and Cameron Olsen had a 36-yard interception return for the Stags’ final touchdown.
Bangor quarterback Joe Seccareccia completed 10 of 23 passes for 177 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, while Hartley rushed for 79 yards on 21 carries and had 64 yards in pass receptions. Nick Sherwood had six catches for 103 yards and a touchdown.
Louis DiStasio gave Cheverus a 3-0 lead with a 27-yard field goal on the Stags’ second possession before Bangor took its only lead on a 36-yard pass from Seccareccia to Sherwood with 10:31 left in the first half.
Seccareccia hit Hartley on a 33-yard pass down the left sideline move the ball to the Cheverus 37, then three plays later Seccareccia — while being grabbed around the waist by the blitzing Jendrasko — powered a throw into the right flat that Sherwood caught at the 5 and cruised into the end zone.
The Rams faked the extra-point kick, with Farnham passing to Wyatt Frost for the two-point conversion to extend the Rams’ lead to 8-3.
Gwilym answered on Cheverus’ next series with a 22-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jack Bushey to give the Stags a one-point lead with 6:48 left until halftime.
Hartley returned the subsequent kickoff 65 yards to the Cheverus 25, then rushed five straight times for 21 yards to give Bangor first-and-goal at the 4. Two more runs by Hartley gave the Rams third-and-goal at the 1, but a 3-yard loss by the Bangor standout left the Rams with fourth-and-4.
Seccareccia rolled left, eluded the onrushing Gwilym, then fired a pass to Sherwood along the left sideline in the end zone, but a solid hit by Cooke knocked the ball loose to end the drive.
“I thought maybe if we could get another touchdown, the emotion might go the other way,” said Hackett. “But they came back and answered, and they kept answering and we just ran out of gas, and maybe we ran out of spirit a little bit.
“But I’m really proud of what they’ve accomplished over the last two years, going 21-3. They had great class in defeat, and they had to swallow it for quite a while today because we were down three touchdowns and there’s still 10 1/2 minutes left. But they were still trying. We had the heart of a champion, but we’re not the champions.”
Bangor (10-2) 0 8 0 0 — 8
Cheverus (12-0) 3 6 23 14 — 46
C—DiStasio 27 field goal
B—Sherwood 36 pass from Seccareccia (Frost pass from Farnham)
C—Bushey 22 pass from Gwilym (pass failed)
C—Cooke 3 run (Gwilym rush)
C—Cooke 42 run (Cooke rush)
C—Cooke 88 run (DiStasio kick)
C—Cooke 6 run (DiStasio kick)
C—Olsen 36 interception return (DiStasio kick)