PORTLAND — For the previous three seasons, Thornton Academy was the cream of the York County football crop, having feasted off of their neighbors with (mostly) lopsided triumphs.
But against the SMAA opponents from Cumberland County, the story was far different.
Particularly in the playoffs, when the Trojans would run into CumboCo buzz saws such as Bonny Eagle or Windham or Deering.
Inevitably the result would be an early ending to a wishful postseason.
The 2009 season — when they pummeled all regular season comers, only to be hammered themselves by Cheverus in the Western Maine Class A semifinal — was especially galling to fans of the Trojans.
And this season, matters only stood to get worse for Thornton, what with a rejiggered schedule that replaced poor York County cousins such as Kennebunk, Marshwood and Massabesic with tougher foes such as Windham, Bonny Eagle, and South Portland.
The sledding was supposed to be much stickier for the Trojans this year, now that they were playing with the big boys.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the poorhouse.
Facing exclusively Cumberland schools, Thornton has racked up an impressive 4-1 mark, and it would have been five-fer-five if not for a last minute let down at South Portland.
“Anyone who doubted us,” said Thornton senior lineman Marc Boissonnault, “is not doubting us anymore.”
The Trojans dispelled all doubts last Friday, when they marched into Deering’s Memorial Field and came out with a 28-21 win over the previously unbeaten Rams.
This came while the memories of Deering’s twin trouncings of the Trojans in 2010 were fresh in their minds.
The first of those (35-7) snapped their 13 game regular season winning string. The second (58-16) cut the cord on their season all together.
“It was awesome to come here and beat them on their own field,” said sophomore back Andrew Libby, who ran for two touchdowns and forced two Deering turnovers. “This win was huge. Last year, they killed us. It was awesome.”
Even more impressive was the way Thornton hauled itself back from a 14-point deficit by scoring three TDs in the second quarter.
Each of those scores had a turnover at its root.
“Those were big turnovers,” said Libby, “the whole game turned from right there.”
Maybe the whole season, too.
The Trojans made plenty of believers with the Deering win.
“It was pretty big,” said junior quarterback Eric Christensen, who ran for two touchdowns in the win. “Last year, they beat us twice pretty bad and we were embarrassed. We didn’t want that to happen again. We wanted to make a statement.”
Message heard, loud and clear.
Veteran writer Dan Hickling has covered sports from preps to the pros throughout Maine and beyond. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org).