SACO — Noah Carpenter knew Leavitt Area High could play better than it did in the first half of Saturday’s football game at Thornton Academy.

Down 15 points at the half, the defending Class C champion Hornets scored 29 consecutive points in the second half to defeat another Class A opponent, 35-21, at Hill Stadium. After being stymied on offense and pushed around on defense in the first half, Leavitt rolled up a 334-43 second-half advantage in yardage.

“We knew in the first half it was probably the worst half we’ve ever played as a group,” Carpenter said.

Leavitt improved to 7-0 and completed a historic four-week run of beating teams in higher divisions, including three from Class A. The streak was bookended by wins against last year’s Class A champion (Oxford Hills) and runner-up.

Thornton is now 4-3 and faces another challenging game next week against New Hampshire powerhouse Bedford.

“It means a lot because there has not been a Class C team that has gotten the opportunity to play these big games,” Carpenter said. “So we feel special as a team and we know that we can handle playing up in classes. It means a lot and it feels good because this might be the only time a Class C team plays up in Class A.”

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Carpenter, the Varsity Maine Player of the Year last fall, started the comeback by racing 58 yards on a designed keeper on the third play of the second half.

Leavitt scored twice more in the next five minutes – a 1-yard Carpenter run and a 19-yard scamper by Colten Taylor – to take a 28-21 lead. Taylor’s score was set up by Leavitt defensive lineman Jace Negley’s fumble recovery after Thornton quarterback Wyatt Benoit (7 of 9 passing, 100 yards) dropped a snap on first down.

Leavitt increased its lead to 35-21 on Carpenter’s fourth touchdown run, a 7-yarder, with 8:28 remaining. That play ended a short drive set up by a 31-yard punt return by Will Keach (40 yards rushing, 162 receiving on three catches). Carpenter ran for 136 yards, completed 6 of 17 passes for 185 yards (4 of 6 for 178 in the second half), scored a total of 27 points, and was a defensive stopper at safety.

Leavitt’s defense shut down Thornton in the second half. The Trojans’ first four drives after halftime resulted in a net loss of 20 yards and no first downs.

“We knew we just had to play better. We were making mental mistakes in the first half,” Negley said.

After Carpenter’s fourth TD, Thornton cobbled together a few good plays and reached second-and-goal at the 3. Leavitt, though, got another defensive stop to seal the win, highlighted by a third-down solo tackle by Carpenter when it appeared Mauricio Sunderland had a clear path to the end zone.

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Taking over at its 5 with 3:53 left, Leavitt drove to the Thornton 6 before Carpenter took a knee and exchanged hugs with Negley and Keach. The Hornets quietly lined up for postgame handshakes. No massive celebrations. No ecstatic screams. Leavitt’s reaction portrayed a team confident in its abilities, and appreciative of a job well done.

“I told the kids after the game this is probably the biggest regular-season victory in the history of Leavitt football,” said Leavitt Coach Mike Hathaway, himself a Leavitt graduate. “For us to come here and finish off these four games that we’ve had with a win at Thornton, I don’t know if anybody is ever going to do that again. And to come back like that, it’s just an epic thing.”

Thornton had things going its way early. Benoit’s 3-yard run capped a game-opening 14-play, 71-yard drive that chewed up over six minutes and included three well-thrown completions by Benoit. A 70-yard jet sweep sprint by Jackson Paradis put Thornton ahead 14-0 with 3:01 left in the first quarter. After Carpenter’s first touchdown run, a 14-yard scramble on fourth down, made it 14-6, Benoit connected with Xander Cantara for a 28-yard touchdown.

Thornton led 21-6 at the half and had a 221-99 edge in yardage.

“Unfortunately, it’s not a 24-minute game,” said Thornton Coach Kevin Kezal. “Tip of the cap, they took it to us in the second half. They rolled us in the second half.”


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