(Ed. Note: For the complete Portland-Windham game story, with a box score and additional photos, see theforecaster.net)
All three city football teams took to the road last Friday and two came away victorious.
Portland was the biggest winner, as it erupted in the second half for a pivotal 42-21 victory at Windham in a regional final rematch.
Joining the Bulldogs at 2-1 on the season was Cheverus, which held off a late rally from host Lewiston to win, 28-20.
Deering hung tough for awhile with two-time defending Class A champion Thornton Academy before the Golden Trojans pulled away to hand the Rams a 56-13 setback, dropping them to 1-2.
Portland, which was upset at home by Scarborough, 14-13, in week one and won, 40-14, at Edward Little in its second outing, knew that to be the top seed for the playoffs, it had to win at Windham Friday.
Last fall, the Bulldogs beat the visiting Eagles in the regular season, 10-3, and again in the regional final, 24-7.
Friday, Portland would do so again, but not without some dramatic twists and turns.
The Bulldogs appeared en route to an easy win when they twice drove for touchdowns in the first period, a 2-yard run from Nick Archambault, who was the lead back early in the game, and a 1-yard dive from quarterback Issiah Bachelder, to take a 14-0 lead.
But late in the quarter, Archambault suffered a knee injury and had to leave the game. Portland’s offense suddenly went stagnant and after they benefited from a pass interference penalty, the Eagles cut their deficit in half in the second period when Nate Watson scored on a 11-yard TD run to make it anyone’s game, 14-7, at halftime.
The Bulldogs needed someone to fill the void and they turned to Dylan Bolduc, who turned 18 Friday and carried the ball 24 times in the second half and more importantly, carried his team into the win column.
Bolduc rushed 10 times on a 14-play, 7 minute, 19-second drive in the third quarter which culminated in a 1-yard Bachelder scoring run to give Portland a 21-7 lead. Then, with 7:14 to play in the fourth, Bolduc capped an 11-play march with a 5-yard TD scamper to make it 28-7 and seemingly put the victory on ice.
But proud Windham refused to buckle and after Blake Houser returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, the Eagles struck again after a poor punt and pulled within 28-21 with 3:19 still to play, when quarterback Desmond Leslie scored on a 1-yard run.
Portland wasn’t about to let the win slip away, however, and after eschewing the pass nearly the whole night, Bachelder hit Griffin Foley for a key conversion, then on 4th-and-goal from the 4 with 1:17 showing, Bachelder found Foley again for a touchdown and some breathing room. With less than a minute remaining, defender Ethan Hoyt, whose blocking helped pave the way for Bolduc, got his moment in the limelight, as he snared a loose ball and returned the fumble 60 yards to paydirt, capping a palpitating 42-21 victory.
The Bulldogs made it seven wins in their last eight games against Windham and secured the inside track on homefield advantage in the region, even though the playoffs are six weeks away.
“We came together as a team and did what we had to do,” Hoyt said. “It was heart and we wanted it more.”
“At halftime, we got it figured out, put new people in new positions and calmed down,” Bachelder said. “We took care of the ball and did our best to control the clock.”
“We had to calm some boys down at halftime,” added Portland coach Jim Hartman. “Guys were thinking more about Archie (being injured) than playing football. We told them to run some plays and relax.”
Portland finished with a 252-128 advantage in yardage. The Bulldogs only turned the ball over once and limited their penalties to four flags for 30 yards. Bolduc was the workhorse, gaining 109 yards and scoring a TD on 26 carries.
“I had to calm myself down at halftime,” Bolduc said. “The coaches calmed us down and filled spots. We just had to go do it. Usually, Nick is the lead rusher. He went down, so it was ‘Next Guy Up.’”
“We had to get Dylan used to being the lead back,” Hartman added. “I think he’s great. Once he gained confidence, he’s a hell of a back.”
Archambault had 59 yards and a touchdown on 12 rushes before being injured. Bachelder only threw four times, but completed three for 63 yards and a TD, while also throwing an interception. Bachelder scored two TDs on eight rushes and gained 13 yards. Hoyt rushed five times for 19 yards and caught one pass for 19. Foley had two receptions for 44 yards and a TD.
Portland returns to Fitzpatrick Stadium for the first time since Opening Night when Oxford Hills pays a visit a week from Saturday. The Bulldogs then go to Cheverus before finishing with home games versus Lewiston and Bangor and a trip to South Portland.
“This builds confidence for the rest of the year,” Hoyt said.
“This was our best team effort overall,” Bachelder said. “We still need to improve on special teams and work hard and don’t stop.”
“We needed this for this team to get rid of last year and believe in themselves,” Hartman added. “We want to play at Fitzy in November.”
Cheverus beat host Oxford Hills, 33-18, in week one, but was coming off a 65-0 home loss to Thornton Academy last Saturday and needed to regain some confidence and get back in the win column Friday at Lewiston. The Stags did so, but not as easily as they did last season when they crushed the visiting Blue Devils, 68-16.
Quarterback Jack Casale, seeing his first action this fall, scored the game’s first touchdown, on a 1-yard run. The score was preceded with a 45-yard play action pass from Casale to Griffin Watson down to the one yard line. The Blue Devils answered with a long touchdown run.
Cheverus took to the ground using a heavy dose of Ryan Benedict, who carried the ball 17 times in first half alone. After a double fake reverse handoff, Jack Casale found his cousin, Dominic Casale, behind the defense with a 14-yard score to round out the scoring in the first quarter.
“The kids had a big week in practice this week,” Cheverus coach Mike Vance said. “I knew they were going to come out strong.”
Cheverus ended the second quarter with another solid drive before Lewiston’s Garrett Poussard blindsided Casale as he pulled back to pass, causing a fumble. Poussard picked up the loose ball and scrambled for a score. Lewiston added the two-point conversion to forge a 14-14 tie.
The momentum would be short lived.
Starting in Lewiston territory after the kickoff return followed by a pair of nine-yard runs, Jack Casale found Dominic Casale one more time in the back of the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown as time expired, giving the Stags a 21-14 lead at the half.
Benedict would take over the second half gaining another 68 yards, finishing with 126 yards. Cheverus finished with 178 yards on the ground.
“Benedict ran well for us,” Vance said. “We lost our wing back and he’s stepped up.”
The teams traded second half touchdowns and a last-ditch Blue Devils’ pass was intercepted by Dominic Casale, allowing the Stags to hold on.
Cheverus is at 2-1 Edward Little Friday. Last year, the Stags beat the visiting Red Eddies, 44-7.
Deering started its season with a promising 54-7 home in over Massabesic, then lost a late lead and fell at Sanford, 20-13. Friday, the Rams went to Thornton Academy, hoping to give the Golden Trojans a game as they did a year ago in a 42-20 home loss.
This time around, Deering did some positive things and hung close for awhile, but you can only hold the Thornton Academy Express in check for so long.
The Golden Trojans led, 6-0, after one quarter, then doubled their lead early in the second before the Rams got on the board midway through the period, when Nate Richards made his latest big play, breaking away for a 75-yard scoring run, cutting the deficit to 12-7. Thornton Academy came right back with a touchdown and two-point conversion, but Richards wasn’t done, scoring on a 70-yard burst to pull Deering within 20-13.
That’s as close as the Rams would get, however, as the Golden Trojans scored a TD for a 27-13 halftime lead, then added 29 unanswered second half points to prevail, 56-13.
Richards had 144of Deering’s 197 yards and two touchdowns on 15 rushes.
The Rams look to return to the .500 mark Friday when they host 1-2 South Portland (see theforecaster.net for game story). Last year, Deering won at South Portland, 27-14.
Sun Journal staff writer Eric Maxim contributed to this story.
Portland senior Dylan Bolduc carries the ball during the Bulldogs’ 42-21 win at Windham Friday. Bolduc ran 26 times for 109 yards as Portland earned the inside track for the top seed in Class A North.