A memorable high school football regular season came to a close last weekend and the fun really begins Friday when ancient rivals will do battle in the first round of the playoffs.
Saturday afternoon, perennial powerhouse Cheverus capped another stellar campaign with a 60-6 drubbing of Deering in a game moved to Fitzpatrick Stadium due to poor field conditions at Cheverus.
The Stags, riding a three-game win streak, put this one away quickly, racing to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter. Standout running back Joe Fitzpatrick scored on runs of 11- and 30-yards, Zordan Holman returned an interception 23 yards for a score and Fitzpatrick scored on a 9-yard rush, while placekicker Patrick Mourmouras converted all four extra points. Two more Fitzpatrick TDs, a 45-yard run and a 20-yard reception from quarterback Isaac Dunn, made it 42-0 at halftime. Two short touchdown runs from Rylan Benedict were sandwiched around a Deering score (a 48-yard Max Chabot to Kobe Velez pass) to make it 54-6 after three quarters. A third Benedict TD run accounted for the final score.
Fitzpatrick was named the Charlie White Award winner after gaining 261 yards and scoring five TDs on 19 carries.
Just a few miles away, Portland held off host South Portland in the “Battle of the Bridge,” 10-6.
The Bulldogs came in trailing the all-time series, 41-53-3 (which dates to 1907). Last year, Portland beat the visiting Red Riots, 38-14, and while they’d win again Saturday, it came down to the wire.
South Portland scored a touchdown early, but couldn’t add the extra point and the Bulldogs’ defense shut the Red Riots out from there. Early in the second period, after a great punt return from Domenic Fagone, Nick Archambault put Portland ahead to stay with a short TD run and in the fourth quarter, John Williams added a critical field goal. The Bulldogs then secured the win with a late interception from Joe Esposito and a sack and finished the regular season 5-3 (Portland won six of its eight games, but had to forfeit the 42-14 Sept. 12 home win over Deering after learning it used an ineligible player).
“What a football game,” said Bulldogs coach Jim Hartman. “We had a couple of big defensive stands. Our kids were tenacious on defense. Special teams and defense are really our strength.
“At the beginning of the year, we didn’t know who could play and who couldn’t. Even though we lost a tough game to Bangor (in overtime in week four), we came alive and the kids have played with a lot of resilience.”
Portland (5-3) will be ranked third in Eastern A and will have a compelling quarterfinal round showdown at home versus No. 6 Deering (4-4) in its quarterfinal.
“Our goal is still the Gold Ball,” said Hartman. “There should be no motivational talk needed.”
The winner goes to second-ranked Windham (7-1) in the semifinals Nov. 7 or 8. Portland won at Windham, 12-6, Oct. 11. Deering lost at home to the Eagles, 53-12, in the regular season opener Sept. 5.
Last fall, the Bulldogs eliminated the Eagles in the semifinals, 55-7. Portland also ousted Windham in the 2012 quarterfinals, 35-21.
The Rams and Eagles have no playoff history.
Cheverus (7-1) is the top-ranked team in Eastern A and has a bye into the semifinals where it will host either No. 4 Bangor (5-3) or fifth-ranked Oxford Hills (4-4) Nov. 8.
Portland senior Ryan Ruhlin soars to block a pass during the Bulldogs’ 10-6 win at South Portland in Saturday’s regular season-ending “Battle of the Bridge.”