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PORTLAND—The Deering football team is well known for its prowess through the air, but Friday evening, the Rams showed the visiting South Portland Red Riots that they’re quite potent on the ground as well.
With junior Nick DiBiase rushing for 108 yards and standout senior quarterback Jamie Ross scoring three times on the ground, the Rams dominated from start to finish and improved to 5-1 in their bounce-back season with a 35-0 victory over the Red Riots, who fell to 3-3.
A new year
In 2009, Deering started 2-0, then lost its final six games, including a 36-34 setback at South Portland. This year has been completely different, however. After opening with an inspirational 21-14 victory at rival Portland and a 41-6 romp at Gorham, the Rams lost, 34-12, at home to Bonny Eagle, but instead of that leading to a skid, Deering bounced back by downing visiting Windham, 21-7, then shocking host Thornton Academy, 35-6.
South Portland just missed the playoffs in 2009 and wound up 4-4. The Red Riots came into the new season optimistic about their chances and held off defending state champion Windham, 13-6, in their opener, then won, 34-22, at Westbrook. A 45-21 home loss to Cheverus and a hard-fought 21-14 setback at Bonny Eagle followed. Last week, South Portland got back on track by virtue of a 32-6 home triumph over Noble.
Friday night, the Rams started strong and never looked back.
The visitors got the ball first and gained one first down on a 17-yard scamper from senior quarterback Tommy Ellis, but Ellis was sacked on back-to-back plays (senior Devin Fitzgerald got him the first time and classmate Will Richards threw him for a loss on the next snap), leading to a punt.
Deering took over at its 42 and promptly marched 58 yards on five plays in just over a minute to take the lead for good.
A flare pass from Ross to junior Renaldo Lowry went for 31 yards and got things started. DiBiase rumbled for 17 yards on his first carry, setting up a first-and-goal just inside the South Portland 10. Two plays later, Ross raced in from 9-yards out to break the ice. Ross added the extra point and with 8:11 still to play in the first period, the Rams had the lead, 7-0.
Deering’s underappreciated defense forced a Red Riots’ three-and-out on their next series and the Rams got the ball back on their 49. This time, South Portland’s defense stiffened and forced a punt, but after Ross’ kick went 38 yards, Red Riots senior Stephen Hodge couldn’t hold it and Deering junior Alex Stilphen recovered the ball at the South Portland 15.
The Rams took advantage, using five plays to find paydirt. Ross did the honors from a yard out on third-and-goal and added the point-after for a 14-0 lead with 2:49 left in the first.
“We made some mistakes early in the kicking game and gave a very good team opportunities and as you’d expect, Deering capitalized on them and got some real momentum on their sideline and we weren’t able to recover,” lamented Red Riots coach Steve Stinson.
Deering drove again as the first period gave way to the second, highlighted by a pretty pass-and-catch from Ross to Lowry, but the drive stalled when Ross just missed senior receiver John Hardy in the end zone on fourth down.
The Rams defense quickly forced a Red Riots’ punt and Deering took over at the South Portland 47 midway through the second quarter. Seven plays later, the Rams were in the end zone again when Ross broke free for a 27-yard TD run, cutting back twice to elude defenders along the way. With 3:23 to go, Ross added the extra point and it was 21-0 Deering.
On the Red Riots’ next possession, Ellis (who injured his thumb) was replaced at quarterback by junior Jordan Muller, a lefthander, who quickly demonstrated he could throw a nice ball. Muller found Hodge for 22 yards to get a drive started. Late in the half, on third-and-26, junior Joey DiBiase gained 28 yards down the left sideline, but South Portland couldn’t advance any farther than the Rams’ 30, giving the ball up on downs just before the half.
In the first 24 minutes, Deering outgained the Red Riots, 155 yards to 81.
Things didn’t improve for South Portland in the second half.
The Red Riots had a nice drive going the first time they had the ball, moving from their 47 to the Rams’ 23, but Muller was intercepted by DiBiase on a short pass attempt. South Portland forced a punt and got a break when the snap bounced and eluded Ross, giving the Red Riots the ball at the Deering 25. After gaining one first down, South Portland got to the 6 on a short pass from Muller to Hodge, but junior Jacob Stanley was thrown for 3-yard losses on back-to-back plays and a fourth down pass by Muller went incomplete, giving the ball back to the hosts.
“They got some momentum and we didn’t come out with the same intensity, but we came out with enough physicality to shut the door,” Ross said.
“We were getting emotional on defense,” DiBiase added. “We focused and stopped them and got the goose egg.”
The Rams quickly put an end to the competitive phase of the contest, moving 88 yards on four plays. First, Ross hooked up with Hardy for 20. After a 4-yard DiBiase run and a false start, DiBiase broke free for 37 yards, setting the stage for Ross to drop back and float a pass to Hardy down the right sideline. Hardy caught the ball and fought his way into the end zone for a 32-yard score. Ross’ point-after made it 28-0 after three.
The final Deering touchdown came after an interception from junior Trey Thomes. His return put the ball at the South Portland 14 and with reserves blanketing the field, junior Matt Flaherty ran in from 13 yards out. Ross’ extra point with 2:36 remaining capped the scoring and the Rams went on to a decisive 35-0 victory.
“We really didn’t get everything we wanted tonight, but we definitely got enough to win,” said Ross. “We know we can’t beat everybody by just passing. We have to keep both options open. Starting with the line, we’re putting pressure on the other team.”
DiBiase gained 108 yards on 17 attempts.
“It seems like whenever ‘Dibby’s’ running the ball, he runs hard and earns every yard he gets,” Ross said. “Tip of the cap to him.”
“They have some good linemen we had to key on,” DiBiase said. “It opened up. We did a great job running the ball. It was huge to get the lead. We stuck with it the whole game.”
Ross was his usual stellar self, completing 6-of-14 passes for 122 yards and a TD and rushing for three more, along with 73 yards on 16 attempts. His punts and kicks were also superb, continuing a season-long trend.
Hardy caught four passes for 58 yards and a TD. Lowry had two catches for 64 yards. Deering had 262 yards of offense.
For South Portland, Muller finished 5-of-17 for 48 yards and two interceptions.
“Jordan’s a good quarterback,” Stinson said. “He’ll be able to do some things.”
The Red Riots’ ground game was paced by DiBiase (nine carries, 63 yards). In the end, South Portland (which had 181 yards of offense) was doomed by its poor start and turnovers.
“We have to find something to move forward with,” Stinson said. “We’re not happy with what happened tonight. We got a quick reality check. DiBiase had a great night tonight. We knew Ross would be a factor running the ball, kicking off, punting, controlling field position. He’s just an outstanding high school football player. Their speed and physicality really overwhelmed us.”
The Red Riots are still in the playoff hunt. They need to beat host Gorham (0-6) Friday (the Rams upset them last year, 36-34) and then visiting Portland (2-4) in the Battle of the Bridge season finale to secure their first postseason berth since 2002.
“We have to practice and get better,” Stinson said. “We can still make a positive impact on this season.”
Deering continues to add impressive chapters to its 2010 story on a weekly basis and is in the mix for homefield advantage. The Rams play host to 2-4 Westbrook next week (hoping to avenge a shocking 12-10 road loss from 2009), then close at 6-0 Cheverus.
“We’ve really matured as a team,” said DiBiase. “Last year, we were kind of young. We have to beat Westbrook, then we have a big game against Cheverus. Hopefully we’ll end up 7-1.”
“We have to keep up the momentum,” Ross added. “The camaraderie we’ve built, we’re all in this together. Westbrook was a tough loss last year, Cheverus was a tough loss last year. We want to come out, keep making statements and finish the season out strong.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]
Deering junior Renaldo Lowry looks for a hole while the South Portland defense closes in.
South Portland senior Billy Darling gets the better of Deering senior Jamie Ross, but the Rams’ quarterback had the last laugh, rushing for three TDs and throwing for another.
Deering senior Mike Coombs closes in on South Portland junior Jacob Stanley.
Deering junior Trey Thomes corrals South Portland junior Jordan Muller.
South Portland junior Joey DiBiase breaks free for a long run, one of the few offensive highlights for the visitors Friday.
Deering junior Renaldo Lowry turns upfield past a helpless South Portland defender.
South Portland junior Michael Salvatore corrals Deering senior John Hardy, but only after Hardy makes a catch for positive yardage.
South Portland senior Billy Darling blocks Deering senior John Miranda to open a hole for Red Riots senior quarterback Tommy Ellis.
Deering junior Nick DiBiase breaks away as South Portland senior Evan Indorf gives chase during the teams’ contest Friday night. DiBiase’s 108 yards on the ground helped the Rams improve to 5-1 with a 35-0 victory over the Red Riots.
More photos below.
SP- 0 0 0 0- 0
D- 14 7 7 7- 35
D- Ross 9 run (Ross kick)
D- Ross 1 run (Ross kick)
D- Ross 27 run (Ross kick)
D- Hardy 32 pass from Ross (Ross kick)
D- Flaherty 13 run (Ross kick)