(Ed. Note: For the complete Cheverus-Portland game story, with a box score and photos, see theforecaster.net)
The football weekend started early for city teams last Friday afternoon due to Yom Kippur and for the first time this fall, two were victorious on the same weekend, as Cheverus, playing at home, outlasted rival Portland, 31-21, while across town, Deering erased an 18-point fourth quarter deficit to stun visiting Lewiston and get in the win column, 19-18.
Deering lost its first four outings this fall by a composite 149-42 margin and when it fell behind resurgent Lewiston, 12-0, after one quarter and 18-0 at halftime Friday, a fifth setback seemed a certainty. The Rams still trailed by that margin midway through the fourth period, when they roared to life and pulled off one of the more inspirational come-from-behind victories in recent memory.
Keegan Stanton sparked Deering’s comeback with a fumble recovery at the Rams’ 45 on the Devils’ first offensive series of the fourth quarter. Helped by a roughing the passer penalty by Lewiston and a seven-yard run by quarterback Travis Soule on 4th-and-5, Deering got on the scoreboard with Soule’s four-yard TD pass to Luc Harrison with 6:24 left. Deering went for two, but Soule’s pass fell incomplete.
Later in the fourth period, helped by yet another 15-yard penalty on the Devils, Soule completed four passes to drive the Rams 63 yards on five plays. Wenston Deninzio made a leaping, fingertip grab around the 10 and weaved his way into the end zone to complete a 22-yard score. The two-point conversion pass was dropped to make it 18-12 with 2:14 to go.
Stanton then recovered Omed Habibzai’s onside kick at Lewiston’s 42 with 2:07 left in regulation.
“I told our special teams coach ‘Let’s put this guy and this guy in (for the onside kick), because normally we try to save those guys,” Deering coach Jason Jackson said. “There’s no need to save them now.”
After a roughing the passer penalty, Soule scampered for an eight-yard run on 4th-and-5 to keep Deering’s hopes alive. Soule then connected with a leaping 6-foot-5 Ben Onek in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown to tie it with 22 seconds to go.
“I’ve played football with Ben since fourth grade,” Soule said. “He’s a huge target. I just saw him open and threw it up to him and just knew that he would get it.”
Habibzai booted the extra point and the Rams had the lead, 19-18.
Deering slammed the door from there and a glorious Homecoming win was official.
“Our coaches in the locker room were telling us ‘Play with your heart’ and that’s what we did, we played with our heart,” Onek said. “I knew when we recovered the onside kick we were going to go in and score.”
“I was telling them at halftime, ‘We’re going to win,'” said Jackson. “They just dug deep.”
The Rams (who moved up to fourth in the Class A South Heal Points standings) look to build on their momentum when they go to 5-0 Edward Little Friday. Last year, Deering went to Auburn and prevailed, 41-28.
At Boulos Stadium, one-win Cheverus welcomed winless Portland Friday in a game where both teams needed a victory, but only one would get it.
Cheverus went ahead to stay when Vic Morrone fell on a fumble in the end zone and the Stags added a safety, followed by a 1-yard touchdown run from Teigan Lindstedt for a 16-0 lead after one period.
The Bulldogs, in desperate need of a spark, got one just before halftime when quarterback Sam Knop found Vinnie Pasquali for a 5-yard touchdown throw, followed by a two-point conversion pass between the tandem to cut the deficit in half heading to the break.
Then, Pasquali electrified those on hand when he returned the second half kickoff 82 yards to paydirt and just like that, Portland, even though it failed to pull even on the two-point conversion, had all the momentum, and only trailed, 16-14.
Cheverus turned to its defense to rise up and protect the lead before Max Coffin extended it on a highlight-reel 66-yard touchdown reception off a screen pass.
Then, on the first play of the third quarter, sophomore Sean Tompkins broke free for an 85-yard TD run and when the Stags added the two-point conversion, they took a 31-14 advantage to the final stanza.
There, while Knop hit Pasquali for a 30-yard score, Cheverus, behind Coffin, managed to run out the final 7 minutes, 19 seconds and went on to a 31-21 victory.
The Stags improved to 2-3, dropped the Bulldogs to 0-5 and beat their rival for the first time in three years in the process.
“It feels really nice to win,” said Coffin, who ran for 103 yards and caught one pass for 66. “Getting momentum early in the game was crucial and it set us up..”
“It’s been a rough season up until now,” said Nate Dunn, who won the Bobby Duffy Award as his team’s top player in the Cheverus-Portland contest. “We haven’t played four quarters of mature football, but this was our best performance yet.”
“We badly needed a win,” added Cheverus coach Mike Vance. “We try to make fewer mistakes that our opponents and take advantage of those that are presented and I think the kids were able to do that today.”
For Portland, Pasquali caught three passes for 49 yards and two TDs, ran twice for 24 yards, returned a kickoff for a touchdown and was given the Jack Duffy Award as the Bulldogs’ top player in the game.
“We did come back,” Portland coach Jim Hartman said. “We have tough kids, good football players. We moved the ball up the field, but we had a handful of tough plays.”
Portland (seventh in Class A North), which would be the only team from the region not to qualify for the playoffs if the postseason started today, will try again to get in the win column Friday when it visits 0-5 Bangor. Last year, the Bulldogs dominated the visiting Rams, 63-7.
Cheverus, now fifth in Class A North, travels to 3-2 Lewiston for a game rife with Heal Points implications. Last fall, the Stags won, 28-20, at the Blue Devils.
Sun Journal staff writer Randy Whitehouse contributed to this story.
Cheverus’ Colt Dumont knocks down a pass intended for Portland’s Ben Stasium during the Stags’ 31-21 victory Friday afternoon.