Deering seniors Raffaele Salamone, left, and Robbie Dacey celebrate one of the Rams’ six touchdowns during Friday night’s 42-14 home win over South Portland.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
SP- 0 0 0 14- 14
D- 0 14 14 14- 42
D- Richards 4 run (Habibzai kick)
D- Dacey 22 pass from Richards (Habibzai kick)
D- Walsh 6 run (Habibzai kick)
D- Richards 4 run (Habibzai kick)
D- Richards 45 run (Habibzai kick)
SP- Johnson 60 pass from Crockett (Johnson kick)
D- C. Anthony 31 run (Habibzai kick)
SP- Oreste 56 run (Johnson kick)
PORTLAND—Deering’s football team hasn’t found the going quite as easy this fall as it did in 2015, when it was one of the state’s feel good stories, winning six games and reaching the Class A South semifinals.
But the Rams still have the makings of a team that can be dangerous down the road and Friday evening at Memorial Field, many of the squad’s myriad weapons were on display in an impressive bounce-back victory over visiting South Portland.
Deering, which had lost its last two outings, struggled for a quarter, but thanks to a highlight reel catch from senior wide receiver Mason Kaserman, suddenly kicked it into gear.
Early int he second period, the Rams went on top to stay on a 4-yard run from do-everything senior Nate Richards, who proved to be a multi-faceted threat under center.
By halftime, Deering’s lead was 14-0 thanks to a 22-yard scoring pass from Richards to senior Robbie Dacey.
The Rams then wore down the undermanned Red Riots in the second half, extending their lead to 28-0 after three quarters, thanks to a 4-yard touchdown run from senior Ryan Walsh and a 4-yard TD scamper from Richards.
When Richards broke a 45 yard scoring run with 10:25 remaining, a mercy rule running clock was triggered, but to its credit, South Portland refused to go quietly.
The Red Riots got on the board on a 60-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Matt Crockett to junior Zack Johnson and after Deering scored its final touchdown, a 31-yard scamper from junior Caysey Anthony, South Portland got a 56-yard scoring run from senior Moses Oreste, but that was as close it got and the Rams went on to a 42-14 victory.
Deering produced over 400 yards of offense and evened its record at 2-2, dropping the Red Riots to 1-3 in the process.
“This group is a little different from my group from last year and I challenged them tonight,” said Rams second-year coach Jason Jackson. “They dialed in and handled business.”
South Portland, which got to the Class A South quarterfinals last season before losing to Bonny Eagle, started with a 60-20 home loss to the Scots, then won at Massabesic, 42-7, before falling at home to Sanford, 33-7, last weekend. The Red Riots have been decimated by injuries, however.
Deering began by dominating visiting Massabesic, 54-7, but the Rams let a late lead slip away in a 20-13 loss at Sanford and last week, at two-time defending Class A champion Thornton Academy, Deering hung tough for a half before going down to an eventual 56-13 defeat.
“The Sanford loss beat us down,” Richards said. “We went in way too cocky. TA we know is an amazing team. We held our own in the first half. Since then, we’ve locked it down in practice.”
In last year’s meeting, the Rams won, 27-14, at South Portland (behind 89 rushing yards from Dacey) to improve to 11-2 against the Red Riots this century (see sidebar, below).
Friday night, on a chilly evening (59 degrees with a north wind of 10 miles per hour), Deering showed how potent it can be and how many weapons it possesses.
The Rams won the opening coin toss but deferred possession to the second half.
South Portland picked up a first down on its first series, as sophomore Ansel Stilley ran for four yards and Crockett picked up 10, but Deering held Stilley to two yards, senior Finn Zechman to two more and forced Crockett to throw incomplete.
After a punt ,the Rams began at their 17, but went three-and-out, as Richards lost two yards, junior Joe Pelletier (who started the game under center) lost five yards and Richards picked up four.
The Red Riots started their second possession on their 49 and after Dacey threw Johnson for a two-yard loss, Crockett and Stilley hooked up for an 18 yard completion on a screen pass down to Deering’s 35. After Crockett ran for three yards, he picked up nine for a first down at the 23. Crockett threw incomplete, then Stilley was thrown for a two-yard loss by sophomore Ben Trefethen. Zechman gained three yards, but on fourth-and-9 from the 22, Crockett threw incomplete.
The Rams started to move the ball as the first quarter gave way to the second.
After Richards lost a yard, he connected with senior Raffaele Salamone for 19 yards and a first down at the 40. Runs of three yards by Anthony and eight by Richards put Deering on the South Portland side of the field. After junior Abdul James-Coggins ran for eight yards, Richards picked up two more. Anthony lost a yard, but Richards found him for eight and a six-yard Anthony run moved the chains for a first down at the 26. The final play of the frame saw Richards fall on a bad snap for an 11-yard loss.
Everything changed on the first play of the second period.
Richards dropped back to pass and heaved a pass up for grabs down the left sideline. The throw was well covered, but Kaserman outleaped the defense for the jump ball and came down with it at the 4, for a gain of 33 yards.
“I closed my eyes and threw it and Mason made me look good,” said Richards. “Everyone saw Mason making plays and then we knew we all could.”
On the next snap, Richards ran it in from the 4, capping a 12 play, 78 yard, 5 minute, 37 yard drive. The extra point from Amed Habibzai put Deering ahead, 7-0, with 11:22 to go before halftime.
The Red Riots tried to answer, getting a first down on a 16-yard Crockett to Stilley screen pass, but Trefethen threw Crockett for a three-yard loss and a sack by junior Kabula Muka forced a 10 yard loss and a punt.
With 7:38 to go before halftime, the Rams began at their 21. Nine plays and 5:22 later, the hosts were in the end zone again.
A 14-yard scramble by Richards got things started. After a holding penalty backed Deering up, Richards scrambled for 14 more. On third-and-11 from the 35, Richards was again aided by Kaserman, who made another terrific catch, again for 33 yards to the South Portland 32. Kaserman wasn’t done, as he ran the ball on the next play and gained a dozen yards to the 20. Then, after Richards lost two yards and threw incomplete, he found Dacey out of the backfield, hit him with a nice flare pass and Dacey did the rest, outrunning the pursuit to the goal line to complete a 22-yard touchdown pass and run. Habibzai added the PAT and with 2:16 to go before halftime, the Rams led, 14-0.
The Red Riots went three-and-out and Deering couldn’t do anything with the limited time remaining, so the game went to the break with the Rams up by a pair of touchdowns.
In the first half, Deering enjoyed a 138-51 advantage in yardage. Richards was more effective as a passer in the first 24 minutes, completing 5-of-6 passes for 115 yards and a score.
Richards’ legs would be a bigger story in the second half.
The Rams started the third quarter on offense and in eight plays and 3:19, marched 59 yards for a third touchdown.
A Richards six yard run and a three yard pickup by Walsh set up third-and-1 from midfield, where junior Isaiah Anthony broke free for 21 yards. After being backed up by a holding penalty, Deering got an 11 yard run from Isaiah Anthony, a nine yard pickup by Dacey and after Walsh gained seven yards, Walsh capped the drive with a six-yard score up the gut. Habibzai’s extra point with 8:35 to go in the third pushed the Rams’ lead to 21-0.
The visitors promptly went three-and-out, as Walsh threw Crockett for a three-yard loss and a pair of Crockett passes (one to Johnson and one to Stilley) only picked up nine yards, forcing a punt.
Thanks to a block in the back penalty which negated a terrific punt return by sophomore Ben Onek, Deering got the ball back at its 39 with 6:13 left in the period and needed just six plays and 1:28 en route to paydirt.
On the first play, Richards found a hole and sped down the right sideline. He made it all the way to the South Portland 4 before being tackled, but another penalty moved the ball back to the 30. That proved to be a momentary obstacle, as Isaiah Anthony ran for 14 yards and Walsh picked up 10. After an incomplete pass, Trefethen ran for two yards, setting up third-and-goal from the 4, where Richards kept the ball and ran to his left, untouched into the end zone for another score with 4:45 to play in the period. Habibzai’s PAT extended the lead to 28-0.
South Portland went backwards six yards on its next series and had to punt.
With just over three minutes to play in the third, the Rams started at their 38 and they began to march again, as Caysey Anthony ran for 13 yards and Isaiah Anthony picked up 11 more to the Red Riots’ 38. The drive stalled, however, as a bad lateral backed Deering up and the Rams had to punt.
The Red Riots started at their 14 and on the final play of the third quarter, Crockett hit junior Joe Conti for four yards.
On the first play of the final stanza, Crockett was thrown for a three yard loss, then, on third-and-9, his pass to Johnson left South Portland just shy of a first down, leading to another punt.
Deering took over at the Red Riots’ 45 and Richards called his own number, broke free on the left side and raced untouched to the end zone. Habibzai’s extra point made it 35-0 with 10:15 remaining.
At that point, since the lead was 35 points, by mercy rule, the clock ran, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long.
After Oreste ran for no gain, Crockett hit Johnson with a quick hitting flare pass and as a Rams’ defender gambled for an interception to no avail, Johnson found no one standing in his way and he completed the 60-yard score. With 8:38 left, Johnson added the PAT to cut the deficit to 35-7.
Deering looked to answer, as Trefethen ran for six yards, Walsh gained nine, James-Coggins picked up nine, Walsh ran for five and Trefethen gained 18 yards to the Red Riots’ 14, but the ensuing center exchange was fumbled and South Portland freshman Nate Ellington came up with the ball.
The Red Riots would turn it back over, as after Stilley ran for 10 yards and Crockett connected with Johnson for 15, Crockett fumbled and Rams junior Raphael Miisigah came up with the ball at the South Portland 47.
Two plays later, Deering was in the end zone for a final time.
After James-Coggins raced 16 yards to the 31, Caysey Anthony did the rest, breaking free on a run to the left en route to a 31-yard score with 4:59 remaining. Habibzai’s final extra point made the score, 42-7.
Again, the Red Riots refused to hang their heads and bounced back with a big play score.
It would be Oreste, the former Ram, doing the honors. After he ran for three yards, Oreste burst free up the middle and outran the pursuit for a 56-yard score with 3:31 to go. Johnson’s PAT made it 42-14.
After Deering fumbled the ball again and junior Riley Campbell recovered at the South Portland 39, a sack from Rams sophomore Jason Solo ended the contest.
Deering finished with 428 yards. The Rams overcame two turnovers and four penalties for 63 yards..
Richards ran for 151 yards and three TDs on 14 carries. He also completed 5-of-6 passes for 115 yards and another touchdown.
“I like shotgun quarterback, because I can run or pass,” Richards said. “It’s all new for me because last year, I was either wide receiver or running back. I enjoy it.”
“Nate is unreal,” Jackson said. “He’s dynamic is every meaning of the word. He’ll smack you on defense and run around or through you on offense. He’s not that big of a guy. They don’t call him ‘Nate the Great’ for nothing and he’s an even better kid.”
Kaserman had two receptions for 66 yards, Salamone caught two balls for 25 yards, Dacey had the one touchdown catch for 22 yards and Caysey Anthony had a catch for 8 yards.
Isaiah Anthony picked up 64 yards on five rushes, while Caysey Anthony ran for 37 yards and a TD on five carries. Walsh also scored a touchdown, gaining 58 yards on eight attempts.
James-Coggins had 33 yards on three attempts and Trefethen gained 26 yards on his three rushes.
“We went power-I in the second half and just decided to run down their throats and we gave our offensive line some looks,” Richards said. “This year, we have a very strong backfield. It’s a headache sometimes for our coaches, but we have so many different runners, finesse, speed, all of it.”
“We do it by committee for sure,” Jackson said. “We have some backs and our offensive line showed up tonight. It was nice to see them do their thing and get a push.”
South Portland mustered 234 yards, with half of that coming on two scoring plays. The Red Riots weren’t penalized and turned the ball over once.
Crockett finished 8-of-14 passing, good for 118 yards and one touchdown. He also ran 11 times for 27 yards.
Stilley had seven carries for 17 yards and caught a pair of passes for 20 yards.
Johnson caught four passes for 91 yards and a TD.
Conti had two receptions, good for 7 yards.
Oreste gained 66 yards and had a touchdown on his five rushes.
“I’m very proud of the kids,” said South Portland coach Steven Stinson. “We’re testing the bottom of our depth chart, but the kids responded and stepped up. Their effort is admirable. We competed. We played well early and hung around. It’s fun to see this group develop and get better on the field. It’s a great group of high quality kids.”
South Portland hopes to rebound Friday when it goes to 0-4 Bangor, a team the host Red Riots lost to, 20-14, in overtime a year ago. Home games against Scarborough and Portland, sandwiched around a trip to Thornton Academy, also remain.
“Being where we are, we just have to get better and continue to learn,” Stinson said. “We have a great opportunity every week to learn. We have the big trip to Bangor, then we have Scarborough, TA and Portland, probably the toughest closing stretch of anyone. When all is said and done, we’ll be an improved football team.”
Deering has a huge test Friday when it goes to 4-0 Bonny Eagle, a team the Rams lost to, 42-7, at home during the 2015 regular season, then nearly upset in last year’s semifinals before dropping a 20-19 decision.
“We’re mentally young and that can be fixed,” Richards said. “There’s always room for improvement. We want to finish strong. Bonny Eagle is a big game. Hopefully we’ll show what we can do .We have to tighten a lot of things up against a good team like that.”
Deering then plays host to Oxford Hills, visits Edward Little and closes with a critical contest at dangerous Scarborough.
“We need some wins badly and we can’t overlook anyone,” Jackson said. “Now, it’s a four game season. We have to be disciplined, come out and see what we can do. It’s a process, but slowly and surely, we’re getting there.”
Deering junior quarterback Joe Pelletier throws a pass.
South Portland senior quarterback Matt Crockett lofts a pass over Deering junior Keegan Stanton to sophomore Ansel Stilley.
Deering junior Isaiah Anthony is slowed by South Portland junior Zack Johnson.
Deering senior Robbie Dacey prepares to tackle South Portland junior Joe Conti.
Deering senior Mason Kaserman tries to break the tackle of South Portland junior Max Holmes as junior Caysey Anthony delivers a block.
Deering senior Nate Richards breaks the tackle of South Portland junior Riley Campbell. Richards scored three touchdowns in the victory.
Deering senior Robbie Dacey breaks the plane for the Rams’ second touchdown in the second quarter.
@ Deering 57 South Portland 12
@ Deering 27 South Portland 7
Deering 42 @ South Portland 0
Deering 49 @ South Portland 8
@ Deering 62 South Portland 0
Deering 35 @ South Portland 6
@ Deering 19 South Portland 7
@ Deering 7 South Portland 0
Deering 14 @ South Portland 6
@ South Portland 35 Deering 28