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- The Forecaster
(Ed. Note: For the complete Cheverus-Windham and Portland-Bangor game stories, with box scores and photos, see theforecaster.net)
The fourth weekend of the high school football season brought its share of drama and surprise to teams from the city of Portland.
Friday night, Deering scored in the waning seconds to get in the win column for the first time in four outings, 26-20, over visiting Massabesic.
Across town, Portland appeared home free when it led visiting Bangor, 21-0, in the second half, but the Rams roared back to force overtime, then stunned the Bulldogs, 28-27, dropping Portland to 2-2 in the process.
Saturday, Cheverus welcomed undefeated Windham, looking to continue its long run of regular season dominance, but after scoring the first touchdown, the Stags gave up 35 unanswered points to the impressive Eagles, who handed Cheverus its first regular season loss in 37 games and ended the Stags’ 20-game regular season home win streak as well.
Deering has seen its share of tumult and turnover in recent seasons and after a 1-7 campaign in 2013, the Rams have improved this fall, but prior to Friday, they didn’t have a win to show for it.
That changed against visiting Massabesic, a team which handed Deering its most painful loss a year ago. One which came in the final seconds.
This season’s meeting followed a similar script with an opposite result.
The Rams got the jump when quarterback Max Chabot, the leading passer in Eastern Class A, hit Jacob Coon for a 20-yard score and a 7-0 lead after one period. The Mustangs drew even at halftime after a touchdown pass. After Massabesic went ahead in the third period on a TD pass, Coon returned an interception 98 yards for a score to make it 14-14, but the Mustangs went back on top, 20-14, on a TD run late in the third. They missed the extra point, however, and Deering would save its best for last.
The Rams drew even when Chabot hooked up with Raff Salamone for a 26-yard score. That capped a nine-play, 99-yard drive on which Chabot hit all five of his pass attempts for 63 yards and Kahlil Brown, who was thrust into the running back role due to injuries, gained 36 yards on four rushes. With Coon injured and unavailable, the PAT was no good and the score remained 20-20.
After forcing a three-and-out, Deering got the ball back and after moving his team down the field, Chabot threw the pass of his life to Patrick Viola, who hauled it in for a 25-yard score. The two-point conversion pass was no good, but it didn’t matter, Deering at last had a victory, 26-20.
“It was amazing, a lot of fun,” said Rams coach Matt Riddell. “Despite our mistakes that kept them in it, we did it. On the last play, Max came to the sidelines and I looked at him and said, ‘Look for Viola and no one else. Viola all the way.’ I knew he’d be open and he’s got the best hands on the team.
“It’s definitely a burden off our shoulders. The coaching staff, the kids, everybody. It’s been awhile. We’ve been telling the kids that we’ve gotten better and that their hard work would pay off. This validates what we’ve been doing.”
Deering will look to eclipse last year’s win total when it goes to 0-4 Lewiston. Last year, the Rams lost at home to the Blue Devils, 29-16.
“They have big, physical kids, but we match up well,” said Riddell, a Lewiston High graduate. “Hopefully, we’ll keep them off balance with our passing and we’ll be able to run too. If we can get on a roll, we’ve got a shot to make the playoffs. That was our goal coming in. Make the playoffs and host a game. It can happen.”
Portland is still shaking its head over the events of Friday night. Riding a two-game winning streak, the Bulldogs appeared to be on the verge of victory against Bangor, but it slipped away.
Portland grabbed a quick 7-0 lead behind a gorgeous 43-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jordan Talbot to Austin Phillips and after a Nick Archambault interception, made it 14-0 when Talbot scored on a 3-yard run. It stayed that way into the third period, when a 19-yard TD scamper from Joe Esposito appeared to ice it.
The Rams began their comeback after Nick Graham’s nice kickoff return was followed by a stirring 34-yard touchdown run from Graham after he appeared to be tackled for a loss. If that wasn’t enough, Bangor running back extraordinaire Dane Johnson, who entered the game as the leading rusher in Eastern Class A, finally hit his stride and his 85-yard TD burst pulled the Rams within six points, 21-15, heading for the fourth period.
There, Bangor completed its comeback when Johnson scored from the 1 with 8:39 to play, but a bad snap on the extra point kept the contest deadlocked, 21-21. Down the stretch, it appeared the Rams would prevail in regulation, but a stunning mistake on a punt deep in Portland territory kept that from happening and the game would go to overtime.
The Bulldogs got the ball first and punched it into the end zone when Esposito scored his second touchdown of the night, but the extra point went awry and that gave Bangor a chance to win it.
It took the Rams just one play to do so, as Johnson scored on a 10-yard run and Graham finished what he started, an epic comeback, with the extra point and Bangor split town with a memorable 28-27 triumph.
The Rams earned their first victory at Fitzpatrick Stadium since beating Portland in the 2001 Class A Final and pulled within 65-46-15 in the all-time series which dates to 1893.
“You can’t say anything after a painful loss like this,” said Portland coach Jim Hartman. “We can’t keep making these mistakes. It’s a tough, tough lesson for these kids. Problem is, it’s halfway through the season and we’re still learning this stuff. I attribute (the loss) to heart on their part and tough breaks on ours.”
The Bulldogs will host 2-2 Oxford Hills Friday. Last year, Portland rolled in Oxford, 68-0.
“We have to suck it up and go and find some offense,” Hartman said. “We have to run the table.”
Cheverus has been a machine in the regular season for years and prior to taking on Windham Saturday, the Stags hadn’t lost a regular season contest since Oct. 16, 2009 (24-21, in overtime, at Bonny Eagle) and hadn’t fallen at home in the regular season since Oct. 25, 2008 (40-6 to Deering).
Alas, all good things must end.
Saturday, amid 82-degree conditions, Cheverus took a 7-0 lead on standout Joe Fitzpatrick’s 10-yard run in the first period, but the Eagles got things going in the second quarter and would score on five straight possessions.
Prior to halftime, Dylan Koza and Desmond Leslie scored on the ground for a 14-7 lead. Then, in the third period, Leslie twice completed fourth down passes for touchdowns and the score was 28-7. A final TD in the fourth quarter gave Windham a 35-7 victory and left the Stags utterly perplexed.
“I thought Windham played very well,” said Cheverus coach John Wolfgram. “They’re good. They came to play. No question. They were executing on all cylinders and they used their resources well. We haven’t seen a passing attack like that. It’s hard to replicate in practice. I thought our kids played hard, but we have some things to tighten up on.”
The Stags visit 0-4 Edward Little Friday. Last year, Cheverus handled the visiting Red Eddies, 48-0. The Stags then host Bangor and go to Thornton Academy.
“We’ll clean it up, it’s just one game,” Wolfgram said. “We’re halfway through the regular season. We’ll move on and get better.”
Portland senior quarterback Jordan Talbot drops back and looks to throw during the Bulldogs’ 28-27 overtime home loss to Bangor Friday night.
Cheverus junior Frank Curran shadows Windham junior Dylan Koza during the Stags’ 35-7 home loss Saturday.