Portland football teams 2-for-3: Portland routs Gorham for fourth straight; Cheverus improves to 5-1; Deering loses fourth straight at SP
The fact that two of three city football teams appear playoff bound at the three-quarters pole of the 2009 season isn't much of a surprise. What is unexpected, however, is that the team on the outside looking in will likely be the Deering Rams.
After another exciting weekend of action, Cheverus is 5-1, romping 48-0 over visiting Westbrook, Portland is 4-2, pounding visiting Gorham 54-12 for its fourth successive victory and Deering is now 2-4 after its fourth straight loss, 36-34 in a thriller at South Portland (please see Web site for the Rams full game story).
Worth the wait
Cheverus didn't play until Saturday at 3:30 p.m. due to SAT exams, but quickly ended any upset hopes by the winless Blue Blazes. The Stags took a 28-0 lead after one period behind touchdowns from senior Matt Ball (45-yard run), junior Jack Bushey (5-yard pass from junior Peter Gwilym), senior James Rutter (18-yard run) and Ball (18-yard scamper). A 5-yard run from sophomore Cameron Olsen made it 35-0 at halftime. Junior Evan Jendrasko scored on a 24-yard run in the third period to make it 42-0 and sophomore Spencer Cooke's 81-yard scamper accounted for the 48-0 final score.
Cheverus will close its regular season on the road, going to two-time defending Class A state champion Bonny Eagle (4-2, after a 14-0 home loss to Windham Friday) and Deering. Last year, the Stags fell 46-6 at home to the Scots in the first game of the regular season, then were eliminated 35-0 in Standish in the Western A quarterfinals.
Big bark and bite
Portland's resurgence continued Friday night at home against Gorham. Coming into the game, the Bulldogs hadn't beaten the Rams since 2005. In the early going, it appeared as if that slump would continue as Portland struggled to keep hold of the ball, but eventually the Bulldogs' talent won out.
Junior running back extraordinaire Imadhi Zagon added another chapter to his burgeoning legend with a 301-yard performance. He ran for scores of 38 and 59 yards for an early 14-0 lead. Senior quarterback Gordon Parker then hooked up with junior Caleb Kenney for a 30-yard TD strike for a 20-0 advantage after one period. Zagon had two more TD runs, of 16 and 10 yards, to make it 34-6 at halftime. A fifth Zagon TD run and another from Kenney gave the hosts a 48-6 advantage after three. Portland's final TD came from senior Kevin Nielsen (14 rushes, 99 yards) on a 15-yard fourth quarter run.
"We're playing very well right now," said Portland coach Mike Bailey. "It was a fiasco at the beginning with the turnovers, but once we settled down we were OK. (Gorham) couldn't handle Imadhi on the perimeter."
The Bulldogs look for their fifth straight win Friday night, but it won't come easily when they play at red-hot Windham (5-1, after a huge win over Bonny Eagle). A fifth victory would essentially salt away a playoff berth for Portland. Last year, the Bulldogs fell 48-7 at home to the Eagles.
"There will be a lot of good athletes on the field for both teams," said Bailey. "Like all big games, it will come down to turnovers, penalties and field position. Our kids are feeling good about it. If we win one of our next two, we'll be OK to get into the playoffs. If we can go 6-2, we'd be in great shape."
Deering made the trip to South Portland desperate for a win after falling at Bonny Eagle (41-21), Windham (35-19) and by a 30-0 shutout loss to Thornton Academy.
The Rams had won eight straight against the Red Riots dating back to Sept. 28, 2000.
South Portland scored on its second play from scrimmage, but Deering sophomore Renaldo Lowry fielded the ensuing kickoff on his 18 and took it to the house for an 82-yard score. Rams' junior quarterback Jamie Ross then hit junior J.J. Hardy for a 73-yard TD and junior Sam Balzano from 29 yards out for a 21-7 lead after one.
Deering couldn't hold it. The Red Riots got two TD runs from senior Ryan Curit to tie the game. The Rams got a break just before the half, recovering a muffed punt that set up Ross' 22-yard TD pass to Balzano for the 28-21.
The dizzying first 24 minutes featured 377 yards of offense (213 for South Portland, 164 for Deering) and 49 points.
A pivotal moment in the game arrived early in the third period. Deering got the ball to start the second half and instead of stretching its lead, gave two points back to South Portland on a bad snap into the endzone for a safety. The Red Riots then went up 30-28 on another Curit TD run, but the Rams answered on a nearly six-minute, 96-yard drive which was capped by a 9-yard Ross-to-senior Corey Van Brocklin scoring pass to make it 34-30 Deering with 7:21 remaining.
Again, the Rams couldn't hold, as Curit ran 80 yards for a score on the first play of the ensuing South Portland drive. Deering had two chances to answer, but the first threat was short-circuited by an offensive interference penalty inside the Red Riots' 10. With time winding down, the Rams went three-and-out, essentially ending the game.
South Portland wound up with a 341-303 edge in total yardage. Deering got another stellar effort out of Ross, who completed 9-of-22 passes for 211 yards and four scores. He also rushed 28 times for 154 yards. Hardy caught four passes for 105 yards and a score. Balzano had three receptions for 63 yards and two TDs. Van Brocklin caught two balls for 43 yards and a score.
Deering will need to win out and get some help if it wants to continue its eight-year streak of making the playoffs. After hosting 0-6 Westbrook next weekend (a team they beat 55-0 a year ago), the Rams close with a home game against Cheverus.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com