Portland dominates EL to stay atop A North

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Portland senior Zack Elowitch (24) is cogratulated by classmate Chris Vincent after scoring one of his three touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ 42-8 victory over Oxford Hills Friday night.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Portland Press Herald photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Portland 42 Edward Little 8

EL- 0 0 0 8- 8
P- 7 14 21 0- 42

First quarter
P- Knop 8 run (Vumpa kick)

Second quarter
P- Elowitch 15 run (Vumpa kick)
P- Elowitch 14 run (Vumpa kick)

Third quarter
P- Elowitch 3 run (Vumpa kick)
P- Jacobson 5 run (Vumpa kick)
P- Connolly 25 fumble return (Vumpa kick)

Fourth quarter
EL- Paradie 7 run (Lewis rush)

PORTLAND—In its first home game in three weeks, Portland’s football team set an early tone with hard-hitting defense Friday evening against Edward Little at Fitzpatrick Stadium and after imposing their will, the Bulldogs broke away for an easy victory.

With senior Ben Trefethen leading the defensive charge early, Portland took the lead for good in the first period when quarterback Sam Knop scored on an 8-yard run for a 7-0 lead.

The Bulldogs didn’t allow the Red Eddies to gain a first down until just before halftime and by then, they had a 21-0 advantage behind TD runs of 15- and 14-yards by senior Zack Elowitch.

Portland, which knocked Edward Little senior quarterback Leighton Girardin, the league’s leading passer and third-leading rusher, out of the game in the first half, then induced a mercy rule running clock in the third quarter, as Elowitch scored from 3-yards out, senior Grant Jacobson scored on a 5-yard run and senior Cam Connolly returned a fumble 25-yards to make the score 42-0. 

While Edward Little did get on the board in the fourth quarter, on a 7-yard run by backup quarterback, junior Giles Paradie, and a two-point conversion rush from junior Isiah Lewis, the Bulldogs were never seriously threatened as they prevailed, 42-8.

Portland won its second game in a row, improved to 4-1 on the year and in the process, dropped the Red Eddies to 2-3.

“We had some big hits and we played hard and physical,” said Bulldogs coach Jim Hartman. “We had to come out and play well and we did.”

Second half kickoff

Edward Little came into the year expecting to contend in the region and after opening with a 35-6 home win over Bangor and a 41-13 setback at Oxford Hills, the Red Eddies prevailed at defending regional champion Windham, 41-21. Last weekend, Edward Little dropped a tough 19-14 home decision to Sanford.

Portland started by dominating host Windham, 49-0, and beating visiting Cheverus, 37-7. After falling at Bonny Eagle, 24-7, the Bulldogs got back on track last week at Lewiston, winning, 28-14.

“We took Bonny Eagle to heart and bounced back,” Connolly said.

Last fall, the Red Eddies won at home, 24-16 , to cut Portland’s lead in a series which dates to 1896 to 45-20 (with a pair of ties).

Friday, on a 59-degree evening, in the teams’ first meeting in Portland since 2015, the Bulldogs started fast and didn’t look back.

Edward Little won the opening coin toss and in an unorthodox move of late, chose to take the football to start the game, but after senior Josh Kaiser rumbled for eight yards on the first play, Kaiser was held to no gain by Portland senior Nathan Kapongo, then Trefethen threw Kaiser for a one-yard loss to force a punt.

“(Trefethen’s) an absolute powerhouse as a linebacker,” said Connolly. “He hits pretty hard.”

“Trefethen is a legitimate, stud linebacker,” Hartman said.

The Bulldogs started with great field position at their 45, but couldn’t capitalize, as Elowitch lost three yards and after Elowitch picked up nine, on third-and-4, Knop was held to no gain by Kaiser and the hosts had to punt. 

After a beautiful 45-yard punt by senior Ben Stasium, the Red Eddies had to start at their 2 and after Girardin was held to no gain, Lewis picked up two yards and Girardin was dropped at the 1 by Portland junior Jonah Green. The ensuing punt only went to the 25 and the Bulldogs took advantage of a short field, driving 25 yards in just four plays, chewing up 1 minute, 42 seconds to grab the lead for good.

Trefethen rumbled for 13 yards to start the drive and after Trefethen gained three, Knop kept the ball for one yard and after a timeout, Knop kept it again, scoring on an 8-yard scamper up the gut with 4:11 on the clock.

“The (coaches) in the booth know what they’re doing and we’re getting it together,” Knop said. “As the season’s gone on, Coach Hartman trusts everyone a little more and we’re establishing a lot of weapons on offense.”

Freshman placekicking sensation Cristo Vumpa added the extra point for a 7-0 lead.

Edward Little went three-and-out again, as Girardin threw incomplete, senior Caleb Yarmevich caught a pass for one yard and Girardin was stuffed for no gain by Trefethen.

After a punt, the Bulldogs got the ball back at their 34 and appeared poised for another scoring drive, when after Elowitch ran for seven yards, Knop danced down the left sideline for 41, but the gain was called back for holding, setting up second-and-12. Knop ran for 10 yards, but on fourth down, Trefethen was dropped for a six-yard loss on the final play of the opening stanza, which saw Portland hold a 33-6 edge in yardage.

The Bulldogs punted the ball away to start the second period and the Red Eddies gave it right back.

After Girardin was sacked by senior Chris Vincent and junior Obed Ntumba for a six-yard loss, he hit senior Jonathan Knight for three yards, then, after Portland jumped offsides, Girardin tried to throw a pass over the middle, but under pressure from senior Koa Farnsworth, he overthrew his receiver and Stasium intercepted the ball at the Bulldogs’ 45 and returned it 18 yards to set Portland up at the Edward Little 37.

Six plays and 2:13 later, the Bulldogs doubled their lead.

Knop kept the ball for two yards, Jacobson got his first carry and rushed for 11, moving the pile to the 24, then Jacobson ran for three yards, Knop picked up six and Knop threw incomplete, setting up fourth-and-1 from the 15. Elowitch then got the carry, taking a pitch to the right and racing to the end zone for the touchdown. Vumpa’s PAT made the score 14-0 with 7:56 left in the half.

Things went from bad to worse on the Red Eddies’ next series, as after Girardin ran for three yards, he tried again and was sandwiched by Kapongo and Vincent for no gain. After the play, Girardin stayed down for a moment, then got up unsteadily and had to come to the sidelines.

He wouldn’t return.

A two-yard run by sophomore Aiden Charest on fourth down necessitated another punt, which Stasium returned 14 yards to the Edward Little 38.

This time, Portland needed just five plays and 1:51 to score again.

After Elowitch ran for four yards, Knop hit Jacobson for eight yards and a first down at the 26. Jacobson ran for five yards and Knop gained seven to move the chains again. Elowitch then demonstrated his toughness, getting the ball, running into resistance around the 5, but keeping his legs churning and driving the defense into the end zone to complete a 14-yard score with 3:59 on the clock. Vumpa again added the extra point for a 21-0 lead.

The Red Eddies finally got moving a little bit on their next possession.

After Charest, now in at quarterback, threw incomplete on first down, he hit junior Ricky Cote for eight yards and Kaiser ran for three for Edward Little’s initial first down. After an incomplete pass, Charest missed his target as well, but a personal foul call on the Bulldogs gave the Red Eddies a first down at the Portland 43. That’s as far as they would get, as after a false start, Charest threw two incomplete passes and Kapongo sacked Charest for a seven-yard loss.

The Bulldogs got the ball back at their 15 with 2:12 to go, but couldn’t add to the lead, as an 11-yard Elowitch run was called back for holding and while Portland picked up a first down, thanks to a three-yard run by Elowitch, a 12-yard scamper by Knop, a two-yard pickup by Trefethen and a one-yard Knop dive, the clock ran out and the Bulldogs took a 21-0 advantage to halftime.

In the first half, Portland had a 119-27 edge in yardage. Elowitch had six carries for 42 yards and two touchdowns, while Knop ran nine times for 47 yards and a score.

Only five penalties for 41 yards served as a damper on the Bulldogs’ first half effort.

As dominant as it was in the first half, Portland was even more impressive in a third period which ended any remaining doubt.

The Bulldogs got the ball first and drove 65 yards in eight plays and 4:19.

Starting at its 35 after the kickoff went out of bounds, Portland got runs of seven- and four-yards by Elowitch to move the chains. Knop kept the ball for a yard, then passed to Stasium for two yards and on the next snap, Knop rolled left and threw a perfect pass to Stasium on the sideline, good for 38 more yards and a first down at Edward Little’s 13.

“That’s probably one of our favorite plays,” Knop said. “I love throwing that corner route. He had a step on the corner (back) and it was perfect.” 

After Elowitch ran for nine yards to the four, Knop picked up a yard and Elowitch capped the drive with a 3-yard scoring run with 7:41 on the third quarter clock. Vumpa again drilled the PAT to make it 28-0.

The second half began as the first did for the Red Eddies, as they lost yardage and had to punt.

After a false start penalty, Connolly sacked Charest for 10-yards. Charest kept the ball for two yards and Kaiser gained one, but Edward Little had to boot the ball away and with 5:49 to play in the quarter, Portland began its next drive at the Red Eddies’ 44.

Five plays and 2:16 later, the Bulldogs got the clock running.

The drive began with a nice stretching grab for 18 yards by senior Tyler Blazejewski. After Elowitch was held to no gain, Jacobson caught a pass for nine yards, then Jacobson ran for eight more, to set up first-and-goal at the 9. The Red Eddies jumped offsides, then Jacobson got the call again, scoring on a 5-yard run to the right with 3:33 to go in the frame. Vumpa’s extra point made the score 35-0.

One play later, Portland scored again, this time courtesy its defense.

The Red Eddies started at their 42, but after rolling left, with two defenders bearing down on him, Charest lost the ball and Connolly picked it up at the 25 and ran untouched into the end zone for the touchdown with 2:50 to go. 

“You never know how a football bounces, but I was hoping it would bounce in my hands and it did and I just ran it in,” Connolly said. “It felt really good.”

“I’m glad for (Cam),” Hartman said. “He’s bounced around a little bit. He’s a unique athlete. He was a linebacker tonight. He did a great job.”

Vumpa’s PAT extended the Bulldogs’ commanding lead to 42-0.

Edward Little finally got on the board on its next series, which spanned the end of the third period and much of the fourth.

The Red Eddies started at their 32 and after Paradie, who took over under center, ran for two yards, Lewis started the fourth period with a seven-yard run. Paradie followed with a seven-yard pickup, Lewis rushed for five-yards, then gained one. Paradie ran for three yards and on fourth-and-1, Paradie kept for six more and a first down at Portland’s 37. Paradie then hit Yarenvich for 15 yards and after a two-yard Lewis run, Paradie and Yarenvich hooked up again for 13 yards to the 7. On the next play, Paradie kept the ball and he bulled into the end zone with 6:27 to play, capping an 11-play, 68-yard, 6:06 drive. Lewis then scored on the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 42-8.

Edward Little wouldn’t see the ball again, however.

After another kickoff went out of bounds, the Bulldogs started at their 41. Junior Jamal Moriba lost a yard on first down, but Knop hit Stasium for 10 yards, then Moriba ran for five yards and a first down at the Red Eddies’ 45. Moriba ran for two yards, then picked up 11 for another first down at the 32. After freshman Pat Green gained five yards, junior Heros Lunjwire rushed for two and that brought the curtain down on Portland’s 42-8 victory.

The Bulldogs finished with 262 yards of offense. They were penalized five times for 41 yards, but didn’t incur a penalty in the second half. Portland didn’t turn the ball over.

Knop completed 6 of 7 passes for 85 yards and rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown on 11 attempts.

“They took Elowitch away from us a little bit and since they were focused on (Elowitch), we knew that Sam could do it,” Hartman said. “He’s a great quarterback and a great kid.” 

Elowitch gained 65 yards and scored three touchdowns on 11 carries.

Stasium had three catches for 50 yards.

Edward Little managed 67 yards of offense, with almost all of it coming on its final drive. The Red Eddies were penalized three times for 14 yards and turned the ball over twice.

Taking care of business

Edward Little returns home Friday to take on 3-1 Cheverus.

Portland remains home next Friday as it battles 1-4 Bangor.

“We have to keep playing hard-nose, Portland football,” Knop said. “Bonny Eagle hurt us, but we took that into consideration and we come out strong every game. We just have to play and get it done on the field, no extra-curriculars.”

“We want homefield,” Connolly said. “We had it for two years and it’s critical for us. If we keep our heads, I think we can beat anybody.”

“I don’t know what Bangor will bring,” Hartman added. “My guess is that they’ll be basic, but Bangor kids are tough and they’ll hustle. Homefield is huge for us. It makes life easier. We can just come out and play.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Portland senior Ben Stasium is wrapped up by three Edward Little defenders.

Portland senior Nathan Kapongo prepares to tackle Edward Little quarterback Leighton Girardin.

Portland senior Ben Stasium breaks the tackle attempt of Edward Little senior Josh Kaiser.

Thanks in part to a nice block from senior Koa Farnsworth, senior Zack Elowitch breaks into the clear.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.