Two city football teams remain and both have legitimate title hopes.
While top-ranked Cheverus enjoyed its bye week and will host No. 4 Bangor in Saturday’s Eastern Class A semifinal (more on that matchup in a moment), ancient rivals Deering and Portland met Friday night for the second of three times this autumn in a high-stakes quarterfinal.
The Bulldogs, who won the regular season meeting, 42-14, Sept. 12, then had to forfeit that victory when it was learned they had used an ineligible player, welcomed the Rams, who won just one game in 2013.
The teams met in the 2001, 2002 and 2003 regional semifinals (Portland won the first two, Deering the last) and hadn’t played in the postseason since.
Friday night, the Bulldogs, as expected, won by a comfortable margin.
Portland got the jump and went ahead to stay in the first quarter on a touchdown run from George Chaison-Lapine. The Bulldogs took a 7-0 advantage to halftime after a late defensive stand, then opened things up in the third period, as Joe Esposito and Chaison-Lapine had TD runs, making it 21-0. The Rams got on the board when Max Chabot hooked up with Jacob Coon for a touchdown pass, but late in the game, a short touchdown run from quarterback Jordan Talbot iced it for Portland, 28-7.
The Bulldogs (6-3) advanced to meet No. 2 Windham (7-1) in the semifinals Friday at 7 p.m.
On Oct. 12, Portland pulled a stunner, winning at the Eagles, 12-6. The teams have met in each of the past two postseasons, with the Bulldogs prevailing, 35-21, in the 2012 quarterfinals and 55-7 in last year’s semifinals.
Deering finished 4-5 and made tremendous strides in a bounce-back, restore-the-pride campaign.
“I’m very proud of what we accomplished this season,” said Rams first-year coach Matt Riddell. “Having success, and mind you that success is not always measured in wins and losses, comes from a foundation of skills, leadership and work ethic. We fell one game short of our goal of 4-4 (I don’t count the forfeit and neither do our players), but felt like we took a big step forward. We overcame adversity early on. Overall, projected starters missed a total of over 40 games.
“Max Chabot had a very good year and his growth will continue in the offseason. He accounted for almost 1,600 yards of offense and 16 total TDs. Only (Cheverus star) Joe Fitzpatrick accounted for more. Dom Bernard led the league in receiving and Pat Viola was an unsung player for us on both offense and defense. Jacob Coon had one of the best all-around seasons of any player in Class A East. We were the only team in Class A to rush and pass for over 1000 yards and we led all of Class A with over 1,400 yards of passing. Defensively, we improved every week despite injuries and have laid a foundation for the 2015.”
Look for the 2015 Rams to be even better.
“Our number one goal was to establish a culture of pride and community within Deering football and I think we did that,” Riddell said. “We still have a long way to go in that regard, but we are well on our way. This offseason, we will focus on strengthening that culture through a diverse training program. We only lose five starters to graduation and have very strong freshman, sophomore and junior classes. We currently have 44 returning players and we expect that number to grow. Offensively, we will be able to get off to a better start in 2015, as we had to learn a new offense, language and style of play that most had never seen before. We will strive to be a balanced offense and force teams to defend both pass and run. Defensively, we will establish a more aggressive attitude and style of play. We believe we will contend for one of the top four spots in 2015 and will continue to grow our program both on and off the field. We are on our way up and we believe that the pride is back.”
As for Cheverus, it will host Saturday at 12:30 p.m. a Bangor squad it beat, 28-14, Oct. 18 in Portland. The teams have no playoff history.
Looking ahead, the Eastern A Final will be Saturday, Nov. 15 at either Cheverus, Windham or Bangor. The Class A Final is Saturday, Nov. 22 at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
Portland junior Joe Esposito finds some running room during the Bulldogs’ 28-7 win over Deering in Friday’s Eastern Class A quarterfinal round playoff game. Portland advanced to meet Windham in the semifinals.
Deering junior quarterback Max Chabot is pressured by Portland senior Dominic DiMillo.