Portland runs over Windham in season opener

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Portland senior back Zack Elowitch finds running room in the Windham defense during the Bulldogs’ 49-0 victory Friday night. Elowitch gained 203 yards and scored two touchdowns.

John Ewing / Press Herald photos.

More photos below.


Portland 49 Windham 0

P- 7 21 14 7- 49
W- 0 0 0 0- 0

First quarter
P- Elowitch 2 run (Vumpa kick)

Second quarter
P- Stasium 28 pass from Knop (Vumpa kick)
P- Elowitch 1 run (Vumpa kick)
P- Stasium 9 pass from Knop (Vumpa kick)

Third quarter
P- Moriba 10 run (Vumpa kick)
P- Knop 3 run (Vumpa kick)

Fourth quarter
P- Levine 2 run (Vumpa kick)

WINDHAM—Portland senior Zack Elowitch has seen some terrific running backs in his time in a Bulldog uniform and this fall, Elowitch is getting his opportunity to lead Portland to glory.

Friday evening at Windham, Elowitch and his teammates ran wild in a revenge-is-sweet, emphatic victory at the rival Eagles, suggesting that big things could be in store for the Bulldogs in the weeks to come.

Portland, which suffered a 42-6 drubbing at the hands of Windham’s in last November’s Class A North Final, drove the ball down the field from start to finish, but its first two drives were short-circuited by turnovers.

Finally, late in the first period, Elowitch capped an 11-play drive with a 2-yard plunge and when freshman Cristo Vumpa added the extra point, the Bulldogs were ahead to stay, 7-0.

Portland pulled away in the second quarter, on the ground and through the air.

First, on fourth down, junior quarterback Sam Knop threw the ball into the end zone where senior Ben Stasium made a terrific 28-yard touchdown reception.

After Elowitch scored from the 1, Knop and Stasium hooked up again, this time from 9-yards out and the Bulldogs were in command at the half, up, 28-0.

After snuffing out a promising Windham drive to start the second half, Portland drove for another touchdown, as junior Jamal Moriba scored on a 10-yard run to make it 35-0 and induce a mercy rule running clock.

Before the third quarter was over, Knop scored on a 3-yard keeper and midway through the fourth period, senior fullback Ben Levine scored on a 2-yard run and the Bulldogs went on to a statement-making 49-0 victory.

Portland gained 409 yards, with 327 coming on the ground, as Elowitch led the way with 203 in his first go-round as lead back, and the Bulldogs earned a victory in their season opener for the first time since 2015.

“I was excited to get another shot at (Windham),” Elowitch said. “Last year went poorly for us. It’s great to come out and get the ‘W.'”

Revenge served somewhat cold

Last November 10, on one of the coldest nights for football in memory, Windham ended Portland’s two-year reign, to sweep the season series (the Eagles eked out a 7-6 regular season victory at Fitzpatrick Stadium).

The Eagles went on to lose to Scarborough in the Class A state final, 57-0, and entered the 2018 campaign in a rebuilding mode after being hard-hit by graduation and transfer. 

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, find themselves back in the familiar favorite’s role, as they look to win their third regional crown in four seasons and their first state title since 2002.

Entering play Friday, Portland held a 10-8 all-time edge over Windham (see sidebar, below, for previous results).

The Eagles hoped to make it three in a row in the series, but on a pleasant night for football (64-degrees at kickoff), the Bulldogs got their season off to a strong start.

Windham won the opening coin toss, but deferred possession to the second half.

Portland then started a promising drive, but couldn’t complete it.

Starting at their 32, the Bulldogs got a first down on a seven-yard Elowitch run and an offsides penalty on the Eagles. After Elowitch ran for 11 yards on a toss left, then ran for nine more to the Windham 36, Elowitch picked up five yards, but was stripped of the ball and Eagles senior Braxton Cassidy recovered the fumble.

Windham could do nothing with its first possession, as sophomore quarterback Harrison Boyle threw incomplete, Portland senior Chris Vincent threw junior Matty Babb for a one-yard loss and Boyle threw incomplete again.

After a short punt, the Bulldogs got the ball back at the Eagles’ 42, but again couldn’t find the end zone.

After Elowitch picked up a first down with a 14-yard scamper, he was held to no gain and Stasium lost two yards on a sweep. On third-and-12, Knop rolled left and fired the ball deep, but it didn’t carry and was picked off by Windham junior Ben Elliott at the Eagles’ 4.

After a false start penalty backed Windham up two yards, Boyle hit Babb for 10 yards and senior Stuart Salom broke free for 34 yards and a first down at the 46. Senior Koa Farnsworth then turned momentum by dropping Boyle for a one-yard loss and after Boyle threw incomplete, Levine stuffed Salom for no gain, forcing a punt.

With 5:54 to play in the first period, Portland started at its 40 and the third possession would be a charm, as the Bulldogs marched 60 yards in 11 plays and 4 minutes, 14 seconds to seize the lead for good.

Elowitch was held to no gain on the first play, but he ran off nine-, then four-yards to move the chains. After Elowitch ran for a dozen yards for a first down at the Eagles’ 35 and Elowitch picked up one more, Knop kept the ball down the left side and danced around tacklers until he was finally brought down at the 17, after a gain of 17 yards.

Knop threw incomplete, but Elowitch ran for eight and after a Windham timeout, Knop kept the ball and got to the 5 to set up first-and-goal. Elowitch ran to the 2 on the next snap, then scored on a 2-yard run with 1:30 to go in the frame.

“It’s tough to fumble, but you have to move on and put it behind you and do your best the rest of the way,” said Elowitch.

Vumpa drilled the extra point to make it 7 -0 Portland.

Bulldogs junior Jonah Green started the next Eagles’ drive by dropping Salom for a three-yard loss. After Boyle twice threw incomplete, Windham had to punt again and with 32.5 seconds to go in the first, Portland took over at the Eagles’ 45.

Five plays and 3:45 later, the Bulldogs doubled the lead.

Elowitch got things churning with a 16-yard run. Knop then lost two yards and ran for three, bringing an end the opening stanza, which saw Portland enjoy a 126-37 advantage in yardage.

On the first play of the second period, Knop threw incomplete to set up fourth-and-9, but that merely set the stage for the catch of the game.

Knop rolled right and threw to the end zone where Stasium was being hounded by junior Brady Jackson, but Stasium managed to go up and pull the ball away from Jackson for a 28-yard touchdown reception. Vumpa’s PAT doubled the lead to 14-0.

Again, Windham couldn’t answer, as senior Nate Kapongo dropped Salom for a two-yard loss and while Boyle hit Babb for six yards and sophomore Brady Afthim for two, that set up fourth-and-4 and the Eagles punted.

Portland’s next scoring drive started at its 31 and 11 plays and 6:04 later, the Bulldogs were in the end zone again.

Elowitch ran for five- and two-yards before Levine converted on third down with a seven-yard burst. After a delay of game penalty, Elowitch broke free for a 33-yard run, as he broke multiple tackles, but a block-in-the-back penalty brought the ball back to the Windham 49. That proved to be a momentary obstacle, as Elowitch ran for 14 yards and after Elowitch gained five-yards, then four, Knop picked up the first down with a four-yard keeper. After Knop started left, then ran right for seven yards, Stasium got the carry and wasn’t brought down until he reached the 1. On the next snap, with 3:49 on the first half clock, Elowitch bulled his way into the end zone and Vumpa’s PAT stretched the lead to 21-0.

Portland’s defense got the ball right back, as Salom lost a yard, Boyle hit sophomore Sean Cunniffe for three yards and Boyle threw incomplete.

“The defense had a good game plan,” Levine said. “Defense is just effort. We played well.”

With 2:50 remaining in the half, the Bulldogs began at their 43 and they needed just 96 seconds to score again.

First, Moriba showed off his nice catching ability as he snared a Knop pass for 18 yards.

“Moriba made some nice catches,” Portland coach Jim Hartman said. “He’s got great hands and he’s a great kid. He plays extremely well.” 

Knop then found Stasium for 28 more yards and after a two-yard run by Knop, Knop, rolled right, then dropped a perfect pass to Stasium at the goal line for a 9-yard score.

“I think our passing game is good,” said Levine. “The running game does a good job setting up the passing.”

Vumpa’s PAT made it 28-0 with 1:14 remaining and Portland took that advantage to the half.

In the first 24 minutes, the Bulldogs had a 266-59 edge in yardage. Elowitch gained 168 yards on 23 yards, while Knop passed for 83 yards and two scores and ran for 32 more.

Windham moved the ball to start the third period, before finally being slowed.

After a false start penalty, Salom ran for three yards and Boyle hit senior Garrett Peeples for 12 yards to move the chains. The Eagles continued to go vertical, as Boyle connected with Salom for eight yards and Peeples for nine for a first down at the Portland 38. After a one-yard run by Salom, Boyle found Peeples one more time, for 15 yards and a first down at the 22. The Bulldogs’ defense then locked in, forcing an incomplete pass and after a bad snap lost five yards, Portland forced two more incomplete passes to get the ball back for its offense at its 27.

The Bulldogs then drove 73 yards in eight plays and 4:27 for the score which produced a running clock.

After Elowitch ran for five yards, then seven, Knop hit senior Tyler Blazejewski for 12 yards and a first down at the Eagles’ 49. After a penalty backed Portland up five yards, Knop found Moriba in traffic for 18 yards and a first down at the 38. Elowitch then ran for 12 yards and 11 for a first down at the 15. Levine gained five more before Moriba got the call and raced in from 10-yards out with 4:29 on the clock. Vumpa’s extra point made it 35-0 Bulldogs.

Windham couldn’t handle the ensuing kickoff and senior Cam Connelly recovered for Portland at the Eagles’ 26.

Four plays later, the Bulldogs scored again.

After Levine ran for six, 10 and seven yards to put the ball at the 3, Knop did the rest, scoring on a sneak up the middle with 2:41 left in the third. Vumpa’s PAT stretched the lead to 42-0.

Levine tackled Salom for a three-yard loss to start the next Windham drive. After an incomplete pass and a delay of game penalty, the fourth quarter began with Connelly sacking Boyle to force another punt.

With 10:23 left in regulation, the Bulldogs embarked on their final scoring drive, a 44-yard march which ate up over five minutes.

Levine did almost all the work, running for six- and seven-yards for a first down at the Windham 31, then gaining eight yards before Moriba ran for six and a first down at the 17. After Levine rumbled for 11 yards and a first-and-goal at the 6, Levine lost a yard and gained five before scoring on a two-yard burst with 4:58 to play.

“Ben did a great job blocking and we wanted to get him a touchdown,” said Hartman.

Vumpa’s final extra point made it 49-0.

The Eagles got the ball back one final time and picked up a pair of first downs, highlighted by a 22-yard scamper by sophomore Derek Palow, but Windham couldn’t finish the drive and Portland celebrated its 49-0 win.

“(Power running’s) our game,” said Hartman. “That’s the type of team we are. It’s so good to get back it. We couldn’t do it last year. We got our nerves out, then we got going. 

“We talked about last year a little bit, but we came out to prove a point after a miserable season and we did. It’s a great effort. I’m really pleased.”

The Bulldogs mustered 409 yards of offense, as Elowitch led the way with 203 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.

“It means a lot to me to be the lead back,” said Elowitch. “I’ve had the pleasure to watch great backs like Espo (2015 Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Joe Esposito), (Nick) Archambault and (2016 Fitzpatrick Trophy finalist Dylan) Bolduc over the past few years. I’m excited to see what I can do in that role. The blocking was great. Great play by everyone on the offense.”

“Elowitch is really shifty in the open field,” said Levine. “Give him a little hole and he’ll take it. He makes our job a whole lot easier.”

“(Zack) looks just like a combination of Dylan (Bolduc) and (Justin Zukowski),” Hartman added. “He did a great job.”

Levine had a terrific second half and wound up with 73 yards and a score on 12 rushes.

“I played guard last year and was jealous of (the running backs), so it was fun to run the ball and punch one in there,” Levine said. “We have a good group of linemen this year. They’re tight on and off the field and they make it easy for us.”

Knop ran seven times for 35 yards and a TD and completed 6-of-9 passes, good for 113 yards and two scores. He was intercepted once.

“Knop threw the ball so well,” Hartman said. “He made them pay by changing half the plays. He’s a bright kid and he’s going up there with the playbook.”

Moriba had two rushes for 16 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes, good for 36  yards.

Stasium finished with three receptions for 65 yards and a pair of TDs.

The Bulldogs were penalized four times for 37 yards.

For Windham, Boyle finished 8-of-18 passing for 65 yards. Salom had 30 yards rushing on nine attempts. Peeples caught three balls for 36 yards.

The Eagles committed three turnovers for 12 yards.

“We’re super-young and we know it and we’ll keep learning,” said Windham coach Matt Perkins. “That only happens if we’re positive. The effort has to be there and it was. This is a tough team to learn against, it’s on the job training. Some of things they do that we could stop in the past because of who we had, we’re not there yet.” 

Week two

Windham looks to bounce back next Friday when it makes the long trip north to Bangor, which lost, 35-6, to Edward Little in its opener.

“It’ll come,” said Perkins. “We only have a couple veterans. Nine dudes on each side are brand new, but we’ll get there. I have high-character kids, so I’m happy.”

Portland plays at Fitzpatrick Stadium for the first time Friday night when Cheverus pays a visit.

“We’ll be good if we keep working hard,” Levine said. “Every week gets bigger and hopefully we’ll go deep in the playoffs this year.”

“I think we have a good team,” said Elowitch. “It’s just one game, but I’m really excited about what we have.”

“We don’t know what’s coming next week, but anytime (former Cheverus coach and current Stags assistant John Wolfgram) coaches a football game, we’ll have our hands full,” Hartman added.

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

Portland junior quarterback Sam Knop tries to get away from Windham junior Matty Babb.

Portland senior Ben Stasium makes a terrific leaping touchdown catch over Windham junior Brady Jackson.

Portland senior Zack Elowitch drags a Windham tackler for additional yardage.

Previous Portland-Windham results

Windham 7 @ Portland 6
Class A North Final
@ Windham 42 Portland 6

Portland 42 @ Windham 21
Class A North Final
@ Portland 27 Windham 14

@ Portland 10 Windham 3
Class A North Final
@ Portland 24 Windham 7

Portland 12 @ Windham 6
Eastern A semifinals
@ Windham 21 Portland 17 

@ Portland 57 Windham 14
Eastern A semifinals
@ Portland 55 Windham 7

Western A quarterfinals
Portland 35 @ Windham 21

@ Windham 16 Portland 7

Windham 20 @ Portland 14

@ Windham 38 Portland 6

Windham 48 @ Portland 7

@ Windham 14 Portland 2

Portland 25 @ Windham 14

@ Portland 36 Windham 7

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