Portland’s Zach Elowitch intercepts a pass during the Bulldogs’ 21-6 upset win at Oxford Hills in Friday’s Class A North quarterfinal. Two-time defending regional champion Portland goes to Lewiston for the semifinals this Friday.
Portland’s football team is still alive in its quest for a third straight regional title, but the postseason came to an abrupt end for Cheverus and Deering last Friday night.
The Bulldogs, who started the season 0-5 before beating Bangor and Lewiston and losing at South Portland, earned the sixth and final seed in Class A North and had to go to third-ranked Oxford Hills for the quarterfinals. The teams met in the season opener, Sept. 2, at Fitzpatrick Stadium, and the Vikings held on for a 20-14 victory.
This time around, in the second all-time postseason meeting between the schools (Portland rolled, 55-7, in the 2016 semifinals), the Bulldogs made enough big plays to advance.
The Vikings opened the game with a dominating drive that went from their own 30 down to the Bulldogs’ 5, but a flag pushed them into third-and-long and then fourth-and-long and Oxford Hills turned it over on downs.
“That was really a confidence builder right there,” Portland’s Zach Elowitch said. “That was determination, bend-but-don’t-break defense, play to the last whistle.”
Then, after a Vinnie Pasquali interception, Elowitch reached the end zone on the next play, giving the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 3:29 left in the first half.
“It felt real good to get the offense in good field position, get that first touchdown on the board right before half so we could keep rolling, have the momentum going into the second half,” Pasquali said.
Portland opened the second half with a long kickoff return to the Oxford Hills 47, then quarterback Terion Moss capped off a nine-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run that gave the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead.
After Oxford Hills pulled within 14-6, the teams exchanged interceptions and punts before Moss scored his second touchdown of the game to make it 21-6 with 2:34 remaining in the game.
“Terion is learning how to play quarterback,” Portland coach Jim Hartman said. “He’s only played three games in a row now at quarterback, so I have to learn how to communicate with him. We’re drawing plays up in the sand, but he’s coming. Each game he gets a little better.”
Moss ran for a game-high 109 yards on 21 carries.
Pasquali sealed the win with his second interception of the game.
Next up for Portland is a semifinal round showdown at second-ranked Lewiston (4-4) Friday night. The Bulldogs rallied for a thrilling 17-14, overtime win over the visiting Blue Devils back on Oct. 13. The teams have met twice previously in the postseason with Lewiston taking the 1987 Western A semifinals (29-6) and Portland prevailing in the 1995 Western A quarterfinals (42-8).
“I think Lewiston has as much talent as anyone in Class A football, so we’ve got our hands full,” Hartman said.
Cheverus went 3-5 in the regular season and wound up fifth in Class A North, necessitating a trip to nemesis Windham, the No. 4 seed, in the quarterfinals. The Stags opened the year with a 24-0 loss at the Eagles and had dropped four of five previous playoff meetings, including a 9-7 decision in last year’s semifinal round.
Friday, Cheverus scored first, on an 8-yard run from Teigan Lindstedt, but two-point conversion run failed, allowing Windham to tie the game, 6-6, on a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Then, in the waning moments, the Eagles scored again and prevailed, 12-6, to end the Stags’ season at 3-6.
“We played gritty,” said Cheverus coach Mike Vance. “But in the end, they made the big play. We made a couple more mistakes than they did at the end. In the playoffs, it comes down to a couple things in a tight game.”
Deering, which went 1-7 in the regular season, finished sixth in Class A South and had the daunting task of going to third-seeded, defending state champion Bonny Eagle for the quarterfinals Friday. The Scots rolled in the regular season meeting, 51-0, Oct. 13, in Portland. Bonny Eagle had won four of the prior seven postseason encounters, including a 20-19 decision in the semifinals two years ago.
This time around, the contest was never in doubt, as Bonny Eagle, coming off a home loss to Scarborough the week before, grabbed a 20-0 lead after one quarter and a 34-6 advantage at halftime (Luc Harrison’s 91-yard fumble return for a score got the Rams on the board). After the Scots made it 47-6, a 60-yard TD run by Keegan Stanton and a two-point conversion pulled Deering within 33 after three periods. In the fourth, Bonny Eagle added two more scores before the Rams got a 38-yard touchdown run from Stanton to account for the 61-20 final score.
Deering finished the season 1-8.
Sun Journal writer Lee Horton and Press Herald writer Kevin Thomas contributed to this story.