Cheverus senior Dominic Casale catches a touchdown pass during Saturday’s game against Windham. Despite Casale’s heroics, the Stags lost, 13-12.
(Ed. Note: For the complete Cheverus-Windham game story, with a box score and additional photos, see theforecaster.net)
The high school football regular season came to a close last weekend and all three city squads are playoff-bound.
Portland won its seventh game in a row, 47-0, at South Portland, to finish the season 7-1. The Bulldogs will be the top seed in Class A North and have a bye into the semifinal round.
Cheverus finished 4-4 after a gutwrenching 13-12 “home” loss to Windham, in a game that was played at Fitzpatrick Stadium due to bad weather. The Stags will be the No. 3 seed in Class A North and host Lewiston in the quarterfinals Saturday.
Deering also suffered a setback in its finale, 39-0, at home to Scarborough, to finish 3-5. The Rams are the No. 5 seed in Class A South and go to No. 4 Sanford for the quarterfinals Friday night.
After falling 10 points shy of a Gold Ball last season, Portland came into 2016 with unfinished business, but the Bulldogs were upset in the opener by visiting Scarborough. Since then, Portland, despite having to fill holes and overcome injuries, has passed every test and the Bulldogs brought the curtain down on the regular season Saturday with an emphatic performance in the “Battle of the Bridge” at South Portland.
Dylan Bolduc, the leading rusher in Class A North, broke a long touchdown run to get things started and quarterback Issiah Bachelder’s 30 yard touchdown run put Portland up, 13-0, after one quarter. Bachelder hit Griffin Foley for a touchdown pass and a long Knop TD run extended the Bulldogs’ advantage to 27-0 at halftime. In the third period, Bolduc and Knop both broke long scoring runs which were sandwiched around a short TD scamper by Bachelder and Portland prevailed, 47-0.
The Bulldogs are the top seed in Class A North for the second consecutive season and will host either No. 4 Oxford Hills (4-4) or No. 5 Edward Little (3-5) in the semifinals the weekend of Nov. 4-5. Portland won, 42-14, at the Red Eddies Sept. 9 and downed the visiting Vikings, 36-7, Sept. 24.
The Bulldogs beat Edward Little, 41-6, in the 2002 Class A state final in the teams’ lone prior playoff meeting. Portland has never met Oxford Hills in the postseason.
The team that has consistently given Cheverus the most trouble the past three years has been Windham, which won two meetings against the Stags in both 2014 and 2015.
Saturday, the teams met again at Fitzpatrick Stadium, where Cheverus, which has improved dramatically this season, suffered another painful loss.
The Stags appeared en route to a pivotal victory when they got a 12 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jack Casale to his cousin, Dominic Casale, in the first quarter and a 7 yard Jack Casale TD scamper in the second to lead, 12-0, but the Eagles came out a drastically different team in the second half.
Nazari Henderson returned the opening kickoff 72 yards and a late hit penalty on the Stags was tacked on, giving Windham the ball at the Cheverus 9. Two plays later, Kyle Houser scored from 5 yards out and the Eagles were only down five. Late in third period, after a disputed pass interference call kept its drive alive, Windham went on top to stay as Houser scored on a 12 yard run for a 13-12 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Stags twice drove deep into Eagles’ territory, but the first foray was short-circuited by a sack and ended with an interception by Eagles defensive back Garrett Peeples at the goal line and the next was stymied by an ill-timed holding penalty and ended with a 38 yard field goal attempt by Chandler Hartigan that was off target.
Windham took a knee and ran out the clock and got out of town with a 13-12 victory.
“Mistakes were the difference,” lamented Cheverus first-year coach Mike Vance. “We didn’t cover on a kickoff and we didn’t cover on a punt. The holding play was the other big mistake. The bigger the game, the smaller the difference. We talk all the time about games being lost and we beat ourselves.”
Cheverus’ offense produced 228 yards, but the Stags were flagged four times for 37 yards.
Instead of getting a week off, which it would have earned with a win over Windham, Cheverus will host sixth-seeded Lewiston (2-6) in the quarterfinals Saturday afternoon.
The Stags beat the Blue Devils, 28-20, Sept. 16 in Lewiston. Cheverus has won all three prior playoff games, including a 42-0 quarterfinal round victory last year.
“It’s hard to sell to the kids we’re getting better when we’ve lost two in a row, but the truth is, we’re a heck of a lot better than we were just a few weeks ago,” Vance said. “We’re a lot better, but we don’t believe in celebrating losses. We have a lot of work to do. We like to play football and we’ll look at (the quarterfinal) like that. We’ll look at it as another opportunity to grow. We have to go back to the drawing board and come out next week and do better.”
If the Stags advance, they’ll go to No. 2 Windham for the semifinals the weekend of Nov. 4-5.
Deering had a chance to finish .500 and had a shot at earning a home playoff game had it beaten Scarborough in its finale, but the Rams were no match for the Red Storm, who went ahead, 12-0, after one quarter, 18-0, at halftime and 32-0, after three periods before going on to a 39-0 win.
Deering’s 3-5 mark gave it the No. 5 seed for the Class A South playoffs and sends the Rams to No. 4 Sanford (5-3) for the quarterfinals Friday. Deering lost, 20-13, at the Spartans Sept. 9. The Rams won two of the previous three playoff meetings, including a 28-8 victory in the most recent encounter, the 2002 Western A quarterfinals.
If Deering advances, it will play at No. 1 Bonny Eagle (8-0) in the semifinals the weekend of Nov. 4-5. The Rams lost, 21-7, at the Scots Sept. 30. Deering is 3-4 all-time against Bonny Eagle in the playoffs. Last year, in the semifinals, the Scots eked out a 20-19 win in Portland.