Portland's run ends in Windham

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Portland quarterback Terion Moss gains yardage during the Bulldogs’ 42-6 loss at Windham in Friday’s Class A North Final. Portland’s two-year reign as regional champions came to an end.

Portland’s football team saved its best for last this fall, but the Bulldogs’ postseason run came to an end with a thud in the regional final last Friday evening.

Portland, which won the 2015 and 2016 Class A North titles, was a vastly different team this season after losing several top contributors to graduation.

The Bulldogs lost their first five games, four of them by 10 points or fewer. Portland then won a pair and after losing at South Portland in the regular season finale, the Bulldogs’ 2-6 record was good enough to earn the No. 6 seed in the region.

Then, the fun began.

After upsetting No. 3 Oxford Hills, 21-6, in the quarterfinals, Portland went to No. 2 Lewiston and prevailed again, 27-13, to reach the regional championship game for the fourth time in five seasons.

The Bulldogs dropped a 7-6 decision to visiting Windham back on Sept. 23 when a late field goal was ruled no good in a decision that many on the Portland side of the field disagreed with.

Entering play on an absolutely frigid evening Friday, Portland held a 4-1 all-time postseason edge, with last year’s 27-14 triumph in the regional final the most recent.

This time around, however, it was all Eagles, all the time.

Windham struck before many fans found their seat, going ahead 7-0, on a 6-yard run from Tanner Bernier just over a minute in, although the exact time was uncertain since the clock wasn’t working due to the cold.

“We just wanted to execute,” Bernier said. “We wanted to get out there and score first and just keep scoring and never look back.”

The Eagles then broke the game open in the second quarter, as Treva Valliere scored on a 25-yard run, Bernier scampered in from 33-yards out (then added a conversion pass to Matty Babb) and on the final play of the first half, Bernier found Nathan Watson for a 12-yard score to push the lead to 29-0 and end all doubt.

Portland ran only 15 plays in the first half and mustered only one first down.

Watson added an 8-yard TD run and Stuart Salom scored on a 24-yard rush to push the lead to 42-0 in the third period.

The Bulldogs finally got on the board in the fourth quarter, as standout senior quarterback Terion Moss scored on a 4-yard rush.

Windham slammed the door from there and prevailed, 42-6, advancing to meet Scarborough (9-1) in the Class A state final Saturday at 11 a.m., at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. The Eagles were crushed at home by the Red Storm, 66-7, in the regular season.

“This is very special, it really is,” said Windham coach Matt Perkins. “To think what these guys, how they’ve been doubted, and the adversity they’ve gone through … to fight back and do this, it really says a lot about their character.”

The loss ended Portland’s season at 4-7.

“It wasn’t a pleasant night,” said Bulldogs coach Jim Hartman. “The boys didn’t do well in the cold. They found our weaknesses, we couldn’t get to theirs and we made some big mistakes. It was just one of those nights where it went downhill quick.

“I’m proud of the boys for not quitting for getting better over the course of the season. We just couldn’t take that last step.”

The Bulldogs do have one game left, versus rival Deering on Thanksgiving Day.

“Hopefully with one more game, we can clean up from (the regional final),” Hartman said. 

Looking ahead to next year, Portland will part with Moss, as well as fellow seniors Charlie Egeland, Griffin Foley and Vinnie Pasquali, but should be right back in the thick of contention in 2018.

|It was a young team this year,” Hartman said. “We were mostly juniors and sophomores. We’ll have a bunch of starters back next year and we’ll start from a better place.”

Tough time in the big city

Portland, along with Cheverus and Deering, has enjoyed plenty of gridiron success this century, but the 2017 campaign was a tough one for the city powers.

Cheverus went 4-5 and lost to Windham in the quarterfinals, Deering won just once in nine games, losing to Bonny Eagle in the quarterfinals and the Bulldogs wound up 4-7, giving the triumvirate a total of nine victories.

The last time Cheverus, Deering and Portland combined for so few victories and all had losing records, the year was 1998, when they only managed seven as a group (the Bulldogs had four, the Rams two and the Stags one). 

Press Herald staff writer Mike Lowe contributed to this story.

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

Portland’s Koa Farnsworth makes a tackle during Friday’s regional final.

Portland’s Zack Elowitch is tackled for a loss during Friday’s regional final loss.

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