(For the complete Scarborough-South Portland game story, with additional photos and a detailed box score, please visit theforecaster.net)
On Jan. 2, the Scarborough and South Portland boys’ basketball teams produced 131 points.
Friday night, the schools’ football teams put up 115.
In the first countable meeting in nine years between the neighbors, the host Red Storm and the valiant Red Riots produced a game for the ages, one that took more than 48 minutes to decide.
For 24 minutes, however, it looked like it would be a Scarborough romp, as the Red Storm, desperate for a signature victory in a season dwindling away, rode the unstoppable rushing of Dan LeClair and the multi-dimensional skills of quarterback Ben Greenberg to a seemingly safe 27-6 halftime lead.
LeClair scored on a 1-yard run to break the ice and make it 7-0 after one quarter. Early in the second, Greenberg scored from 9-yards out. Moments later, LeClair scored on an 18-yard run for a 21-0 lead. South Portland finally got on the board on a 2-yard run from Joey DiBiase after the Red Riots recovered a fumbled punt. Scarborough drove right back, however, and made it a three-touchdown differential at halftime as Greenberg broke away for a 53-yard run.
“It was very discouraging at halftime,” South Portland coach Steve Stinson said. “We weren’t responding to being punched in the face. You can’t give teams 24 minutes to do what they want and think you’ll win. We didn’t match their intensity early.”
Then, proud South Portland roared to life.
In just over six minutes of the third period, the Red Riots scored three TDs, thanks to the passing and throwing of their talented senior signal caller, Duncan Preston, and the rushing of DiBiase. An 8-yard Preston run, 5-yard Preston run after an interception and a 31-yard DiBiase scamper improbably tied the score at 27-27.
A long Red Storm drive culminated in a 7-yard Greenberg run with 6:57 to play to put the hosts back on top 34-27, but back came South Portland and with 3:31 to go, Preston found senior Jordan Susi for a 21-yard score to create another deadlock.
Not to be outdone, Greenberg led a 70-yard drive in just three plays, capping it with a 20-yard run and when Greenberg added a two-point conversion rush with 2:30 left, Scarborough was ahead again, 42-34.
Preston and his teammates then said, “anything you can do, I can do better,” rising off the deck once more, and with just 32.5 seconds left in regulation, DiBiase scored on a 6-yard run and Preston found his big tight end, junior Jaren Muller, for the two-point conversion and the game would, fittingly, go to overtime.
Scarborough got the first chance and it took just one play for LeClair to score on a 10-yard run. Red Storm coach Lance Johnson opted to go for two points and LeClair scored on the rush to make it 50-42.
“It reminds me of the movie ‘The Longest Yard,’ when they say, ‘We’re convicts. We always go for it all.'” Greenberg said. “That was coach’s mentality, to go for two points.”
South Portland, again, responded, as Preston, after a dazzling individual effort, hit junior Hayden Owen from 5-yards out and Preston barely got into the end zone on the two-point conversion to tie the score for the final time, 50-50, and force a second OT.
There, the Red Riots went on top for the first time all evening, as Preston found a wide-open Muller in the end zone for a 10-yard score. Stinson elected to go for the safe extra point and a 57-50 advantage.
“We wanted to put a full seven points on the board,” Stinson said. “We wanted to force them to score from the 10 and have to convert a two-point play. Anything else and we’d win.”
Scarborough had one final chance and it appeared to be for naught, when on third-and-goal, Greenberg couldn’t handle the snap and the Red Riots appeared to recover the ball to end the game, breaking out in a wild celebration in the aftermath. It was premature, as Greenberg was ruled to be down by contact and the hosts kept the ball.
“The ball was down and I didn’t see it because I was in the back, but they said it was down,” said LeClair. “It looked like the game was over.”
“I saw a bobbled snap and saw a bunch of humanity, then the ball come into the end zone and Hayden fell on it,” Stinson said. “An official said he had a view of a player with the ball and his knee down.”
Then, on fourth down, LeClair barely broke the plane from the 1 and this game for the ages came down to a two-point try.
“I knew I just had to keep going,” LeClair said. “I had to lay it on the line. They knew it was coming, I just had to give it my all.”
With South Portland understandably keying on Greenberg and LeClair, the handoff, surprisingly, went to Red Storm senior Chris Cyr, who dragged a tackler into the end zone, barely, and at last, Scarborough could celebrate arguably the most exciting victory in program annals, 58-57.
“It was incredible,” said Cyr. “The last play was great. We just went for it. We ran a reverse and it paid off. I had to jump for it. I was a little worried, but I knew my teammates would block for me. They did great.”
“We have athletes and Chris Cyr is a special athlete,” Johnson said. “I felt like if we got him on the run, full speed before that handoff, he wouldn’t be denied.”
The Red Storm evened its record at 3-3 and dropped the Red Riots to 4-2 in the process.
“It’s the best game I’ve ever played in,” said Greenberg. “It was fun too. I always love playing in tight games like this.”
“It’s right up there (with the best games I’ve ever been involved with),” added Johnson. “You don’t play a lot of overtime games in high school. It was an exciting game if it went to overtime or not. It was a lot of fun. Some parts of it were more fun than others. It really was amazing.”
The Red Riots might have fallen short on the scoreboard, but their effort was worthy of admiration.
“”It was quite an evening,” said Stinson. “It was good to be competitive in the second half after not being very competitive in the first half. I liked how we responded. It was encouraging. It’s a game of inches and unfortunately, we gave up too many inches in the first half.”
LeClair rushed for 214 yards and four TDs on 28 attempts. Greenberg added 186 yards and four scores on 23 rushes, giving the Red Storm a nice round number of 400 yards rushing. Through the air, Greenberg wound up 6-of-11, good for 102 yards and one interception.
South Portland’s rushing attack featured 116 yards and three TDs on 20 carries from DiBiase. Preston gained 68 yards and scored twice on 13 rushes. Preston completed 13-of-23 passes, good for 172 yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted once.
South Portland (third in the Western Class A Crabtree Points standings) returns home to face Biddeford (4-2 and fourth) Friday, then closes with the “Battle of the Bridge” at Eastern A power Portland Oct. 25.
“It’s important for us to come out and play a full 48 minutes against Biddeford,” Stinson said. ” We’ll live to play another day. We won’t line up against anyone thinking we can’t win.”
Scarborough (fifth in Western A, but hoping to move up to host a playoff game) goes to Massabesic (1-5 and eighth) Friday, then closes at home versus Noble Oct. 25.
“We have to play tough against Noble and Massabesic,” Greenberg said. “We can put ourselves in a good position if we can beat those teams. The region is wide open.”
“This gives us momentum,” Cyr said. “I think this will start us rolling. No one will want to play us in the playoffs now.”
“We’ve been competitive with the better teams,” Johnson added. “This is big beating a quality opponent like South Portland. We get better every week.”
Cape Elizabeth was hoping for big things when it hosted Yarmouth in the first-ever countable gridiron battle between the schools Friday night, but the Capers, despite forcing a 7-7 first quarter tie on Jack Drinan’s TD run, didn’t have the answers from there and the Clippers went on to a 27-7 victory, dropping Cape Elizabeth to 3-3 on the season.
The Capers (now fifth in the Western C Crabtrees) hope to get back on track Friday when they go to 0-6 Gray-New Gloucester (ranked 10th).
Scarborough senior quarterback Ben Greenberg bulls his way up the middle into the end zone in the first half of Friday night’s showdown versus South Portland. Greenberg scored four touchdowns to help the Red Storm win a double-overtime thriller.
Scarborough senior Alec Cohen brings South Portland senior Jordan Susi to the turf during the first half of Friday’s game. On a night where 115 points were scored, there were’t a lot of defensive highlights.
Cape Elizabeth junior Christian Lavallee bounces off a Yarmouth tackler during Friday’s 27-7 loss.