South Portland's season ends with 32-0 loss at Bonny Eagle

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STANDISH—The second-ranked Bonny Eagle Scots broke out from a puffy green helmet of billowing smoke and played championship caliber defense Friday night in the Western Class A quarterfinals to advance with a 32-0 victory over No. 7 South Portland (5-4).

Three times South Portland moved the ball inside the Scots’ 20-yard line in the first quarter and three times were denied. With senior quarterback Tommy Ellis sidelined with a broken right hand, the Red Riots turned to junior Michael Salvatore to run the offense in the program’s first playoff game since 2002.

Salvatore was effective in the first half particularly and put together a long drive to start the second half. He finished 13-for-23 for 168 yards and rushed 12 times for 55, but was intercepted on three consecutive passes in the fourth, one that went for a score.

Salvatore scrambled for 25 yards and passed for 35 to senior captain Billy Darling on South Portland’s opening possession of the game to set up a first down at the Bonny Eagle 11-yard line. Four plays for five yards ended the first of three consecutive red-zone chances for South Portland in the first half.

“We moved the ball against them at times, but we couldn’t finish,” said coach Steve Stinson. “They have a good defense and they stiffened when they had to. We actually gained more yards than we did against them the last time. We had a few long plays in that game, but tonight we put a few drives together we just didn’t finish.”

The next time the Red Riots broke the 20 led directly to the Scots’ first touchdown and a 7-0 deficit to end the first quarter. Salvatore on the power to his left ran into a pile of football players and had no place to escape. Bonny Eagle senior defensive end Jeff Amell came in almost from behind, snatched the football away and rumbled 79 yards to the house.

Bonny Eagle would take further advantage in the second quarter, turning to the air and senior quarterback Matt Rollins for a deep score to junior wideout Cam Cooper. Led by junior linebacker Brendan Horton, the defensive front for the Red Riots was tough against the run. Rollins loves to run free in the Scots’ spread offense but was limited to 8 yards on 10 carries. He finished 11-for-26 for 185 yards passing.

“In the first half we came out to play,” said Horton. “The defense was flying around making plays and the offense was moving the ball. We had three chances and couldn’t get it down. We don’t like getting shutout, but what are you going to do? Bonny Eagle is a great team. They have some big boys.”

Instead, the Scots attacked through the air with Rollins stretching the field deep to both sidelines looking for Cooper or senior Cam McKague on the go. There were two reasons Bonny Eagle came out looking to hit the home run early in the game. The first one manifested itself in a 30-yard Rollins to Cooper touchdown with 6:30 left in the half to stretch the Bonny Eagle lead to 13-0. Cooper caught six balls for 141 yards in the Scots win.

The second was to put the South Portland defensive backfield on its heels and soften the coverage underneath for the slant route. The Scots accomplished both on the Cooper touchdown drive. The three biggest plays of the drive happen to be a perfect example of what it’s like to defend the slant.

“Most good offenses can put you in conflict,” said Stinson. “That’s what they were able to do in the passing game. They have a quarterback that can deliver the football on time. It’s a tough play to defend and they had the skillset to execute it.”

On a third-and-13 play from their own 35, Cooper caught a 14-yard pass for a first down on the slant route to the 49. Four plays later, Bonny Eagle faced another third-and-13 at the South Portland 30. Cooper again ran the slant but junior Dan Medici got there in time for the Red Riots and deflected the pass. The Scots decided to go for it on fourth down, but this time Rollins double-clutched, as Cooper broke off his route and went deep for a 30-yard TD down the home sideline.

“They have a great quarterback and a great reciever,” said Medici. “There’s not much you can do but make sure you don’t get deep. We made a few plays on the slant but the footing wasn’t like we’re used to. Look at this field. I slipped a few times. The grass is wet and we’re not used to that.”

After the score, the Red Riots took over at their 35-yard line when the kickoff skipped out of bounds. Salvatore picked up eight yards on a nice looking run play on second down, but the Red Riots stalled and kicked it back less than a minute later.

The Scots ripped off a seven-play, 64-yard drive in three-minutes to take a 19-0 lead with 2:36 left in the half. Rollins completed 3-of-4 passes for 30 yards to set up a more traditional score. Bonny Eagle junior Nick Adkins broke free for a 35-yard touchdown run to take a three-score advantage at the half.

If the Scots struggled in one particular area on the night it was converting the point-after. Bonny Eagle converted twice after five touchdowns for two points. The first and last kicks were true, but two others failed and Rollins threw high to Amell to close out the half.

The South Portland offense moved the ball effectively in the first half and opened the second half with a 12-play, 55-yard drive down to the Bonny Eagle 4. The seven-minute drive was sparked by some tough running from junior tailback Joey DiBiase, and a huge completion over the middle from Salvatore to Darling for 18 yards on a fourth-and-3 play down to the Bonny Eagle 17.

DiBiase picked up five more to the 12, and on third down the Scots were called for pass interference for an automatic first down for the Red Riots at the 6. DiBiase carried twice for two yards to the four, but Salvatore’s pass to senior Steve Hodge in the end zone was batted away on fourth down with 1:20 left in the third quarter.

DiBiase rushed a game-high 22 times for 46 yards. Hodge had two catches for 48 yards and Darling caught three balls for 50 yards in the game. Junior Logan Gaddar picked up 44 yards on six catches.

The third quarter ended scoreless but Rollins picked off a pass in the fourth quarter and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown with six minutes left for a 25-0 lead. Bonny Eagle junior Matt Burnell picked off the next pass to set up a 34-yard touchdown run for senior Ethan Horne for the final 32-0 score. Horne rushed 13 times for 100 yards.

The Red Riots will graduate 10 seniors from the team that finally ended the postseason drought. The list includes captains Evan Indorf, offensive linemen Matt Welch and Alex Martin-Wallace, along with Darling. Also moving are Nick Conti, Ellis, Steve Hodge, Keithly Harrison and Ben Ely.

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