We’re already at the quarter pole of the 2014 high school football season and there has been no shortage of drama.
That continued last Friday night.
South Portland pulled off what seems to be an annual tradition, a big upset win, as the Red Riots shocked visiting Bonny Eagle, the defending state champion, 21-14.
Cape Elizabeth improved to 2-0 with another down-to-the-wire victory, 32-29, over visiting Poland, but in the process, lost standout senior quarterback Noah Wolfinger to a season-ending knee injury.
Only Scarborough couldn’t manage to get in the win column, falling to 0-2 after a 46-13 loss at Bangor.
South Portland suffered a 47-6 loss at Thornton Academy in its opener. Coming off that result and being without injured senior running back Matthew Stearns, few gave the Red Riots a chance against Bonny Eagle (which beat South Portland, 46-21, last fall in Standish).
The Red Riots switched from their normal spread formation to an I formation with senior Jaren Muller at fullback and senior Hayden Owen at tailback and they managed to do some damage.
An Owen TD was countered by a long scoring run from Bonny Eagle’s Matt Smith to make it 7-7 after one period. Smith scored against to put the Scots up, 14-7, at halftime, but Owen tied the score with a second TD in the third period and that set the stage for a fantastic finish.
With under a minute left, Owen scored his third touchdown, this one on a 20-yard pass from junior quarterback Nick Mezzanotte, and South Portland made it stand up to win, 21-14.
“It was a good night,” said Red Riots coach Steve Stinson. “Our goal was to come out and be competitive for 48 minutes. To the kids’ credit, we did that. We needed contributions from a number of kids and we got that. We’re low on numbers and we don’t have a lot of experience, but we did things the right way this summer and in preseason. Our success reinforces everything we’re doing.”
South Portland travels to 1-1 Massabesic Friday. Last year, the Red Riots beat the visiting Mustangs, 40-7.
Don’t expect South Portland to suffer a letdown.
“We can’t take any opponent for granted in this league,” Stinson said. “We have to stay focused. Massabesic is very good. They have more starters back than we do. They’re well coached. They’re big. They have a good backfield and a dynamic receiver. It should be a great football game.”
Cape Elizabeth turned heads with its palpitating 35-34 overtime win at Leavitt on Opening Night. Friday, the Capers played their home opener versus a Poland squad touted as dangerous and that proved to be true.
Cape Elizabeth appeared to have the game easily in hand when it opened up a 29-0 lead at halftime, but the Knights roared back.
Wolfinger made his presence felt early with a touchdown pass to senior Christian Lavallee and a long fumble return for a TD. Senior Jack Drinan added a scoring run and it was 22-0 Capers after one period.
Then, disaster struck.
On a seemingly innocent play, Wolfinger’s left knee gave out.
“It was kind of like what happened to (New England Patriots receiver) Wes Welker (in the last game of the 2009 regular season),” said Cape Elizabeth coach Aaron Filieo. “He just kind of planted on his left foot, went to cut and it went.”
Wolfinger was replaced by sophomore Jeb Boeschenstein, who hit sophomore Ben Ekedahl for a TD pass and a 29-0 halftime lead.
It turned out Poland had the Capers right where it wanted them.
The Knights pulled within 29-6 entering the fourth period, then erupted for three scores to draw even, 29-29, with a minute to play.
Cape Elizabeth was forced to punt and it looked like Poland would have a chance to win, but the kick deflected off a Knight and the Capers recovered. They drove close and as time wound down, Ekedahl came out and kicked a 25-yard field goal to win it, 32-29.
“We had a great start and made plays at the end,” Filieo said. “Poland had some really good players. They got their option going. They got life and climbed back in it. We dropped some balls and had some trouble tackling on defense.”
The glow of victory didn’t last long, however.
On Tuesday, confirmation came that Wolfinger had torn his ACL and was out for the remainder of the season.
“In reality, I feel much worse for him than I do the team,” Filieo said. “We still have enough horses. I couldn’t ask for a better kid than Noah. He was taking the team on his back.”
Boechenstein will step in and Filieo feels he’ll be a competent replacement.
“Jeb will do fine,” Filieo said. “He’s not as mobile, but he’s a good pocket passer.”
Next up for the Capers is a trip to 1-1 Wells Friday. The Warriors are coming off a 27-6 loss to Spruce Mountain. Last year, Cape Elizabeth beat visiting Wells, 26-12.
“We always have a good game with Wells,” Filieo said. “They have good players. They’re well coached. We always play them tough. It’s another test to find out where we are.”
Scarborough opened by falling at home to Sanford, 29-14, then had to go to perennial contender Bangor. Last year, the Red Storm handled the visiting Rams, 34-7. This time around, it was a different story.
Bangor raced to a 26-6 halftime lead and never looked back. Scarborough’s points came on a TD pass from Jack Hughes to Zach Carreiro. The Rams added a score on a blocked punt before Hughes threw another touchdown pass, to Brandon Watkins to make it 32-13. The Red Storm could draw no closer, however, and Bangor went on to a 46-13 victory.
The Rams produced 449 yards of offense (333 on the ground).
Scarborough returns home Friday, but has to host powerhouse Thornton Academy, which has beaten its first two foes by a composite 120-6 margin. Last year, the Red Storm lost to the Golden Trojans in Saco, 19-15.