The first weekend of the high school football season was anything but boring.
Friday evening, South Portland dug out of a 14-point hole and shocked host Bonny Eagle late, 18-14.
Cape Elizabeth was pushed by visiting Fryeburg Academy, but went on to a 35-18 victory.
Scarborough fell behind, 20-0, at halftime to visiting Portland and rallied within a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t complete the comeback and lost, 47-26.
South Portland got to the quarterfinals a year ago and believes it will be in the hunt all season. The Red Riots have had their share of success against Bonny Eagle in recent years (including a 21-14 home victory last season), but when the Scots went up, 14-0, in the second quarter, the mountain appeared too big to climb. South Portland got some momentum when Spencer Houlette scored on a 9-yard run to cut the deficit to 14-6 at halftime.
The score remained 14-6 with three minutes remaining, when the Red Riots turned the game on defense, as Dylan Rottkov recovered a fumble and brought it back 80 yards to cut the deficit to 14-12. South Portland couldn’t get the two-point conversion, but got the ball back in great field position after a terrific punt return from Finn Zechman and that set the stage for Houlette to score from a yard out with 30 seconds to go and the Red Riots shocked the Scots, 18-14.
“Our excitement for this win is directly correlated to our respect for Coach (Kevin) Cooper and the entire Bonny Eagle program,” said South Portland coach Steve Stinson. “We’re a team that is being led by our defense, while we continue to develop our young and talented offensive skill players. Although it wasn’t always a clean or a pretty game, we’re extremely proud of the mental toughness and perseverance our guys showed.”
South Portland plays its home opener Friday against 0-1 Massabesic. Last year, the Red Riots handled the host Mustangs, 20-6.
Cape Elizabeth, a quarterfinalist in 2014, expects to be in the Southern Class C mix this fall. The Capers hosted Fryeburg Academy in their opener. The teams didn’t meet last year.
Cape Elizabeth was staggered early, falling behind, 12-0, after one period, but rallied behind a 6-yard touchdown pass from Jack O’Rourke to Justin Guerrette and a 12-yard O’Rourke scoring pass to Matt Graham to cling to a 14-12 lead at halftime. The Capers opened it up to 28-18 after three quarters, thanks to two more O’Rourke TD passes (5-yards to Brett McAllister and 58-yards to Ben Ekedahl), then finally put the game away in the fourth period on a 16-yard O’Rourke to Guerrette scoring pass and prevailed, 35-18. O’Rourke was spectacular, completing 11-of-13 passes for 192 yards and five TDs.
Cape Elizabeth is home again Friday when 1-0 Poland pays a visit. Last year, the teams engaged in a thriller, with the host Capers escaping, 32-29.
Scarborough, a semifinalist a year ago when it finished 5-5, had ample opportunities to win Friday. While Portland took a 20-0 lead at the break, the Red Storm had some great chances on offense, but couldn’t finish drives.
“We were inside (their territory) three times in the first half and didn’t score,” lamented Scarborough coach Lance Johnson. “It could’ve been different.”
But Scarborough is nothing if not prolific on offense and to no one’s surprise, the Red Storm battled back in a high-flying, seemingly never-ending third period.
After senior Jack Hughes scored on a 31-yard touchdown run, the Bulldogs got a score back, but Hughes hit senior Griffin Madden for a 43-yard score to make it 27-13.
The Bulldogs again countered, but Scarborough then got a 70-yard strike from Hughes to sophomore Connor Kelly and after recovering a fumble, the Red Storm drew within a single score when Hughes and sophomore Reese Lagerquist hooked up for a 5-yard TD early in the fourth period.
But just when it appeared Portland might let victory slip away, an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown broke Scarborough’s back.
“Just when we thought we were back in it, we gave up the kickoff return,” Johnson said. “It seemed like whenever it seemed like we got momentum, they made a big play.”
The Bulldogs went on to a 47-26 win.
Scarborough finished with 337 yards of offense, but was doomed by five turnovers and 12 penalties for a whopping 129 yards.
Hughes wound up 12-of-27 passing, good for 274 yards and three TDs, but he also threw a pair of interceptions. Hughes ran for 51 yards and a score on five attempts. Kelly had six receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown. Madden had two big catches, good for 73 yards and a score. Lagerquist caught just one ball, but it was for a 5-yard TD.
“I’m glad the kids came out and played a good third quarter,” Johnson said. “They didn’t give up. There were some positives. There are some things we have to work on.”
Scarborough goes to 0-1 Bonny Eagle Friday. Last year, the Scots won, 49-6, at Scarborough.
“The kids are hardworking and intelligent,” Johnson said. “We’ll be better next time. It doesn’t get any easier. Hopefully it won’t be easy for the other team too.”
Scarborough’s Griffin Madden catches a pass for big yardage during the Red Storm’s season-opening 47-26 home loss to Portland last weekend.