Windham, controversial finish add to Portland's frustration

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Portland senior Griffin Foley and Windham junior Stuart Salom battle for a ball in the end zone during Saturday’s regional final rematch. The Eagles dropped the Bulldogs to 0-4 with a 7-6 victory.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Windham 7 Portland 6

W- 0 7 0 0- 7
P- 0 0 6 0- 6

First quarter
No scoring

Second quarter
W- Valliere 12 run (McCusker kick)

Third quarter
No scoring

Fourth quarter
P- Moss 16 run (rush failed)

PORTLAND—After three weeks of frustration, Portland’s football team was on the verge of a soul-cleansing, momentum-building victory Saturday afternoon at Fitzpatrick Stadium against rival Windham in a regional final rematch.

The Bulldogs, who fell behind, 7-0, when the Eagles got a 12-yard touchdown run from junior Treva Valliere and an extra point from junior Liam McCusker in the second quarter, answered with 10:35 to play in regulation, when senior quarterback Terion Moss scored on a 16-yard run, but a subsequent two-point conversion rush was stuffed.

Still trailing by a point, Portland drove the field late in the contest and appeared to take the lead with 16.5 seconds left when senior Quinn Clarke kicked a 27-yard field goal that was initially ruled good, then was overturned.

The Bulldogs were left apoplectic and ultimately defeated and Windham snapped a four-game skid in the series with a 7-6 victory on a sizzling afternoon.

The Eagles hit the midway point of the season at 3-1 and handed Portland its first 0-4 start in a decade in the process.

“It’s a big win for us,” said Windham coach Matt Perkins. “I’m really proud of our guys, our effort and how we finished. We’ve had some tough weeks and we had to grind it out. I age four years every time we play these guys.” 

“The Portland High kids all played their (rear ends) off, but you can’t beat good teams with 16 penalties,” lamented Bulldogs coach Jim Hartman.

Role reversal

Portland has been king of the hill in Class A North the past two seasons and along the way, went through Windham both in the regular season and the playoffs to reach the state final.

This fall, however, the Bulldogs, who were decimated by graduation, have struggled, while the Eagles look to claw their way to the top of a balanced region.

Windham opened with an impressive 24-0 home win over Cheverus. After falling, 55=7, at defending state champion Bonny Eagle, the Eagles rallied and got back on track last week with a 20-14 home victory over Lewiston.

Portland started with a 20-14 home loss to Oxford Hills. After a 24-16 setback at Edward Little, the host Bulldogs were no match for visiting Bonny Eagle last week, 68-14.

Entering play Saturday, Portland held a 10-6 all-time edge over Windham (see sidebar, below, for previous results). The Bulldogs hoped to make it five in a row in the series, but the Eagles vanquished them for the first time since the 2014 Eastern A semifinals and beat them at Fitzpatrick Stadium for the first time since Oct. 15, 2010.

It sure didn’t come easily, however.

Windham won the opening coin toss and deferred possession to the second half, giving Portland the ball first.

With the temperature reading 76 at kickoff and easily registering 10 or 15 degrees hotter on the turf, the Bulldogs started at their 21 and picked up a quick first down when senior Vinnie Pasquali ran for nine yards and Moss followed with a five-yard keeper. Moss ran for nine more yards and junior Zach Elowitch picked up eight to move the chains again and set up first down at the Eagles’ 44.

Windham’s defense would rise up, with help from the hosts, to end the threat. After Moss was thrown for a two-yard loss, Portland was flagged five yards for illegal motion before Moss was thrown for a three-yard loss on a sack by Eagles senior Justin Labrecque, who was unstoppable at times.

After just a 14-yard punt, Windham started at its 40 and began to drive, but the Eagles would also be frustrated deep in Bulldogs’ territory.

After senior quarterback Tanner Bernier ran for 21 yards, Portland was flagged twice in a row for offsides, giving Windham another first down at the Bulldogs’ 29. Freshman Maxwell Marshall ran for a yard and Bernier hit senior Nathan Watson with a quick pass for five more. On third-and-four, Valliere picked up two yards, setting up fourth down, where Watson’s second effort gained exactly two yards for a first down at the 19. A holding penalty then backed the Eagles up 10 yards. After Valliere ran for two, Bernier gained nine. After that play, Portland junior lineman Ben Levine came out with an apparent shoulder injury and didn’t return. Bernier ran for seven yards, to set up fourth-and-2, where Bernier hit senior Hunter Coffin for five yards, setting up first-and-goal from the 6.

The drive would stall there, however, as consecutive penalties backed Windham up to the 24 and after Bernier found junior Grant Jacobson for eight yards, he threw three straight incomplete passes.

Despite having the ball for nearly six minutes, the Eagles had no points to show for it and Portland got the ball back at its 16.

The Bulldogs would go nowhere, as Elowitch was held to no gain, junior Ben Stasium picked up seven yards on a jet sweep and Moss was held to no gain, necessitating a punt as the first quarter gave way to the second.

In the first 12 minutes, Windham had a 44-32 edge in yardage.

The Eagles began their second possession at their 32 and thanks to runs of nine- and 11-yards from Bernier, gained a first down at the Portland 49. After Marshall was held to no gain by Elowitch, he ran for six yards and Bernier threw incomplete, forcing a punt which Pasquali returned 40 yards, only to see the hosts give yardage back due to a block in the back penalty.

With 9:13 to play in the half, the Bulldogs started at their 43 and in the blink of an eye, they reached the Windham 13, thanks to a 31-yard pass from Moss to senior Griffin Foley down the left sideline with a roughing the passer penalty tacked on. 

Portland couldn’t capitalize, however, as Moss lost three yards, the Bulldogs were backed up five yards for delay of game and two Moss passes to Foley in the end zone barely fell incomplete. Clarke came on for a 37-yard field goal attempt, but it was blocked and the Eagles got the ball back at their 32.

This time, Windham would take advantage, as it drove 68 yards in seven plays and 2 minutes, 33 seconds for the game’s first score.

Marshall broke free for 38 yards on the first play to set the tone. After Marshall gained five more yards, an illegal procedure penalty was called on the Eagles. After Watson ran for two yards, Bernier managed to move the chains with a nine-yard scramble. Valliere rushed for two yards and Bernier threw incomplete, but Portland jumped offsides and on third-and-3, Valliere broke free up the gut and roared into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown. McCusker added the all-important extra point for a 7-0 Windham lead with 4:55 to play in the first half.

The Bulldogs would have chances to answer before the break, but couldn’t do so.

On a squib kickoff, Foley returned the ball to the Eagles’ 48 to set Portland up in good field position, but after Moss ran for eight yards and Stasium added six more for a first down at the 34, Moss ran for two, threw a pass that Labrecque knocked down incomplete and after a delay of game penalty, Moss picked up five yards to set up fourth-and-8. Windham jumped offsides, but Moss fired a deep pass that Foley couldn’t haul in and the Eagles got the ball back at their 27.

The Bulldogs would step up and force a punt, as after Windham had a delay of game penalty, Marshall was held to no gain, Bernier scrambled for no gain and Bernier threw incomplete.

With 1:08 on the first half clock, Portland got the ball back at midfield. Stasium caught a pass on first down, but lost six yards. Moss then hit sophomore Sam Knop for 20 yards and a first down at the Eagles’ 36. After a false start penalty, Moss scrambled to the 38, but that left time for just one more play.

What a play it would prove to be, as Moss heaved a Hail Mary down the left side, where Pasquali caught the ball at the 5, Pasquali twisted and turned and tried to fight his way into the end zone, but was stopped two yards short by Bernier and Windham still held the lead at the break, 7-0.

The Eagles had a 157-126 advantage in first half yardage.

The Bulldogs got 81 yards passing and 27 yards rushing from Moss, but were flagged eight times for 52 yards, a problem that wouldn’t get better in the second half.

Windham got the ball to start the third period, but went three-and-out, as Valliere was thrown for a two-yard loss by Stasium, an illegal block backed the Eagles up further and after Elowitch dropped Valliere for a one-yard loss, Valliere’s 14-yard run forced a punt.

Portland started its initial second half possession at its 35, but Labrecque wreaked more havoc by dropping Moss for a four-yard loss on first down. The Bulldogs would recover, however, as Moss hit Foley for 21 yards to the Windham 48 and after an incomplete pass, Pasquali raced free for 35 yards, making a nice cut along the way. Portland had first down at the 13, but again couldn’t finish the drive, as Moss ran three times for six yards and Clarke’s 24-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright, keeping the score 7-0.

The Eagles then gave the ball right back, as Marshall lost two yards and fumbled and Stasium fell on the pigskin at the Windham 18 with 5:26 to play in the third quarter.

Again, the Bulldogs failed to capitalize.

After Moss threw incomplete to Foley in the end zone, Pasquali was held to no gain and Labrecque (with help from senior Connor McGinnis) sacked Moss for a nine-yard loss. On fourth down, Moss was sacked by Watson and the Eagles regained possession on downs at their 37.

Again, Portland’s defense held Windham in check, as Bernier lost a yard, sophomore Jonah Green sacked Bernier for a five-yard loss and while Marshall ran for 13 yards on third down, the Eagles needed 16 and had to punt. The punt bounced and was almost downed by Windham before Pasquali picked it up and raced 41 yards to the Eagles’ 39.

With 1:36 to play in the third, the Bulldogs finally embarked on a scoring drive, one which would span two quarters, chew up 3:01 and need eight plays to find paydirt.

After Moss threw to Foley for five yards, Labrecque dropped Stasium for a five-yard loss. On the final play of the third period, Moss hit junior Nico Leavitt for six yards, setting up fourth-and-4.

On the first play of the final stanza, Portland jumped early and appeared as if it had to punt again, but on a fake, Elowitch hit Pasquali for 13 yards and a first down at the Windham 25. The Bulldogs gave 11 yards back on a holding penalty, but after two incomplete passes, Moss ran for 20 yards to set up fourth-and-1. He then broke free down the right side, fought his way out of a pair of tackles and raced into the end zone for a 16-yard score with 10:35 to play.

Eschewing the PAT, Portland went for the lead and again it would be Moss on the carry, but he was brought down well short of the goal line by Bernier and the Eagles still clung to a 7-6 lead.

The Bulldogs’ defense kept the momentum by forcing a three-and-out, as Marshall didn’t gain a yard, Bernier picked up just one, then threw incomplete, forcing a punt.

With 9:18 remaining, Portland started at midfield, but with Moss sidelined with leg cramps, Knop was thrown for a two-yard loss by Labrecque, then threw incomplete, as Valliere knocked the ball down. On third down, with Moss back under center, Stasium ran for five yards, but the Bulldogs had to punt.

Windham got the ball back at its 20 and this time moved the chains, as after Marshall was held to no gain, Coffin picked up 12 yards to the 32. A holding penalty stymied any Eagles hopes of gaining more yardage and after Valliere ran twice for one yard and Bernier picked up three, Windham kicked once more and Coffin pinned Portland at its 15.

The Bulldogs began their final drive with 4:13 on the clock and quickly marched into Eagles’ territory, as Moss ran for 17 yards, hit Foley for 15, then found Foley for six more to the Windham 47. Moss then moved the chains by twisting and turning to pick up eight yards before hitting Foley along the left sideline for 10 yards and a first down at the 29.

On the play, however, Foley suffered a foot injury and had to leave the game.

Undaunted, Moss kept the ball for 16 yards to the 13, but an illegal procedure penalty, followed by a Moss keeper for no yardage, a holding penalty and a false start backed Portland all the way back to the 33. Moss then threw a prayer to Pasquali that was broken up, but on third-and-30, Moss ran for 22 yards and stepped out of bounds at the 11 with 20.3 seconds on the clock.

That allowed the Bulldogs to bring Clarke on to the field with a chance to win it.

The snap and the hold were good and Clarke made solid contact. The ball sailed toward the left upright and in the opinion of many on hand, either got just inside the bar or soared over it, which would have counted.

For a split second, it appeared the official under the goalpost signaled it good, but another official adamantly waved his hands no good and that was the call that stood.

In the understatement of the year, Portland wasn’t happy with the ruling.

“That was a brutal call,” Hartman said. “The guy who was supposed to signal called it good. It was bad officiating, but that’s not why we lost.”

Windham, not surprisingly, saw things differently.

“It was wide by about four yards,” Perkins said. “It wasn’t even close.”

Ultimately, after unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on both a Bulldogs assistant coach and player, order was restored and the Eagles took a knee to make their 7-6 victory official.

“It wasn’t pretty, but that’s OK, we found a way to win,” Perkins said. 

“We’re young and we make too many mistakes,” Hartman said. “We just couldn’t score. We moved up and down the field.” 

Windham only mustered 50 yards in the second half (and 207 total), but it was just enough.

Bernier wound up 3-of-9 for 18 yards. He ran 10 times for 69 yards.

Valliere had 30 yards and a TD on eight carries.

Marshall ran for 44 yards on 11 attempts.

The Eagles were penalized nine times for 73 yards.

Self-inflicted wounds

Portland finished with 280 yards (154 came in the second half), but was done in by a whopping 16 penalties for 123 yards.

Moss, in his first game as the man with the ball in his hand on virtually every play, picked up 136 yards on the ground (109 in the second half alone) and scored a touchdown on 20 carries. He also completed 10-of-19 passes for 144 yards.

“Terion is phenomenal,” Hartman said. “We just can’t put everything on him.” 

“Terion is a great player,” said Perkins. “We worked all week on figuring out how to keep him inside. We did a good job containing him. The coaches did a good job adjusting as we went. We put in a new front on the fly.”

Foley had six receptions for 88 yards before departing. 

Pasquali had two receptions for 49 yards and ran three times for 44 yards.

Anybody’s region

Windham faces another key road test next Saturday at 2-2 Oxford Hills. Class A South power Scarborough, Edward Little and Bangor also remain on the schedule.

“Now we have to go to Oxford Hills, then Scarborough,” said Perkins. “Everyone is trying to keep pace with EL right now.”

As for Portland, it plays Friday at 1-3 Cheverus (game time has been changed to 3:30 p.m. due to Yom Kippur), then visits Bangor, hosts Lewiston and closes at South Portland in the “Battle of the Bridge.”

“We only have four seniors and these younger guys have to learn how to win,” Hartman said. “We need a win.”

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

Portland sophomore Sam Knop runs past prone Windham senior Derek Foss and gains yardage.

In a pivotal play at the end of the first half, Portland senior Vinnie Pasquali catches a long pass, but is kept out of the end zone by Windham senior Tanner Bernier.

Portland senior Griffin Foley shakes a defender and looks for extra yardage.

Portland senior quarterback Terion Moss makes a move on a Windham defender.

Portland junior Ben Stasium wraps up Windham senior Nathan Watson as Bulldogs junior Zach Elowitch joins the play.

Previous Portland-Windham results

2016
Portland 42 @ Windham 21
Class A North Final
@ Portland 27 Windham 14

2015
@ Portland 10 Windham 3
Class A North Final
@ Portland 24 Windham 7

2014
Portland 12 @ Windham 6
Eastern A semifinals
@ Windham 21 Portland 17 

2013
@ Portland 57 Windham 14
Eastern A semifinals
@ Portland 55 Windham 7

2012
Western A quarterfinals
Portland 35 @ Windham 21

2011
@ Windham 16 Portland 7

2010
Windham 20 @ Portland 14

2009
@ Windham 38 Portland 6

2008
Windham 48 @ Portland 7

2007
@ Windham 14 Portland 2

2006
Portland 25 @ Windham 14

2005
@ Portland 36 Windham 7

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