PORTLAND – Back-to-back kickoffs turned the 99th Thanksgiving Day game in Deering’s favor Thursday.

Favored Deering had all it could handle with Portland through three quarters and into the fourth. But that all changed in a sequence of a few seconds with the kick returns.

The Rams went on to score two more quick touchdowns to win the annual game 35-14 at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Deering speedster Renaldo Lowry returned a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to break a 14-14 tie. On the ensuing kickoff, Imadhi Zagon of Portland was hit hard returning the ball and left with a possible concussion. Before that, Zagon had two touchdown runs to tie it.

The game was up for grabs at that point. Zagon was shredding the defense with his running behind some strong blocking. But Deering took advantage of Zagon’s absence to take control.

Lowry’s return started it for the Rams.

“I had promised the coach I would return one,” said Lowry, a junior. “I had great blocks. If my teammates give me a big enough hole, I can score.”

Lowry caught the ball at the 9, broke outside and had clear sailing down the sideline to the Deering Avenue end of the field. Jamie Ross’ point-after kick made it 21-14.

After Zagon, who gained 207 yards before he was hurt, left the game, Caleb Kenney took over the running duties for the Bulldogs and gained 21 yards on three carries before Deering dropped him for consecutive losses to force a punt.

Taking over at its 35, Deering scored in seven plays to make it 28-14. The key plays were a 25-yard pass from Ross to receiver John Hardy and a 23-yard run by Trey Thomes to the Portland 1. Ross scored on the next play with five minutes remaining.

Portland was stopped for no gain on first down following the kickoff. On second down, Hardy intercepted a pass at midfield and returned it to the 10. In the play’s aftermath, Deering was called for a personal foul and Portland was assessed an unsportsmanlike penalty; both teams engaged in a lot of pushing and shoving that had to be broken up by the officials.

The ball ended up on the 23. After a 6-yard gain by Ross, Nick DiBiase scored from the 17, his second touchdown.

The Bulldogs then drove to the Deering 1, only to be thrown back to the 14, where on fourth down, quarterback Matt McInnis ran 13 yards before being stopped shot of the goal line on a hard tackle by linebacker John Miranda with seconds remaining.

Deering, still feeling the effects of a one-point loss to Cheverus 12 days ago in the Western Class A final, came out sluggish.

The Rams led 7-0 at halftime and 14-0 midway through the third quarter before the Bulldogs rallied on scoring runs of 15 and 27 yards by Zagon in a span of two minutes.

“Our goal was to run at them and we moved the ball well, but we lost momentum when Imadhi went out,” said Portland Coach Mike Bailey.

“We made some mistakes, like fumbling on the 5. We played hard for a 2-6 team against a team that was 8-3.”

Portland missed the playoffs and hadn’t played since Oct. 23 against South Portland. But it was the Rams who looked rusty at the start, and they had to push themselves to get into the game.

“We still had some players banged up from the last game,” said Ross, who was named a Fitzpatrick Trophy semifinalist on Wednesday.

“We didn’t come out with a lot of intensity. We didn’t expect the intensity Portland showed. It was a physical game. We finally found some holes in their defense and grabbed the momentum.”

Ross completed 10 of 20 passes for 135 yards. He was picked off once on a deflection. He rushed for 73 yards on 15 carries.

“After Portland came back, we knew we needed to get back the momentum and score,” said Lowry.

“We lost by a point in our last game and you can’t get over that. We were in Portland’s position last year, practicing for four weeks for Thanksgiving. It’s no fun. We wanted to win this game for the seniors.”

Ross was awarded the Merv Kilgore Trophy as Deering’s MVP in the game. Zagon won the Vinnie Allen Trophy as Portland’s MVP, and Deering standout two-way lineman Will Richards captured the James Banks Unsung Hero Trophy.

It was Deering’s eighth win in the last nine games in the series. Portland leads with 54 wins to Deering’s 38. There have been seven ties.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

[email protected]