One game does not make a season. All the coaches were telling their teams as much after the opening weekend of high school football.
For the winners, there was excitement on the possibilities for this season. At South Portland, the Red Riots turned heads with their 26-13 win over Thornton Academy, the defending Class A state champion.
Duncan Preston passed for four touchdowns and 225 yards, adding 137 yards rushing.
During the summer in the annual seven-on-seven passing league, the Riots gave an indication of things to come with some impressive play.
The victory against Portland in last year’s Battle of the Bridge served as an impetus entering the season. The Riots missed the playoffs last year with a 2-6 record. The Portland game was South Portland’s playoff.
“(Beating Thornton) certainly felt good,” said Riots Coach Steve Stinson. “The kids played their hearts out. It was a very physical game. We had some good play-action passes. We have several players who can catch the ball.”
All the touchdowns came on passes, including two by Thornton.
From what was returning, Stinson knew the Riots had talent at quarterback, wide receiver and running back. Summer workouts confirmed that.
“We’ve been going steady since June 17. All the reps the players have had has developed a lot of chemistry,” said Stinson.
Jordan Susi, a senior co-captain, and Hayden Owen, a junior, are the wide receivers. Matt Stearns and Jaren Muller, both juniors, are the slot receiver and tight end, respectively, Senior tailback Joey DiBiase is another receiver.
Susi caught touchdown passes covering 18 and 19 yards. DiBiase took a screen pass for 70 yards and a score. Muller, a 6-foot-5 target, gave South Portland a 6-0 lead in the first quarter with a 26-yard catch. Muller was a force on the basketball court last winter with strong inside play. He’s a welcomed target for Preston.
South Portland’s offensive and defensive lines also squared off with Thornton’s.
“I was really impressed with the play of Josh Allen and Marcus Mainit in the line,” said Stinson.
Both are seniors. Allen is a three-year starter at guard. Mainit was a fullback last season who was moved to guard to fill a void.
South Portland’s excitement lasted Friday night into Saturday.
“It’s the SMAA,” said Stinson. “You feel good Friday night and when Saturday afternoon rolls around, it’s like it never happened. That’s the way it is week in and week end.”
The Riots had to get back to work because their next opponent is Bonny Eagle, which looked impressive in beating Biddeford, 48-14. With Cheverus in the East, these could be the two best teams in Western Maine. Thornton Academy, Sanford and Scarborough could have something to say about that.
The Riots play at Bonny Eagle at 7 p.m. Friday.
“Bonny Eagle has a really good set of athletes,” said Stinson. “We’re very similar.”
With reclassification, Western Class A has shrunk from 14 teams to eight. Six teams will make the playoffs, and South Portland and Bonny Eagle, which also missed the playoffs a year ago, are both planning to be two of the six with as high a finish as possible.
WESTBROOK NOW has a bell to ring after home athletic victories. The bell was part of the first and second St. Mary’s Church in Westbrook, which was torn down as Catholic churches in the city consolidated.
The bell became available and school officials, who had been looking for a “Victory Bell” to ring after wins, took possession.
The bell was given to St. Mary’s Church in 1947 by Louis John and Aurora Zaharis, whose son, Jim, and other family members were present at Saturday’s halftime dedication. The bell sits at the east end of Olmsted Field.
Zaharis played football and ran track for Westbrook High, graduating in 1949.
“I’m tickled pink that the bell is at the high school,” said Zaharis. “I’m sure there will be plenty of chances to ring it.”
Westbrook’s 20-14 win over York on Saturday was emotional. The Blue Blazes scored 14 points in the final 5:14 to pull it out.
Running back Collin Joyce brought his team back with some power and elusive running. finishing with 203 yards rushing on 24 carries and two touchdowns.
The teams played twice last year, York winning in a Western Class B semifinal.
Not being accustomed to having a Victory Bell, the Blazes almost forgot to ring it after beating York.
THE PORTLAND at Deering game Thursday will start at 5 p.m. Another game with an early start Friday is Kennebunk at York at 4 p.m. — a posible preview of the Western Class B final. Westbrook and Marshwood, however, have other plans.
Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: