SANFORD – Duncan Preston passed for two touchdowns and Joey DiBiase ran for another Friday night as South Portland rallied to beat Sanford 21-10 in a Western Class A football game at Cobb Stadium.

South Portland (4-1) got untracked after Sanford (2-3) moved the ball early and built a 10-0 lead in the penalty-marred game.

“This was a huge win for us,” said Preston. “It was a statement game. Sanford was a hungry football team. It was Homecoming for them. When we got down, our offensive line never gave up. They’re a young group but a good group, and we have a heck of a running back in Joey DiBiase. We put our foot down and got it done.”

For a second straight game, Sanford lost an early lead. A week ago it led 9-0 over Thornton Academy but fell, 25-9.

The Spartans got off to a fast start with the running of Josh Schroder and passing of Chase Eldredge to John Morgan. But after the opening quarter it was all Red Riots.

“I’m pleased the way the players stepped it up after we trailed,” said South Portland Coach Steve Stinson. “We could have packed in it but we battled. We’re 4-1 (and it’s) October.”

The running and passing of Preston turned it around, as did DiBiase’s runs. And the defense, which bent, didn’t break.

The play that ignited South Portland was a 45-yard pass-run from Preston to Matt Stearns that brought the ball to the Sanford 20 in the second quarter.

Preston ran 3 yards on a fourth-and-one to the 8 and DiBiase scored on the next play.

Midway in the second, Preston passed 32 yards to DiBiase down the sideline for a touchdown to give the Riots a 14-10 lead after Nick Mezzanotte’s point after. That was the score at halftime.

Sanford scored on the opening series, driving 83 yards in nine plays. Eldredge passed 16 yards over the middle to Morgan for the touchdown.

Later in the first quarter, Connor McGehee booted a 33-yard field goal to make it 10-0.

The Riots added a score with 6:49 to go in the game when Preston passed 30 yards to an open Jordan Susi.

Susi, who also plays defensive back, provided excitement as the first half wound down, returning an interception from the goal line to midfield. A late hit by Sanford nearly moved the ball into field-goal range.

Schroder’s running gave South Portland fits at times along with the power running of fullback Nick Love. South Portland adjusted its defense after the first quarter and prevented Sanford from having any offensive consistency the rest of the way.

“We got a lot of respect back with this win,” said Preston.

Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:

tchard@pressherald.com

Twitter: TomChardPPH