Deering Coach Joel Costigan doesn’t hesitate when asked about his boys’ soccer team’s painful defeat to Portland in a Class A South quarterfinal last fall.

“They got the call right – I looked at the video,” Costigan said of an offside violation that negated a Deering goal in a scoreless game with less than four minutes remaining.

Instead, Portland broke the scoreless tie. Alex Frank’s goal with 40 seconds left lifted the sixth-seeded Bulldogs to a 1-0 upset of No. 3 Deering.

Bulldogs fans who helped pack the stands at Deering’s Memorial Stadium flooded onto the field in celebration while the Rams headed to the locker room, many of them in tears.

The large crowds and wild enthusiasm are typical for Portland-Deering games – a rivalry dating back 45 years to the advent of both soccer programs. Portland Coach Rocco Frenzilli, who helped start the school’s soccer program in 1972, said last year’s playoff game was one of the most intense he has ever seen.

“We watched that goal go in, and we all go, ‘Oh no,'” Frenzilli said of the disallowed goal. “Emotions were up and down. The game wasn’t over until it was absolutely over.

“It’s really interesting coaching on the peninsula with Deering High.”

Frenzilli said the deep personal connections between Portland and Deering athletes fuel the rivalry. The high schools are 2.4 miles apart, and many Portland and Deering players live in the same neighborhoods or play on the same club teams, creating a complicated dynamic when they face each other.

“I’ve grown up with most of the guys on the other team,” said Rowan Daligan, a senior goalkeeper for Portland. After the high school season, Daligan trains with Costigan – the goalkeeping coach for the Westbrook-based Roosevelt Soccer Club. “It’s weird, because I’m playing against my friends.”

“It’s like a backyard soccer game,” said Portland senior back Quinn Clarke. “You have the ball, and you look up and see some kid you’ve played with for five years. And you’re like, ‘Wow, OK, you’re not on my team anymore.’ So you have to kind of adjust.”

Frenzilli said he sees generations of Portland and Deering graduates remain loyal fans until they have children who decide to attend the opposite school. But overlapping alliances don’t stop there: Frenzilli and Costigan – Deering’s soccer coach of seven years – work in the same building at Portland High, where Costigan teaches social studies and Frenzilli teaches earth science. Frenzilli said he teases Costigan about the block letter “P” as his computer’s screen saver.

Frenzilli is not on social media, but he assumes there’s probably some “chirping” that goes on between the teams. “Sometimes it gets a little testy, but as long as it stays positive and doesn’t go over the top, I have no problem with it.”

Costigan also emphasized the friendly nature of the rivalry and seemed unfazed while discussing the playoff defeat to Portland. While it seems unlikely for one game to irreparably damage any relationships, a loss that painful could certainly test some in the short term.

“Obviously we won, but you don’t rub it in their face,” Portland’s Clarke said of his postgame reaction. “Maybe take a couple days and wait for emotions to calm down. Then you can just talk to them again and go back to being friends.”

Deering’s Robert Ochan, whose late goal was disallowed, said losing to Portland in the playoffs was “emotional, especially for the seniors.” But whether or not the Rams are over that game, they certainly seem to be over talking about it.

“You move on,” Ochan said. “We have a new team, new roster, and we’re looking to be one of the top three teams – hopefully No. 1.”

Portland (12-4-2) and Deering (11-2-2) were evenly matched last year, tying each other 1-1 in the regular season. It appears that will be the case again, with Deering edging Portland 1-0 in the exhibition Casco Bay Cup last Saturday. They are scheduled to play again Oct. 5 at Deering.

“There’s a lot more effort, intensity and focus that gets put into playing Deering,” Clarke said. “No matter what the record differences are between the teams, it’s usually a close game.”

Taylor Vortherms can be contacted at 791-6417 or

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