SOUTH PORTLAND — South Portland knew a win over Sanford, a team above the Red Riots in the Heal point standings, was imperative Friday night in its quest to host a Class A South playoff game in three weeks.

The Red Riots took care of business by scoring 28 consecutive points for a convincing 28-7 at Martin Memorial Field.

South Portland (3-3) is battling with Sanford and Deering for fourth place in the region – and now has a win over both teams. The fourth-place team will host a quarterfinal and avoid an opening playoff matchup against the region’s three powerhouses – Bonny Eagle, Thornton Academy or Scarborough.

“We know Bonny Eagle, Thornton Academy and Scarborough are at the top,” South Portland Coach Steve Stinson said. “We are trying to figure out with the four other teams who is next. With our win tonight, it was a strong statement by us.”

Running back Spencer Houlette and quarterback Jake Poole led the way for the Red Riots. Both topped 100 yards rushing, each with two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion.

“Every win is a big win, but tonight was obviously huge,” said Poole, a senior. “We talked all week how this game was one of the biggest for the school in awhile. We played great.”

Sanford (3-3) squandered a golden opportunity on its first drive that started at the Red Riots 27, following a 23-yard punt return by Ethan Emard. Riley Campbell tripped up Sanford running back Michael Lunny on a fourth-and-2.

But the Spartans reached the end zone the next time they got the ball, as Jordan Giroux found Carson Bickford for a 28-yard score. Bickford recorded his first TD catch of the season when he outjumped Anthony Poole in the end zone.

The Red Riots answered on the ensuing drive – a methodical 11-plays, 71-yard march. Poole’s 21-yard keeper 19 seconds into the second quarter capped the drive and cut Sanford’s lead to 7-6. He cut to the middle after breaking through the first wave of defenders and was untouched the rest of the way.

“I have to give (the credit) to my line, they opened up some huge holes,” said Poole, who finished with 110 yards rushing on 19 carries and was 12 of 22 passing for 99 yards. “Once (the runners) were able to get to the (second) level, we were able to make some plays.”

South Portland used another sustained drive to take the lead with 2:40 left in the first half. Houlette scored from the 12, breaking three arm tackles on his way to the end zone. Poole’s 2-point conversion made the score 14-7.

The first points of the second half didn’t come until early in the fourth quarter. Following the first of two interceptions by Houlette and a 13-yard return, the Red Riots needed only two plays to cover 46 yards. Houlette (13 carries, 103 yards) scampered down the left sideline for 32 yards, and Poole followed with a 14-yard TD.

Houlette’s 10-yard run with 4:57 left followed his second interception.

“They truly were hungrier than us tonight, that was evident,” Sanford Coach Mike Fallon said.

“Offensively, we were off in the second half. It felt like we were first-and-20 all half due to penalties, not handling the ball well and other mistakes. And they took full advantage of it.”

South Portland’s defense held Sanford to less than 100 yards rushing.