In the spirit of Halloween, the Thornton Academy boys’ soccer team gave Portland quite a scare Saturday in the second half of their Class A South semifinal at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Coming off a stunning quarterfinal victory over top-ranked South Portland that came down to penalty kicks, the eighth-seeded Golden Trojans cut the fourth-ranked Bulldogs’ lead to 2-1 with just over 21 minutes left.

But Portland goalkeeper Rowan Daligan turned away four shots in the final 10 minutes to preserve the 2-1 victory.

Portland will make its second straight regional final appearance Wednesday at Falmouth or Gorham.

“They’re an unbelievable eight seed. That was a very tough, competitive game,” Portland Coach Rocco Frenzilli said.

“We knew coming in that they were going to play loose. I was really happy to look up and see we had the two before they scored the one.”

Down 2-0 with 21:27 left, Brogan Searle-Belanger of Thornton put away a cross from Jose Manuel Toraya, who ran down the right side of the field before sending the ball into Portland’s box from the corner.

“It would have been really easy for us to drop our heads and kind of give up and say, ‘OK, we’re satisfied,'” Thornton Coach Andrew Carlson said of the two-goal deficit. “We did the exact opposite, and that showed the heart, the character, the investment and the pride that the boys had.”

Daligan finished with six saves. Travis Snyder had five for Thornton (10-6-1).

Samuel Nkurunziza scored first for the Bulldogs (12-3-1) with 4:09 left in the first half, heading in a Tyler Lemay corner kick.

“I was actually fixing my shin guard. I didn’t even realize they were kicking the corner kick,” Nkurunziza said. “All of the sudden I just got up real quick. It was a surprise.”

It was a much-needed spark for the Bulldogs, who entered halftime with a 7-5 edge in shots but only managing to put two on goal.

“When it’s 0-0, anything can happen,” Frenzilli said. “They had their chances and we had ours. When Sammy knocked that header in, that gave us energy.”

Less than five minutes into the second half, Berrick Bobe sent a hard shot on the ground from roughly 25 yards out that flew beyond Snyder’s reach and into the goal with 35:27 remaining.

“I saw the ball bounce off the defender and it was coming my way, so I just stopped it with my chest and shot it,” Bobe said. “They were really ready for us so we just had to come out and do our job, and that’s what we did.”

On Wednesday, Thornton played South Portland for 110 scoreless minutes before giving the Red Riots their only loss of the season.

“We just didn’t have the same spring and energy in our step, and that’s a little bit to be expected after playing a long match like that,” Carlson said. “It’s hard to find your rhythm.”

But the Golden Trojans found it after scoring, and threatened to tie the game until the end.

With less than a minute remaining, Frantisek Vondrak fired off one last shot on goal, which Dalian stopped with a diving save.

“They never quit, our kids never quit. It’s the kind of soccer game you like to see,” Frenzilli said. “We were just fortunate to come out on top.”

Taylor Vortherms can be contacted at 791-6417 or

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