The Deering High football fans owe a special thanks to their special teams for the 22-20 victory over Portland in the 106th Thanksgiving Day game Thursday.

In addition to a successful onside kick to open the second half, the Rams blocked two punts and earned a safety on another, taking a 2-0 lead in the first quarter. Those two points were crucial to ending Portland’s four-year Thanksgiving Day winning streak.

Portland, which shut out Deering 41-0 in last season’s game, still leads the series, 58-41-7.

“It’s not a Portland-Deering thing, it’s a community thing,” Deering Athletic Director Melanie Craig said of the tradition. “If you were here today and saw the battle, this is what it’s all about.”

With roughly 1,300 at Fitzpatrick Stadium, the rivals put on a show.

Down 22-14 with six minutes remaining, Portland quarterback Terion Moss brought the ball into scoring territory on a 21-yard run before rushing for 14 yards and a first down on fourth-and-3.

With two minutes remaining, Moss again kept the drive alive on fourth-and-inches by plunging forward for just enough, setting up Portland with a first down at the Deering 3.

From there, Moss placed a throw just out of reach of a Deering player into the arms of Samuel Knop for a touchdown with 1:20 left, cutting Deering’s lead to 22-20.

At that point, Deering Coach Jason Jackson was regretting his call to not take the extra point following the Rams’ last touchdown. With 6:09 left, a failed 2-point conversion by Deering kept it a one-score game.

“We should have went for one instead of two. I got greedy,” Jackson said. “I guess you could say it was all a plan for my defense to do what they’re supposed to do. We wanted to make it interesting.”

On the Bulldogs’ attempted 2-point, tying conversion, Wenston Dinizio and Matt Hanson got the job done by tackling Moss for a loss to keep the game from entering overtime.

Afterward, Hanson, a senior, patted Jackson on the back. “Coach, I’m sorry it took us so long to win that,” he said.

Deering was relentless, starting with a blocked punt on the Bulldogs’ opening possession. On Portland’s next series, after going three-and-out again, a high snap on a punt sailed into the end zone. The Rams swarmed the punter before he could bring the ball out, resulting in a safety and a 2-0 lead with 1:41 left in the first quarter.

“Our whole season, special teams has been one of our biggest weaknesses,” said senior Keegan Stanton, who finished with 120 yards rushing and a touchdown for Deering. “But we turned it around today. There were guys making plays that were insane. Everybody was doing their job.”

On the opening play of the second quarter, Deering recovered a Portland fumble near midfield. Three plays later, Stanton scored on a 39-yard run with 10:46 left in the half.

Portland also was plagued by penalties. Down 9-0, Moss connected with Knop for a 40-yard pass before a holding call moved the ball back to the 50. Stanton then ended the drive with an interception.

Moss gave the Bulldogs life late in the half, leading a 68-yard scoring drive by running on 12 of the 13 plays. His biggest gain of 38 yards – spinning out of tackles before getting taken down at the Deering 20 – was cut roughly in half by another penalty. But Moss managed to find the end zone seven plays later on a 2-yard run with 18.6 seconds left, and Portland entered halftime down just 9-7.

The Rams opened the third quarter with a successful onside kick recovered by Stanton. On the first play of the drive, Stanton broke loose for 53 yards before getting pulled down at the 1. Following a big defensive stop, Nate Kapongo of Portland blocked Travis Soule’s field-goal attempt.

The Rams quickly snatched back momentum by blocking another punt to set them up at the Portland 25.

From there, Stanton made a seemingly impossible catch on a bootleg play when he snagged a short, low pass with one hand and turned it into a 17-yard gain. Stanton was as surprised as anybody.

“I put my hand down, came up with it and somehow, I was still running,” he said. “Somebody else made that catch. That was not me.”

On the following play, Jack Lynch ran 8 yards into the end zone with 6:59 left in the third quarter for his first of two second-half rushing touchdowns.

Portland again got a much-needed spark before the end of the period when Vincent Pasquali broke loose for an 81-yard touchdown with 7.8 seconds left, cutting the Rams’ lead to 16-14.

Following a 43-yard kick return by Dru Tillman, Deering got the ball at the Portland 37. Lynch capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown before Deering’s failed 2-point conversion.

“It doesn’t make the whole season feel a lot better,” Lynch said of the Rams’ 1-8 record, “but to go out on this note and beat our rival – it just feels good.”

Taylor Vortherms can be contacted at 791-6417 or at:

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