September 7, 2013

Football: Stags remain a force, no matter the region

Cheverus, now in Eastern Class A, grinds its way to a 35-25 victory over Portland.

By Tom Chard
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - Cheverus, which had a 34-game winning streak snapped in last season's regional final, started what it hopes will be another long streak, opening the high school football season Friday night by beating Portland 35-25 at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

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Sam Cross of Cheverus has a firm hold on Justin Zukowski of Portland during Cheverus’ 35-25 victory Friday in an opener at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Photos by Joel Page/Staff Photographer

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Jordan Talbot of Portland gains yards and looks for more Friday night during the opener Friday night against Cheverus at Fitzpatrick Stadium. Cheverus won, 35-25.

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Cheverus and Portland have moved from Western Class A to Eastern Maine because of a state football realignment. East or West and despite graduation losses, nothing much has changed for the Stags. They still play opportunistic football and grind it out, although they did score on two long pass plays.

"I was really pleased with our effort," said Cheverus Coach John Wolfgram. "Our kids played with discipline. We held the course for 48 minutes. We bent but didn't break."

Cheverus had to overcome the loss of quarterback Ethan Jordan, who left with what appeared to be a shoulder injury early in the second quarter. Sophomore Isaac Dunn come in and threw two touchdown passes.

Portland hung tough but couldn't take the lead although the game was close early.

Cheverus led 7-6 late in the half when the Bulldogs bobbled a punt snap and the Stags recovered at the 11 with just over a minute remaining. On second down, Dunn passed to Sam Cross in the end zone, the play covering 9 yards. Instead of trailing by one, Portland was down 14-6.

"That was a killer play," said Portland Coach Jim Hartman.

In the second half, the running combination of Cody O'Brien and Joe Fitzpatrick chewed up yardage for Cheverus. Portland countered with Justin Zukowski.

Cheverus fumbled the second-half kickoff and Ronald Hargrove recovered on the 12. On first down, Zukowski scored.

Portland went for two to tie it but failed and it was 14-12.

The Bulldogs didn't get any closer after Cheverus scored on the ensuing series; Dunn threw a 38-yard scoring pass to Noah Stebbins.

Patrick Mourmouras, who was 5 of 5, kicked his third PAT to make it 21-12.

Fitzpatrick and O'Brien added touchdown runs in the fourth quarter. Fitzpatrick, a junior, scored on a 14-yard run with 7:59 left and O'Brien, a senior, scored on a 10-yard run.

Zukowski scored three touchdowns for Portland and junior quarterback Jordan Talbot scored the Bulldogs' final touchdown with 1:23 left.

"We started to turn it on in the second half," said Fitzpatrick. "Losing Ethan early in the game caused us to face adversity. We're known for coming back and handling adversity with mental toughness. Cody and I couldn't have done anything without our line."

The Bulldogs cut it to 28-18 midway in the third on a 23-yard run by Zukowski.

"We have to learn how to avoid mistakes," said Hartman. "We were breaking in a new quarterback and new linebackers. Learning to play with intensity for 48 minutes is new to them. We have to learn how to do that. Cheverus is a pretty battled-tested team.

Wolfgram liked the way his team responded after losing its starting quarterback.

"That's what you have to do as a team. You lose a guy and another guy has to step up and play," said Wolfgram.

"We had a number of kids play well but Isaac was the first. I thought Frankie Curran did a nice job at guard after Riley Archer went out. Cody O'Brien had an enormous game at running back and linebacker."

Jordan showed his passing touch on Cheverus' opening drive. He passed to Stebbins for a 17-yard gain to the Portland 43. Moments later he hit a wide-open Stebbins for a 34-yard score and a 7-0 lead.

Portland responded with a 17-play drive covering 78 yards with Zukowski scoring from the 1. Portland then missed the point after.

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

Twitter: TomChardPPH


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Additional Photos

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Joe Fitzpatrick of Cheverus has the ball and looks for blockers. Cheverus and Portland were playing their first game as members of Eastern Class A.


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