For the first time ever, Gorham football coach Dave Kilborn and his players walked off the field at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland with a win.

Under the lights and a steady rain last Friday night, the Rams (2-0) capitalized on Portland’s three turnovers – and didn’t make any of their own – to turn a game that was close late in the third quarter into a 40-19 victory.

“This is the first game we’ve ever won here at any level in high school, including the two state games (in 2006 and 2003),” Kilborn said. “It’s nice to let these guys walk off the field with their heads high knowing they won the game. To me, that’s big. That’s huge for these guys. Portland is going to be good. They’ve got a great young running back.”

Sophomore running back Imadhi Zagon kept the Bulldogs (1-1) in the game, running for all three of their touchdowns. He finished with 141 yards on 20 carries, but also fumbled three times, losing one of them late in the third quarter to set up a Gorham touchdown.

Gorham’s running game from the double-wing set was led by Doug Woods (132 yards on 13 carries and two TDs) and Jon Day (94 yards on 14 carries and two TDs). Quarterback Ben Moody was efficient passing the ball, going 3-for-3 for 36 yards.

The Bulldogs cut Gorham’s lead to 14-12 after receiving the ball with a short field following a failed fake punt by the Rams two minutes into the third quarter. Portland quarterback Jason Strauss (4-for-7 for 83 yards) connected with Jake Alexander for a 29-yard gain down to the Gorham 2. A facemask penalty moved the ball to the 1. From there, Zagon took a direct snap and rushed in for the score. Portland went for two and the tie, but Frankie DiDonato sacked Strauss to preserve the lead. It was all Gorham after that.

“It gave us a scare, but we knew we were alright,” Day said. “We’re a double-wing team, we’re a second-half team.”

On its ensuing possession, Gorham marched down the field on a seven-play, 75-yard drive, capped off by Day’s 16-yard TD run. Moody passed to Woods on the two-point conversion to make it 22-12 with 6:04 to go in the third.

After a good return on the kickoff and a Gorham penalty, Portland started at the Rams 26. But after three unsuccessful running plays, Woods broke up a fourth-down pass attempt to give Gorham the ball back. The Rams went three and out on their next possession and had to punt. Three plays later, Zagon fumbled and Gorham’s Cody Stover recovered on the Portland 42 with 18.7 seconds left in the third.

A 20-yard completion from Moody to Day on a third-and-21, followed by a Portland offsides, helped set up Woods’ 8-yard TD run to make it 28-12 with 8:12 left.

Following another Portland fumble, Gorham made it 34-12 on a 22-yard run by Connor Walker with 5:41 left. Zagon scored on a 3-yard run with 3:24 to go and the extra point made it 34-19. Woods completed the scoring with a 39-yard TD run with 2:02 remaining.

Gorham took the lead early when Carson Walker dove to pick off Strauss’ first pass attempt of the game and Portland’s second play from scrimmage, giving the Rams the ball on the Portland 29. Seven plays later, Moody ran in a 6-yard keeper to make it 6-0 with 7:24 left in the first.

Just over five minutes later, Day dove in from less than a yard out to cap a seven-play, 59-yard drive following a Portland punt. Moody’s toss to Abe Kilborn made it 14-0 with 2:15 left in the first.

Zagon answered quickly, breaking a 45-yard scoring run to make it 14-6 with 1:04 left in the first. Gorham punted on its next two possessions. Portland punted and had a drive halted by the first-half horn as the score remained 14-6 at halftime.

“The first half I thought was a dogfight,” Dave Kilborn said. “Portland came out, they played hard. Their kids wanted it. They showed us that. It’s just a matter of making adjustments and having our guys wear them down a little bit. I think that’s what happened towards the end and we were able to run some of our key plays, make some positive yardages and go from there.”

Big play of the game

Stover’s recovery of Zagon’s fumble with 18.7 seconds to go in the third quarter and the score 22-12. The play before, Zagon had picked up 11 yards for a Portland first down. He’s a threat to score any time he touches the ball. While he’d fumbled a couple times earlier in the game, the Bulldogs recovered both. The Rams took full advantage of the turnover, marching in to score four minutes later to take a 28-12 lead and dash any Portland comeback hopes.

They said it

“When your defense comes up huge, it helps the offense out huge,” Dave Kilborn said. “The best defense is an offense that will churn minutes off the clock. But the defense is out there and they’re getting better every week, they’re making strides. We’ve got a long way to go to our season. Our season’s still very young and there’s still some great football teams out there that we still have to play.”

Unsung hero

The Gorham offensive line. The Rams’ front five were able to open up holes all night for their backs, allowing Gorham to sustain drives, burn clock and score six rushing touchdowns. Gorham had several fumbles in the backfield on a night when the ball was tough to hold on to, but thanks to the protection of the line the Rams didn’t lose a single one.

“Our line really pulled through again,” Day said. “A good, solid game by the line led to our victory.”

Up next

Gorham hosts 2-0 Deering at 7 p.m. on Friday. Deering handed Gorham a 27-14 loss in the first round of the West A playoffs a year ago after Gorham defeated Deering 50-35 last regular season. Deering, led by running back Jack Heary and coming off a 55-0 shellacking of Westbrook last Friday, will be a tough test for Gorham, but will also provide an opportunity for Gorham to establish itself as a top contender in the SMAA. “It’s definitely a chance to make a statement,” Day said.

“Deering is one of the big guns,” Dave Kilborn said. “Last year, we beat them handily in our regular season game and I thought they got us handily in the playoffs. It’s one of those games. They’re a very good team, they’re well coached, they’ve got some great studs. Jack Heary, he’s legit.”

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