PORTLAND – Portland shook off its first-half nerves and came out strong in the second half Wednesday night, scoring twice in a two-minute span to beat Gorham 2-1 for the Western Class A boys’ soccer title at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

“This feels great,” said Portland’s standout, Fazal Nabi. “The seniors have been waiting for this for four years. We worked so hard and got it. We came out slow in the first half. Everyone was a little nervous. Everyone wanted it bad.”

Second-seeded Portland (15-1-1) will play Bangor (16-0-1) for the state title Saturday at Falmouth High.

This was the Bulldogs’ first regional title since 1994 and their second ever.

“We just want to go out and bring that Gold Ball back to Portland,” said Nabi.

After a scoreless first half in which each team had chances, Portland took a 1-0 lead 10:47 into the second half on a goal by freshman Tony Yekeh.

Yekeh chested down a high crossing pass from the left by Paley Burlin, moved it to his left foot and scored.

Just over two minutes later, Tim Rovnak, who had the overtime goal in the semifinals against Cape Elizabeth, scored from in front after a corner kick from the right.

Fourth-seeded Gorham (11-4-2) made it 2-1 with 1:41 left when Seth Wing scored. Moments later, Conner Bell of Gorham sailed a shot over the crossbar. The Bulldogs then kept the ball from their goal in the final seconds.

“The game got tight at the end,” said Portland Coach Rocco Frenzilli. “(Gorham) Coach Tim King had his team ready. We knew they weren’t going to quit. After they scored, we had to get the ball back at midfield and we did.

“I thought Gorham came out very strong at the start, which had me a little concerned. They were winning most balls. I just thought that we bent but didn’t break.”

Frenzilli was confident the Bulldogs would come out strong after halftime.

“We have a slogan, “40 minutes in the bank and 40 minutes in the tank,” he said. “We took what Gorham gave us in the second half. I wouldn’t mind being a first-half club and getting a goal or two, but I just felt in the second half we would start to pick things up. We were playing well and I could feel the game turning.”

Before Portland took charge, it had to withstand a Gorham threat 6:29 into the second half. Connor Reagan got behind the last Portland defender, Feliks Cobanovic, to have a brief one-on-one with goalie Taylor Mannix. But a defender got back to bother Reagan, who couldn’t get velocity on a shot that went wide.

“If we had scored, it might have been a different game,” said King. “We had our chances. We tried to push the ball but couldn’t get anything going. Everything was a little bit too little, too late. Portland outworked and outquicked us. That’s what’s going to win soccer games. We had to mark Nabi, which threw us off a little bit.”

The Bulldogs’ lone state title appearance ended in a 1-0 loss to Mt. Ararat.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

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