Sambath Sao returned a kickoff 82 yards for a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter and Jesus Molina-Mendez kicked the extra point to give Deering a 14-13 win over Sanford in a Class A South football game Friday night at Deering’s Memorial Field.

After the visiting Spartans scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to take a 13-7 lead with four minutes remaining, Sao quickly erased Sanford’s advantage.

“I just think we dug deep,” Deering Coach Jason Jackson said. “You know, it was the heart. We got a second wind and the kids just dug deep.”

Although Deering, coming off a season-opening 35-6 win at Massabesic, held a solid edge in play during the first half, the game remained scoreless until the fourth quarter.

Deering opened the scoring 18 seconds into the fourth quarter when quarterback Max Chabot threw a swing pass to Nate Richards on the right side. The senior back, sprung by an outstanding block by tight end Dominick Bernard, scampered 80 yards.

“It was just a quick little … play,” Richards said. “I jammed on it and then came back, and I heard Coach Jackson on the sideline yelling “break it to the outside,” and I just turned it on as fast as I could go and tried to get it the sideline.”

The touchdown came on the first play after Richards blocked a Sanford field-goal attempt.

The Spartans responded with a 10-play, 66-yard drive, capped by Zach Kang’s 5-yard touchdown run, to tie the game at 7-7.

Sanford got the ball back following a punt. On third-and-4 from his own 34, quarterback Frankie Veino hooked up with an uncovered James Roche over the middle, and Roche ran untouched for the touchdown.

On the ensuing kickoff, Sao picked up a bouncing ball at his own 18, then weaved his way through heavy traffic before breaking free near his own 40.

“A player made a play,” Deering tight end Raffaele Salomone said. “He stepped up, and it was huge.”

The Rams lost the ball on downs three times after moving into Sanford territory in the first half. Another deep foray ended when and Sanford defensive back Tye Laviolette intercepted a pass in the end zone on fourth down with two seconds left in the second quarter. Deering also dropped a pass in the end zone.

“Had we been able to get two touchdowns in the beginning, I think it could have been a different ballgame,” Jackson said.

“Sanford is a great team. They’ve got a great coach. They play hard. They challenged us.”

Sanford (0-2), buoyed by Peter Hegarty’s 34-yard run up the middle, moved into Deering territory late in the first quarter. That drive ended when linebacker Scott Bresette picked off a Veino pass at the Deering 23.

Sanford was coming off a season-opening 49-0 loss to Thornton Academy.

“After last week’s absolutely embarrassing drubbing at the hands of Thornton Academy, to come here tonight and show the kind of character and grit that they did, I’m really proud of our kids,” Sanford Coach Mike Fallon said.

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