Portland and South Portland will meet in football for the 100th time Friday night. The game at Fitzpatrick Stadium has been moved back to 7:45 p.m. to accommodate two soccer playoff games in the afternoon.

The Bulldogs and Red Riots first played football in 1907. They played again in 1912 and 1918, and have played annually since 1924. Included in the 99 previous contests are five playoff games, four won by South Portland. But only their regular-season matchups are considered “Battle of the Bridge” games.

For years the game was played on Veterans Day. South Portland leads the series, 54-42-3.

Portland (7-0), the Class A North leader, has won the past two meetings and will be a heavy favorite Friday night. The Riots (2-5) have lost five straight games but still are projected to make the Class A South playoffs as the sixth seed.

One of the most memorable games in the series occurred in 1969 when the Battle of the Bridge was for a berth in the following weekend’s state championship game. Unbeaten South Portland needed a tie to get into the state final. Once-beaten Portland needed a win. Before a large crowd at Portland Stadium the game ended 7-7. There were no overtimes back then. The top teams from the Southern and Northern divisions played for the state title.

Another memorable game was in 1983, a year after Portland won the state championship. Late in the game, a controversial pass interference call against the Bulldogs helped South Portland eke out a 15-14 win.

Former Portland coach Mike Bailey has been involved in 33 Battle of the Bridges – 26 as head coach of the Bulldogs, five as an assistant coach for Portland and now two as a South Portland assistant coach. Bailey was a Deering lineman in the early 1970s and is a retired Portland High science teacher.

Bailey didn’t hestitate when asked which Battle of the Bridge stood out for him.

“In 1997 we ended South Portland’s long winning streak at 31 games,” said Bailey of the Bulldogs 21-15 win.

The next week wasn’t so pleasant. South Portland took its revenge out on Portland in the first round of the playoffs, winning 52-0.

In 2002, Portland tailback Carl Frye missed the Battle of the Bridge because of an injury. “We moved Will Hews to tailback and he carried us,” said Bailey. Portland won, 21-20.

South Portland, then coached by John Wolfgram, won nine straight Battle of the Bridge games (1985-93) for its longest streak in the series. Portland’s longest streak is six straight, done twice.

HEADING INTO the final weekend of the regular season, several games will have a bearing on the Crabtree standings. In Class A North, No. 2 Windham and No. 3 Cheverus play Friday night at Windham. The winner will be the second seed in the playoffs and gain a first-round bye.

“With all the injuries we’ve had, I wouldn’t mind having a week off,” said Windham Coach Matt Perkins. “It would give us a chance to heal.”

Portland has the top seed locked up in Class A North. Coach Jim Hartman welcomes the week off that comes with it.

“It will give us a chance to rest up and get back to working on fundamentals,” Hartman said.

No. 6 Bangor (1-6) plays at No. 7 Oxford Hills/Buckfield on Friday night. The winner will make the playoffs.

In Class A South, No. 4 Deering (5-2) plays at No. 3 Scarborough (4-3) on Friday night with the winner gaining the second seed and a first-round bye – provided No. 2 Bonny Eagle doesn’t beat No. 1 Thornton Academy on Saturday. Bonny Eagle could secure the No. 2 slot by beating the Trojans.

“This time of the year we would love the extra week,” said Scarborough Coach Lance Johnson. “You get two weeks to prepare. Every team is nicked up this time of the year.”

Eight teams make the playoffs in Class B South, while six teams make the playoffs in Class B North (with the top two seeds gaining first-round byes). That’s also the playoff setup in Class C and Class D – eight teams in the South and six in the North.

Brunswick is No. 1 in Class B North and looking to secure the top seed for the third straight year. The Dragons are home against Nokomis (0-7) on Friday night.

“We win and we’re No. 1,” said Brunswick Coach Dan Cooper. “If Skowhegan wins they’ll be No. 2. If they don’t, Brewer will be No. 2.”

No. 7 Lawrence plays at No. 6 Messalonskee on Friday night with the winner making the Class B North playoffs. The eight playoff teams in Class C and D South are pretty well set entering the final week.

YARMOUTH COACH Jason Veilleux will have a stress test Friday and if the results are favorable, he said he plans to coach the Clippers on Saturday at Freeport.

“It will be business as usual unless the stress test says otherwise,” Veilleux said Thursday.

Veilleux experienced chest pains and other symptons Saturday morning, and was rushed by ambulance to the hospital. Tests revealed it wasn’t a heart attack, but Veilleux has been resting at home and away from practice this week.

Last Friday, Yarmouth rallied to beat Cape Elizabeth 37-36 in a game between 6-0 teams. The Clippers (7-0) will be the top seed for the Class B South playoffs that begin next weekend.


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