Windham’s Cam Hoffses turned an interception by teammate Kyle Houser into the Eagles’ first – but also their last – lead over Portland on Friday evening, Nov. 13. The Bulldogs answered immediately, held a 10-7 lead at the break and exerted enough additional control in the second half to secure 14 further points and a 24-7 victory.

“Field position definitely changed,” said Windham head coach Matt Perkins, asked about the differences that allowed Portland to run away with the W in the second half. “They clamped down on us; we had a hard time moving the ball.”

No. 2 Windham retires for the year at 7-3; No. 1 Portland, now 10-0 in 2015, advances to Saturday, Nov. 21’s state championship vs. Thornton Academy.

Portland got on the board first, though not before both sides had flaunted their defense. Windham forced a three-and-out on the Bulldogs’ opening drive, and the Bulldogs responded by forcing a three-and-out on the Eagles.

It took Portland a long series – one that chewed threw roughly six minutes – to eventually post the game’s first points, and even then the Bulldogs only succeeded off the foot of Johnny Williams, their ace kicker.

In fact, Williams’s first field goal attempt – from the Windham 20-yard line – sailed just inches wide of the uprights, but a flag on Windham saved the Bulldogs’ drive; they then managed to push all the way to the seven before calling on Williams again. This time, he nailed the shot. 3-0.

The Eagles needed till the middle of the second quarter to respond – though, when they finally scored, they did it with style. Houser nabbed a pass attempt by Portland QB Issiah Bachelder to give Windham first and 10 on the Portland 42. From there, QB Desmond Leslie launched a pair of short passes and tacked on a beautiful, 23-yard rush, and Griffin Jacobson added five yards running. Hoffses capped the series with a 16-yard dash up the left side for a TD. 7-3.

But the Bulldogs countered in short order – very short. Windham’s kickoff resulted in a touchback, and Joe Esposito, arguably Maine’s best runner, carried the ball on the next snap 80 yards up the middle, all the way into Windham’s end zone. Portland retook the lead, 10-3.

Windham pulled the lion’s share of the flags Friday night, some more deleterious than others. Perkins took them in stride. “If you deserve them, it’s part of the game,” he said.

The Bulldogs forced the Eagles to punt on their next possession, but promptly turned the ball over again on a fumble. Windham couldn’t capitalize, though, and such proved the story for the remainder of the game. The break arrived with Portland on top, 10-7; afterwards, the Bulldogs widened their advantage. Portland added a TD in the third and another in the fourth to set the tally at 24-7.

Perkins nodded to his boys’ efforts at damage control. “We did some things to stop them,” he said. “We just didn’t get momentum on offense going.”

An increasingly desperate Windham took to slinging the ball more as time ticked away, and they did so with relative success. They put together, for instance, a pass-pass-pass drive in the mid-fourth quarter that advanced them deep into Portland territory. Portland’s Jake Hunnelwell, however, snatched an INT on a Leslie attempt with just over two minutes remaining to really seal the deal.

Perkins remains satisfied with his boys’ play throughout the season. “Very proud of our guys; they battled. All the adversity they had to face, and how they’ve handled it all year – they’ve done it with class. All the seniors took it upon themselves to make sure we worked hard and didn’t get down, with all the injuries and everything else.”

Eric Webb, one of the team’s best receivers, and Dylan Koza, one of their best running backs, both suffered season-ending ankle injuries early in the fall.

Windham’s Mitch Eskilson carries against Portland on Friday night.The Eagles’ Cam Hoffses rushes for the team’s lone TD midway through the second quarter against Portland Friday night.Kyle Houser tries to shuck a Portland tackler Friday night.A pack of Bulldogs descend on Windham’s Kyle Kilfoil, carrying on Friday night.Kyle Houser lost his helmet on this carry – negating what would’ve been a fumble.Windham QB Desmond Leslie drops back to hurl for the Eagles against Portland on Friday night.The Eagles’ captains, including Tyrell Gullatt (69), accept their A North Runners-Up plaque after falling to the Bulldogs 24-7 on Friday night.

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