On Thanksgiving, the Portland football team was thankful for the chance to end its season on a high note.

After falling to Bonny Eagle 34-14 in the Class A state championship game Saturday, the Bulldogs shut out Deering 41-0 in the 105th Thanksgiving Day game Thursday at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

“Until you’ve given everything you have to give and then you lose it – it just tears your gut up,” Portland Coach Jim Hartman said. “They’re not sleeping at night. They’re thinking about what happened and what could have been. Now they get the chance to go out as a winner.”

Senior Dylan Bolduc led the Bulldogs (10-2), totaling 129 yards with four touchdowns.

“The state game was a big letdown,” Bolduc said. “To be able to finish on a win – it’s a huge deal.”

Quarterback Issiah Bachelder said this week has been tough for the team. The senior finished Thursday’s game with 48 passing yards and returned an interception for a touchdown.

“All week I was feeling it in my stomach – I wasn’t going to be able to line up with my guys anymore,” Bachelder said. “Going into the game I was very sad. But once we hit the field I was happy to be out there with my guys again.”

The Turkey Day victory is Portland’s fourth straight, and the Bulldogs lead the series, 58-40-7.

Deering (3-7) had not played since losing to Sanford in a Class A South quarterfinal Oct. 29.

“Portland wasn’t the runner-up this year for nothing,” Deering Coach Jason Jackson said. “We’ve kind of been a two-steps-forward, three-steps-back type of team all year. It’s a season we have to learn from.”

In the wake of talk about shutting down the tradition due to poor attendance, Portland Athletic Director Robert O’Leary said this year’s game drew an estimated 1,000 fans – double the number from last year – despite the snowy, cold conditions.

“It’s a great tradition and hopefully they keep it rolling,” Jackson said. “We just need more support.”

In the first half, the Bulldogs capitalized with touchdowns on two fake punts.

With a minute left in the first quarter, the Rams took a risk on fourth-and-7 on their own 8. Portland made the stop and took over on Deering’s 5. Bolduc got it done with a 2-yard dive into the end zone, and Quinn Clarke’s kick for the extra point put the Bulldogs up 7-0.

Clarke made 5 of 6 extra-point attempts.

Portland cushioned that lead in the second quarter. On fourth-and-7 at midfield, the Bulldogs lined up to punt, but Bachelder instead kept the drive alive with a 14-yard pass to Vinnie Pasquali. Penalties cost Deering 15 yards to help set up Bolduc for a 15-yard touchdown run with 2:47 left in the half.

Penalties would continue to hurt Deering, costing the Rams a total of 65 yards.

Portland nearly caught another break when Deering bobbled a punt and the Bulldogs recovered at the Rams’ 18. But with less than 12 seconds left, the Bulldogs couldn’t find the end zone. After a failed field-goal attempt, Portland entered halftime up 13-0.

In the second half, the Bulldogs stuck with what was working. On their opening drive, Bolduc carried 10 of 11 times totaling 61 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown to increase Portland’s lead to 20-0 with 7:26 left in the third.

Less than two minutes later, Bachelder pulled the Bulldogs further ahead when he returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown.

Portland’s success on fourth down continued when Bachelder connected with Bolduc on an 18-yard pass for another first down. Bolduc scored his fourth and final touchdown on the following play, running 25 yards into the end zone. The Bulldogs ended the third quarter up 34-0.

Portland didn’t let up. Following a Pasquali interception, Jake Knop rushed for a 76-yard touchdown with 8:30 left. Portland sustained the 41-0 lead until the end.

“Getting through practice the last few days was really, really hard, and I don’t blame the kids,” Hartman said. “For them to come out and play today the way they did is really a testament to their skill and who they are. I’m really proud of them.”

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