PARIS — Offensive drives kept stalling, leaving the onus on the defenses to make a game-changing play.

Portland’s Vinnie Pasquali intercepted Oxford Hills quarterback Colton Carson to set up the first touchdown of the game, and the Bulldogs went on to defeat the Vikings 21-6 in a Class A North football quarterfinal Friday night.

The sixth-seeded Bulldogs (3-6) move on to face second-seeded Lewiston in the semifinals next weekend at Bates College’s Garcelon Field.

No. 3 Oxford Hills (4-5) made it past midfield on its fifth drive of the game, but on third-and-23, Pasquali picked off Carson’s pass at the Portland 30 and returned it way to the Vikings 4.

“It felt real good to get the offense in good field position, get that first touchdown on the board right before (halftime) so we could keep rolling, have the momentum going into the second half,” Pasquali said.

Zack Elowitch reached the end zone on the next play, giving the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 3:29 left in the first half.

Oxford Hills’ next drive also ended with an interception, this one by Elowitch, with less than two minutes to play in the half.

“It’s a tough one. I’ve had that happen many times in my career where we were throwing it at the end of the half,” Vikings Coach Mark Soehren said.

“I know they have high expectations, we have high expectations, and we fully expected and believed we could play in the state championship game, and (we were) going to play that game to win.”

The Vikings opened the game with a drive that went from their own 30 to the Portland 5. The drive had a heavy dose of Carson running the ball on option plays, with a couple Dawson Stevens runs sprinkled in.

But a penalty pushed the Vikings into fourth-and-long, and they turned it over on downs.

“That was really a confidence builder right there,” Elowitch said. “That was determination, bend-but-don’t-break defense, play to the last whistle. You know, if they’re not in (the end zone), they’re not in, anything can happen.”

The Vikings’ next possession lasted only one play, as Stevens couldn’t corral Carson’s pitch. It was the last offensive play for Stevens, who was hampered by injuries the second half of the season.

Without him, Oxford Hills struggled to run the ball up the middle, and instead relied even more on Carson along with jet sweeps to Cam Slicer.

Carson finished with 100 yards on 18 carries. Slicer gained 47 yards on five carries.

After taking a 7-0 lead into halftime, Portland opened the second half with a long return to the Oxford Hills 47, and quarterback Terion Moss capped a nine-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run.

Carson then led Oxford Hills on a 67-yard scoring drive. Eight of the 11 plays were runs by Carson, including a 21-yard gain on third-and-11 and a 6-yard touchdown run that cut the lead to 14-6.

The teams exchanged interceptions – by Tasker Winslow of Oxford Hills, and another by Elowitch – and punts before Moss scored his second touchdown with 2:34 remaining.

“Terion is learning how to play quarterback,” Portland Coach Jim Hartman said. “He’s only played three games in a row now at quarterback. So I have to learn how to communicate with him, we’re drawing plays up in the sand … But he’s coming. Each game he gets a little better.”

Moss ran for 109 yards on 21 carries.

Pasquali sealed the win with his second interception.

“You just can’t turn the ball over five times and stick with a team that has athletes,” Soehren said. “They don’t have a lot of wins this year, but they did have five or six all-conference kids.”

Portland rallied to defeat Lewiston 17-14 in the teams’ first meeting on Oct. 13.

“I think Lewiston has as much talent as anyone in Class A football, so we (have) our hands full,” Hartman said.

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