SOUTH PORTLAND — It didn’t look good early for Sanford and it got dicey at the end, but in between the Spartans cashed in on each of their three scoring chances in a 21-18 win over South Portland in the Class A South football quarterfinals.

“The first 12 minutes of the football game were all South Portland,” said Sanford Coach Mike Fallon. “It felt like the bottom was going to fall out of this thing but the kids rallied. In the second half they played like they did not want their season to end.”

No. 5 Sanford (5-4) advances to face No. 1 Scarborough (7-1) in the regional semifinals. In the second week of the season, Scarborough beat the Spartans, 49-15. Since then, Sanford is 5-2.

No. 4 South Portland (4-5) led 7-0 after its first offensive play (a 51-yard Jake Poole to Zack Johnson pass against busted coverage) but fell behind 21-10 in the third quarter.

Poole, who threw for 216 yards, rallied his team with a 29-yard TD pass to Jimmy Dibiase with 7:12 left and kept South Portland’s final drive alive with a 17-yard completion to Dibiase on fourth-and-14. Another 16-yard gain to Dibiase put South Portland in position for at least a tying field goal in the final minute.

On second down from the 12, a high center snap got past Poole and Sanford recovered. The Spartans ran out the clock with two kneeldowns.

“The overriding theme that I have right now is just how proud I am of this group of kids this year,” said South Portland Coach Steve Stinson. “Obviously we wanted to be on the other side of the scoreboard but it was very fitting to see us swinging to the very last second in a very good playoff game.”

Spencer Houlette ran for 91 yards and caught five passes for 96 yards for South Portland.

Sanford hung in early by allowing South Portland only three points in three second-quarter scoring opportunities.

Sanford went ahead 8-7 on a 1-yard run by Mike Lunny (8 carries, 70 yards) and two-point conversion run by QB Jordan Giroux to cap a 90-yard drive.

South Portland took a 10-8 lead before the half on a 25-yard field goal by Johnson.

Sanford took control in the third with Giroux scoring on a 2-yard run to finish an 83-yard drive, and going ahead 21-10 on Leyton Bickford’s 21-yard TD catch late in the third quarter. Bickford caught the ball in traffic and lunged to the pylon.

“I didn’t really think (the pass) was intended for me at the beginning,” Bickford said. “But then I just went out there and caught it.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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Twitter: SteveCCraig

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