GORHAM – After Portland High clinched the Class A South boys’ soccer title Wednesday night after a round of penalty kicks, the Bulldogs rushed to the end zone to greet their fans.

“I’ve played four years and I’ve never had a moment like this,” said senior captain and back Quinn Clarke.

After regulation and overtime ended in a 1-1 tie, fourth-seeded Portland defeated third-ranked Gorham 4-2 on penalty kicks.

The Bulldogs are going to the state title game for the third time, their last appearance coming seven years ago.

The Bulldogs (13-3-1) will play Lewiston (13-2-2) – an upset winner over unbeaten defending champion Bangor – in the state final at 10 a.m. Saturday at Hampden Academy.

The Rams (13-3-1) also lost on penalty kicks in last year’s state championship game.

“You get to penalty kicks, who knows what’s going to happen? It’s an absolute crapshoot,” Gorham Coach Tim King said. “Unfortunately for us, that’s two in a row we’ve come out on the wrong end.”

Portland made all four of its penalty kicks, and goalkeeper Rowan Daligan made a pivotal stop on Gorham’s first attempt, diving left to block Kyle King’s hard shot.

“I guessed,” Daligan said. “I was completely numb. It was kind of hard to think. I just picked a side and went for it.”

Gorham made its next two attemts but missed its fourth, clinching the victory for Portland.

Daligan shined throughout the game, finishing with 13 saves, including six in the second half and three in the two overtimes.

“Every time they had a chance, I’m just so confident with a keeper like that behind us,” Clarke said.

While Gorham pressured much of the second half, it was Portland that got the jump at the start of the game.

Tim King was concerned with the Bulldogs’ speed, and Portland forward Pedra Fonseca got behind his defender in the box. Midfielder Alex Millones sent a perfect pass to Fonseca, who knocked it in seven minutes into the game.

“I was going to settle it first with my right foot but it hit my (left) shin,” Fonseca said. “It then hit my (right) heel and went in.”

The goal reminded Tim King of their September game, won by Portland 2-1 after the Bulldogs took a 2-0 halftime lead.

“We came out much like the first time we played them. We came out flat and they were quicker to the ball,” he said. “Eventually they’re going to poke one in. (Fonseca) is a great player. They caught us early.”

Portland kept coming, with Millones and fellow midfielder Than Tiparos creating chances. But Gorham stabilized and began putting its own pressure on. Midfielders Andrew Rent and Nolan Brown were directing the attack, sending balls to Kyle King and Sam Burghardt.

“What a great soccer game,” Portland Coach Rocco Frenzilli said. “I thought our energy in the first part of the game helped us a little bit … But it went back and forth, forth and back. With Andrew (Rent) getting as much time with the ball on his foot and Kyle up top, it was a matter of time before they made something happen.”

In the second half, the Rams tied it. Brenden Waterman sent in a high pass and King headed it just under the crossbar with 21:40 left.

More shots came but Daligan was there.

“I tried to come out a little more and compete with Kyle and Sam,” said Daligan of his two friends (and teammates on their club team).

In overtime, Garrett Higgins passed to King, who headed to Burghardt, whose header was stopped by Daligan.

In the best-of-five penalty-kick round, Millones went first and scored to his left. Emmanuel Yugu, Tiparos and Zekariya Shaib also were successful.

Portland will be seeking its first soccer title after losing to Bangor in 2010. Lewiston won the championship in 2015.

UPDATE: This file was corrected on Nov. 2 at 4:25 p.m. to show this will be Portland’s third appearance in a Class A boys’ soccer state title game.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @KevinThomasPPH

filed under: