Portland High made the plays on defense and special teams and pulled away to down rival Cheverus 37-7 Friday evening at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

The Bulldogs intercepted three passes, recovered a fumble, produced a safety and returned a punt for a touchdown as they built a 30-7 halftime lead to improve to 2-0.

“Special teams sets the tone,” said Ben Stasium, who returned a punt for a touchdown and helped down a punt inside the 1-yard line to set the stage for a safety. “It’s such a good way to change momentum.”

Portland marched 60 yards to score on the game’s first possession, capped by a 10-yard run by Ben Levine for a 7-0 lead.

Cheverus went three-and-out and on the ensuing punt, Stasium took off down the left sideline and didn’t stop until he reached the end zone 63-yards away. Cristo Vumpa added the extra point to double the lead.

After Jamal Moriba intercepted his first pass of the game, Zack Elowitch broke away for a 63-yard touchdown and it appeared the Bulldogs were home free, up, 21-0, but the Stags would fight back.

First, quarterback Marc Reali flicked a desperation pass that Teigan Lindstedt caught and ran in for a 10-yard score to cut the deficit to 21-7 after one quarter.

Early in the second period, Cheverus twice drove into Portland territory with a chance to draw closer, but first, the Stags fumbled the ball away, then Moriba intercepted another pass and returned it 60-yards to the Cheverus 15.

Four plays later, Elowitch dove in from the 1 and the lead was back to three touchdowns.

With just 22 seconds left in the half, Elowitch pinned the Stags inside their 1 with a perfectly-placed punt and on the next play, Reali was tackled by Koa Farnsworth, Grant Jacobson and Nate Kapongo in the end zone for a safety just before halftime.

Portland scored its final touchdown with 3:24 remaining, when Moriba ran in from 10 yards out.

Portland had a 261-110 advantage in total yards and forced five turnovers.

Moriba, who added 91 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries to his three interceptions, was given the Jack Duffy Award as the top Portland player in the annual Portland-Cheverus contest.

“It means a lot,” Moriba said. “I’ve watched other Portland players win it. Last year, I only played on defense. This year, I’m getting more time on the field. I was just in the right place at the right time.”

The Bulldogs have a showdown at 2-0 Bonny Eagle next week.

“We’ll have our hands full up there,” said Portland Coach Jim Hartman.

“I’ve only coached against (Kevin Cooper) twice. He’s a phenomenal coach.”

Cheverus dropped to 1-1 on the season, but the Stags didn’t feel the final margin was reflective of the distance between the teams.

“Portland is a good team, but we inflicted more pain on ourselves than they did,” said Cheverus Coach Mike Vance. “We feel good about the physical effort. We’re just not a mature group yet.”

Lindstedt was given the Bobby Duffy Award as Cheverus’ top player in the game.

Portland now leads the all-time series against Cheverus, which dates to 1924, 48-36 with five ties.