Portland High senior Zack Elowitch says there’s a simple reason why he led Class A North in carries (152) and rushing yards (1,207) during the regular season.

“A lot of my yards are owed to the offensive line just opening a lot more holes this year,” said Elowitch, who has rushed for 14 touchdowns. “Just overall, when you’re winning and the confidence is up, you’re going to have more success.”

Portland (7-1) is the No. 1 seed in Class A North and will host No. 4 Edward Little (5-4) for a regional semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Last season, Portland was ravaged by injuries in a 4-7 season that ended with a regional final loss at Windham. This year, the Bulldogs returned most of their starters, added some key transfers and have stayed relatively healthy.

And Elowitch has been much busier out of the backfield. Last year, he had only 66 carries in the regular season, for 264 yards and four touchdowns.

“Zack has always been a good football player. He’s a three-year starter on defense for us,” said Portland Coach Jim Hartman. “What we didn’t have last year was the fullback and tight end to make Zack more available in the run game.”

Tight ends Grant Jacobson and Tyler Blazejewski, two 220-pound transfers, have been leading the way and setting the edge. That has allowed Elowitch to complement his inside running with more dashes to the outside.

“People think of him as a power back, but honestly, he’s faster than most people think,” said senior lineman/fullback Ben Levine. “Sometimes he just does things that are real athletic that you didn’t know he could do.”

“I think this year, as opposed to last year, I’m doing a lot better job reading the hole and hitting the hole,” Elowitch said. “And I think just staying on my feet through contact is something I take pride in.”

Elowitch has put himself in contention for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, given to Maine’s top senior. On defense, he’s played “wherever we need him,” Hartman said, making 34 tackles with a sack and two interceptions. His 36.2-yard punting average ranks second in Class A North.

Elowitch is related to Yudy Elowitch, who created the Fitzpatrick Trophy.

“Yudy is my great-grandfather’s brother,” Elowitch said. “I’m trying not to (think about the Fitzy). I’m trying to stay focused on the team goal, just to get that state championship.”

BONNY EAGLE (5-3), the third seed in Class A South, didn’t expect to have an extra week off after losing its regular-season finale to Scarborough, 48-35. Then South Portland announced it would skip the playoffs, giving the Scots a little extra time to ponder how they can bounce back from three straight losses heading into Friday’s rematch at Scarborough (6-1).

“It’s a little weird, I’m not going to lie to you,” said senior running back Will Whyte said. “Our guys are keeping our heads up, and now with some of our key guys back, we’re going to go out and play our hearts out. Us seniors, we had some disappointment last week (not playing). We never got to go back out there on (Bonny Eagle’s) stadium field. We’ve got some fire under us now.”

Quarterback Zach Maturo will return after missing two games because of a shoulder injury. Coach Kevin Cooper expects to use both Maturo and Keegan Meredith, who threw four TD passes against Scarborough, but he’s more concerned about his defense.

“They ran for something like 350 yards against us last time. If you look at it from (Scarborough’s) perspective, they’re going to run the ball,” Cooper said. “We know we have to play better on defense. If we hope to win we can’t play like we did a couple weeks ago.”

STATE OF THE STATE: The 25 regional quarterfinals were decided by an average of 27.16 points. Four lower-seeded teams won, all in Class D. The four 1-vs.-8 games and the other three 2-vs.-7 contests were decided by an average of 44.4 points.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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