SOUTH PORTLAND — The chant from the visiting sideline started early and reverberated even after the Deering High football team headed toward the locker room.

“APG! APG!”

Whether it was a 50-yard reception setting up the game’s first touchdown or one of his three interceptions, Amani Peeples-Gorman had a nose for the football Friday night to lead Deering to a 30-14 victory over South Portland.

“As you can hear, his team loves him,” said Deering head coach Rob Susi. “As good as he is on offense, he’s just everywhere on defense.”

Peeples-Gorman’s takeaways – all after intermission – short-circuited a Red Riots comeback  in a game Deering dominated for most of the first half. The Rams led 16-0 at halftime after a scoreless first quarter that saw South Portland make one goal-line stand and thwart a second drive that stalled at the 11.

Despite not penetrating Deering territory until midway through the third quarter, the Red Riots pulled within 16-6 two minutes into the fourth quarter when, on fourth down, Anthony Poole connected with Connor Dobson on a 25-yard touchdown pass.

A minute later momentum abruptly shifted back to Deering when Rams junior quarterback James Opio scrambled down the right sideline for a 52-yard touchdown. Joshua Cope’s second successful conversion run made it 24-6.

“I was looking to pass,” said Opio, who finished with 115 yards rushing and was 7-of-15 for 141 yards and two touchdowns passing. “Then I saw there was no one on the side, so I took off. Will Vachon and Amani had nice blocks for me and I just took it to the house.”

On South Portland’s next possession, Peeples-Gorman stepped in for his third pick to set up another long touchdown run. Travis Soule was hit in the backfield and again downfield but remained on his feet for 36 yards to give Deering its second score within 62 seconds, for a 30-6 advantage.

Dobson’s second touchdown reception, this time from Luca Desjardins, covered 14 yards and, coupled with a Desjardins conversion pass to Tyler Small, completed the scoring with just under four minutes remaining.

Deering’s first two scores came on Opio passes of 18 and 27 yards on seam routes by slot receiver Mike Randall, both in the second quarter.

“Mike’s such a good player with such sure hands,” Susi said of Randall. “He’s not our fastest receiver, but he’s very smart. He knows where to find the openings in a defense.”

It was the season opener and the first game since dropping down to from Class A to B for both schools, as well as the Red Riots debut of head coach Aaron Filieo at his alma mater after 15 years at the helm of neighboring Cape Elizabeth.

“I’m really proud of these guys,” Filieo said. “I wasn’t sure what we had as far as fight. But they never gave up. They played hard. We’re just not refined now. Once we clean stuff up and get better, we’ll be there.”

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