Sanford quarterback Xavier Levine tries to elude a Biddeford tackler Friday night at Sanford High. The Spartans rallied for a 20-12 victory over Biddeford.  Maureen Grandmaison photo

SANFORD — It wasn’t easy. Then again it seldom is when Sanford and Biddeford high schools play a football game.

It was the Spartans who survived Friday night, scoring two touchdowns in the final nine minutes to rally past the Tigers, 20-12, before about 2,000 fans at Alumni Stadium.

The victory wasn’t secured until Ethan Shain intercepted a Marc Reali pass at the Sanford 10 with 25 seconds remaining. On the previous play, Shain had tackled a Biddeford player at the Sanford 29 following a 44-yard play.

“We knew, the seniors, this was the biggest game of the season,” said Shain. “We could feel the energy. We knew how big this game was.”

Both teams are now 3-1, Sanford playing in Class A, Biddeford in Class B South. It was the first game between the schools since 2015 and it didn’t disappoint.

“It was a really, really good high school football game,” said Sanford Coach Mike Fallon. “The Biddeford kids made us struggle offensively. But our kids just showed some grit and determination, found a way to win the game.”

Biddeford coach Brian Curit has nothing but praise for his players.

“I’m proud of my kids,” said Curit. “You can put that in capital letters, that’s how strongly I feel about my team. We’ve got a good team. In the game of football, you can’t turn the ball over like we did. … And that team’s pretty good, too. I think we showed we can play with just about anybody.”

Sanford quarterback Xavier Levine broke a 66-yard touchdown run on Sanford’s first offensive play for a quick 7-0 lead. But that would be it for scoring in the first half.

Then things got really interesting.

The Tigers got a 26-yard touchdown pass from Reali to Scott Kelly to cut the margin to 7-6 with 7:42 left in the third. Then, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Reali found Delano Voccia-Hale for 66 yards, down to Sanford’s 5.

Reali was stopped six inches shy of a touchdown on the next play, losing his helmet in  the process. Ashton Crowell came in and scored on a quarterback sneak. But once again, Biddeford’s conversion pass failed and the Tigers led 12-7 with 11:07 remaining.

That’s when Sanford responded. With Caleb Saucier pounding inside to set up the pass, the Spartans drove in for a go-ahead score when Levine found Leyton Bickford for a 16-yard touchdown, connecting on a high lob into the right corner of the end zone. But Levine was injured on the play and had to leave the game. The conversion pass failed and it was 13-12 Sanford with 8:58 left.

A Shain interception at midfield gave the Spartans the ball again. This led to a 9-yard touchdown pass from sophomore back-up Jake Beninati to Shain, and a 20-12 lead.

“He’s mature, poised,” said Fallon. “We had zero hesitation about letting him throw the football.”

Biddeford would have one final chance, getting the ball on its 27 with 40.4 seconds remaining. On first down, Reali threw a quick slant to Crowell, who lateraled the ball to Kelly. Forty-four yards later, Shain caught him at  the Sanford 29. On the next play, Shain intercepted the pass to secure the win.

“Biggest play of my life,” said Shain. “I saw the ball in the air and knew if I got it, it could be the game.”

It was.

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