BOX SCORE

South Portland 35 Portland 7

SP- 0 14 7 14- 35
P- 0 0 7 0- 7

First quarter
No scoring

Second quarter
SP- Poole 1 run (Tierney kick)
SP- Poole 4 run (Tierney kick)

Third quarter
SP- Jones 49 run (Tierney kick)
P- Moriba 8 run (Vumpa kick)

Fourth quarter
SP- Poole 36 run (Tierney kick)
SP- Dobson 17 pass from Poole (Tierney kick)

PORTLAND—Last season, South Portland’s football team came to Fitzpatrick Stadium and lost, 35-0, to the eventual Class A North champion Portland Bulldogs.

Friday evening, the Red Riots made a return appearance and nearly reversed that score.

In the 104th version of the “Battle of the Bridge, defense ruled in a scoreless first quarter, but South Portland got its offense in gear in the second period.

A 1-yard touchdown run from senior quarterback Anthony Poole put the Red Riots ahead to stay and after junior Luca Desjardins intercepted Portland sophomore quarterback Grant Crosby, Poole scored again on fourth down, this time from 4-yards out, for a 14-0 halftime lead.

When senior Keenan Jones broke away for a 49-yard TD run in the third period, South Portland enjoyed a three-score lead, but the Bulldogs embarked on an eight-minute drive to get back in the game, as junior workhorse running back Jamal Moriba scored on an 8-yard run to cut the deficit to 21-7.

Te Red Riots then ended any lingering doubt in the fourth quarter, as Poole broke away for a 36-yard scoring run and off a fake field goal, Poole hit junior Connor Dobson for a 17-yard TD and South Portland went on to a 35-7 victory.

Te Red Riots won at Portland for the first time since 2011, improved to 4-2 and in the process, dropped the Bulldogs to 0-6 on the year.

“This means so much to us,” said Poole. “We always have this game circled on the schedule. (The rivalry) goes back a long way, so it feels good to take it home for the city.”

Bridging the gap

While Portland has struggled getting in the win column this fall, South Portland has enjoyed a renaissance under Aaron Filieo, its one-time star player, captain and later, assistant coach.

The Red Riots dropped their opener, 30-14, to visiting Deering, then rallied to win at Cheverus, 19-14, before dominating visiting Noble, 49-7. After falling at home to Massabesic, 26-14, South Portland came from behind to edge host Gorham in a thriller, 31-28, on a last-second field goal last weekend.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, started with a 42-3 loss at Scarborough, then fell at Biddeford (28-6), at home to defending Class B state champion Marshwood (49-3), at home to Kennebunk (41-9) and last Saturday, 28-21, at Cheverus.

Last year, host Portland cut the Red Riots’ all-time lead in the series, which dates to 1907, to 55-45 (with three ties).

Friday, on a seasonable (57 degrees at kickoff with a slight breeze), the Bulldogs looked for their 14th victory in the past 19 meetings (see sidebar, below), but South Portland rode a workmanlike, complementary effort to triumph.

The Red Riots got possession first and began at their 35 after the kickoff went out of bounds, but the visitors went three-and-out, as Dobson was dropped for a two-yard loss by senior Jonah Green, Poole kept the ball for a yard and on third-and-11, Jones only gained four, necessitating a punt.

Portland started at its 29, but also failed to pick up a first down, as Moriba was held to no gain on first down and after picking up seven yards on second down, Moriba was held to two on third-and-3.

South Portland’s second possession began at its 36 and the Red Riots started to march, as after Jones was dropped for a five-yard loss by senior Garrett Stewart,  Poole completed his first pass, a nine-yard toss to Dobson. On third-and-6, Poole hit senior Tyler Small on a quick slant over the middle and Small ran 26 yards before being tripped up from behind by Nathan Isajar. That loomed huge, as after Poole threw incomplete, Poole hit Dobson for four yards, then ran for five, but on fourth-and-1 from the 25, Poole was pressured by Moriba and threw incomplete, as junior Joseph Pike knocked the ball away.

Moriba got the ball twice to start the next drive, running for seven yards, then losing one, but an apparent Moriba first down run was negated by a holding penalty and after sophomore quarterback Grant Crosby threw incomplete, the Bulldogs had to punt again.

Wit 2:54 left in the opening stanza, the Red Riots took over at their 35 and in a drive that used up the remainder of the first quarter and beginning of the second, they drove for the lead.

Jones did most of the work, breaking free down the right sideline for a 46-yard pickup and a first down at the Portland 19. After Poole ran for three yards and Jones picked up five, Poole only gained one on third-and-2. That set up fourth down and after a timeout, Poole gained three yards for a first-and-goal at the 7, as the frame came to an end (with the Red Riots outgaining the Bulldogs, 100 yards to 12.

After Jones was held to no gain on the first play of the second period, Dobson gained a yard and junior Samus Cole picked up five, setting up fourth-and-goal from the 1. Then, with  10:07 to play in the half, Poole bulled his way into the end zone and South Portland had the  lead for good after marching 65 yards in 10 plays.

Junior Frank Tierney’s extra point made it 7-0.

The Red Riots’ defense then got the ball right back.

After Crosby was dropped for a one-yard loss by senior Theo Burns-Betune, his pass was intercepted by Desjardins, who returned the ball to the Portland 34.

It would take South Portland eight plays and nearly four minutes to score, but the Red Riots would strike paydirt again.

After Poole threw incomplete, he kept the ball for 10 yards and a first down. Poole then hit Dobson for six yards and Poole ran for five, setting up first down at the 13, A three-yard run by Jones and a two-yard Poole pickup was followed by Jones rushing for four yards to make it fourth-and-1 from the 4. That set the stage for Poole to do the rest, following his right guard and tackle into the end zone for a 4-yard TD. Tierney added the PAT and with 5:05 to play before halftime, the  Red Riots had a 14-0 advantage.

Portland couldn’t answer, despite a promising start to its next drive. The Bulldogs started at their 30 and after Moriba ran for seven yards, a late hit penalty gave the hosts a first down at South Portland’s 48. Moriba then lost a yard and after Crosby hit Pike for two yards, the quarterback scrambled for one and that forced a punt.

The Red Riots took over at their 32, but couldn’t add to their lead. After Poole ran for three yards, then hit senior Cole Benevides with a pass that  set up third-and-inches, Poole ran for four yards and a facemask penalty was tacked on, putting the ball at Portland’s 39. But on the next play, Poole was intercepted by Isajar and te Bulldogs got the ball back at their 23 with  59 seconds to go in the half.

Portland couldn’t take advantage, however. After sophomore Aiden Dimillo ran for a yard and Crosby threw incomplete, senior Sam Knop caught a pass and with second effort, gained 10 yards to move the chains. Then, on the  final play of the half, Desjardins threw DiMillo for a 10-yard loss, sending the game to halftime  wit South Portland on top, 14-0.

In the first 24 minutes, the Red Riots had a 170-36 edge in yardage.

The Bulldos would hang tough in the third period, but couldn’t cut into the deficit.

Portland got good field position to start, at its 38, but after Moriba ran for two yards and Knop caught a pass for three, Moriba was held  to two yards on third-and-5, forcing a punt.

South Portland took over at its 24 and four plays and 1:15 later, added to its lead.

A five-yard Jones run got things started, then Poole broke free for 26 yards and a first down at the Bulldogs’ 45. After a holding penalty, Poole threw incomplete, but Jones did the rest, breaking free through  a big hole on the left side, then outracing the defense for a 49-yard TD. Tierney’s extra point made it 21-0 with 8:31 left in the quarter.

Portland finally got its offense going on its next possession, using 8 minutes and 14 plays to march 61 yards to paydirt.

A four-yard Crosby pass to Dimillo, a four-yard Moriba rush and a 1-yard Moriba run set up fourth-and-1, but Crosby found Pike for two yards to set up a first down at midfield. After a one-yard Moriba run, the Bulldogs took a five-yard delay of game penlty and to make matters worse, a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was tacked on, but Knop caught a pass for four yards and on third-and-25, Moriba weaved his way to within inches of the first down marker and on fourth down, Crosby fell forward for a yard to move the chains. After an incomplete pass, Crosby ran for a yard, but Moriba was dropped for a one-yard loss by Burns-Bethune and junior Colby Wyman setting up fourth-and-10. Again, Portland kept its possession alive, as Knop took a reverse all the way to the 12, for a 27-yard gain. After Crosby ran up the middle for four yards, Moriba did the rest, scoring on an 8-yard run with 24.4 seconds remaining. Sophomore Cristo Vumpa drilled the extra point to pull Portland within 21-7.

The Bulldogs’ defense then kept the momentum, forcing a three-and-out as the third period gave way to the fourth. South Portland started at its 24, but after Poole ran for four yards and sophomore Antonio Romero ran for two, Poole was stopped inches shy of the line to gain and te visitors had to punt.

Portland took over at its 20 with  10:22 to play with a chance to make it a one-score game, but after Moriba ran for five yards, Crosby threw incomplete and Moriba only gained three yards on third-and-5, forcing a punt.

Wit 8:45 left, South Portland got the ball at its 48 and needed just four plays to score to put it away.

After a five-yard run by Cole, Poole gained nine for a first down. Jones gained four yards to the 36 and Poole did the rest, breaking free through a big hole to his right and racing into the end zone. With 6:48 on the clock, Tierney’s PAT made it 28-7.

On Portland’s next series, Crosby threw incomplete and after a Moriba lost a yard, Desjardins intercepted Crosby for the second time and he returned the ball 28 yards to the Bulldogs  22.

“(Assistant) Coach (Jason) Cooke prepared us great this week,” said Desjardins. “He made us stick on our keys and stick to our drops and everything turned out great.”

Four plays later, South Portland was in the end zone again.

Jones ran for two yards, then picked up five, but on third-and-3, Stewart dropped Jones for a two-yard loss. On fourth-and-5 from the 17, the Red Riots lined up to kick a field goal, but Poole, the holder, kept the ball, rolled right, then hit Dobson, who waltzed into the end zone for the 17-yard touchdown. Tierney’s extra point with 3:36 to go made the score 35-7.

Portland had one final possession, but after being backed up by another unsportsmanlike conduct penlty, Moriba lost a yard and after freshman Andrew Brewer ran for 15 yards on third-and-21, he only gained one on fourth down, giving South Portland the ball back on downs with 1:13 to play.

Two Poole kneel-downs later and the Red Riots were able to celebrate their victory.

“We had to keep the next play mentality,” Poole said. “We knew our line would step up and they did. We scored 35 points, which is great.”

“We knew Portland was a good team and we didn’t treat them like they’re  0-5,” said Desjardins. “Coach changed the mindset right away. We bought in right away.”

“Getting tin ready for tonight’s game was easy,” Filieo added. “They were excited and they worked hard and desrved it. It’s been a long time since I’ve coached in a Bridge game. It was fun to be a part of it. Winning it means everything. We needed a win. This puts us in a good position. As a kid from South Portland, to be able to coach in this town and beat Portland is speicial.

“We’ve had two weeks of playing stout, physical teams in Massabesic and Gorham and we thought we matched up a little bit better with these guys. We knew defensively, they’d do some things that would take us awhile to figure out and we did. They’re a well-coached team and we knew they’d have a game plan to put their guys in a situation to win. We just wanted to patient. We knew if we stayed the course, we’d be OK.”

Poole ran for 116 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries. He completed 6-of-10 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown. He was also intercepted once.

Jones gained 116 yards and had a touchdown on 12 rushes.

“Keenan has a great work ethic,” Filieo said. “He had some great runs today and he deserved it. We try to spread the ball around. Keenan’s a really good football player. I thought our offensive line made some adjustments and got Keenan going.”

Dobson caught four passes for 36 yards and a TD.

Small had one reception for 26 yards and Benevides had one catch for 7 yards.

South Portland overcame one turnover and four penalties for 29 yards.

The Bulldogs were led by Moriba, who had 69 yards and a TD on 19 carries.

“I thought we played really well defensively,” Filieo said. “(Moriba) runs tough. We challenged the guys to attack and swarm him. We kept him contained for the most part.”

Crosby completed 7-of-15 passes for 28 yards with two interceptions. He ran five times for 6 yards.

Pike had three catches for 8 yards.

Knop caught three balls for 18 yards.

In addition to two turnovers, Portland was flagged seven times for 88 yards.

Only two left

Portland (10th in the Class B South Crabtree Points standings, where just eight teams qualify for the playoffs) is at 1-5 Noble Friday. The teams didn’t play in 2018. A home game versus Massabesic then wraps up the regular season Oct. 25.

South Portland (sixth in Class B South) has one more road game next Friday, at 0-6 Westbrook. The teams didn’t meet last season. The Red Riots then return to Martin Memorial Field for their home finale versus Sanford Oct. 25.

“We have to keep working hard and sticking together like brothers, which we are,” Desjardins said. “Were having fun. It’s way better than last year.”

“We’ll enjoy this for now, then watch film and we’ll get ready for Westbrook,” Poole said.

“Were getting there,” said Filieo. “Step number one was attitude and culture. The football stuff takes awhile. The senior group has led the way. We’re supporting them and they’re driving the bus. The thing about these guys is they have a grear mindset. They get excited each week. They know we have to play 48 minutes.

“This puts us in a good position, but we need to get better. It’s still not clean. We still have to get better at blocking, tackling  and executing our plays.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Recent “Battle of the Bridge” results

2018
@ Portland 35 South Portland 0

2017
@ South Portland 34 Portland 17

2016
Portland 47 @ South Portland 0

2015
@ Portland 31 South Portland 0

2014
Portland 10 @ South Portland 6

2013
@ Portland 38 South Portland 14

2012
@ South Portland 19 Portland 6

2011
South Portland 20 @ Portland 7

2010
@ South Portland 13 Portland 7

2009
@ Portland 36 South Portland 33

2008
Portland 20 @ South Portland 14 (OT)

2007
South Portland 27 @ Portland 6

2006
Portland 44 @ South Portland 23

2005
@ Portland 55 South Portland 8

2004
Portland 19 @ South Portland 7

2003
@ Portland 42 South Portland 7

2002
Portland 21 @ South Portland 20

2001
@ Portland 35 South Portland 6

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