South Portland 59 Biddeford 34

B-7 13 7 7- 34
SP- 14 25 13 7- 59

First quarter
SP- Thurber 67 pass from Jackson (Domingos kick)
B- Ramos 2 run (O’Driscoll kick)
SP- Jackson 17 run (Domingos kick)

Second quarter
SP- Jackson 81 pass from Rende (kick failed)
SP- Rende 1 run (pass failed)
B- Gregoire 43 pass from Landry (O’Driscoll kick)
SP- Jackson 57 run (Demers kick)
B- Ramos 3 run (kick blocked)
SP- Thurber 21 pass from Rende (kick blocked)

Third quarter
SP- Jackson 25 run (kick failed)
B- Ramos 2 run (O’Driscoll kick)
SP- Domingos 42 pass from Rende (Demers kick)

Fourth quarter
B- Ramos 1 run (O’Driscoll kick)
SP- Poole 4 run (Demers kick)

SOUTH PORTLAND—It’s safe to say that South Portland Red Riots have found their offense.

A ton of it.

Much to the chagrin of the Biddeford Tigers.

Friday evening at Martin Memorial Field, the Red Riots scored early, often, on the ground and through the air and as a result, boast a winning record for the first time this season.

South Portland junior Jaelen Jackson had a first half for the ages, throwing a touchdown pass, catching another, rushing for two more, nearly breaking a punt return for a score and for good measure, tacking on an interception on defense.

It took the Red Riots all of 22 seconds to take the lead, as Jackson connected with senior Ryan Thurber, who broke away for a 67-yard touchdown reception.

The Tigers, behind their junior running back Ivan Ramos, drew even, as he scored on a 2-yard run to tie it, but Jackson put South Portland on top to stay with a 17-yard rush and the hosts held a 14-7 advantage after one quarter.

Both teams then scored points with abandon in the second period, 38 of them to be precise.

After throwing for a score and running for another in the opening stanza, Jackson caught a TD pass to start the second quarter, an 81-yard bomb from senior Nate Rende. After a Jackson interception, Rende scored on a 1-yard run to make it 26-7, but Biddeford answered, as senior quarterback Jacob Landry found junior Colin Gregoire from 43-yards out.

Undaunted, the Red Riots came right back, as Jackson scored on a 57-yard dash and after a late Ramos 3-yard run, Rende hit a diving Thurber for a 21-yard touchdown with just seconds remaining and at halftime, South Portland held a 39-20 lead.

After the Tigers fumbled on the first play of the second half, Jackson scored his final touchdown, on a 25-yard run and after Ramos answered with a 2-yard rush, Rende connected with senior Alex Domingos for a 42-yard score and the advantage was 52-27 heading to the fourth period.

There, Ramos scored his final TD, a 1-yard run, before junior Johnny Poole answered with a 4-yard rush and the Red Riots closed out their 59-34 victory.

Jackson accounted for 287 yards and five touchdowns as South Portland improved to 2-1 and dropped Biddeford to 1-2 in the process.

“We have a lot of offensive weapons,” Jackson said. “A lot of guys people don’t know about, some great blockers and runners. This is a big confidence boost.”

Litmus test

Each team came in with a 1-1 record, looking to go to 2-1 and move up the standings.

Biddeford started with a 36-14 win a Deering, then fell at home to Kennebunk, 41-13.

South Portland opened with a 40-3 home loss to Class A powerhouse Scarborough, then got in the win column last Friday, 26-0, at Massabesic.

The teams last met in the 2019 Class B South quarterfinals, a 41-19 Red Riots’ triumph.

Friday, on a comfortable mid-September evening (62-degrees at kickoff), South Portland’s offense put it all together, while the Tigers did all they could to keep pace before ultimately falling short.

The Red Riots won the opening coin toss and in a rarity these days, opted the take the ball.

It proved to be a wise choice, as after senior Antonio Romero returned the opening kickoff to the South Portland 33, Jackson threw a quick pass to Thurber, who did the rest, breaking a pair of tackles, eluding another defender, then racing down the left sideline all the way into the end zone.

“(Junior) Nolan Hobbs, our tight end, cleaned a dude out and Ryan made the play up the field,” said Jackson.

Domingos added the extra point and with the game just 22 seconds old, the Red Riots had a 7-0 lead.

Biddeford started its first drive at its 35 and answered, needing seven plays.

After South Portland jumped offsides, Gregoire ran for three yards, but Landry threw incomplete, setting up third-and-2. Ramos then got the ball for the first time and hinted at a big game to come by spinning out of a tackle attempt behind the line of scrimmaging and breaking free for a 21-yard run and a first down at the Red Riots’ 36. Landry then hit junior Kaden Cadorette for three yards and a South Portland personal foul penalty advanced the ball 15 more yards for a first down at the 18. After Gregoire caught a pass for six yards, the Red Riots jumped offsides again to set up first-and-goal at the 7. Ramos ran for five yards, then he capped the drive with a 2-yard score and junior Patrick O’Driscoll added the extra point to tie it, 7-7, with 9:41 left in the first quarter.

South Portland got the ball back at its 33 and again drove 67 yards to paydirt, this time needing six plays to take the lead for good.

South Portland senior Finn O’Connell looks for running room. Hoffer photos.

Senior Finn O’Connell got things started with a 17-yard burst. Jackson then threw incomplete, but on the play, roughing the passer was called and the Red Riots had a first down at the Biddeford 35. Jackson broke free for 15 yards, then O’Connell ran for three. After Poole was held to no gain, South Portland faced third-and-7, but Jackson kept the ball and broke free up the middle and wasn’t tackled until he crossed the goal line for a 17-yard touchdown run with 7:21 to go in the first quarter. Domingos’ PAT put the Red Riots ahead, 14-7.

South Portland’s defense then stepped up, forcing a three-and-out, as Landry sandwiched incomplete passes around a six-yard Ramos run. Jackson then fielded O’Driscoll’s punt at his 31 and took off down the left sideline. Jackson appeared on the brink of a touchdown return, but he was ruled to step out of bounds at the Tigers’ 49 instead.

The Red Riots weren’t able to take advantage of the good field position, however.

After O’Connell ran for four yards, Jackson took off for 16 more and a first down at Biddeford’s 29. After an incomplete pass and a run for no gain, Jackson again threw incomplete and on fourth-and-10, Poole ran for just six yards and the Tigers took over on downs at their 23.

South Portland held Biddeford in check again, as after Ramos lost two yards, Landry twice threw incomplete, forcing a punt. O’Driscoll then punted the ball low, off one of his lineman’s shoulder pads and as a result, the Red Riots took over at the Tigers’ 42 with 3:47 left in the first.

They couldn’t take advantage, as Thurber ran for four yards, Rende picked up three, Poole gained one and on fourth-and-3, Rende only managed a yard, giving the ball back to Biddeford at its 32.

As the first period gave way to the second, the Tigers hoped to march to tie the score.

After Ramos ran for three yards, he picked up 11 and a first down at the 46. Gregoire was brought down by senior Amir Broadus for a two-yard loss. Then, on the final play of the opening stanza, Ramos caught a pass for six yards, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Biddeford moved the ball back to the 35, setting up third-and-21.

The second quarter started with Landry hitting Gregoire for 13 yards, but the Tigers had to punt and with 11:07 left before halftime, South Porland started at its 19.

One play and 11 seconds later, the Red Riots added to their lead.

Rende dropped back to pass and launched a bomb down the right sideline. Jackson ran the ball down near the boundary, caught it over his shoulder, managed to keep his balance and stay inbounds, then raced home to complete the 81-yard touchdown reception with 10:56 on the clock.

“I think the (defensive back) didn’t know how good an arm Rende had and I was able to outrun him,” Jackson said. “The ball fell right in my hands. I thought I might go out (of bounds), but I was able to tiptoe down the sidelines.”

Domingos’ extra point was off-target, but the lead was 20-7.

Biddeford junior Kaden Cadorette looks for running room between South Portland junior Johnny Poole (11) and senior Ryan Thurber.

The Tigers, starting from their 12, hoped to answer and started auspiciously, as Cadorette gained 10 yards to move the chains, but after Ramos ran for three yards and senior Andrew Ouellette caught a pass for a loss of a yard, Landry tried to throw the ball down the field, only to have Jackson step into the passing lane, intercept the throw and return it 17 yards to the Biddeford 18.

“That was just instinct,” Jackson said. “I read the quarterback and was able to jump the route.”

South Portland would need five plays to score again and add to its lead.

Consecutive three-yard runs from Romero were followed by a pass from Rende which Hobbs snared for eight yards and after he recovered his own fumble, a first-and-goal at the 4. O’Connell moved the ball to the 1, then Rende bulled home for the score. A two-point conversion pass was no good, but the Red Riots were up, 26-7.

The Tigers got the ball back at their 42 after a nice Cadorette return and a personal foul penalty on South Portland. Five plays and 1:58 later, Biddeford answered.

After Thurber held senior Caleb Janelle to no gain on a reception, Ramos ran for six yards, then Landry kept it for 10 more and a first down at the Red Riots’ 42. Ramos lost a yard, but on the next snap, Landry launched a deep pass just over Rende’s outstretched hand and into Gregoire’s breadbasket for a 43-yard score. O’Driscoll added the PAT to cut the deficit to 26-14 with 4:53 still to go in the half.

And there was plenty of offense still to come.

South Portland immediately answered, as it took over at its 43 after a nice kickoff return from senior Brady Frank and Jackson kept the ball and broke free to the left and he scored on a 57-yard rush with 4:34 on the clock. Junior Brady Demers kicked the extra point to make it 33-14.

The Tigers then started at their 25 with 4:27 remaining before the break and embarked on a 13-play scoring drive which chewed up 3:28, but not enough time, as it turned out.

A three-yard pass from Landry to Ramos got things started. After another offsides penalty on the Red Riots, Ramos ran for seven yards and Landry scrambled for five more. After Landry was held to no gain, senior Bryant Mawhinney caught a pass for three yards, setting up fourth-and-2. Ramos moved the chains with a 12-yard run, then Landry and Gregoire hooked up for eight more. A five-yard Landry-to-Mawhinney pass set up first down at South Portland’s 27. After a seven-yard run by Cadorette, Ramos gained nine for a first down at the 11. Landry ran for seven yards, then kept it for one more before Ramos did the rest, scoring on a 3-yard run with 59.7 seconds showing. O’Driscoll’s PAT was blocked, but Biddeford had pulled within 33-20 and appeared primed to take momentum to the half.

Guess again.

Six seconds later, South Portland took over at its 49 after a 32-yard kickoff return from Frank and there proved to be plenty of time for the Red Riots to add one more TD.

After Rende threw incomplete, he hit Thurber for 19 yards and a first down at the Tigers’ 32. After O’Connell caught a pass for 11 yards, Rende twice threw incomplete, but with just 7.9 seconds to go, he lofted a pass down the left side and Thurber dove, caught the ball and tumbled into the end zone for a highlight reel catch. The extra point was blocked, but South Portland, after one of the most prolific scoring halves in recent history, had a 39-20 advantage.

The Red Riots managed 330 yards of offense in the first 24 minutes, as Jackson stole the show with 105 yards rushing, 81 receiving and 67 passing, good for four scores. Rende was impressive as well, going 5-of-8 passing for 140 yards and two scores. Thurber caught three balls for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

Ramos gained 85 yards and scored twice on 14 carries to lead Biddeford.

The scoring pace slowed slightly in the third quarter as South Portland extended its lead.

The Tigers got the ball first, but didn’t keep it long, as on first down from the 29, Ramos fumbled and Poole recovered.

South Portland junior Jaelen Jackson finds running room.

The Red Riots took over at the Biddeford 25 and immediately made the visitors pay, as Jackson ran to the left, found room and again, didn’t stop until he crossed the goal line. The extra point was no good, but just 20 seconds into the second half, the lead was extended to 45-20.

The Tigers’ second possession of the third quarter did result in points after a 14-play, 68-yard, 4:22 drive.

Ramos got things started with an 11-yard burst. After Landry threw incomplete, South Portland jumped offsides and Ramos moved the chains with a five-yard run. After Landry scrambled for three yards, Ramos caught a screen pass and picked up 14 yards for a first down at South Portland’s 30. Ramos then ran for nine yards and after an incomplete pass, Ramos ran for six yards and a first down at the 15. An illegal block penalty backed Biddeford up 10 yards and senior Blake Kierstead sacked Landry for a loss of eight more yards, but after Ramos ran for four yards and Landry threw incomplete, the Tigers converted fourth-and-24, as Landry found some room and raced 27 yards to the 2. Ramos then did the rest, scoring on a 2-yard rush and with 7:11 to play in the third period, after O’Driscoll added the PAT, Biddeford cut the deficit to 45-27.

As they had all night, the Red Riots answered, marching 80 yards on six plays in 2:47 to get the points right back.

O’Connell gained one yard on first down, then Rende hit Frank for five and Hobbs for 14 over the middle for a first down at the 40. After Poole was held to no gain, Rende found Thurber for 18 yards, then Rende threw to Domingos, who fought through multiple tackle attempts and took the ball to the house for a 42-yard touchdown with 4:24 on the clock. Demers’ extra point made it 52-27.

The Tigers couldn’t respond, as Landry hit Ramos and Ouellette for three-yards apiece, sandwiched around a one-yard loss by Ramos, forcing a punt.

South Portland got the ball back at its 34, but for the first time, went three-and-out, as Domingos caught a pass for three-yards, O’Connell ran for one yard and Rende threw incomplete. Disaster then struck, as a bad snap prevented junior Josh Sparacio from punting and Biddeford started at the Red Riots 24 with 1:02 to play in the third.

It would take nine plays and 3:18, but the Tigers would score their final touchdown.

After senior Jack Cole dropped Gregoire for a two-yard loss, Ramos ran for nine yards on the final play of the third period.

On the first play of the fourth, senior Evan Saunders stuffed Landry for no gain, but on fourth down, Ramos gained six yards to the 11. Saunders then sacked Landry for a nine-yard loss, but Ramos gained 11, Cadorette picked up three and fourth-and-5, Mawhinney caught a five-yard pass to the 1. Ramos then scored his final touchdown, a 1-yard dive, and O’Driscoll’s extra point pulled Biddeford within 52-34 with 9:44 to play.

Starting at its 20 after a touchback, South Portland wasn’t able to respond, as it took a delay of game penalty, Rende ran for three yards, Domingos picked up four, then Rende threw incomplete.

With 7:56 left, Biddeford still entertained faint comeback hopes when it started at its 49, but after Landry threw incomplete, then ran for one yard, Landry threw incomplete again, forcing a punt.

The Red Riots had one last scoring drive in them, as they took over at their 22 with 7:07 to play. Six plays and 2:58 later, they found the end zone one final time.

After Romero lost two yards, Poole picked up nine and Jackson’s final rush resulted in a nine-yard pickup and a first down at the 38. Poole then nearly broke it, picking up 51 yards before being brought down at the Tigers’ 11. After Romero ran for seven yards, Poole capped the drive with a 4-yard burst. Demers’ PAT made it 59-34 with 4:09 still to play.

Biddeford went three-and-out on its final drive, as some reserves saw some action.

South Portland then took a knee on three straight plays and that brought the curtain down on its decisive victory.

“Fifty-nine points is impressive,” said Red Riots coach Aaron Filieo said. “Offensively, we hadn’t been able to put a lot together, so it was nice to be able to do that tonight. Last week, I thought our defense really rose to the challenge and it was a little disheartening to see the defense play the way they played. We’ll have to figure that out. I don’t know if that was a fundamental thing or a mentality thing, but we’ll address it because we can’t continue to play like that.”

Jackson rushed six times and gained 139 yards with three TDs. He caught just the one pass, but it went for an 81-yard score. Jackson went 1-of-4 passing, good for 67 yards and yet another touchdown.

“The line was blocking very well, I was able to break some tackles and get in the end zone,” Jackson said. “My cutbacks were effective. I was able to break some arm tackles. I was really pumped up this week.”

“Jaelen is special,” said Filieo. “He’s a dynamic player without question. He definitely went off and it was fun to see.”

Rende wound up 10-of-15 passing for 222 yards and three touchdowns. He ran four times for 8 yard and a score.

Thurber caught four passes for 125 yards and two TDs.

Poole gained 70 yards on six rushes and scored a touchdown.

O’Connell ran for 29 yards on six carries and caught one pass for 11 yards.

Domingos had two catches for 45 yards and a touchdown.

South Portland finished with 501 yards of offense and scored its most points since posting 61 in a victory over Noble back on Sept. 27, 2014.

“Thurber made a really nice run, I thought Rende threw the ball well and Domingos had a nice run,” said Filieo. “We’ve been run-heavy up until this point, so it was good to put the ball in the air and see some guys do their stuff. The identity of this team is still unknown. How do go from shutting out an opponent last week to giving up five touchdowns tonight? We’ll address that and figure it out. We learned a lot tonight, some good and some bad. That’s where you should be in week three.”

The Red Riots overcame six penalties for 40 yards.

Biddeford finished with 330 yards of offense.

Ramos had himself a game, gaining 144 yards on 26 carries, scoring four times.

Landry finished 16-of-27 passing for 113 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Landry also rushed nine times for 54 yards.

Gregoire caught four passes for 70 yards with a TD.

The Tigers were flagged three times for 40 yards.

Midway point looms

Biddeford and South Portland will be halfway through their regular season schedule next weekend.

The Tigers return home to host 1-2 Sanford.

The Red Riots have a doozy of a test next Friday when they go to 2-1 Marshwood.

“They’re very good, but I think we can play with them,” Jackson said. “They have a good quarterback and some running backs, but I don’t know if they’ll be able to stop us.”

“That’s a huge test, but we welcome the challenge,” Filieo said. “We need to play mentally tougher. That’s what it’s going to come down to, especially on defense. We talk about having a championship-level mindset and we’re not there yet.”

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

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