SOUTH PORTLAND — After winning the 105th Battle of the Bridge on Saturday against South Portland in their final road game of the regular season, the Portland Bulldogs have a straightforward plan – play at home for as long as possible.

Portland, now 7-0 after their 32-7 victory over South Portland, is atop the Class B South Heal point standings and appears to be locked in as the No. 1 seed. That means after the Bulldogs host Lewiston in their regular-season finale Friday night, they could play three regional playoff games and ultimately a state championship game at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

It’s quite a turnaround from 2019, when the Bulldogs were 1-7 and took their lumps while playing many freshmen and sophomores.

“We learned a lot from that 1-7 season. It doesn’t feel good to be 1-7. To turn it around and be 7-0 is exactly what we planned to do,” said senior Aidan DiMillo. “States or bust for us right now. We’ve got home-field advantage. That’s perfect. We love playing at home.”

DiMillo made a one-handed interception of an errant Nate Rende pass and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown, then caught the 2-point conversion pass, to give Portland a 20-0 halftime lead.

The Bulldogs allowed only 159 yards, forced two turnovers and blocked a punt that set up one of three short touchdown runs by Brandon Boyle (17 carries, 72 yards).

“We had to hang our hat defensively and swarm to the ball,” said Portland Coach Jason McLeod. “We forced turnovers. We didn’t turn over the ball on offense and we did what we’re supposed to do to win the game.”

South Portland (3-4) was in position to get back into the game after Antonio Romero returned the second-half kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown.

After a defensive stop by the Red Riots, Portland punter Anthony Thach was able to escape the rush following an errant snap and, on the run, got off a 48-yard kick that rolled dead at the South Portland 5. Thach made a similar play after bobbling a punt snap at the end of the first half.

South Portland did get two first downs, but the momentum turned back in favor of Portland after a strong surge by the defense stood up Romero in the backfield for a 4-yard loss. Romero responded by punching a Portland player in the helmet and was ejected.

Andrew Brewer then sacked Jaelen Jackson for an 8-yard loss, and South Portland’s ensuing punt was blocked by Xander Smith. Portland took over at the 17, and Boyle scored four plays later.

“We didn’t help ourselves at all and it’s been something we’ve been trying to work on all year. In a game like this, you just can’t take the bait, and our kids took the bait and we ended up on the short end of that stick more times than we could recover from,” said South Portland Coach Aaron Filieo.

South Portland went backward on its next possession, too, giving Portland another short field. A 16-yard completion form Grant Crosby (7 of 12, 119 yards) to Reegan Buck and a 20-yard burst by Boyle set up Boyle’s third score of the game.

Portland opened the game by scoring two quick touchdowns – a 35-yard pass from Crosby to Nathan Isajar and a 2-yard run by Boyle.

South Portland started out by alternating its quarterbacks, but that plan was derailed when Rende suffered an apparent shoulder injury late in the first half. Jackson, a junior, played the rest of the way, finishing 7 of 13 for 51 yards passing and gaining 39 yards on 14 carries, many of which were scrambling ad-libs after pass protection broke down.

South Portland still has the all-time edge in the series, 56-46-3.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.