PORTLAND—Short-handed and pushed to the brink, Portland’s boys’ soccer team produced its finest hour Friday afternoon at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

The eighth-seeded Bulldogs hosted rival Cheverus, the No. 9 seed, in a Class A South prelim and had to do so without several starters who were sidelined due to COVID-complications.

Portland then had its hands full keeping the determined Stags off the board, but managed to do so.

The problem was, the Bulldogs couldn’t score either and 80 minutes of regulation didn’t produce a single goal.

So the contest went to overtime and there, just over four minutes, in, junior Nick Paterniti etched his name into program legend by scoring the game-winner, barely, to give Portland an inspirational 1-0 victory.

The Bulldogs improved to 10-5 on the year, ended Cheverus’ campaign at 5-8-2 and in the process, advanced to take on either top-ranked Windham (14-1) or No. 16 Westbrook (2-13) in the quarterfinal round next week.

“I’m just so happy for these kids,” said longtime Portland coach Rocco Frenzilli. “They put every ounce of energy they had into this. Everybody’s work rate was off the charts. It was a great game. Two evenly matched teams, chances both ways. It was going to come down to one goal.”

Dark horses

Cheverus and Portland showed glimpses of greatness during the regular season, but couldn’t sustain it.

The Stags started with a 2-0 home loss to South Portland, then earned a 2-1 victory at Portland, lost at home to Marshwood (3-1), blanked visiting Massabesic (7-0), fell at home to Gorham (5-0), settled for a scoreless draw at Kennebunk, then lost at home to Deering (2-1), fell at Falmouth (5-3), settled for a scoreless draw at Bonny Eagle, dropped a 3-2 home decision to Windham, then shut out host Biddeford, 2-0, blanked visiting Thornton Academy (3-0), won at Westbrook (5-1) and nearly upset visiting Scarborough in the finale Tuesday, before letting a two-goal second half lead slip away in a 3-2 overtime setback.

The Bulldogs got off to a great start with a 1-0 home win over Gorham, then lost at home to Cheverus (2-1) and at Windham (2-0). Portland turned things around with a 4-1 home victory over Biddeford, then downed host Thornton Academy (3-0) and visiting Westbrook (7-0) before suffering a tough 2-1 overtime loss at Scarborough and a 1-0 home loss to South Portland. The Bulldogs got back on track with a 3-0 victory at Sanford, then blanked host Massabesic (12-0), visiting Noble (9-0) and host Kennebunk (4-0) and after a 4-1 setback at Marshwood, ended the season on a high note with a 3-1 home victory over Falmouth Tuesday.

In the regular season meeting Sept. 8 at Fitzpatrick Stadium, sophomore Martin Kalala gave Portland a halftime lead, but in the second half, senior Brady Hoglund and sophomore Jack Kingsley scored goals and Cheverus pulled it out.

The teams had met six prior times in the playoffs (see sidebar, below), with the Stags’ 1-0 win in the 2014 Western A preliminary round the most recent. Cheverus rode that victory to an improbable championship run.

This time around, on a picture perfect late-October afternoon (69 degrees at kickoff with a light wind), it would be the Bulldogs prevailing by a 1-0 score on a day in which adversity reigned.

Cheverus junior Carter Hoglund tries to keep the ball away from Portland junior Nick Paterniti early in the Bulldogs’ 1-0 victory Friday. Paterniti scored the winning goal in overtime. Hoffer photos.

Just hours before game-time, Portland learned that several players would be unavailable and as a result, an all-hands-on-deck approach was necessitated.

“We’re down six or seven guys, some key players,” said Frenzilli. “Hats off to our administration. They put it together today to make sure this could happen for us. We were in scramble mode, but (athletic director) Lance (Johnson) made sure everything was safe and it worked out.”

In the fifth minute, each team had their best scoring chance of the first half.

First, Paterniti set up junior Brady Toher for a great look in close, but Cheverus junior goalkeeper Wyatt Roy made a kick save, which led to a corner kick, which was cleared away.

The Stags then transitioned to offense and Hoglund set up junior James Baur, but Bulldogs senior goalkeeper Jose Kiala made the stop.

Midway through the half, Paterniti served up a corner kick into a dangerous spot in front, but a Cheverus defender headed the ball away at the last moment.

After Kiala saved a Baur header, Baur set up junior Collin Plalum for a great look in front in the 30th minute, but Plalum’s one-timer was snared by a leaping Kiala.

Late in the half, Roy broke up a Paterniti cross to Toher and at the other end, a Hoglund free kick from the top of the box sailed just high, sending the contest to the break still scoreless.

Opportunities picked up in the second half, but neither team could find the net.

Portland junior Brady Toher tries to keep the ball away from Cheverus senior Liam Fedrizzi as Bulldogs senior Cristo Vumpa looks for a pass.

Just two minutes in, Portland nearly went on top, as senior Cristo Vumpa set up sophomore Max Kierstead for a one-touch chip, but it went just high.

Paterniti found some room with just over 35 minutes remaining, but Roy made the save.

Roy then booted the ball way down field and Baur ran it down and with Kiala out of the cage, had a chance to finish, but he missed wide.

With 26:52 to go, Roy made a tremendous diving save to rob Toher.

After Hoglund had a shot saved by Kiala, Kiala broke up a rush by Cheverus senior Emmet Scheule.

The goalies weren’t the only ones making saves, with 18:35 left, Paterniti fired a shot on target, but Stags senior Odan Strock cleared it off the line.

After Roy saved a shot from sophomore Ford Myers at one end, junior Carter Hoglund’s bid for the lead at the other was denied by Kiala.

With 16:12 to go, Toher got free in the box, momentarily, before his shot was blocked by Cheverus senior Kyle Lamberson.

At the other end, Baur set up Carter Hoglund at the far post, but he couldn’t get his foot on the ball.

With 9:04 remaining, a free kick from Bulldogs junior Oliver Hettenbach was on target, but Roy made the save.

Roy then robbed Toher point blank three minutes later and sprawled to deny Vumpa’s rebound bid.

Down the stretch, Carter Hoglund and Baur were off-target, Paterniti had a free kick knocked down by Roy and cleared and Paterniti missed wide, sending the contest to overtime.

In the high school soccer playoffs, teams play up to two 15-minute ,”sudden victory” overtimes and if no one scores, penalty kicks decide the winner.

PKs wouldn’t be necessary Friday, as Portland put an end to things rather quickly.

The first chance of OT produced the game’s first goal and Paterniti showed off his myriad skills to get the job done.

Paterniti took possession about 35 yards out, managed to settle the ball and get past a defender, then, with Roy coming up to cut off the angle, Paterniti sent a shot to the keeper’s left that got past him, but appeared bound to either go just wide of the post or hit it.

Indeed, the ball did hit the post.

The inside of the post, and at 5:42 p.m., it bounced off and in.

“I received the ball around the 30, chipped it over one of their players, chested it, took a touch and hit it,” said Paterniti. “I thought it had a 50-50 chance. I started running and it was sheer happiness when it went in.”

“I don’t know how Nick snuck that one in on the inside of that post against a very, very good goalkeeper,” Frenzilli said. “When he touched the ball a couple times, I saw some things open up for him. I thought the shot went wide, but it went in and hit the back of the net. I’m so happy for him.”

Portland celebrates its game winning goal.

The Bulldogs then celebrated the extension of their season.

“It’s been a whirlwind for sure,” said Paterniti. “We came in wanting to work as a team, even knowing we didn’t have all the team members. I learned we were missing about half our starters, but some players who don’t usually get a lot of minutes stepped up big-time today. Credit to Cheverus for playing an amazing game. I was confident in our abilities, but I knew Cheverus was a great team and would be a handful. We just wanted to go 100 percent all the time and keep pressuring.”

“At times in the midfield, Cheverus controlled the ball and we were on our heels, but the kids weathered it and bent, but didn’t break,” Frenzilli said.

Portland finished with an 9-5 edge in shots, got five saves from Kiala and had a 5-1 advantage in corner kicks.

Hard to say goodbye

Cheverus got seven saves from Roy, who finished his season the way he played all year, standing on his head.

The Stags just couldn’t put the ball in the net.

“We didn’t have our best finishing day,” lamented Cheverus coach Bill LeBlanc. “We came in here expecting to win the game and they were a little short-handed, but just we couldn’t find our touch. At halftime, I told the guys it’s almost like we were playing not to lose. We didn’t have that sense of urgency. I thought on the goal, people are tired and you need to make an effort to block the shot, but he hit it well. I’m happy for Portland. They’re a great squad. Rocky does a great job with them. Good luck to them going forward.”

The Stags will be hard-hit by graduation, as the likes of Lamberson, Schuele, Strock and Brady Hoglund, the last Hoglund in a line of family standouts, depart, along with eight others.

“It’s a good group of seniors,” said LeBlanc. They’re great kids. They’re taking it hard.”

Cheverus figures to be back in the hunt in 2022, however.

“We’re always consistently right there,” said LeBlanc. “We’ve got a good group of underclassmen and Wyatt will be back in goal. We’ll see.”

Quarterfinal quest

Portland lost, 2-0, at Windham back on Sept. 11. The teams have played twice previously in the playoffs, with both games going to overtime and each squad winning once.

The Bulldogs blanked visiting Westbrook, 7-0, on Sept. 18. Portland is 1-2 all-time versus the Blue Blazes in the postseason, with a 1-0 loss in the 2008 Western A quarterfinals the most recent.

“We just have to keep this energy up going,” said Paterniti. “We have to play simple and keep believing.”

“It’s sweet to get through and get to play again,” Frenzilli said. “We’re playing with house money now. We’ll go up there and see what we can do. We’ll rest over the weekend and come back Monday and piece it together.”

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

Previous Cheverus-Portland playoff results

2014 Western A preliminary round
@ Cheverus 1 Portland 0

2011 Western A quarterfinals
Cheverus 3 @ Portland 1

2010 Western A quarterfinals
@ Portland 6 Cheverus 0

2009 Western A quarterfinals
@ Portland 1 Cheverus 0

2007 Western A prelimnary round
@ Cheverus 1 Portland 0

1994 Western A quarterfinals
@ Portland 4 Cheverus 1

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