BOX SCORE

Marshwood 35 Portland 0

M- 13 8 0 14- 35
P- 0 0 0 0- 0

First quarter
M- Goodwin 4 run (K. Cougler kick)
M- Goodwin 3 run (kick failed)

Second quarter
M- Sullivan 1 run (Sullivan pass to Reuning)

Third quarter
No scoring

Fourth quarter
M- Goodwin 2 run (kick failed)
M- Goodwin 1 run (Goodwin rush)

PORTLAND—A season of promise and dominance ended in abject agony Saturday evening at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

After running roughshod through the opposition for 10 weeks, the top-ranked Portland Bulldogs met their match in the Class B South Final, as the third-seeded Marshwood Hawks, with their impressive championship pedigree in tow, played a nearly perfect game and controlled play from start to finish.

Despite losing three times this fall, including a two-touchdown home setback to the Bulldogs last month, Marshwood, the three-time reigning state champion, took the ball to start the game and drove 80 yards for the only score it would need, a 4-yard touchdown run from senior Andrew Goodwin.

Before the first quarter was over, the Hawks struck again, as Goodwin scored on a 3-yard scamper for a 13-0 advantage.

Portland, which played from ahead all season, couldn’t answer and Marshwood added to its lead before the half, marching 93 yards, capped by a 1-yard dive from senior quarterback Aidan Sullivan, for a commanding 21-0 lead.

The Bulldogs had a promising drive going to start the second half, as bruising senior quarterback Grant Crosby willed his team deep into Hawks’ territory, but the march ultimately stalled.

Marshwood then embarked on another long drive of its own and early in the fourth period, ended all doubt on a 2-yard TD rush from Goodwin.

Goodwin added one final score, a 1-yard run, and the Hawks went on to a surprisingly decisive 35-0 victory.

Goodwin ran for 134 yards and four touchdowns as the Hawks improved to 8-3, won their sixth regional title in seven years, advanced to take on Windham (9-0) in the Class B state final Saturday of next week at Fitzpatrick Stadium at a time to be announced, and in the process, handed Portland its first loss in 11 outings.

“That was awesome,” said Marshwood coach/dynasty builder Alex Rotsko. “I can’t say enough about the kids. They played smart and well. Near perfect. The last couple weeks we’ve just played like a different team.”

“There’s a lot of life lessons in the game,” said Bulldogs coach Jason McLeod. “It’s going to sting, but at the same time, we still have each other. We’re a brotherhood.”

No answers

Marshwood has been the gold standard in Class B for several years and Portland crashed the party this season, so it came as no surprise to see the Bulldogs host the Hawks with hardware on the line Saturday.

After making a statement on Opening Night with a 30-18 win at Kennebunk, Portland blanked rival Deering (40-0), handled visiting Noble (21-6), won at Gorham (35-8), earned its biggest win of the season at reigning Class B champion Marshwood (28-14), then dominated visiting Biddeford, 55-8, before beating host South Portland, 32-7, in the “Battle of the Bridge” and closing with a 42-0 home win over Lewiston.

In the quarterfinals, the Bulldogs put forth their most impressive offensive show to date, scoring nine touchdowns in a 63-14 home win over No. 8 Biddeford. Last week, in the semifinals, it was Portland’s defense that was overwhelming, holding No. 4 Noble in check almost the whole way in a 28-6 victory.

Marshwood averaged almost 46 points per game in its five regular season victories, but the Hawks lost to Class A finalist Thornton Academy, Portland and Kennebunk to wind up third in Class B South.

“We struggled so much early,” Rotsko said. “We lost a couple games and didn’t play well. I said to them, ‘Who are you guys?’ Then, all of a sudden, it kicked in at the right time.”

The Hawks began their playoff run by eliminating No. 6 Gorham (42-20), then avenged one of their losses last week in the semifinals with an impressive 42-21 victory at No. 2 Kennebunk.

In the teams’ regular season meeting Oct. 1, the Bulldogs led, 14-7, at halftime, 21-7 after three quarters, then put it away with a touchdown in the fourth period. Portland’s defense excelled, the Bulldogs blocked a punt and senior Brandon Boyle ran for a couple scores, while junior Kennedy Charles had a TD run and Crosby hit senior Aidan DiMillo for a score.

Portland and Marshwood split two prior playoff meetings, with the Bulldogs winning in the 1995 Western A semifinals (34-23) and the Hawks pitching a 19-0 shutout in the 2006 Western A quarterfinals.

The contest was originally scheduled for Friday evening, but a conflict with the Maine Celtics season opener meant the locker rooms at the Portland Exposition Building weren’t available and kickoff was pushed back 24 hours.

Saturday, on a night which started dry at 54 degrees, but soon turned rainy, Marshwood immediately seized control and never let up.

Portland won the opening coin toss, but deferred possession to the second half and the Hawks quickly pounced for the lead.

Marshwood senior Cam Cornett rides a block to big yardage early in the Hawks’ 35-0 victory over Portland in Saturday’s Class B South Final. Hoffer photos.

Marshwood started at its 20 and in eight plays and 3 minutes, 22 seconds, drove 80 yards to break the ice.

Goodwin got the game’s first carry and picked up four yards before junior Ty Cougler moved the chains with a seven-yard run, then Cougler gained 11 more for a first down at the 42. After Goodwin ran for six yards, with a five-yard facemask penalty tacked on, Sullivan threw his first pass and connected with senior Chris Reuning for 15 yards and a first down at Portland’s 32. After Cornett ran for four yards, a holding penalty backed the Hawks to the 40, setting up second-and-18, but on a reverse, Cornett broke free and wasn’t corralled until he reached the Bulldogs’ 4, after a 36-yard burst. Goodwin then capped the impressive opening drive with a 4-yard touchdown run and with 8:34 to go, Marshwood was ahead for good.

“Playing from ahead was important, so they couldn’t fight back, “said Goodwin. “We spread the ball around and I think that’s what led to the win.”

“We just executed really well on that first drive,” Rotsko said. “We were actually going to defer, but we wound up getting the ball and the wind, which was nice. When you start a game like that, you just build confidence.”

Junior Kevin Cougler added the extra point to make it 7-0 and suddenly, Portland was in a most unfamiliar situation.

Playing from behind.

The Bulldogs started their first possession at their 27, but went three-and-out, as after a false start penalty proved to be an inauspicious beginning, Crosby hit senior Nathan Isajar for three yards, then Crosby ran for eight yards, but on third-and-4, Goodwin tackled Boyle for no gain, forcing a punt, which resulted in a huge return from Cornett, 61 yards to be exact, setting up the Hawks at the Portland 14.

It then took Marshwood five plays and 2:15, but it was able to add to its lead.

After Ty Cougler ran for eight yards, Goodwin gained two to set up first-and-goal from the 4. Portland got a big defensive play from seniors Franco Katunda and Anthony Thach, who dropped Cougler for a three-yard loss, but after Goodwin got four yards back, he got the call again on third-and-goal from the 3 and bulled up the gut into the end zone with 3:55 to go in the opening stanza. The PAT was wide right, but the Hawks had a 13-0 advantage.

Portland began to march on its next possession, which started at its 25, but ultimately came up with nothing.

Portland senior quarterback Grant Crosby throws a pass.

After Boyle gained six yards, Crosby hit Isajar on a quick slant for 15 yards and a first down at the 46. Boyle then gained 11 yards after a nice cutback move to put the ball in Marshwood territory, at the 43, but an illegal block penalty doomed the Bulldogs, setting up first-and-22, and after Crosby threw an 11-yard screen pass to senior James Gignac, he threw incomplete and Boyle only gained two yards on third-and-11, forcing a punt.

Thatch’s punt pinned the Hawks at their 7, but in a drive that culminated the first period, when it was still dry, and carried deep into the second, when the rain was coming down rapidly, Marshwood moved 93 yards in 11 plays and 4:52 to complete put a stranglehold on the contest.

Cornett gained six yards on the last play of the first quarter, then Goodwin broke free for 28 yards and a first down at the 41. After Cornett picked up seven more, Goodwin gained 13 for a first down at the Bulldogs’ 39. After a false start penalty on the Hawks, Sullivan threw a ball up for grabs deep down the middle of the field, but a heads up play by Cornett, who acted like a defensive back instead of a receiver, prevented an interception and kept the drive alive. Another false start set up second-and-20, but Cornett ran for nine yards, then Goodwin moved the chains with a 21 yard burst to the 19. After Cornett got his team close with a 16-yard run to the 3, Goodwin picked up two yards before Sullivan did the rest, scoring from the 1 with 7:28 left before halftime.

Sullivan then threw a contested two-point conversion pass which Reuning managed to catch to stretch the lead to 21-0.

The Bulldogs started their next drive from their 10 and Crosby ran for 13 yards, then gained four more, before Boyle ran for eight and sophomore Reegan Buck was held by Sullivan for no gain. That set the stage for Crosby to be intercepted by senior Tim Gori, who brought the ball back to the Portland 27.

But the Hawks couldn’t capitalize, as after Goodwin picked up four yards, Cornett was held to a yard before fumbling and Boyle recovered for the Bulldogs with 3:33 to go before halftime.

That turnover didn’t spark a comeback, however, as Portland couldn’t convert it into points.

After Buck gained three yards and Crosby picked up eight for a first down at the 33, Kevin Cougler dropped Boyle for a three-yard loss and after Boyle ran for five yards, Buck gained two before fumbling. The ball was recovered by Portland junior Gavin Bennett, but the Bulldogs had to punt.

Marshwood got the ball back at its 40 with 39 seconds to go, but was content to take a knee and take a 21-0 lead to the break.

In the first 24 minutes, the Hawks out-gained the Bulldogs, 191 yards to 77.

Portland got possession to start the second half and embarked on its most promising drive of the night, but ultimately, came away with nothing.

Starting at their 29, the Bulldogs turned to Crosby, who bulled forward for 12 yards and a first down, then, after a three-yard run from Boyle, Crosby picked up seven more with a second effort, then broke free for 13 yards and a first down at the Marshwood 36. Senior Hayden Trull then dropped Boyle for a two-yard loss and after Crosby kept the ball for three yards and Boyle picked up four, setting up fourth-and-5 from the 31, Crosby threw a quick hitter over the middle to Katunda for 13 yards and a first down at the 18.

But the drive would stall, as Ty Cougler tackled Crosby for no gain, Boyle gained a yard and after Crosby threw incomplete, the quarterback was held to no gain and despite taking nearly seven-and-a-half minutes off the clock, Portland had nothing to show for it.

The Hawks got the ball back at their 17 and promptly drove for the dagger score, an 83-yard, 12-play, 6:11 drive which used up the remainder of the third quarter and part of the fourth as well.

Cornett got things started with a 22-yard burst. After Goodwin ran for three yards, Ty Cougler gained seven for a first down at the 49. Cornett was stuffed for no gain, but Sullivan kept the ball for 11 yards and a first down at the Bulldogs’ 40. After Cornett was held to no gain, Sullivan moved the chains again with a 10-yard run, then Goodwin broke free for 11 on the quarter’s final play, setting up first down at the 19.

On the first play of the final stanza, Goodwin ran for four yards, then Sullivan scrambled for nine and a first-and-goal from the 6. After Goodwin ran for four yards, he got the call again and with 10:23 to go, Goodwin scored his third touchdown, from the 2. The extra point was no good, but Marshwood had a comfortable 27-0 advantage.

Portland got the ball back at its 40, but on first down, Crosby’s pass was intercepted by Ty Cougler, who returned it 23 yards to the Bulldogs’ 43.

The Hawks started their final scoring drive with 10:06 to go and in six plays and 4:10, marched for yet another touchdown.

After Ty Cougler ran for 14 yards, Cornett gained four and Goodwin picked up nine for a first down at the 16. Cougler then gained six yards and Goodwin picked up nine more, setting up first-and-goal from the 1. Goodwin then capped his magical night by scoring from the 1 with 5:56 remaining.

For good measure, Goodwin scored on the two-point conversion rush for a 35-0 lead, which induced a mercy rule running clock.

Portland’s final drive of the season commenced at its 29, but Boyle was held to no gain, Crosby only rushed for one yard, then threw incomplete and a bad punt snap gave Marshwood the ball at the Bulldogs’ 34.

All that was left for the Hawks was to run one final play, a seven-yard rush by Trull, and the clock ran out.

At 8:51 p.m., Marshwood was able to celebrate its 35-0 victory.

“We added a whole new defense this week and we shut them down,” Goodwin said. “We played with more heart than we have in the past. We knew who we had to stop.”

“It’s unbelievable,” Rotsko said. “We’re very proud of the kids.”

Following the game, Marshwood shows off the regional championship plaque.

The Hawks finished with 319 yards, only turned the ball over once and overcame four penalties for 27 yards.

Goodwin put on a show by gaining 134 yards on 19 carries, with a whopping four touchdowns.

“Andrew always runs hard,” said Rotsko. “He’s probably been our biggest surprise this year. He’s a senior, but he did a terrific job. He’s our punter, he’s on our kickoff team, he’s our best guy covering kicks. He might be our most valuable guy. We’d be in trouble without him.”

Cornett finished with 105 yards on 11 attempts and Ty Cougler added 50 yards on seven carries.

Sullivan completed 1-of-2 passes for 15 yards and ran four times for 31 yards and a TD.

Reuning had the lone reception of the game, good for 15 yards.

Marshwood, which beat Brunswick to win the 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019 Class B state titles and downed Skowhegan in 2017, looks to win yet another Gold Ball, perhaps its most improbable of all, when it goes up against a Windham squad which barely got past Lawrence in double-overtime of its Class B North Final Saturday.

The teams didn’t play this year.

“The coaches talked about our 2016 team that didn’t make it to states and we didn’t want to be that team, so it’s a great feeling to go to states,” Goodwin said. “A lot of us didn’t think we’d make it this far. We have to play with all the heart we have. Everything has to be left on the field.”

Picking up the pieces

Portland, which was an unstoppable force prior to Saturday, only gained 136 yards, turned the ball over twice and was flagged four times for 27 yards.

Crosby bowed out by running 11 times for 69 yards and completing 4-of-9 passes for 42 yards with two interceptions.

Boyle, who ran roughshod over the opposition all season, was limited to 35 yards on a dozen carries.

Isajar had two catches for 18 yards, Katunda had one for 13 and Gignac one for 11.

“What (the Hawks have) done over the past four years, if not longer, proves that on any given day, they can give you what they want to give you,” McLeod said. “They proved it tonight. We just ran into a squad that did every facet of the game better than we did today. They were more prepared than we were. The score reflected that. Hats off to them. I don’t think we were overconfident. They’re just very well coached, they found some areas they were able to exploit and they did few bad things and made few mistakes. We had a hard time counter-acting them or containing them. We had some spurts there, but we couldn’t put it all together, simple as that. For as well as they did offensively sustaining drives, they did just the same on defense. They forced us to make mistakes and capitalized on them.”

Portland has one game remaining, its annual Thanksgiving Day showdown versus rival Deering, but even if the Bulldogs are able to take out their frustrations on the Rams, it won’t do much to ease the pain.

“We feel like we should be there playing in the state game next Saturday, but we have each other,” McLeod said. “The guys came to work all year and we got better. We’re lucky we have a chance to end the season in a positive way in the Turkey Day game.

“Not to look too far ahead, but we have a lot of guys coming back and we have a chance to build off this season and do something really great next year.”

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

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