SOUTH PORTLAND — Any time a team can open its season beating a four-time defending state champion, that’s a special win.

But what makes South Portland’s 35-26 home victory against Class B powerhouse Marshwood even more impressive is that the Red Riots had to overcome health woes during their practice week – and then during the game itself.

South Portland already knew it would be without senior two-way lineman Josh Lamour. Coming off what South Portland Coach Aaron Filieo called “a great preseason,” Lamour was hospitalized because of a stomach virus. (He lost 10 pounds but has been back to practice this week and is expected to play Saturday at Gorham). Then, just before Wednesday’s practice, six more linemen were hit with a stomach ailment and had to be sent home.

“One by one, we got all six of them back, but it was pretty touch-and-go and they missed a lot of practice and a lot of prep time,” Filieo said. “You go into (the) week excited, it’s Week 1, you get to host the defending champs, and then all of a sudden guys start dropping like flies.”

Filieo said his senior-dominated skill players, such as quarterback Jaelen Jackson and running back Johnny Poole, were understandably a bit nervous thinking about playing Marshwood with a bunch of freshmen linemen.

“It was interesting,” Jackson said. “There was a lot of adversity in practice. We had guys who had to step up and really get things done so we could prepare. It’s pretty cool to think about that we were still able to handle business without three, four of our starting linemen (during practices), and it shows how focused our guys were.”


Paul Magaya, a 5-foot-11, 240-pound senior captain, was one linemen who escaped the mysterious stomach ailments that sidelined teammates.

“Even though it bummed us out, we had to practice,” Magaya said.

After South Portland took a 14-0 lead in the first half, captains Jackson, Magaya, fullback Josh Sparacio and tight end Nolan Hobbs experienced significant cramps that kept them off the field. Poole, the fifth senior captain, took over at quarterback.

Marshwood scored 20 points in the third quarter, twice closing within a score, but South Portland responded to each touchdown with one of its own.

“Every time (Marshwood) scored was an opportunity for our guys to hang their heads, and it was just, ‘Nope. We’re going to go down and score. We’re going to get a stop the next time,'” Filieo said.

Poole finished with 133 rushing yards on 22 carries. Jackson, limited offensively in the second half, rushed 17 times for 133 yards and completed 4 of 8 passes for 140 yards and two scores, one to Hobbs.


Poole and Hobbs were part of South Portland’s 2021 state championship baseball team. Jackson was the starting point guard on the 2022 Class AA champion basketball team.

“The baseball guys on our teams, guys like Nolan Hobbs, a starting pitcher, they don’t really get flustered, and me as a captain, I feed off of them,” Jackson said. “As a team, we don’t get flustered when we see things not going our way.”

THE BIGGEST MATCHUP of this weekend is between the teams tied for first place in the Varsity Maine football poll: Oxford Hills and Thornton Academy, who play in Saco at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. It’s a rematch of the 2021 Class A title game won by Thornton, 42-27. The Trojans also won last year’s regular-season game, at South Paris, 31-23, a game in which the Vikings had six turnovers.

Cutting down on turnovers is an obvious key for Oxford Hills. But Coach Mark Soehren said it will be equally important to establish a running game with backs Trey Morrison, Jake Carson and Hunter Tardiff, to lessen the load on dual-threat quarterback Eli Soehren, the 2021 Maine Gatorade Player of the Year.

“We couldn’t establish that in the state championship game,” Mark Soehren said. “They really stifled our run game. We were in second-and-10, third-and-9 situations the whole game, and Elias got injured early in the game, so that hurt. This year, it’s a different backfield and a different line, and we want to establish our running backs.”

Oxford Hills opened with an impressive 42-6 win against Class B Cony. Soehren threw for 215 yards and a score and rushed for another 129 yards. Tanner Bickford had seven catches for 176 yards, several on shovel passes off jet sweep action to counter Cony’s middle blitz.


Thornton also opened well, shutting out Scarborough, 35-0. Caden True (one rushing touchdown) and Ryan O’Keefe (two TD passes) alternated at quarterback. Running back Hayden Whitney ripped off a 94-yard run on the first play of the second half.

“(Whitney) is one who can hit holes fast and get going quickly, and we have to take care of that,” Mark Soehren said.

BY THE NUMBERS: When four of last Thursday’s five games were decided by 40 or more points, it wasn’t a good sign for the new scheduling format designed to include more interclass games. But overall, Week 1 had some slightly encouraging signs. The average point differential was 24.7 compared to 28.8 in the first week of 2021. The number of blowouts by 35 or more points was down a touch. Fifteen of 39 games (38.5 percent) reached running time, compared to 14 of 33 (42.4 percent) in 2021.

Looking only at 11-man games, the point differential was 22.4 and there were nearly as many games decided by seven points or less (seven) as there were by 35 or more (eight). Also, the seven interclass games had a 16.4-point differential, and the lower-division team won three of those games.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. 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.