For the second year in a row, there were tears shed by the Portland Bulldogs at the conclusion of the Class B South football final.

This time around, they were tears of joy.

Portland got a little good fortune, showed a little derring-do, and then put the ball in the hands of Kennedy Charles with the game on the line. The Bulldogs’ standout senior quarterback scored the clinching touchdown in a 29-20 victory over rival South Portland at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Portland improved to 8-3 with its seventh straight victory and advanced to take on Skowhegan in the state final next Saturday, again at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

“This is really emotional,” said Portland Coach Jason McLeod, whose team lost to Marshwood in the 2021 regional final. “We’ve had 365 days of thinking of the experience we had last year. We wanted to overcome that demon.”

Portland, the No. 1 seed, marched 85 yards on nine plays to take an early lead. Charles (33 carries, 203 yards, three TDs) ran seven times for 73 yards on the drive and capped it with a 6-yard run to make it 6-0 with 7:16 to go in the opening quarter.


The third-seeded Red Riots answered later in the quarter after Jaelen Jackson had a nice punt return into Bulldogs territory. Jackson connected with a wide-open Johnny Poole out of the backfield for an 18-yard touchdown, and Colin Banks’ extra point gave South Portland a 7-6 lead.

South Portland’s defense set up its second touchdown, as Ben Smith intercepted a long Charles pass and returned it 40 yards. That led to a 35-yard Jackson scoring run, as he found a huge hole to the right and left the defense in his wake for a 14-6 advantage midway through the second quarter.

Portland then converted a daring fourth-and-1 from its own 41, as Charles lobbed a pass to Andrew Brewer for 5 yards. Later in the drive, Charles fumbled, but the ball bounced right to Brewer, who raced in for a 27-yard touchdown.

“It just bounced in my hands,” said Brewer. “It was a sloppy first half, but that score gave us the feeling.”

Portland ran the “Philly Special” on the 2-point conversion, as Buck completed a pass to Brayden Wales to tie it 14-14 at halftime.

“It’s the old saying, the bounce of the ball,” said South Portland Coach Aaron Filieo. “What can you do? Sometimes that’s just the way it goes.”


Charles intercepted Jackson on the second play of the second half, then put Portland on top for good with a 1-yard run followed by a conversion rush.

The Red Riots roared back in the fourth quarter, as Jackson connected with Darius Johnson for 4-yard TD pass on fourth down, but Poole was stuffed on the 2-point rush as Portland maintained a 22-20 lead.

Charles then scored on an 8-yard run and Myles Hang added the pivotal extra point to clinch it.

“This definitely feels great,” said Charles. “We just made the most of what we had and we came so far.”

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