SOUTH PORTLAND—South Portland’s football team has done a lot of good things this fall, but the Red Riots’ efforts hadn’t translated to victories.

Until Friday night.

Hosting undefeated Kennebunk at Martin Memorial Field, South Portland continued its recent strong play on defense and added the offensive component as well as it led the Rams from start to finish en route to its biggest win to date.

The Red Riots set the tone by forcing a Kennebunk three-and-out, then driving to take the lead for good on a 5-yard touchdown run from junior quarterback Easton Healy.

The Rams responded with some trickery early in the second period, as senior quarterback Gray Compton caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Jaiden Homa, but South Portland drove right back down the field and got a 27-yard TD scamper from junior Matthew Berry to take a 14-6 advantage and after a timely goal-line stand right before the horn, went to the break on top.

After sophomore Connor Gerard had a clutch interception deep in Red Riots’ territory to end Kennebunk’s first drive of the second half, Gerard scored on a 6-yard run to extend the lead to 21-6 heading for the fourth period.


And there, South Portland slammed the door, as senior Matthew Frey first intercepted a pass, then delivered the coup de grace with a 1-yard touchdown dive as the Red Riots went on to a 27-6 victory.

South Portland snapped a two-game skid, improved to 3-4 and in the process, handed the Rams their first setback in seven outings.

“No matter what we face, we’re always confident,’ said Frey, after playing on his home field for the final time. “We have such a strong brotherhood. There was always effort. Frustration was starting to mount, but in the end we overcame because of our love for each other and our team.”

A signature victory

Kennebunk went 6-4 a year ago, losing, 40-20, to eventual regional champion Portland in the Class B South semifinals. This fall, under new coach Keith Noel (who replaced legendary, longtime coach Joe Rafferty), the Rams have staked their claim as the finest in the region, beating Gorham (14-6), Massabesic (38-6), Westbrook (35-0), Deering (28-6), Biddeford (62-6) and Sanford (35-0).

South Portland, a Class B South finalist in 2022, has been competitive in its return to Class A this fall, but hadn’t won as often as it would like. After beating visiting Cony in the opener, 20-6, the Red Riots lost at home to Lewiston, in a game played over two days due to weather, 19-16. After a 31-20 loss at Sanford and a 42-18 home win over Gorham, South Portland lost at Noble (28-20) and at home to Thornton Academy (14-0).


But even after the tough losses, Red Riots coach Aaron Filieo stressed that his team’s belief didn’t waver.

“Our guys just have an amazing outlook and mindset,” Filieo said. “I’m not used to losing games. As a head coach I’ve been fortunate enough to win and make playoffs. I was borderline depressed and I came to practice and these guys had a mature outlook and did something for the coaching staff. We’re really young and our leadership has been phenomenal. It’s an amazing group. They say stuff that coaches usually say and they’ve been leading and the proof has been out there.”

The teams didn’t meet a year ago. The last meeting was Oct. 1, 2021 (a 13-12 road win for the Rams).

Friday, Kennebunk looked to keep rolling, but instead, the Red Riots came out strong and never looked back.

South Portland junior Matthew Berry finds running room early in Friday’s 27-6 home win over Kennebunk. Hoffer photos.

South Portland won the opening coin toss and elected to defer possession to the second half.

The Rams started at their 35, but couldn’t move the ball, as after senior workhorse Jonah Barstow gained two yards, a holding penalty backed the visitors up 10 yards and after Barstow ran for six yards, Compton threw incomplete, necessitating a punt.


The Red Riots took over at their 39 with 9:53 left in the opening stanza and 11 plays and 5 minutes, 30 seconds later, reached the end zone to set the tone.

The drive started with a six-yard run by Berry and after Healy threw incomplete, Frey moved the chains with a seven-yard run to the Kennebunk 48. A delay of game penalty momentarily cost South Portland five yards, but Healy scrambled for seven yards, Frey gained one and on third-and-7, Healy kept the ball and ran to his left for 10 yards and a first down at the 35. After Gerard gained six yards, Healy went to the air and connected with senior Gabe Galarraga for 13 yards and a first down at the 16. Healy then kept the ball for 11 yards to set up first-and-goal at the 5 and after throwing incomplete, Healy kept the ball, ran to his left, then with a second effort, crossed the goal line for a 5-yard touchdown run with 4:23 left in the quarter. Junior Arnaud Sioho added the extra point to put the Red Riots on top, 7-0.

“Scoring first was important,” said Frey. “Morale is always higher when you play from ahead.”

“Scoring first was big,” Filieo said. “It always is.”

The Rams started their second possession at their 40 and threatened to answer, as Barstow ran for seven yards and after Compton threw incomplete, Bartstow ran for six yards and a first down at South Portland’s 47. After sophomore Austin West picked up eight yards, Barstow gained seven more to the 32. Junior Brady Stone gained a yard and Compton threw incomplete, as Red Riots sophomore Tristen Sanders got a piece of the ball at the line of scrimmage, then after Barstow caught a pass for seven yards, Sanders dropped Barstow for a one-yard loss on fourth-and-2, giving South Portland the ball back at its 25.

On the final play of the first period, Frey ran for five yards. Frey then picked up five more on the initial play of the second quarter, but after Gerard picked up four yards, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty backed the Red Riots up 15 yards and short-circuited the drive, as Frey ran for 10 yards, but on third-and-11, Healy threw incomplete, forcing a punt.


Kennebunk took over at its 35 with 10:05 left in the half and embarked on its lone scoring drive of the night, an 11-play, 65-yard, 6:05 march.

Barstow got things going inauspiciously with a one-yard pickup, but on the next snap, he broke away for 23 yards to the South Portland 41. After West gained four yards, junior Alex Bunnell-Parker dropped junior Moose Keys for a two-yard loss, but on third-and-8, Compton hit Keys for eight yards, setting up fourth-and-inches, where Compton kept the ball and gained a yard for a first down at the 30. After Barstow bowled over a tackler and gained nine yards, he picked up two more and a personal foul penalty was tacked on, moving the ball to the 10. Barstow ran for seven yards to get the Rams close, but a delay of game penalty cost them five yards. After Bunnell-Parker dropped Barstow for a two-yard loss, setting up third-and-goal from the 10, Kennebunk utilized some trickery, as Compton lined up wide, Barstow took the snap, handed it to Homa and Homa rolled right and in a replay of “Philly Special” which helped doom the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, threw to a wide-open Compton in the front right corner of the end zone for a 10-yard TD with exactly 4 minutes remaining in the half. Senior Knox Christopher hoped to tie it up, but his extra point attempt hooked wide left and the Red Riots clung to a 7-6 lead.

South Portland then needed all of four plays to answer.

After sophomore Alex Horton returned the ensuing kickoff 25 yards to the Red Riots’ 45, Horton ran for 12 yards on a jet sweep, then caught a pass from Healy for 12 more yards and a first down at the Kennebunk 31. Healy kept the ball for four yards, then handed it to Berry, who found running room to the left and left the defense in his wake en route to a 27-yard touchdown run. Sioho added the PAT with 1:52 remaining to make it 14-6 South Portland.

The Rams then threatened to steal momentum as they drove to the shadow of the Red Riots’ goal line before the end of the half.

Kennebunk started at its 35 with 1:45 to go and Compton fooled the defense, keeping the ball, then finding running room to his left and he ran all the way to the South Portland 7 before Healy caught him from behind to save the touchdown. The Rams then were backed up five yards by a false start and Compton threw incomplete. After West gained one yard, Compton rolled right and hit West for eight yards to the 3, setting up fourth-and-goal and forcing Noel to take his final timeout of the half with 7.3 seconds showing.


Kennebunk then came out to run the make-or-break play, but before it could, Filieo called a timeout.

The Rams then had Compton roll left and attempt to pitch the ball to Barstow, but the toss was off target, the ball landed on the ground and Red Riots senior Alex Dobson fell on it as the hosts dodged a bullet.

“That was tremendous,” said Frey. “(Kennebunk tying) it up would have made it tougher for the vibe of the game, but stopping them expressed our energy.”

“We have a next-play mentality and our guys stay in the moment,” said Filieo. “They’ve embraced that. Tonight was a great example of that mindset. (Kennebunk) came out in that formation and I told the guys that there was a lot they could do from it. I thought they might get to the perimeter. I didn’t think it would be option-wise. We drew something up and it ended up working out for us.”

With just over a second to go, South Portland took over at its 2 and a Healy five-yard run ran out the first half clock, allowing the Red Riots to take a 14-6 lead the break.

Kennebunk had a 160-127 advantage in first half yardage and Barstow gained 67 yards on 12 carries, but South Portland was in front.


And would remain so in the second half.

Kennebunk senior Jonah Barstow is brought down by South Portland junior Alex Bunnell-Parker and sophomore Tristen Sanders (6).

South Portland took over its 33 to begin the third quarter and immediately went backwards, as Healy was dropped for a three-yard loss by senior Gabe Jewett, then junior Charles Majkowski sacked Healy for a 13-yard loss. Berry gained 13 yards on third-and-22, but the Red Riots had to punt.

After a 12-yard return by Homa, the Rams took over at midfield and began a drive that appeared destined to end in points, perhaps even enough to forge a tie, until South Portland’s defense came up huge.

Barstow got things started with a five-yard run and after Stone caught a five-yard pass, setting up third-and-inches, Bartow moved the chains with a one-yard pickup. Barstow then ran for six yards and Compton gained five after a second effort for a first down at the 27. Compton was sacked for a six-yard loss by Sanders, but Barstow got five back, then Compton slipped but kept his balance and fired a 15-yard pass to Homa for a first down at the 13. Barstow ran for three yards, but on the next snap, Compton tried to hit a receiver along the right sideline, but Gerard stepped in front of the pass, intercepted it at the 5, then ran 30 yards down the sideline to turn the game around.

“That’s pretty good for a sophomore,” Filieo said. “(Connor’s) quietly had a good season for us. He’s playing with confidence.”

The Red Riots then marched 65 yards in seven plays and 3:26 for a little breathing room.


Frey got things started by breaking away for 21 yards to move the ball to the Kennebunk 44. Healy then kept the ball for nine yards and followed that up with an 11-yard scamper to the 24. After Frey ran for four yards, he was tackled for no gain by Majkowski, but on third-and-6, Healy rolled right and threw to sophomore Kai Turner, who had leaked out of the backfield, and Turner rumbled 14 yards to set up first-and-goal from the 6. Gerard did the rest, taking the ball, finding room to the right and outracing the pursuit to the end zone for the touchdown with 47.2 seconds on the clock. Sioho’s PAT made the score 21-6.

The Rams began their next drive at their 37 and after Keys picked up eight yards, Barstow moved the pile for 17 to the South Portland 38 as the third quarter gave way to the fourth.

On the first snap of the final period, West gained three yards. Compton then kept it for five and Barstow gained one. On fourth-and-1, Barstow got the call again and moved the chains with a seven-yard pickup to the 22. That’s as far as Kennebunk would advance, however, as Compton was held to no gain, then threw a wounded duck while being pressured by Bunnell-Parker and was intercepted by Frey at the Red Riots’ 22.

“The ball was just up there and it was kind of like a punt,” said Frey.

South Portland then chewed up 5:38 in marching 78 yards on 11 plays to end all doubt.

Frey got things started with an 11-yard burst. After Healy connected with Berry for seven yards, Gerard ran for 10 and a first down at midfield. Galarraga got the ball on a jet sweep and gained five yards, then Healy kept the ball for one before a delay of game penalty set up third-and-9. Healy threw short to sophomore Darius Johnson, who made a dazzling spin move which allowed him to gain nine yards for a first down at the Rams’ 40. After Frey ran for three yards, Healy threw incomplete down the field, but a pass interference penalty, compounded by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, moved the ball to the 11. After Healy ran for seven yards, Frey picked up three to set up first-and-goal and Frey capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown dive with 2:53 remaining.


South Portland senior Gabe Galarraga celebrates the Red Riots’ final score of the evening.

“Last game, Senior Night, it was a dream come true to score that last touchdown,” said Frey.

“(Matthew’s) a great athlete and a great kid and I’m so happy for him,” Filieo said. “He’s one of the best kids I’ve ever coached. He works so hard and he’s a tremendous leader. He’s done so much for us. I told him after the game, ‘This is the best game of your career’ and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.”

This time, Sioho was off-target with the extra point, but the Red Riots’ lead had been extended to 27-6.

Kennebunk got a final possession, beginning at its 17, and replaced its starters, as did South Portland with its defense.

After junior Ethan Burr lost a yard, sophomore Jeremias Manuel dropped sophomore Timothy LaFlamme for a two-yard loss, but sophomore Zach Fine ran for 12 yards and on fourth-and-1, junior backup quarterback Sam Haley kept for six yards and a first down at the 32. After Haley threw incomplete, Burr ran for two yards and that ran out the clock on the Red Riots’ 27-6 victory.

“We watched film and they did what we thought they’d do and we executed nearly perfectly,” Frey said. “We just stepped up on defense. We focused on technique and aggressiveness and you could see the results on the field.”


“We needed a win like this,” Filieo said. “The guys come to work every day and they’re locked in and they listen to coaching and they’re confident. The mistakes we made in execution and operation have gotten us in the losing column, so we’ve focused on being clear minded and they’re making improvements. We watched a lot of film on Kennebunk and saw them live when they looked good against Sanford. They’re good in all facets. We didn’t know how we’d match up, but we thought we could do it.”

South Portland finished with 271 yards of offense.

Frey ran 12 times for 71 yards with a touchdown.

Berry gained 46 yards and scored a TD on three rushing attempts.

Gerard ran just four times, but it was good for 26 yards and a score.

Healy ran 10 times for 63 yards and a touchdown and completed 5-of-8 passes for 55 yards.


The Red Riots were penalized four times for 34 yards, but didn’t turn the ball over.

Kennebunk had 258 yards of offense, but turned the ball over three times and was penalized five times for 46 yards.

Barstow ran 20 times for 112 yards.

Compton ran five times for 70 yards, completed 5-of-12 passes for 43 yards with two interceptions and he also caught a TD pass.

Work to do

Kennebunk (ranked first in the Class B South Crabtree Points standings) has a big test in its regular season finale next Friday, hosting Marshwood (4-3).


South Portland (fifth in Class A South, where just four teams qualify for the playoffs) visits Scarborough (1-5) next Friday, then closes with the “Battle of the Bridge” at unbeaten Portland.

If the Red Riots somehow qualify for the playoffs, rest assured that no one in Class A South will want to match up with a team that many feel is a year away, but might be arriving ahead of schedule.

“We just have to continue to focus on physical aspects, but also on the mental aspects and we just have to execute,” said Frey. We’re developing as we’re going. That’s what I love about these guys. I feel like we don’t have a ceiling.”

“We need to win out,” Filieo said. “We’ll enjoy this then turn the page to Scarborough. After the TA game last week, the guys understood they could play with anybody. That’s the mentality going forward. Record-wise, we’re probably where we should be. What I wasn’t sure of was how we’d respond from losses and the way we’ve responded is way ahead of any schedule that I would have projected.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at For game updates and links to game stories, follow him on Threads: @foresports2023

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