The play wasn’t designed to produce a touchdown.

But Portland High sophomore Cordell Jones had other ideas. Sure, the play call was about as basic as it comes: Take a direct snap and run up the middle, and, in all likelihood, let the clock run out and take your chances in overtime against Oxford Hills.

But Jones saw the possibilities with about 30 seconds left and the game tied.

“Every time I get a chance to touch the football and have my offensive line in front of me, I’m very confident in them to make big plays,” Jones said. “All of them made great blocks and allowed me to break off a (76-yard) touchdown run and get this game over with.”

Jones banged through a tackle attempt about eight yards after the line of scrimmage and raced through open space for the final score in a wild 29-22 victory Saturday as the top-seeded Bulldogs won the Class A North football championship at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

“With the field position and the time on the clock and how we’d been in the pass game – we’d made some mistakes – we just didn’t want to give them any more life than we felt we’d already gave them,” said Portland Coach Sean Green. “Cordell is just an incredible football player. The O-line obviously did its job first and got the hole there, and he just did the rest.”


Portland (10-0) will face Thornton Academy in the state championship game next Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium. Last season, the Bulldogs reached the Class B state final, losing to Skowhegan. Thornton (7-4) was beaten by Oxford Hills in last year’s Class A final.

“We’re going to be in the state championship and we’re going to show that we can play our best version of football,” said Jones, who rushed for 186 yards on 18 carries, most coming from direct snaps in the Wildcat formation. “That was not our best version of football whatsoever.”

After Jones’ score, a short kick, a face-mask penalty on Portland and a hook-and-lateral completion for 14 yards set up the second-seeded Vikings with one final throw into the end zone that was intercepted by Portland’s Jack Martin.

“It’s hard when you end this way. I’m really proud of how these kids played, and how they battled, and they really grew up over the year,” said Oxford Hills Coach Mark Soehren. “And in this game, we had a shot. Even with 17 seconds left, we had a shot.”

Oxford Hills, which replaced 17 starting spots from its 2022 state championship team, finished 8-3. The Vikings rallied from a 22-7 deficit behind a defense that intercepted three straight passes by Portland quarterback Louis Thurston (6 of 14, 162 yards).

Braden Murch got the first interception, as Thurston threw over the middle while being hit by Malakai Sparks. Murch, a rangy 6-foot-4 target, then hauled in a deep pass from Brady Truman (9 of 23, 99 yards) on the next play, broke a tackle and went 50 yards for a touchdown with 1:40 left in the third quarter.


Thurston’s next pass was tipped by Oxford Hills lineman Owen Marr and went to Hunter Tardiff, who raced 60 yards for another touchdown. Murch snared the 2-point conversion pass in the back of the end zone to tie the score at 22-22 with 11:12 to play.

“At the end of the day, it only matters the relationships that we made,” Tardiff said. “Last year we won a state championship and we had a lot of good guys on that team. We came here today with the goal to do the same thing we did last year. We came up a little bit short. I guess that’s the game of football.”

Oxford Hills scored first on a 17-yard run by Tardiff. That came after Portland gave the Vikings extra chances with a roughing the punter penalty and then, after another stop, a muffed punt by Hunter Temple, the first of four Portland turnovers.

Portland found its footing in the second quarter and led 15-7 at the half. Temple turned a short throw by Thurston into a 63-yard touchdown. Temple had five catches for 131 yards.

Portland then added a safety by its defense and a 3-yard score from Jones. A 22-yard run by Jones with 5:20 left in the third quarter extended Portland’s lead to 22-7.

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