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South Portland's in the win column

Sport: Football  Posted: October 5th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR


'Sponsored by Rivalries'
10 Cotton Street in Portland's Old Port
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SOUTH PORTLAND—Once upon a time, a Biddeford-South Portland matchup would have been the premiere game of the week, one that had repercussions (and often rematches) that were felt into November.

While both programs have fallen on tough teams in recent years, Saturday's meeting at Martin Memorial Field was crucial.

The Tigers hoped to improve to 3-2 and solidify their standing as a playoff threat. The Red Riots, meanwhile, were simply seeking their first win, knowing that their longshot postseason dreams were incumbent upon victory.

In the end, South Portland rode a strong and opportunistic defense, along with 141 yards and two TDs on 30 carries from bruising junior running back Ryan Curit to a 21-6 triumph.

The Red Riots scored first, gained some breathing room after a 16-play, eight-plus minute drive to start the second half, then came up big defensively late in the game to improve to 1-4 on the year.

“I think we set a goal early this week that we wanted to be very physical with Biddeford and we wanted to establish a vertical running game that's been lacking in our offense during the season to keep us balanced,” said South Portland Steve Stinson. “Coming out and establishing the run helped set up some throws and helped move the clock. It was good to see us run the ball today for the first time.”

Any discussion of the history of Maine high school football has to feature these two programs. Biddeford has won 11 state titles, while South Portland captured four in the 1990s (along with one in 1951). The teams squared off 10 times (with each side winning five) in the postseason between 1981 and 1999 (none more memorable than the Red Riots' 41-36 win at Biddeford in the Western A Final of 1992), but since the start of this decade, dominance has dwindled, especially for South Portland, which hasn't made the playoffs since 2002.

A year ago, the Tigers held off the visiting Red Riots 37-33 in a game which essentially sent
Biddeford to the postseason and left South Portland home.

Saturday afternoon marked the first meeting in South Portland since Oct. 11, 2002 (a 21-19 Tigers win) and would end happily for the hosts.

The Red Riots won the opening coin toss, but deferred to the second half, giving Biddeford the ball to start the game. The Tigers would move from their 28 into South Portland territory (a 23-yard keeper from senior quarterback Nate Curran was the big blow), but a holding penalty set Biddeford back and the Tigers were forced to punt.

South Portland took over at its 40 and appeared to be in business right away when Curit rumbled 50-yards, but a holding penalty brought the ball back. After Curit picked up a first down on an 18-yard run, the drive stalled and the Red Riots had to punt.

South Portland then got the game's first huge break when the bouncing punt deflected off a Biddeford blocker and the Red Riots pounced on the ball at the Tigers' 23.

Six plays later, South Portland had the lead for good.

A 10-yard pass from senior quarterback David Hardison to junior Mike Foley set the table and with 45.1 seconds to play in the opening quarter, Curit barreled in from a yard out for the TD. The ensuing two-point conversion failed, but the Red Riots were on top 6-0.

In the second quarter, each team punted once, had a turnover, and loss the ball on downs. The game remained 6-0 at the half, but South Portland would begin the second half with a drive that would give it control for good.

The Red Riots began at their 20 and slowly matriculated up the field.

After senior Tuan Tran gained 2 yards on first down and Hardison fired incomplete on second, the quarterback found junior Alex Catrett for 25-yards to the 47 and a first down. Two Curit runs for a total of 6 yards set up third-and-4 at the Biddeford 47 and Curit converted with a 7-yard burst. Curit then carried twice more but only gained a yard, setting up third-and-9. The Hardison-to-Catrett connection saved the day, however, gaining 16 yards and moving the chains. After Curit gained 4 yard, an illegal motion penalty moved South Portland back, but Curit rushed for 10 yards, then 5 for another first down at the Tigers' 9. Curit got the call the next two plays, gaining 1 yard, then 4. Tran then got a carry on third-and-goal from the 4, but only got 2 yards. That set up a crucial fourth down and to no one's surprise, Curit got the ball, racing through the line to paydirt.

The drive used 16 plays to gain 80 yards and took 8 minutes, 19 seconds. Hardison found Foley for a two-point conversion pass and the Red Riots were up 14-0.

“That was humongous,” Stinson said. “We had to drive it 80 yards. The two-point conversion was big to make it 14-0. It was a statement drive. We've been on the receiving end of those drives and they take a lot out of you. It upped our confidence.”

On the drive, Curit rushed 11 times for 40 yards and the score.

“We just wanted to take it to them the whole game,” Curit said. “Today we just came out with a tough mentality and wanted to shove it down their throats.”

Biddeford ended the third period by driving from its 25 into South Portland territory. On the sixth play of the final quarter, the Tigers got on the board when Curran scampered in from 5-yards out. Junior Tyler Parker's two-point conversion run was stopped by Red Riots' senior Matt Hebert and sophomore Matt Welch, keeping the Red Riots up by eight, 14-6, with 9:24 remaining.

After South Portland went three-and-out, Biddeford got a chance to pull even, but on first down, Curran's pass was picked by Foley at the Tigers' 43.

Eight plays later, the Red Riots had some breathing room. Curit ran four straight downs for 29 yards, then Tran took over, carrying the ball three consecutive times, culminating with a 1-yard TD run with 4:36 to go. Hebert added the point-after and South Portland was in command, ahead 21-6.

After the teams traded punts, the Red Riots clinched their victory on a diving interception by junior Jon DiBiase. Two plays later, the game was over and South Portland had its first win over the Tigers since Oct. 5, 2001 (14-10 at Biddeford).

“We did it for our teammates and we love our coaches and we deserved it,” Curit said. “Our defense got us fired up.”

“I think it's good for the kids,” Stinson added. “We continue to get better every year. This is the best team I've had here. We're getting better, we just hadn't gone into the win column. Today, the kids get to feel like a winner, which is what they deserve.”

Biddeford (now 2-3) was led offensively by senior Patrick Chute (17 carries, 74 yards) and Curran, who had 70 yards and a TD on nine carries and completed 2-of-8 passes for 34 yards, with two interceptions.

The Tigers hope to even their record Friday when they host winless Noble.

In addition to Curit's huge day, the Red Riots got strong performances from Tran (37 yards and a TD on 12 carries), Foley (two catches for 45 yards), Catrett (two receptions, 41 yards) and Hardison (4-for-13, 86 yards and an interception).

“David Hardison is a big-time high school quarterback,” Stinson said. “He can make all the throws. He's done it throughout the year. Some games, we had to lean on him exclusively. We have great confidence when we need to throw. He has a big-time arm.”

Despite being penalized seven times for 41 yards, South Portland was able to win thanks in large part to four forced turnovers.

The Red Riots next go to 1-4 Westbrook. They then visit powerhouse Deering before closing the year at home versus Portland in the “Battle of the Bridge.”

The playoffs are still an attainable goal.

“Our destiny is in our hands,” Stinson said. “We want to get better every day. As positive momentum builds, it's a good thing on our side.”

BOX SCORE
B- 0 0 0 6- 6
SP- 6 0 8 7- 21
First quarter
SP—Curit 1 run (pass failed)
Second quarter
No scoring
Third quarter
SP—Curit 2 run (Foley pass from Hardison)
Fourth quarter
B—Curran 5 run (run failed)
SP—Tran 1 run (Hebert kick)

STATISTICS
Rushing:
Biddeford- Chute 17-74, Curran 9-70-1, Tyler Parker 6-8, Trevor Parker 4-7
South Portland- Curit 30-141-2, Tran 12-37-1, Hardison 3- (-4)
Passing:
Biddeford- Curran 2-8-34-2
South Portland- Hardison 4-13-86-1
Receiving:
Biddeford- Cadorette 1-20, Tyler Parker 1-14
South Portland- Foley 2-45, Catrett 2-41
Turnovers
Biddeford- 4
South Portland- 1
Penalties
Biddeford- 4-26
South Portland- 7-41

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