Portland’s Zach Elowitch goes up to intercept a pass intended for Oxford Hills’ Jordan Silver. (Brewster Burns photo)

PARIS — Offensive drives kept stalling, leaving the onus on the defenses to make a game-changing play.

Portland’s Vincent Pasquali intercepted Oxford Hills quarterback Colton Carson to set up the first touchdown of the game, and the Bulldogs went on to defeat the Vikings, 21-6, in the Class A North quarterfinals.

The sixth-seeded Bulldogs move on to face second-seeded Lewiston in the semifinals at Garcelon Field.

Oxford Hills made it past midfield on its fifth drive of the game when, on third-and-23, Pasquali picked off Carson’s pass at the Portland 30-yard line and returned it all the way to the Vikings’ 4.

“It felt real good to get the offense in good field position, get that first touchdown on the board right before half so we could keep rolling, have the momentum going into the second half,” Pasquali said.

Zachary Elowitch reached the end zone on the next play, giving the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 3:29 left in the first half.

Oxford Hills’ next drive also ended on an interception, this one by Elowitch, with less than two minutes to play in the half.

“It’s a tough one. I’ve had that happen many times in my career where we were throwing it at the end of the half,” Vikings coach Mark Soehren said. “I know they have high expectations, we have high expectations, and we fully expected and believed we could play in the state championship game, and we’re going to play that game to win.”

The Vikings opened the game with a dominating drive that went from their own 30 down to the Bulldogs’ 5. The drive had a heavy dose of Carson running the ball on option plays, with a couple of Dawson Stevens runs sprinkled in.

But a flag pushed them into third-and-long and then fourth-and-long, and Oxford Hills turned it over on downs.

“That was really a confidence builder right there,” Elowitch said. “That was determination, bend-but-don’t-break defense, play to the last whistle. You know, if they’re not in, they’re not in, anything can happen.”

The Vikings next drive ended with a turnover on one play, when Stevens couldn’t corral Carson’s pitch. It would end up being the last offensive play for Stevens, who was hampered by injuries the second half of the season.

Without him, Oxford Hills struggled to run the ball up the middle, and instead relied even more on Carson along with jet sweeps to Cam Slicer.

Carson finished with 100 yards on 18 carries. Slicer gained 47 yards on five carries.

After taking a 7-0 lead into halftime, Portland opened the second half with a long return out to the Oxford Hills 47, and then quarterback Terion Moss capped off a nine-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run that gave the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead.

Carson led Oxford Hills on a 67-yard scoring drive. Eight of the 11 plays were runs by Carson, including a 21-yarder on third-and-11 and a 6-yard touchdown run that cut the lead to 14-6.

The teams exchanged interceptions — by Tasker Winslow for Oxford Hills, and another by Elowitch — and punts before Moss scored his second touchdown of the game to make it 21-6 with 2:34 remaining in the game.

“Terion is learning how to play quarterback,” Portland coach Jim Hartman said. “He’s only played three games in a row now at quarterback. So I have to learn how to communicate with him, we’re drawing plays up in the sand … But he’s coming. Each game he gets a little better.”

Moss ran for a game-high 109 yards on 21 carries.

Pasquali sealed the win with his second interception of the game.

“You just can’t turn the ball over five times and stick with a team that has athletes,” Soehren said. “They don’t have a lot of wins this year, but they did have five or six all-conference kids.”

Portland rallied to defeat Lewiston 17-14 in the teams’ first meeting Oct. 13.

“I think Lewiston has as much talent as anyone in Class A football, so we got our hands full,” Hartman said.

Oxford Hills’ Jordan Silver stiff arms Portland’s Vincent Pasquali. (Brewster Burns photo)

Oxford Hills’ Cam Slicer attempts to evade Portland’s Vincent Pasquali. (Brewster Burns photo)

Oxford Hills’ Colton Carson is tackled by Portland’s Cillo Magno (37) and Ben Stasium. (Brewster Burns photo)

Portland’s Vincent Pasquale looks to get around Oxford Hills’ Jason Paradis. (Brewster Burns photo)


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. 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.