Portland’s Zachary Elowitch steps over would-be tackler Alex Turner in the first half for a long run during Friday’s game at Gouin Athletic Complex. (Brewster Burns photo)

PARIS — Portland chewed the clock for a touchdown to start each half and beat the clock at the end of the first half with a field goal that proved to be the difference in a 17-14 victory over Oxford Hills on Friday night.

Zach Elowitch rushed 34 times for 169 yards and had a key interception late, while quarterback Sam Knop rushed for both touchdowns for the Bulldogs.

Portland improves to 6-1 and clinches homefield advantage in the Class A North football playoffs with the win. Oxford Hills drops to 5-2.

Portland burned nine minutes on each of its touchdown drives.

“That’s huge,” Elowitch said. “Eating up nine or 10 minutes on each of those drives just kills whatever momentum they could have and sets us up to do well each half.”

“Momentum was the biggest thing in this game,” Knop said. “If either team was able to gain momentum, they would have been able to roll over the other one.”

Knop capped the 18-play, 65-yard drive to start the second half with a five-yard touchdown run on a bootleg left that made it 17-14.

“They dominated the line of scrimmage,” Oxford Hills coach Mark Soehren said. “Those two scores were great drives for them. I can’t imagine they averaged very much per carry, but it didn’t matter. They got three yards per carry, four downs, and they’re driving the field on us and using most of the first and third quarters.”

Portland ran 67 plays (63 rushing) to Oxford Hills’ 43, and its defense did a great job of stopping Vikings QB Colton Carson on the ground (10 carries, 14 yards) and in the air (4-for-17, 77 yards, TD, two interceptions).

“It was just pressure, and we didn’t let him run,” Portland coach Jim Hartman said. “We took his counter play away, which is the big play for them.”

The Bulldogs outgained the Vikings, 208-139.

The first possession of the game went as well as Portland could have hoped.

After forcing a three-and-out on the Vikings’ game-opening drive, the Bulldogs started at their own 40. Knop and Elowitch each converted once on fourth-and-2 to keep the 17-play drive alive, and Knop crossed the goal line from one yard out for a 7-0 lead.

Portland’s scoring drive burned nine minutes off the clock, but the Vikings answered quickly after Alex Turner’s kick return set them up at the Bulldogs’ 45.

On second down, Parker LaFrance took a pitch to the right sideline, got a block from Turner that allowed him to cut inside, then shook off a tackler to complete a 42-yard touchdown run that tied it one play into the second quarter.

A bad shotgun snap that Knop pounced on for a loss of 20 yards essentially snuffed Portland’s plans for an immediate response.

After Portland’s punt, the Vikings started at their own 48 and took a 14-7 lead two plays later when Carson found a wide-open Jonny Pruett down the left sideline for a 53-yard touchdown.

The Bulldogs put the ball on the ground five times in the first half before the Vikings finally recovered one when Marcus Stone pounced on a loose football at Portland’s 19. But the Vikings were unable to convert that turnover, or a Michael Bonang interception and return to Portland’s 30, into points.

Instead, Ben Stasium’s interception and return to Portland’s 32 set up a Portland score.

“The kids responded well,” Hartman said. “This is a gritty team. I think this defense ranks with anyone.”

Elowitch’s longest run of the night, 48 yards, got the Bulldogs to the Vikings’ 9. They advanced to the 4, but facing fourth down with the clock running and out of timeouts, the field goal unit had to scramble onto the field. Cristo Vumpa’s 20-yard field goal split the uprights as the halftime siren sounded to cut Oxford Hills’ lead to 14-10.

After Portland took the lead to start the second half, an apparent 19-yard TD pass from Carson to Janek Luksza that would have put the Vikings back in front was negated by a holding penalty with 6:44 left. Elowitch stopped Oxford Hills’ next drive with a fine leaping interception at midfield.

Portland’s Ben Trefethen tries but fails to escape Oxford Hills’ Cole Dunham during Friday’s game at Gouin Athletic Complex. (Brewster Burns photo)

Portland’s Ben Trefethen is wrapped up by Oxford Hills’ Marcus Stone and Janik Luksza during Friday’s game at Gouin Athletic Complex. (Brewster Burns photo)

Portland’s Zachary Elowitch looks to get around the right end with some help from lead blocker Ben Trefethen during Friday’s game at Gouin Athletic Complex. (Brewster Burns photo)

Portland’s Zachary Elowitch eyes Oxford Hills’ Mike Bonang as he looks to get around the corner during Friday’s game at Gouin Athletic Complex. (Brewster Burns photo)

Portland quarterback Sam Knop checks out the Oxford Hills’ defense before the snap during Friday’s game at Gouin Athletic Complex. (Brewster Burns photo)

Oxford Hills’ Colton Carson throws a pass to an open Janek Luksza during Friday’s game at Gouin Athletic Complex. The pass sailed out of bounds. (Brewster Burns photo)

With Parker Lafrance out in front of him, Oxford Hills’ Colton Carson looks for some running room during Friday’s game at Gouin Athletic Complex. (Brewster Burns photo)

Oxford Hills Alex Turner attempts to get some extra yards as Portland’s Benjamin Stasium and Brian Howell hang on while trying to make the tackle during Friday’s game at Gouin Athletic Complex. (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.