Edward Little’s Josh Hamel drives past two Portland defenders before getting taken down by Aidan Dimillo during a semifinal game Friday at Fitzpatrick Stadium. (Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald)

PORTLAND — Zack Elowitch was unstoppable on offense.

Nathan Kapongo was utterly dominant on defense.

And that winning combination has sent the Portland Bulldogs off to the Class A North final once again.

Elowitch ran for 267 yards and three touchdowns, and Kapongo registered four sacks to help top-seeded Portland overcome a sluggish start and roll to a 49-15 semifinal win over fourth-seeded Edward Little at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Portland will host either No. 2 Oxford Hills (6-2) or third-seeded Cheverus (7-2) next weekend, its fourth consecutive appearance in the regional final and fifth in six years.

“That’s what we play for, nothing else matters,” Bulldogs coach Jim Hartman said. “I want these kids to know the feeling of holding that Gold Ball.”

Ben Stasium intercepted EL quarterback Leighton Girardin on the first series of the game, and four plays later, Sam Knop scored on a 1-yard keeper for a 7-0 lead.

The Bulldogs then drove deep into Edward Little territory, but Knop was intercepted by Josh Hamel in the end zone. Two plays later, the Red Eddies tied it, as Girardin rolled left and found Ricky Cote wide open behind the defense for an 80-yard score.

Portland pulled away in the second quarter, however. Elowitch put the Bulldogs on top with a 10-yard burst, then added TD runs of 44 and 26 yards.

“I knew I’d get the ball a lot tonight,” Elowitch said. “It was raining and we weren’t going to throw the ball much, so I knew I’d have to carry the load here today. Holes opened up and I hit them pretty well.”

On the other side of the ball, Kapongo had four sacks and Portland forced two turnovers to hold a comfortable 28-7 halftime advantage.

“The other guys did a pretty good job and it just happened like that,” Kapongo said. “We had a defensive mindset tonight. We knew if we lost, we’d go home, and we don’t want to go home.”

The Bulldogs ended any remaining doubt with a 10-play, 63-yard drive to start the second half, as Trevaun Carter got in on the fun, scoring on a 6-yard run to extend the lead to 35-7.

Late in the third quarter, Knop’s 13-yard touchdown run induced the mercy rule running clock.

A 1-yard run by Ben Levine accounted for Portland’s final points. Edward Little got a late 39-yard scamper by Girardin, followed by a Girardin 2-point conversion rush.

Girardin completed 14 of 22 passes for 197 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, and ran for 54 yards with a TD on four carries. Hamel had six catches for 74 yards, and Cote caught three passes for 95 yards and a touchdown.

“We’re playing down the stretch here with a lot of underclassmen,” Red Eddies coach Dave Sterling said. “We’ve had injuries, and our leadership had to take a back seat because of them.

“We were undersized this year and that’s hard about Class A; if we don’t play with a lot of heart and speed, it’s hard to stay in a game.”

Edward Little’s Ricky Cote makes a one-handed catch during a semifinal game against Portland on Friday at Fitzpatrick Stadium. (Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald)

Portland’s Zachary Elowitch drives down the sideline during a semifinal game against Edward Little on Friday at Fitzpatrick Stadium. (Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald)

Portland’s Zachary Elowitch pauses at the goal line after scoring the team’s fourth touchdown against Edward Little during a semifinal game Friday at Fitzpatrick Stadium. (Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald)

Edward Little’s Ricky Cote looks for an opening during a semifinal game against Portland on Friday at Fitzpatrick Stadium. (Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald)


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.