A week after opening the season with a loss, the Windham Middle School varsity football team traveled to South Portland and effectively knocked out its competition, playing as a unit on both sides of the ball in a convincing 28-6 victory.
“A lot of people stepped up in areas where they needed improvement from last week,” said head coach Tony Leslie. Blake Houser and Grant Jacobson were moved to weak side and strong side defensive end, respectively, and they wreaked havoc on South Portland’s offense. Blake Colby also relocated from nose tackle to linebacker and Ricky Brichetto took over at starting nose tackle. Houser, who is also the team’s starting quarterback, had two sacks on defense and a rushing touchdown and a pass for a score on offense in a well-rounded outing.
After South Portland took the opening kickoff, Jacobson and linebacker Treva Valliere caused a fumble that the Eagles recovered deep in their opponents’ territory. Quarterback Houser connected with a pass to receiver Parker Varney to put Windham in scoring position.
The Red Riots got the ball back deep in their own half of the field when Windham couldn’t punch it in for a touchdown, but then Houser struck, tackling the South Portland quarterback in the end zone for a safety, putting Windham by a score of 2-0.
Showing his versatility, Houser took the ensuing kickoff and made a long run into South Portland territory. A facemask penalty further hurt the Red Riots, putting Windham in scoring position. After a Houser run put the Eagles inside the 10-yard line, he punched it in for Windham’s first touchdown. The two-point conversion put the Eagles up 10-0. Leslie gave credit to assistant coach Rusty Babb who, in the week leading up to the game, prepared the offensive line of Jack Alderman, Braxton Cassidy, Colby, Brichetto, Owen Shepard and Logan Douglas. They gave Houser excellent protection.
As the Eagles continued to dominate, fullback Jacobson punished the Red Riots as he plowed through would-be tacklers in a run that put the team inside the five-yard line. Valliere took a handoff and punched through the line for another Windham touchdown. The team went into halftime leading 22-0.
In the third quarter, the Eagles picked up where they left off and for the second week in a row, Houser connected with receiver Garrett Peeples on a long pass and then found him in the end zone for Windham’s fourth touchdown of the afternoon.
Appeasing the South Portland coach who was complaining that Windham was still playing its starters with a 28-0 lead, Leslie put seventh graders Anthony Gugliuzza, Seth Wall and George Butts in at quarterback, tail back and offensive line, respectively, late in the third quarter. “It’s a very fine line between running up the score and making sure your guys get good work,” said Leslie. “We weren’t there yet. I’m never going to be one to back down just because we’re winning. It’s an opportunity for more work.”
After South Portland scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Windham starters were reinserted into the game. With South Portland trying to salvage some respect, Peeples took it away from the Red Riots when he intercepted a pass to seal the Eagles win. This week, the Eagles host undefeated Scarborough on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. and Leslie said he already has some more personnel changes in mind to keep Windham on the winning track.
Braxton Cassidy (L) and Blake Colby (#65) sandwich a South Portland defender during Saturday’s action.
Blake Houser runs for a big gain in Windham’s convincing Victory.