PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - After dealing with 12 years of disappointment, Portland is back in a regional final. The only problem, they're playing a team that's played there five years running: Cheverus.
It's the fourth time the cross-town rivals are playing in the past 15 months. The Stags have won the previous three, although the gap has shrunk considerably between the two Class 'A' East schools.
Cheverus won both games in 2012 (Week Two and the Class 'A' West semifinal) by a combined 77-7. In their week one matchup this season, Cheverus forced several turnovers in a 35-25 win over Portland.
It's a growth that second-year head coach Jim Hartman has seen in his Bulldogs.
"They've really matured a lot this season: turnovers, their approach to the game, their approach to practice, their approach to each other, and their dedication to the game," Hartman said.
Stags head coach John Wolfgram doesn't any carry over or momentum from the win more than two months ago.
"It's a whole new season really. What happened nine weeks ago really has no effect on the situation right now," he said.
For the Cheverus seniors, who will have played for a trip to the state finals all four of their years, they'll look to their past experience for an added edge.
"The success we've had the last four, five years has helped our team a little bit, because we've been there. We're a mature team. We know what it takes to win that," said senior lineman Pat Ball.
For the resurgent Bulldogs program, they'll try to draw some added energy from the fact that a win would mark just the fourth time in the 46 year history of the state playoff that the Bulldogs would be able to play at their home field of Fitzpatrick Stadium.
"Obviously the school's excited. The program's excited and we're just trying to get at it. We've been waiting for it for really long, so the chance is big," said junior Justin Zukowski, the leading rusher in Class 'A'.
Also helping the competitive juices is the fact that many have known each other from their childhoods and the schools are only separated by 2.4 miles.
Kickoff is set for 12:30 pm from Boulos Stadium in Portland.