On a cool breezy last day of August, two CAAC heavyweights matched up for their first ever meeting and a preview of two of next year’s CAAC White opponents. The 2016 CAAC Blue runner-up, Sexton came into the matchup with a one and 0 record after a blowout win over Gaylord. Portland came in undefeated in the last two regular seasons. You’d have to go back to October 24th, 2014 to find their last regular season loss. Last week Portland came out sluggish against a good Ovid Elsie team but hoping to play better this week.
The first half was very much like two heavyweight boxers sizing up their opponent. Portland struggled to get anything going on the ground leading to many three and outs, and great field position for Sexton. Sexton would fail to capitalize, as the lack of discipline was evident in five penalties (two holds, two Illegal procedures and one personal foul) in the first half stalling out two drives. On a key fourth and 12, Sexton quarterback #2 Jackson Barnes would find wide receiver #11 Karl Brooks on the sideline for a Sexton first down. On second and goal from the Portland one-yard line, Barnes tucked in behind his human earth mover, #52 Luzander Granderson, who tips the scales at 309 pounds, for the first touchdown of the game.
The touchdown would be the only scoring of the half for either team as Sexton went for the two-point conversion that Portland’s #12 Devin Miller stopped. Portland and Sexton would exchange possessions for the rest of the half, with neither making any serious threats to score, with the exception of an Austin Allison pass to #21 Gavin Dennany that was broke up in the end zone by Sexton.
Portland would kick the ball off out of bounds to start the second half. Sexton was driving down the field, but had a fourth and one first down conversion called back after being flagged for Illegal shift. Sexton would punt from their own 39.
After the punt, Portland took over from the Sexton 48. Portland started driving the ball down the field with #23 Dean Battley picking up a big first down on second and nine, taking the ball down to the Sexton seven-yard line. On second and goal from the two, Allison would score around the left side, diving in for the touchdown on a busted play. The extra point kick was good from the foot of #88 Tate Dziewiatkowski, making the score Portland seven, Sexton six, with 7:44 left in the third Quarter.
Portland kicked to Sexton on the ensuing kickoff. Sexton was flagged for a block in the back, forcing them to start from their own eight, but they would not stay there long. Barnes found Brooks for a big 60-yard that would move the Big Reds down field and into scoring position. #1 Byron Pearce would score on a short run inside to put Sexton back on top. After an unsuccessful two-point conversion pass, Sexton would be on top 12 to seven with 5:44 left in the third quarter.
Portland would take over from their own 20 after a kick return from #22 Gavin Thelen. Portland had a big pass play from Allison to Dennany called back on a penalty leading to another punt. Sexton would accumulate two flags on their next drive, which would lead to a punt to Portland with the Raiders taking over at their own 35.
After no gain on first down, Brock Gross got the ball and took it the distance for a 65-yard touchdown putting Portland back on top. #88 Tate Dziewiatkowski would again convert on his extra point attempt. With 11:41 left in the game Portland would lead 14 to 12.
Sexton would get the ball back, but would be stopped and forced to punt on fourth and one. Sexton tried fake punt, but it would be flagged for Illegal procedure. On fourth and six, Sexton would punt the ball back to Portland from their own 11.
Portland would start the drive from the 50 but once again Dean Battley would have to punt after an incomplete 3rd down pass attempt.
Sexton’s next possession would start at their own 20-yard line. On first and 10, #70 Jacob Hickling got a big 15-yard sack, but on second down, Barnes would scramble making a third-down more third and seven.
Sexton would convert on third down. With 4:23 left in the game Portland would get a big third and eight stop by breaking up an intended pass to Brooks from Barnes. Sexton would be forced to punt the ball back to Portland from the 50-yard, line pinning Portland down on its own 19 with 4:05 left in the game.
On second and five Brock Gross would carry the ball to the 33 yards line with 3:15 left in the game. Dean Battley ripped off seven yards on first down. After the Big Red defense stopped Brock Gross for no gain on second down, Allison would keep the ball testing the right side getting two yards bringing up fourth down and one with 1:14 left in the ball game, as Sexton took its last time out.
This would bring up a decision for coach John Novara. To go for it on fourth and one, knowing if he didn’t get it, Sexton would get the ball back with all their athletes, and a short field. Or to punt it and let the Raider defense, who had done a fairly good job of keeping Sexton out of the end zone and limiting the number of big plays, win the game. Conventional wisdom says you punt and that’s what the coach did.
Battley would punt the ball with Sexton starting from their own 17 with 1:07 left in the game. On first and 10, Jackson Barnes dropped back to pass and scrambled to his right, and out of bounds to pick up 13 yards on the play moving the ball to the Sexton 30-yard line with 59 seconds left in the game. On first down Barnes would throw to Neal Prince for a 20-yard gain setting up Sexton on the 50-yard line.
The next play would be a back breaker for the Raiders. Barnes would scramble to his right with excellent protection and once again find #5 Neal Prince at the 28-yard line, breaking #8 Blake Patrick’s tackle to take the ball down to the Portland five-yard line with 34 seconds left, after a touchdown saving tackle by #16 Cade Parmalee.
On the very next play Sexton would score to take the lead 18-14. Sexton would be flagged when they lined up to go for the two-point conversion, but would still score two points on pass from Barnes to Brooks, putting Sexton up 20-10.
Portland would take over at the 20-yard line after a Brock Gross return on the kickoff with 21 seconds left. On first down, Allison would throw an incompletion out of bounds. On second down, Allison threw the ball up for grabs with the ball falling incomplete. However, Sexton would be flagged for roughing the passer. Portland would get a first down with the ball at the Portland 35-yard line with five seconds left. Allison would find Dennany over the middle at the Sexton 45, but time expired, handing Portland its first loss on the season after a hard-fought battle.
Next up for Portland (1-1) will be Williamston (2-0) at home on Friday September 8th.