Homecomings can have a wave of emotions. For some it can be a bittersweet return. For others, it can be an amazing night with old friends. From the Portland Band playing “Onward Portland”, to the nervous Football Moms tailgating by the gate, to the Parade with the Homecoming Court, kids on floats and fans lining the streets. Emotions were definitely high on the Portland side Friday Night.
Portland’s Defense started the game by forcing Ionia to punt after a short six play drive. Ionia had gotten a first down after a Portland penalty, but the defense stiffened and forced the Ionia offense to punt. On the first Portland offensive play from scrimmage, (Sr.) SB Gavin Thelen took the handoff 89 yards in for a touchdown. (Sr.) SB Brock Gross took in a two-yard run to convert the two-point conversion to give Portland the early 8-0 lead. Following the kickoff, Portland (Sr.) CB Gavin Dennany would pick off Ionia’s (Sr.) QB John Meyer 10 yards downfield giving Portland back the ball. Portland would drive down to the Ionia one where (Sr.) QB Austin Allison would find Gross for a one-yard TD Pass. Allison would convert the two-point conversion himself giving Portland a 16-0 first quarter lead.
The Portland defense would come on to force a turnover on downs after the Ionia offense mounted a small threat to start the second quarter. However, Portland’s defense deserves a lot of credit for limiting what had been a high-powered Ionia attack so far this season. The Portland defense did a great job of neutralizing whatever Ionia tried to do. (Sr.) LB Dean Battley led the way with an impressive nine tackle performance. (Sr.) S Travis Costello also had an interception on the night. (Jr.) NT Dylan Arthur and (Sr.) S Cade Parmalee also had strong performances. Parmalee broke up a sure touchdown late in the second quarter. The Defense as a whole played well. As I wrote three weeks ago, I really feel like this defense has found its identity and is now asserting their will on others.
Gross would score again from 42 yards out after Portland took over on their own 19-yard line. Allison would find WR Dennany in the end zone for the two-point conversion. This would send Portland to the half with a 24-0 lead over Ionia.
After half time, Portland would pick up where they had left off with the offense driving down to the Ionia four-yard line. Gross would take it in from four yards out for another Raider touchdown. The extra point attempt would fail with 6:14 left in the third quarter. Just three minutes and 12 seconds later, Gross would score his fourth touchdown of the game with a 17-yard touchdown run. Dennany would come on to convert the extra point. This would put Portland up 37-0 over Ionia with 3:02 left in the third quarter.
In the 4th quarter Portland (Jr.) SB Lucas Goodman scored with a 17-yard touchdown run with another Dennany extra point kick. Ionia would finally find the end zone, though most of the defensive starters were off giving some young players valuable experience, when (Sr.) RB James Paulin scored on an eight-yard TD run making the final score Portland 44 Ionia 6.
Coach John Novara said after the game, “I thought we started the game fast and continued to play well for the whole game. This is the third week in a row that we have played well. Ionia has some great skilled kids and touch lineman, but our defense did the job tonight. We still made mistakes and we have to continue to improve, but I am proud of our kids’ efforts tonight over a much-improved Ionia team.”.
Ionia is now 3-3 (2-2) and Portland is now 5-1 (4-0). Next week, Ionia will travel to Lansing Catholic 5-1 (3-1), while Portland will host Eaton Rapids 1-5 (0-4).