Raiders Top Irish in Nail Biter
Pontiac would get the ball to start the game but after getting one first down, the Portland defense would force the Irish to punt. Portland would drive to the Irish two and one-half yard line and would go for it on 4th down where the Irish defense would force a turnover on downs with 5:21 left in the 1st Quarter. Portland’s defense would hold and force the Irish to punt from their own one-yard line. Portland would drive down the field and score with a one-yard touchdown run form (Sr.) QB Austin Allison with six seconds left in the 1st Quarter. (Jr.) K Tate Dziewiatkowski would convert on the extra point kick. At the end of the 1st quarter, Portland 7, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 0.
In the 2nd quarter the Irish would answer with a 37-yard touchdown pass from (Sr.) QB Elijah McLean to (Sr.) WR Thomas Riss with 9:24 left in the 2nd Quarter. (Sr.) K Noah Thomas would convert on the extra point kick. Portland 7 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 7. Portland would then answer again when Allison found (Sr.) SB Brock Gross for a 10-yard touchdown with 4:40 left in the half. Dziewiatkowski converted the extra point kick. That would be all the scoring in the 1st half as Portland took a 14-7 lead into the locker room.
Portland would get the ball to start the 2nd half and would waste little time in scoring. Portland would drive down to the Irish three-yard line where Allison would score with 10:20 left in the 3rd Quarter. Dziewiatkowski came on to convert on the extra point kick putting Portland up 21-7. The Irish would mount their comeback on their next possession. Less than three minutes later McLean would find Riss again in the end zone with a nine-yard TD pass with 7:31 left in the 3rd Quarter. Thomas converted the extra point kick making it Portland 21 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 14. The Irish would cut into the deficit again with a 12-yard TD pass from McLean over the middle to a wide open Riss with 36 seconds left in the 3rd Quarter. Thomas came on for the extra point attempt but (Sr.) CB Gavin Dennany would swoop in and block the extra point. At the end of the 3rd Quarter Portland 21 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 20.
The 4th quarter would see a pivotal series of plays that would decide the outcome of this contest. Rarely does a Portland punt get mentioned nor is it a highlight, but with 5:03 left in the game and the Irish lining up to come after the punt, (Sr.) Dean Battley got off a 65-yard punt pinning the Irish at their own one-yard line. On 1st down Dennany would come up big again with a diving acrobatic interception at the Irish 19-yard line. Portland would then move the ball to the Irish 4 but Portland Coach John Novara would have to make a decision on 4th down. He could bring on Dziewiatkowski to attempt a 22-yard field goal to go up by 4 or go for it on 4th down. Coach Novara decided to go for it and Allison found Battley for a four-yard TD pass with 2:27 left in the game. Dziewiatkowski came on to attempt the extra point kick but Gross fielded a high snap and ran it in for the two-point conversion. Portland now up 29-20. The Irish would start their next drive from their own 19-yard line and McLean would cap the 79-yard drive with a five-yard TD pass with 26 seconds left in the game. Thomas converted on the extra point kick with Portland now leading 29-27. The Irish would attempt an onside kick but Portland had its hands team in and Tim Thompson secured the kick to give Portland the ball. Portland took a knee to finish off the game.
The defense was under attack the whole game by the best QB Portland has faced in a while. McLean was accurate and threw with a lot of velocity. Leading the way was Battley with 14 tackles. (Sr.) LB Devin Miller had 12 tackles. (Sr.) DE Gavin Thelen had nine tackles while Dennany had four tackles, one interception and an extra point block.
Offensively, Allison led the way with 12 carries for 95 yards and two TD’s, while also throwing six of 12 for 76 yards, two TD’s, and two INT’s. Gross had 15 carries for 86 yards, one TD reception, and a huge two-point conversion. After the game Coach Novara said, “This is a great win against a quality opponent that has a chance to make a nice playoff run. They have held six of their first seven opponents to zero points. Our kids had to make plays at the end of the night to get the win and they did. This game should help us for the playoffs. They are a well-coached, physical football team, and we are happy with the win.”
You learn more from a close game than you do from blowouts and I believe this team has learned from this invaluable experience against such a quality opponent and talented QB. Next up for Portland (8-1) will be a physical and hungry Marshall (4-4) team fighting to get into the playoffs. That game will be at Portland on Friday night.