After a convincing 35-14 semi-final win over Marine City, the Portland Raider football team is heading back to Ford Field for the first time since Portland’s 2012 state title. The 2018 Raiders have earned their spot in the MHSAA Division 5 Football Championship game.
The game will occur this Saturday, November 24th at 4:30 PM.
The Raiders, now 13-0 on the season, will face the Crusaders of Hudsonville Unity Christian (11-2). The Crusaders are coming in after a 14-7 semi-final victory over heavily favored Saginaw Swan Valley.
The Crusaders finished third in the OK Green Conference, with their only two losses to Zeeland West, 38 to 14, and Zeeland East, 36-13. One of the highlights of their season was a 41-22 stomping of long time Raider nemesis, Grand Rapids West Catholic.
The Raiders appear to hold a size advantage over the Crusaders at most positions, but Unity Christian has several very fast and extremely athletic players that cannot be overlooked.
According to MHSAA.com, Hudsonville Unity Christian has a total enrollment of 602 opposed to Portland’s 550.
We reached out to our good friend Buck Geno from ESPN 96.1’s Game of the Week. He has seen the Crusaders three times this year.
Geno said, “Hudsonville Unity Christian is a program that started from scratch in 2003. Craig Tibbe, a disciple of recently deceased Hall of Fame coach Bob Blacquiere (South Christian HS) leads the Crusaders as the only head coach the school has ever had in their relatively short history. They execute a run-heavy attack on offense led by junior QB Isaac TeSlaa. A cast of thousands in the backfield is led by Max Buikema, Hayden Large, and super sophomore Malekhi Obande. Ends TJ Vankoevering and Caleb Heyboer are pass receiving threats as well as punishing blockers.
Defensively, the Crusaders don't change much... literally. They have 6 2-way starters and many of the other offensive players rotate in at times. Vankoevering and Heyboer are linchpins in the defensive front 7 along with Austin Schuiteman and Nick Tibbe. Max Buikema also excels at DE.
Knowing Portland's tradition under Coach Novara this should be a physical, well-played, and intense football game. The Crusaders are a team you must play for 48 minutes against - they can exploit any letdown that lasts for any length of time.
As a courtesy to both teams I will not predict a winner - but I do predict that this will be one of the top games to see this weekend at Ford Field.
You can listen to our game broadcast on two media platforms:
The iHeart Radio app itself (search for ESPN 96.1 FM).
Visit prepsmi.com and click on the "iHeart Radio" icon underneath the scoreboard for the game (which is updated live).
We invite and appreciate any new listeners who are unable to make the trip to Detroit!”
While there really is no danger of Ford Field selling out, pre-sale tickets are available at the Portland High School Athletics Office. The final chance for pre-sales will occur Friday from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Tickets are $10.
Portland was issued 2,000 tickets for pre-sale and sold 500 in the first 90 minutes Monday, and a total of 899 as of 3:00 PM that day.
The team bus(es) will depart from PHS at 11:30 AM on Saturday. Fans are organizing a big send off. The plan is for fans to line Grand River Avenue at 11:15 AM between Peppermint Twist and Tom’s Food Center. You are encouraged to bring noise makers, signs, pom poms, or anything else you can to give the team a proper send off.
The MHSAA has issued a parking and entrance guide for the finals. You can find it at
A few key points are:
Parking at Ford Field owned lots will be $6, but the cost to use privately owned lots can vary. A parking map can be found at https://www.fordfield.com/plan-your-visit/parking.
The consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Ford Field parking facilities and lots, and smoking – including use of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers – is prohibited inside the stadium.
Tickets are priced at $10 and allow a fan to see all four games in a single day.
Portland is designated as a home team and our side of Ford Field is the South side. If you arrive during the 1:00 game between Chippewa Valley and Clarkston, we will replace the Chippewa Valley fans.
There is quite a long list of items you cannot bring into the stadium. You can see it all at http://www.fordfield.com, but if in doubt, don’t bring it.
According to the MHSAA, “All games will be shown LIVE on FOX Sports Detroit or FOX Sports Detroit-PLUS.”
“All of the games will be available live on the FOXSportsDetroit.com website and on handheld and television streaming devices like Roku on the FOX Sports app.”
“Live Finals audio will be available at MHSAANetwork.com for home and handheld listening. All games will be archived shortly after their completion on MHSAA.tv. Postgame press conferences following the first three games each day will be shown live at MHSAA.tv. DVDs are available for order at MHSAA.tv.”
Portland senior Owen Guilford is no stranger to Ford Field. He has the unique distinction of competing for his second state championship here in less than 12 months. Guilford won the MHSAA State Wrestling Championship at the 171-pound weight class at Ford Field back on March 3rd.
Graphics courtesy of Kyle Pierce with photos from Brian Foreback and AJ Guilford.