The Portland High School football team kicks off its season on Thursday night when they host long time season opening opponent Ovid Elsie.
I caught up with head coach John Novara to see what we can expect for the season.
When asked about his outlook for 2019, Novara said, “I think we return a lot of our skilled kids and we are excited about that. I thought in the scrimmage we threw the ball very well. The biggest challenge for us is we are replacing all of our front on our offensive line. That is going to be an issue for us. They have to grow up really fast and get the schemes down, and just play well up front. That is going to be our growing up part. Defensively I thought we scrimmaged well. I think we are a little bit undersized so we are going to have to use our quickness. Right now, the kids have been doing a pretty god job in practice. We had a great first week, but there is a lot of learning and there is a lot of room for improvement right now.”
On Thursday August 22nd, the Raiders traveled to Grand Ledge to scrimmage the Comets, Jackson Lumen Christi and St. Johns, a group of high-quality programs.
Novara said, “We like to scrimmage really quality football teams. It does not help you to go and scrimmage a bad football team. I like to challenge ourselves and I thought the kids really stepped up. The biggest thing I saw was from the beginning of the scrimmage to the end they got a lot better. You can just see them growing, and that is going to be the theme for each week is just try to get better and grow each week. We have a lot of seniors, but not a lot of them have playing experience. It will just be growing every week and if they will just trust everything and just try to get better every week, I think we will be a very good football team by the end of the season.”
The first regular season game of 2019 will be Thursday night instead of Friday due to the Labor Day holiday weekend. The Crusaders of Ovid Elsie finished seven and three last year, with their season coming to an end in a first-round playoff loss to Portland.
Regarding Ovid Elsie, Novara said, “They suffered a lot of injuries at the end of the season. Lost a game to a good Richmond team and then came over to us in the first round of the playoffs, and they were really a beat-up team. Several of their quality players were out that game. We were able to put it on them a little bit, but they are always really well coached. They are always going to be physical, and we have been playing each other for like 65 years. We know what they are going to do and they know what we are going go do. It just comes down to execution and staying away from mistakes.”
The summer saw a great deal of bond funded construction around the district, including several improvements to the PHS football stadium. When asked if the stadium would be ready for Thursday night, Novara said, “It looks ready to go. It looks really nice down there. There are still little odds and ends to finish up. We have to wait for all the grass to come in, but it looks really nice down there. Our field surface looks good. We are excited to kick off in a new stadium and hopefully the kids step up and play well that night.”
2019 Raider Varsity Football Schedule
8/29 Home vs Ovid Elsie 7:00 (Jr. Raider Night)
9/6 Home vs DeWitt 7:00 (Band Night)
9/13 Away vs Sexton 7:00
9/20 Home vs Charlotte 7:00 (Military Appreciation Night)
9/27 Away vs Lansing Catholic 7:00
10/4 Home vs Eaton Rapids 7:00 (Homecoming)
10/11 Home vs Ionia 7:00 (Senior Night)
10/18 Away vs Mason 7:00
10/25 Away vs Montague 7:00
Pictured above is the 2018 Raider squad as they took Ford Field in Detroit for the State Championship game.