• Jim Townsend

Raiders fall to DeWitt in Football season opener

On Friday night, the Portland Raider football team traveled to DeWitt for the 2020 season opener.

The original opening date match up with Ovid Elsie was scheduled for August 28th, but due to the postponement of start of high school football in Michigan due to COVID-19 concerns, action was delayed until this week. DeWitt was scheduled as the week four opponent in the original nine-week schedule.

For anyone in attendance, Friday night looked and felt much different than a normal Raider football opener. The evening air was cool and crisp. The crowd was far smaller than usual. The cheerleaders were there, but the marching band was missing. And all spectators, players and coaches were required to wear face coverings.

While many of these things were unfamiliar for the Raider faithful, it was still nice to see the Raiders on the football field.

The Raiders received the opening kick, but were forced to punt. The Panthers would quickly capitalize scoring on a 32-yard touchdown pass. After connecting on the point after, DeWitt would lead 7-0 with 9:14 remaining in the first.

In their second possession of the game, the Raiders offense was able to march the ball into Panther territory, but was once again forced to punt.

DeWitt would take over on their own 20. The Raider defense started to feel their groove a bit, and pushed the Panthers into a 4th and 26 situation, and an eventual punt.

The first quarter ended with DeWitt leading 7-0.

Early in the second quarter, the Raider offense failed to secure a first down in a 4th in one situation.

In their next possession, the Panthers would march to the Raiders own 5-yard line. The Raider defense was able to keep the Panthers out of the endzone, but DeWitt picked up another three points on a field goal to extend their lead to 10-0 with 6:59 remaining in the second.

After starting their possession on their own 26, the Portland offense was able to gain traction and move the ball deep into Panther territory. The Raider drove the ball to the Panther 18, and got onto the scoreboard with 3:12 remaining in the when senior Cameron Roof connected on a field goal making the score 10-3.

The score would remain 10-3 at halftime.

DeWitt would receive the kick to start the second half. This Panther possession ended with a 39-yard TD pass and the leas would be extended to 17-3 with 8:49 remaining in the third.

The Raiders would once again be forced to punt in their next possession.

The Dewitt passing game would continue to cause trouble for the Raider defense. DeWitt would reach the endzone again on a pass with 4:11 remaining in the third to lead 24-3.

DeWitt would go on to reach the endzone two more times in the second half of the game, and eventually earned a 37-3 victory.

When asked about his team’s performance, Portland Head Coach John Novara said, “We played a great first half, down 10-3, but that is a great football team. One of the best teams in the state. We have a ton of young guys running around out there. Guys with no varsity experience, with no football camp, no seven on sevens, and they are going to grow up. We are going to be a great football team. We got better tonight by playing a very good football team. We are in this for the long haul. I think our kids grew up a ton. They got their feet wet, and we have just got to go back and learn from our mistakes.”

When asked about the different environment of the game due to limited crowd size and other COVID related regulations, Novara said, “The biggest thing is our guys were nervous as it was. A lot of young guys out there. A crowd is nice to have, you don’t hear as much of the yelling and the complaining, and things like that. It is nice having the crowd. The kids love the support. The band, the cheerleaders. We always say we have a great atmosphere. It was tough in here, but I think the kids played hard tonight. I think we just ran out of steam there in the second half. We had kids playing out of position. I had to move a kid tonight and put him in a brand new position with another sick kid going down, so it was tough, but I am proud of their efforts and the way they played, and that I think when we get some of our guys back and get them in he right positions, we are going to be a really good football team.”

As for the first half, Novara said, “I think we did a great job of stopping the run. The kids just hung in there. You could tell they had some really good receivers and we were outmanned at a few spots, but I thought they just hung in there. We tried to keep it close and they made some really big plays in the second half. They have a great corps of kids with 16 returning starters. They kind of took advantage of that in the second half.”

When asked about preparing for next week and the start of conference play, Novara said “Just cleaning up our mistakes. There was a ton of mistakes. We have been having a lot of mistakes in practice, with young kids you are going go have mistakes. We just need to clean up a few of them and get a little bit better, but I think tonight was a good thing for us. It helped us grow up and will help us grow as the season goes on.”

The Raiders open CAAC White play next Friday night when they travel to Charlotte. Charlotte opened their season with a 34-10 win over Ionia.

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