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  • James Townsend

Portland Football tops Hastings to capture District Championship

On Friday, the Portland High School football team traveled to Hastings to face the Saxons for the 2023 MHSAA Division 4 District Finals.

The Raiders entered the game with a 10-0 record after defeating Lansing Sexton 27-6 in the district semi-finals. The Saxons came in with an 8-2 record after defeating Charlotte 30-28 on the other side of the bracket.

Portland would strike first in the contest in the first quarter. The Raider offense would put together a long drive, capping it off with a one-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Domonic Novara. Senior kicker Aiden Pulling's point after was good giving Portland an early 7-0 lead.

Hastings wasted little time in getting their first score. On the next possession the Saxons found the endzone on a five-yard touchdown run by junior Isaiah Wilson. Wilson also punched it in the Saxon two=point conversion giving Hastings an 8-7 lead.

Portland punched back on their next possession with an impressive 60-yard touchdown run by senior running back Caden Thelen. Pulling connected on the extra-point putting the score at Portland 14, Hastings 8.

Before the barn burning first quarter came to an end, Hastings would score one more time. This time on a 52-yard touchdown run by senior Haiden Simmet. The Saxons again went for a two-point conversion, and this time picked up two points by senior Landon Steward. Sexton would take a 16-14 lead.

In the 2nd quarter of play, Portland’s Novara connected with junior receiver Christopher Battley for a nine-yard touchdown pass. Caden Thelen was successful on the two-point conversion giving Portland a 22-16 lead.

Hastings would strike one more time during the quarter. This time on a two-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Owen Carroll to junior Jett Barnum as time expired. Senior David Jiles converted on the Saxon two-point conversion and the teams went to the halftime break with Hastings leading 24-22.

In the second half of play, the Portland defense stepped up and began to shut down the powerful Hastings offense. Portland would hold the Saxons scoreless for the remainder of the game.

Portland regained the lead in the contest in the third quarter of play when Caden Thelen ran it in for a two-yard touchdown run. Thelen also punched it in on the two-point conversion and Portland would lead 30-24.

In the fourth quarter of play, the Portland offense would secure the lead when Caden Thelen had another impressive touchdown run, this time for 37-yards. Novara ran in the two-point conversion giving Portland a 38-24 lead.

The Raider defense held strong and the Raiders would win the district title with a 38-24 victory.

Scoring summary by quarter:

1st – 2nd – 3rd – 4th – Final

Portland 14 – 8 – 8 – 8 – 38

Hastings 16 – 8 – 0 – 0 – 24

Portland Rushing Totals

Caden Thelen 32 for 281 yards and 3 touchdowns

Barrett Brennan 3 for 20 yards

Connor Thelen 2 for 11 yards

Brody Moore 1 for 3 yards

Caden Lockwood 2 for 8 yards

Dominic Novara 3 for 3 yards

Conner Kazamer 2 for 5 yards

Kayden Dickerson 1 for 5 yards

Portland Passing Totals

Dom Novara 4 for 7 for 47 yards and 1 touchdown

Portland Receiving Totals

Evan Gross 1 for 15 yards

Christopher Battley 2 for 20 yards and 1 touchdown

Conner Thelen 1 for 12 yards

Portland Defensive Totals

Tyler Smith 11 tackles

AJ Weber 13 tackles

Caden Thelen 5 tackles and 1 interception

You can view Portland head coach John Novara’s post-game comments in the video below.

The Raiders overall record moves to 11-0. They advance to the MHSAA regional round where they will travel to Niles Friday for a 7:00 PM kickoff. The Vikings are 10-1 this year. They defeated Vicksburg 42-10 in their district semi-final, and defeated Paw Paw 42-13 in the district finals.

Below you can see Niles’ full 2023 schedule with results according to the MHSAA.

Date Home/Away Opponent Score W/L

8/25 H St Joseph 55-0 W

8/31 A Stevensville Lakeshore 14-15 L

9/8 H Three Rivers 56-8 W

9/15 A Otsego 50-8 W

9/22 A Sturgis 61-21 W

9/29 H Vicksburg 50-0 W

10/6 H Edwardsburg 49-0 W

10/13 A Plainwell 69-0 W

10/20 H Paw Paw 56-18 W

10/27 H Vicksburg 42-10 W

11/3 H Paw Paw 42-13 W

Here is the full updated Division 4 bracket from the MHSAA.


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