For nearly 42 minutes of game time, Portage Central trailed Portage Northern in their first-ever meeting at the new Huskie Stadium Friday evening. However, a 38-yard touchdown pass from Grayson Plew to Luke Leto with 3:35 remaining put the Mustangs ahead for a 21-20 victory in the crosstown showdown.
Listen to the winning touchdown below:
“I give our kids all the credit for hanging in there and plugging away,” said PC head coach Mick Enders.
The fourth quarter score was the only points of the second half for either team, with the Mustang defense tightening after struggling against the Husky rush attack early.
“They’re a physical football team and I thought we had to match up to their physicality,” said Enders. “I thought as the game went on, we did a better job of that.”
The game saw a wild start with three touchdowns coming within the first four minutes of action. Portage Central’s opening drive ended in an interception by Cory Cunningham. One play later, Tyler Amos had a 13-yard rushing touchdown, followed by a missed extra point that would ultimately prove fatal.
Portage Central answered on their second drive on a 70-yard Plew touchdown run, putting them ahead 7-6. But the lead lasted less than two minutes as an Anthony Tyus 22-yard rushing touchdown put the Huskies up 13-7, giving them a lead that held until the fourth quarter.
The next two Husky drives ended in turnovers with an interception for Leto, followed by a Bryce Hoff forced fumble and Don Jackson recovery. Portage Northern would force a three-and-out, then get a Nate Rogers fumble recovery in response.
On the first play of the second quarter, a seven-yard Amos rush put the Huskies up 20-7. The Mustangs answered on the ensuing drive with a 13-yard Kris Hodgson rush, putting the score at 20-14 into the intermission.
Portage Northern opened the second half with the ball and seemed destined to score as Tyus broke away for a big 62-yard run. Leto managed to catch him at the eight-yard line for what ended up being a huge touchdown-saving tackle. The Huskies made it to the one, before being pushed back for a 28-yard field goal try that went wide.
“Huge swing. That tackle and the missed field goal were probably two of the bigger plays,” noted Enders.
The Mustangs had to punt on the ensuing drive and a wild snap ended up placing the Huskies 23 yards from the end zone. But penalties pushed them out of field goal range, leading to a turnover on downs.
“We certainly let some opportunities slip away and gave another team some confidence,” noted Portage Northern coach Pete Schermerhorn.
Portage Central had to punt again on their next drive, giving the Huskies the ball to open the fourth quarter. PN put together a methodical drive that drained almost seven minutes, eventually finding themselves with a fourth-and-five at the 28. Tyler Helegson’s pass was tipped and intercepted by Ben Cunningham, who took the ball to midfield with 5:22 remaining.
Four plays later, Plew connected with Leto for the 38-yard touchdown pass on a deep post to tie the game at 20-20. Kicker Chase Bronkema sank the extra point, giving the Mustangs the one-point lead.
“I knew it was a big play and I had to execute,” said Leto. “My quarterback threw me a great throw and we scored.”
Portage Northern still had 3:35 left to reclaim the lead with a drive starting from their own 30. On a third-and-nine from their own 45, the Mustangs blitzed and sacked Helegson to force a fourth-and-long. The Husky Hail Mary was knocked down, followed by Mustang kneels to secure the win.
Both teams move to 2-1 overall following Friday’s result. The Mustangs are 1-0 within the SMAC West with the Huskies falling to 1-1. Portage Northern returns home in week four with a tough non-conference game against against East Lansing.
“We got on them early and they bounced back and kept fighting,” said Schermerhorn. “Now that’s our challenge to bounce back next week. East Lansing is a quarterfinal team from a year ago, so they’re very, very good. The challenge is in front of us.”
As for PC, they travel east to face a Battle Creek Central squad that is off to a 3-0 start.
“(Battle Creek Central) beat St. Joe, who is a really good football team. We’ve got to just keep plugging away,” said Enders.
Unofficially, Portage Northern had 303 yards offensively with 163 coming on the ground courtesy of Amos.
“He’s a special ball carrier. Pretty fun to watch,” added Schermerhorn.
The Mustangs unofficially had 174 rushing yards and 89 passing yards. Eli Potts was the top gainer with 92 on the ground via 16 carries. Leto had 63 yards on three catches.
Portage Central is now 35-18 against Portage Northern in regular season games for the Kavanaugh Trophy and 39-20 against the Huskies overall.
PN: 13-yard Tyler Amos rush. PAT missed. (10:59)
PC: 70-yard Grayson Plew rush. Chase Bronkema PAT (10:02)
PN: 22-yard Anthony Tyus rush. Cam Adams PAT (8:18)
PN: 7-yard Tyler Amos rush. Cam Adams PAT (11:55)
PC: 13-yard Kris Hodgson rush. Chase Bronkema PAT (8:29)
PC: 38-yard pass from Grayson Plew to Luke Leto. Chase Bronkema PAT (3:35)
Total Offense: Portage Central 263, Portage Northern 309,
Turnovers: Portage Central 2, Portage Northern 3.
Portage Central Rushing: Eli Potts 92, Grayson Plew 68, Kris Hodgson 15, Ben Cunningham 8, Carter Highhouse -9
Portage Northern Rushing: Tyler Amos 163, Anthony Tyus 98, Tyler Helgeson 29, Kareem Williams 9, Greg Lapetina 4
Portage Central Passing: Carter Highhouse 3-4, 51 yds, 1 INT. Grayson Plew 1-3, 38 yds, 1 TD
Portage Northern Passing: Tyler Helegson 1-7, 6 yds, 2 INT. Nick Henegar 0-1
Portage Central Receiving: Luke Leto 3-63, 1 TD. Jahyden Price 1-26
Portage Northern Receiving: Anthony Tyus 1-6
Portage Central Defense: Ben Cunningham INT, Luke Leto INT, Bryce Hoff FF, Don Jackson FR.
Portage Northern Defense: Cory Cunningham INT, Nate Rogers FR
Records: Portage Central 2-1 (1-0 SMAC West), Portage Northern 2-1 (1-1 SMAC West)
Video by Hassan Al Saeed