T-D HS Football

Mustangs stampede past Panthers

By: By Sean Wechtenhiser

PORTAGE — Portage went into Friday night’s game against Shade looking to rebound from a tough loss to Berlin in Week 2.  
The Mustangs took a 15-point lead into the locker room at halftime, before putting the game away with a 21 point third quarter offensive spurt.
The outburst allowed the Mustangs to earn a 50-14 home victory over the Panthers.
“After last week it was a great bounce back,” said Portage head coach Gary Gouse.  “We felt awful all week long, and we had to get back on track.  I think we came focused to play and we did a good job all over the field offensively and defensively.  I’m really pleased with our effort tonight.”
Portage opened the second half with a five-play, 57-yard scoring drive. Michael Bryja hit Joe Randazzo for a 26-yard catch on run on the second play of the half to set up the Mustangs deep in Shade territory. Three plays later Caleb Kephart scored from five yards out to push the Portage lead to 28-6.
Things got worse for Shade on their next possession. On their first offensive play of the second half they fumbled the ball in the backfield. Portage recovered the ball on the Panthers 30-yard line. Shade’s defense came up with two good plays after the turnover, but Kephart converted a key third down to move the chains. Two plays later Bryja found Zach Coukart for a 15 yard touchdown strike.
Kephart scored from 27 yards out for his third touchdown run late in the third quarter to put the game out of reach at 42-6.
“That just took the wind out of our sails,” said Shade head coach Don Fyfe.  We came out with some momentum.  We gave up the touchdown, but I thought we could put a drive in and stay in it, but that fumble kind of broke our backs.”
Shade finally got going late in the third quarter, putting together a 15 play, 65 yard scoring drive.  The Panthers converted three fourth downs on the drive, including a one yard plunge by Ted Dunagan on fourth and goal from the one yard line to cut the Mustangs lead to 42-14 midway through the final quarter.
The Mustangs scored with just over a minute left in the game, and added the two point conversion to set the final at 50-14.
Portage outgained the Panthers on the ground 318 – 166.  Luke Dividock led all runners with 110 yards on 12 carries.  Kephart added 95 yards on 12 carries to go along with his three touchdowns.
“It was good to run the ball and physically run it,” said Gouse.  “We did a better job blocking.  We still have a way to go.  Michael (Bryja) threw some great passes, so we were able to mix it up.  Defensively we played well.  There were one to two small things, but overall it was a pretty good effort.”
While the offensive spurt of the Mustangs put the game away in the second half, the key play of the game came early in the second quarter.  Trailing 6-0, the Panthers used the legs of senior quarterback Nash Walker to drive deep into Mustangs territory.  Walker had a 36 yard run, followed by a 28 yard scamper to set up Shade with a first down at the Portage 13 yard line.  On third down Walker ran through the middle of the line to the five yard line.  However, Walker was injured on the play.  He had to be helped off the field, and did not return.  Tyler Kline scored on the next play to tie the game 6-6, but the loss of Walker proved to be costly for the Panthers.  Shade felt the loss of Walker on both offense and defense the rest of the game.
“He just mans it back there,” said Shade head coach Don Fyfe.  “He’s like a ball hawk.  When the ball is in the air he is going to make a play on it.  We had to put a sophomore back there who does not have varsity experience and they took advantage of it.”
Portage scored on their final two possessions of the first half to go into the locker room with a 21-6 lead.
Despite the loss, Fyfe took some positives from the game.
“The kids kept fighting to the end,” said Fyfe.  “We were 1-2 last year at this time, so we are going to see if we can repeat what we did last year too.”