Portland won their first football district title in school history, and did it in convincing fashion, routing Olivet 36-0 Friday night.
The Raiders (10-1), who have finished undefeated five times in the past 60 years, posted their first 10-win campaign ever. Portland coach John Novara said that the win was a big one for his program.
“There are a lot of kids here right now that played the last few years, and some of them had tears in their eyes,” Novara said. “It’s been a lot of work over a lot of years just to get to this point.”
Tanner Allison threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score for the Raiders, who started off slowly. Portland had trouble holding on to the football early, dropping three passes and muffing a punt in the first quarter.
But Olivet (7-4) could not capitalize, due to the swarming Portland defense. Eagle running back Nick Coolidge, who rushed for 287 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s victory at Lansing Catholic, had -2 yards on 12 carries in the first half of this one.
“I thought we started out playing pretty well,” Olivet coach Dean Peters said. “We couldn’t get our run game going. Our passing game has been average this year, something different than it has been for the past few years, and once they stop Nick Coolidge, we’re in trouble.”
The game was scoreless in the first quarter but Portland blew the game open in the second, scoring four touchdowns to take control of the contest.
Allison gave the Raiders a 7-0 lead with a 6-yard keeper with 9:01 left in the second, and a series of miscues on the next possession helped put the Eagles even further behind. After being held 3-and-out, Olivet punted, but a false start penalty forced them to do it again.
On the second attempt, a bad snap was never fully recovered, and Portland’s Dylan Carroll scooped it up and returned it to the Olivet 4-yard line. Jacob Kimmell ran it in from there on the next play, and a 2-point conversion made the score 15-0.
Allison found Auston Brandt with an 80-yard touchdown pass with 4:37 left in the quarter, and a 1-yard run by Jacob Kimmell with 44.5 seconds left in the half gave Portland a 29-0 advantage at the break.
“The defense kept us in early when we were struggling, and that’s what seniors are supposed to do,” Novara said. “I have ten juniors on offense, and they were struggling. But our seniors on defense kept us there until our juniors could calm down and play great football.”
Portland took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 65 yards in six plays, the last of which, a 26-yard touchdown pass from Allison to Logan Seal, made the score 36-0 and started the running clock with 9:36 left in the third quarter.
“Give them credit, they took control up front,” Peters said. “They were swatting passes, they were totally dominating us up front… They compare to Constantine, Schoolcraft, Pennfield. We played four great teams this year, and they’re certainly one of them.”
The Raiders have qualified for the playoffs 14 times, including the last 10 years in a row, but had never advanced past the second round in postseason play until now.
“I look back on our playoff history, and we’ve played a lot of great teams, eventual state champions and state runners-up, so as a program, it looks like you’re not going anywhere,” Novara said. “But I felt we were, and over the years with hard work we’re definitely getting there.”
The Raiders will play top-ranked and undefeated Flint Powers for the regional title next week. Powers, the defending Division 5 state champions, beat undefeated Frankenmuth 34-0 in their district final.