Get ready, Portland. The Raiders are heading to Ford Field.
Portland rebounded from an early 11-point deficit with 22 straight points and held on for a 28-23 victory over Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard on Saturday, sending the Raiders to their first state championship game in school history.
Portland (12-1) will face Grand Rapids West Catholic (10-3) at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Detroit for the Division 5 crown. West Catholic defeated Menominee 20-17 in the other semifinal.
Logan Seal and Randy Gensterblum each had pass interceptions on Gabriel Richard’s last two possessions to salt away the win for the Raiders.
“This is huge for everybody,” Seal said, “the team, the community, everybody.”
Tanner Allison ran for two touchdowns and passed for another for Portland, which found itself down 17-6 late in the second quarter on touchdown runs of 55 and 2 yards by Gabriel Richard’s Ashton Hundley and a 44-yard field goal by Michael Wolf.
“We made some mistakes early,” Portland coach John Novara said. “We had some penalties that put us in some bad situations, and we were on defense a ton.
“They did a good job of moving the football against us and kept our offense off the field.”
Portland cut into the lead on an eight-play, 66-yard drive in the final 1:37 of the half, capped off by a 3-yard keeper by Allison with 40 seconds to go to cut the lead to 17-14 at the break.
The Raiders then took the lead on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Allison to Auston Brandt that made the score 21-17 with 2:19 left in the third quarter.
“At halftime, the coaches really got us pumped up to come out and make this a game,” Allison said. “(Brandt) threw his hands up in the air, and I knew I had to throw it to him. They were covering our receivers pretty well, but he found an opening.”
Portland got the ball back on a fumble at the Irish 41-yard line five plays later, and Andrew Click converted the turnover into points with a 10-yard run with 8:42 left in the fourth quarter that pushed the lead to 28-17.
But Gabriel Richard (11-2) made the game interesting with the next two plays. First, Irish quarterback Joseph Kendzicky found Blaise Stearns on a 69-yard touchdown pass on the first snap of the ensuing possession to cut the Raider lead to five points.
Then, Richard’s onside kick attempt took a perfect bounce over the heads of the Portland front line and the Irish fell on it, taking over possession and the momentum, at the Raider 24.
The Irish drove down to the Portland 12, but Kendzicky’s third-down pass was picked off by Seal at the goal line to snuff out the threat with 4:58 left in the game.
The Irish had one last chance when Portland was forced to punt with 52 seconds remaining, but Gensterblum’s interception with 35 seconds left allowed the Raiders to take a knee and run out the clock.
“We just beat a great football team,” Novara said.
“We had four or five starters injured who couldn’t play today, but other kids stepped up. We have to get a couple of kids healthy for next week, for sure.”
The final will be a rematch from two years ago when West Catholic knocked the Raiders out in the second round of the playoffs on its way to the 2010 state title.