By: John Raffel
Portland football a power again
Portland's football program has established itself as a team to watch during the postseason.
The Red Raiders, for the second straight regular season, were 9-0, but they hope to go further in the playoffs this time. Last year, they beat Lansing Catholic 28-6 during the regular season, but lost in the playoffs to the same team 21-14.
During the 2016 regular season, Portland had its biggest scare with a 36-35 edging of Lansing Catholic. It's possible the two teams could again meet in the playoffs.
Coach John Novara has been happy with the regular season, but realizes the playoffs are a whole new ballgame.
“The key to the season is we've been more diverse on offense and have been able to throw the ball,” Novara said. “We've had a strong defensive performance. Our team speed is one of the strengths this year. We're a little quicker this year. Our quarterback has thrown more than 1,000 yards this season.”
Gabe Schrauben has about 700 yards carrying the football.
“We have a good core of receivers,” Novara said.
As for playoff potential, “it's a luck of the draw,” he said. “We have a team that can go a long way, but we'll probably run into a strong team early on.”
Novara expected a tough game against Marshall to close out the regular season and got it in a 21-14 win.
Brock Gross ran for a 68-yard TD and also caught a 42-yard TD from quarterback Austin Allison. Logan Lefke had a big 24-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Griffin Hager ignited the Raiders with 13 tackles and Dean Battley had 10. Brett Patrick and Gavin Dennany each had eight tackles and an interception.
Those individuals have been key in leading the Raiders to their undefeated regular season, although it wasn't easy at times.
Portland won the Division 5 state title over West Catholic 12-9 in 2012 and may wind up playing the Falcons in an upcoming playoff game.