By: John Raffel
Portland emerges as state title contender
The Portland Red Raiders are the real deal.
It was obvious after four games and a 4-0 record. But when Portland, ranked fourth in the Associated Press Division 5 polls, defeated No. 2 Lansing Catholic 16-8 Sept. 21, it became obvious this was a squad which could compete for a state title; especially with talented players like Jacob Veale, who had 18 carries for 144 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-0 win over Corunna.
“Defensively we’re playing very well,” Portland coach John Novara said after the fourth game. “Defensively, we’ve only given up one touchdown. Offensively, we’re kind of a work in progress, getting better each week.”
Novara noted it would be a major test against Lansing Catholic.
“They have a good quarterback and are a well-coached team,” Novara said, prior to the game. “I think the team which makes the least amount of mistakes will come out on top.”
Novara acknowledges his team relies heavily on the run.
“Our running game is getting better,” he said. “The key for us year in and year out is we have to be able to run the football consistently. So far, we’re able to do that.”
Veale is a transfer from Ionia and has been the main running back.
“Our offensive line has been doing very well,” Novara said. “Our right tackle Hunter Klein, is 6-foot-6, 305 pounds and is a good player for us. I know some Division II schools are interested in him.
“But realistically we have all five of our offensive line returning from last year.”
Nose guard Dylan Arthur is also a collegiate prospect.