After jumping out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter, no one would have guessed that Portage's defense would have to come up with two big defensive plays in the second half to secure a victory. However, a Blairsville comeback forced the Mustang defense to help win.
Trailing 20-10 at halftime, the Bobcats hit a big play on their first series of the second half, but Portage stopped Blairsville on downs. On the next series the Bobcats had a short field, but the Mustangs forced a fumble to give them back the ball. They scored two plays later to regain the momentum and ran away with a 41-24 win.
"If you're ever going to be a great football team, you have to have a great defense to go with your offense," Portage head coach Gary Gouse said. "They have to make those kinds of stands because you never know when the ball is going to be turned over. When you have a fast transition like that, I think we did a really good job. They fumbled, and we got the ball and went down and scored. I think that was a big turning point."
Blairsville quarterback Scott Thompson found Bobby Thompson behind the Portage defense on the third play of the second half for a 44-yard strike that set up the Bobcats inside the Mustangs' 20. However, the Portage defense held and took over on downs when Joe Krisko sacked Thompson on fourth down.
After a three-and-out by Portage and a short punt, Blairsville took over on its own 40. But Deion Robinson fumbled two plays later to give Portage the ball near midfield. Two plays later, Caleb Kephart rumbled 52 yards for a touchdown that gave the Mustangs a 27-10 lead - and all of the momentum.
The Mustangs added a 33-yard scoring scamper by Kephart and a 38-yard score by Cody Kephart before Blairsville scored two late touchdowns to set the final at 41-24.
"I thought our defense played very well," Gouse said. "They throw the ball excellent. They only scored 10 points on our starting unit because our other kids were in the rest of the half of the game. Our defense played very well. We have only given up 17 points in the past four games, so that's making a statement.
The Mustangs scored on three of their first four possessions. Luke Dividock opened the scoring with a 7-yard run and added a 27-yard score later in the quarter. Evan Price also added a 28-yard run on Portage's second possession. When the dust settled at the end of the quarter, Portage had outgained Blairsville in yardage, 143-4.
The Bobcats came back with 10 points in the second quarter to cut the lead to 20-10 at the half. Thompson hit Livingston for a 16-yard strike to get Blairsville on the board midway through the second quarter. The Bobcats added a 26-yard field goal by Bobby Thompson just before the half.
"Truthfully, this game was lost before it ever started," Blairsville coach Al Dettorre said. "It's my job to get them ready to play. I didn't get them ready to play."
Blairsville 0 10 0 14 - 24
Portage20 0 14 7 - 41
P-Dividock 7 run (Lutz kick), 7:20.
P-Price 28 run (Lutz kick), 1:35.
P-Dividock 27 run (run failed), :25.
B-Livingston 16 pass from S. Thompson (B. Thompson kick), 7:24.
B-B. Thompson 26 FG, :38.
P-Ca. Kephart 52 run (Lutz kick), 5:47.
P-Ca. Kephart 38 run (Lutz kick), 1:27.
P-Co. Kephart 6 run (Herman kick), 6:32.
B-Livingston 1 run (B. Thompson kick), 2:56.
B-Robinson 14 pass from S. Thompson (B. Thompson kick), :40.
RUSHING: Blairsville-S. Thompson 16-53, Robinson 1-28, Faulk 1-2, Livingston 1-1. Portage-Ca. Kephart 12-157, Dividock 14-66, Price 8-57, Co. Kephart 5-26, Harrison 2-6, team 2-(-2).
PASSING: Blairsville-S. Thompson 12-20-1-241. Portage-Price 3-7-0-26.\
RECEIVING: Blairsville-Robinson 6-93, Faulk 2-70, B. Thompson 1-44, Livingston 3-34. Portage-Baker 2-19, Harrison 1-7.