PORTAGE - The only thing hotter than the temperature Friday night at Portage Stadium was the Portage football team's explosive offense.
The Mustangs managed to pick up 380 yards - 284 of which came on the ground - en route to a 41-0 blowout victory over visiting North Star to open the season.
Both defenses shined early as each team struggled to get things going. North Star had the most impressive drive of the first half, taking the ball 48 yards from deep in its own territory in the second quarter, down to the Mustangs' 38 before Brandon Madigan stripped Paul Tretter on a third-and-8 screen pass.
Madigan's defensive play may have been the spark Portage needed. That was when Michael Bryja hooked up with junior teammate Caleb Kephart for a 43-yard touchdown pass with 2:45 remaining in the half.
That came just four plays after the Madigan fumble recovery. The Mustangs were not done as they went on to add two more scores in the final 2:45 of the half.
Just 56 seconds after the first score of the game, Madigan - a senior - once again would show off his defensive skills, this time picking off a Joe Berkebile pass and returning it 53 yards to put Portage up 13-0.
Portage coach Gary Gouse felt that was a pivotal moment in the opener for his club.
"That interception return for a touchdown was a huge play, we worked that play all week and Brandon saw it coming, I mean he was right there," Gouse said.
The Mustangs weren't done, though, as a Kephart fumble recovery just two plays later led to yet another Portage touchdown.
Bryja hooked up this time with senior Joe Randazzo for a 32-yard score that put his team up 20 going into half.
The Mustangs added three more scores in the second half, including a 65-yard touchdown run and 4-yard touchdown run by Luke Dividock.
Christopher Onder was the other Mustang to find the end zone as he scampered 73 yards for a score, midway through the third quarter.
Sophomore running back Luke Dividock wound up leading all rushers, finishing with 121 yards on 10 carries. For the game, the Mustangs outgained North Star 380-202 in offense, despite losing time of possession column by nearly three to one.
With the win under its belt, Portage will travel to face Berlin Brothers Valley in a showdown of 1-0 teams next Friday.
North?Star will host Ferndale.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
North Star 0 0 0 0 - 0
Portage0 20 15 6 - 41
P-Kephart 43 pass from Bryja (Lutz kick) 2:45
P-Madigon 53 interception return (kick failed) 1:49
P-Randazo 32 pass from Bryja (Lutz kick) 0:56
P-Dividock 65 run (Kephart run) 11:03
P-Onder 73 run (Lutz kick) 5:42
P-Dividock 4 run (kick failed) 11:54
RUSHING: North Star-Miller 15-98, Costas 17-60, Berkebile 4-(-6), Friedline 2-6, Matse 1-3, Kimmel 1-(-8) Portage-Kephart 7-43, Dividock 10-121, Giles 3-22, Onder 3-83, Swank 1-(-1), Herman 3-16, Team 1-(-2)
PASSING: North Star-Onder 4-7-1-17, Myher 3-4-1-32. Portage-Bryja 4-8-0-96
RECEIVING: North Star-Holcomb 1-5, Strasiser 1-8, Tretter 1-(-8), Mostoller 1-12, Knupp 2-23, Yoder 1-9. Portage-Miller 1-12, Coukart 1-9, Kephart 1-43, Randazzo 1-32.
INTERCEPTIONS: North Star-none. Portage-Madigan, Slifko.
First downs 1312
Yards passing49 96
Total yards202 380
Penalties-yards 6-66 5-36
Punts-avg. 3-36 3-38