NANTY GLO - Some people might think it would take a little while for a football team to shake off the rust after missing a week of competition.
But that wasn't the case for the Portage Area Mustangs Friday night against WestPAC North rival Blacklick Valley.
Portage cruised to a 43-12 win over the Vikings at a rain-soaked McMullen Field a week after the Mustangs were left without an opponent due to Rockwood's season cancellation.
"We worked on a lot of things [during the off-week], a passing game that needed worked on," Portage coach Gary Gouse said. "We knew we could've ran the ball, and ran the ball, and ran the ball, but we wanted to do other things."
Even though the Mustangs did work on the passing game, with quarterback Michael Bryja completing 3-of-10 for 37 yards, getting the majority of the offensive production from the ground game was inevitable.
The Portage defense posted an immediate three-and-out on the Vikings' opening drive before running back Caleb Kephart broke off a 43-yard run just two plays into the Mustangs' first drive to eventually set up a Luke Dividock 11-yard touchdown run minutes later.
Kephart, who was rested after battling injury from the Meyersdale victory, finished with a game-high 167 yards rushing on 12 carries for three touchdowns, the longest of which was from 48 yards.
"We had the two weeks off, too, so he could've ran for 400 yards if he wanted to tonight, but that's not the purpose, to do things like that," said Gouse.
Dividock gained 102 yards on seven rushes, scoring a second touchdown in the third quarter. The Portage ground game picked up 285 yards following its off-week, 21 yards from senior Scott Giles.
"It's really hard to have a bye week in the middle of the season and then come out like we did tonight," Giles said. "We were firing on all cylinders. We're in mid-season form right now."
Blacklick Valley got on the board in the final minute of the third quarter thanks to a 44-yard touchdown scamper by senior Garrett Smith.
Smith finished with a team-high 70 yards on 11 carries. Freshmen Isaiah Scott added 41 yards on 18 touches, including a 1-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
"We're so young, and our young people our real skilled, but they're not entirely ready for varsity," said Blacklick Valley coach Bill Zamboni. "But our weak point all year has been the line, offensively and defensively. We don't have a lot of [linemen] so we're not getting any better."
Smith and Scott shouldered much of the rushing load after senior Connor Dulashaw went down with injury in the first quarter.
"He's a real big loss...he's probably done for the season," Zamboni said. "He was one of our better runners and one of our few seniors we have."
The Vikings significantly lowered their turnover count, though they didn't altogether cut out turnovers. After fumbling 14 times in the previous two weeks, Blacklick put the ball on the ground three times against Portage, though retained all three.
Both Blake Ray and Isaac Wurm threw an interception for the Vikings. Ray was picked by C.W. Miller early in the game, while Ben Herman intercepted a Wurm pass in the fourth quarter and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown.
"The last two weeks we had 14 fumbles. We worked really hard not to have that this week," Zamboni said. "[Portage's] offensive and defensive lines controlled the tempo of the game. And we don't have much when it comes to a line."
The other Mustang score came on a 24-yard field goal by Nick Lutz in the second quarter.
Blacklick Valley (0-5) registered 121 total yards of offense Friday, 109 coming on the ground. Portage (4-1) finished with 322 total yards.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Portage14 17 6 6 - 43
Blacklick Valley0 0 6 6 - 12
P-Dividock 11 run (Lutz kick), 6:28.
P-Kephart 7 run (Lutz kick), 3:43.
P-Lutz 24 FG, 8:49.
P-Kephart 48 run (Lutz kick), 5:02
P-Kephart 23 run (Lutz kick), 0:52.
P-Dividock 16 run (kick failed), 4:14.
BV-Smith 44 run (kick failed), 0:51.
P-Herman 63 interception return (kick failed), 8:41
BV-Scott 1 run (pass failed), 1:27
RUSHING: Portage-Kephart 12-167, Dividock 7-102, Giles 2-21, Courtland Corrente 1-16, Joe Randazzo 1-3, Braedon St. Clair 3-3, Bryja 2-(-19). Blacklick Valley-G. Smith 11-70, Scott 18-41, Ryan Campbell 5-11, Team 1-0, Ray 2-(-13).
RECEIVING: Portage-Dividock 1-18, Giles 1-12, Ryan Myher 1-7. Blacklick Valley-Nathan Smith 1-21, Luke Galko 1-0, G. Smith 2-(-9).
PASSING: Portage Area-Bryja 3-10-0-37, Dividock 0-1-0-0. Blacklick Valley-Ray 4-5-1-12, Wurm 0-1-1-0.
INTERCEPTIONS: Portage-Miller 1-16, Herman 1-63. Blacklick Valley-none.