Silk is smooth for United as Lions end Portage’s year
By John Hartsock
PORTAGE — A solid season for Portage ended in heartbreak Saturday night.
After the Mustangs rallied to tie their District 6 Class 1A quarterfinal-round playoff game with visiting United at 22-22 on a 15-yard touchdown run by junior back Gabe Forst and a 2-point conversion run by junior quarterback Connor Price with 7:01 left, United marched 68 yards on 12 plays for the game-winning touchdown, a 10-yard off-tackle bolt by junior quarterback Kyle Silk with just 42 seconds remaining.
That gave United a 28-22 victory at Portage Stadium and closed the books on a 7-4 season for the Mustangs.
“We played our guts out,” Portage coach Gary Gouse said. “Our kids practiced hard for two weeks for this game. We threw a punch, took a punch, and gave up a punch tonight. This was a heartbreaker for us.”
In a back-and-forth fourth quarter, United stayed determined until the end. The fifth-seeded Lions (8-4) visit top-seeded Northern Cambria in a semifinal-round matchup next Friday night.
“Portage is a heck of a football team, but in the end, we got the job done,” United coach Kevin Marabito said. “Our kids gutted out, and that’s what it takes. They never quit, and that’s what you’ve got to do at this stage of the game. The kids wanted this game, and they worked hard to get it.”
After United failed on a 2-point conversion run, Portage had a last gasp in the final seconds, but came up short.
Forst returned the ensuing kickoff to the United 39, but the Mustangs were called for an illegal block and Portage was pushed all the way back to its 11.
Portage advanced to the United 42 before the game ended on two successive incomplete passes.
Portage broke out of a 6-6 tie in the third quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run and 2-point conversion run by Price, who rushed for 114 yards on 24 carries and also scored Portage’s first touchdown on a 7-yard run in the first quarter.
With Portage leading, 14-6, United’s smooth and speedy sophomore back, Hunter Cameron, gave the Lions a 22-14 lead with fourth-quarter touchdown runs of 55 and 57 yards. United also successfully converted both 2-point conversion runs.
“Hunter runs hard all the time,” Marabito said of Cameron, who rushed for 220 yards on 27 carries. “He keeps his legs driving, and he’s tough to bring down. He’s just an explosive running back.”
Gouse and the Mustangs had Cameron on their radar.
“We knew that he is good,” Gouse said. “We knew that he could break it at any time.”
Cameron was also the workhorse on United’s 68-yard game-winning touchdown drive, gaining 53 yards on 11 carries before Silk — who also scored on a 42-yard first-quarter run — reached the end zone on the decisive TD run in the game’s final minute.
“We just ran the football — that’s been our forte,” Marabito said of the winning touchdown drive. “Our offensive line kind of took over.”
Gouse saluted Portage’s seniors for their contributions.
“We’ve got a lot coming back next year, but our seniors led by example with how hard they play the game,” Gouse said. “We’re going to miss them.”
SCORE BY QUARTERS
United 6 0 0 22 — 28
Portage 6 0 8 8 — 22
U–Silk 42 run (pass failed), 11:30.
P–Price 7 run (kick failed), :50.
P–Price 4 run (Price run), 2:15.
U–Cameron 55 run (Silk run), 11:13.
U–Cameron 57 run (Cameron run), 9:28.
P–Forst 15 run (Price run), 7:01.
U–Silk 10 run (run failed), :42.
TEAM STATISTICS U P
First downs 13 20
Total yards 326 323
Rushes-yards 39-301 50-275
Yards passing 25 48
Passing (comp.-att.-int.) 3-10-0 5-13-0
Punts-avg. 6-32.1 6-29.3
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 12-110 7-70
RUSHING–United, Cameron 27-220, Silk 12-81. Portage, Price 24-114, Sossong 9-57, Forst 8-43, Oravecz 5-36, Georg 4-25.
PASSING–United, Silk 3-9-0-25, Tomb 0-1-0-0. Portage, Price 5-12-0-48, Forst 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING–United, Magalich 3-25. Portage, A. Koenigsberg 3-16, Sossong 1-20, Forst 1-12.