Portagers fend off rival Bobcats

Onekama quarterback Tyler Johnson celebrates a first-half touchdown during Friday’s win against Brethren. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

ONEKAMA — With 10 minutes left Friday night, Brethren’s James Connolly punched in a 2-yard touchdown to put his team just one score away from the lead over Onekama.

But on the first play of the Portagers’ ensuing drive, Jordan Coe broke for a 62-yard trip to paydirt of his own.

This call and response pattern played out all night in Onekama’s 34-22 West Michigan D League win over its rival. Brethren kept knocking on the door, and the Portagers obliged with an answer.

“They made it awful hard on us,” said Onekama coach Jim Hunter, “but I guess the biggest difference was the time our talented backs popped the big plays.

“It’s a good thing to win,” he added of his team’s second victory of the season. “It’s that simple. It’s good medicine.”

The talented backs Hunter eluded to had monster games. Senior running back Quinn Matthews led the charge with a pair of rushing touchdowns and 254 yards on 24 carries. Coe finished with 86 yards and the score on six carries, while quarterback Tyler Johnson had two rushing touchdowns and 72 yards on the ground.

Onekama put together a solid opening drive, needing just six plays before Matthews broke for a 23-yard score on the seventh for a 7-0 lead at 8:53 in the first when Bryson Waller kicked in the extra point.

Brethren was unable to respond on their first offensive drive, but Lucas Richardson intercepted Johnson on Onekama’s next possession and took it to the house at 4:38 in the first. Richardson connected with Mike Pettinato on the 2-point conversion to take an 8-7 lead.

“We’ve been preparing for that pop pass,” said Brethren coach Alvin Rischel. “Lucas made a great play. Not only did he read, and step in front of it, but down field we had a couple key blocks to send him in the endzone and put us in the lead.”

Richardson also had a fumble recovery defensively, and the junior quarterback led the charge on the other end too, throwing for 91 yards and a touchdown on 4-of-11 passing. Brethren’s Maurice Orr had 71 yards on the ground while Connolly ran for 50 and caught for 83. Defensively, A.J. Thompson led the team with 12 tackles.

Brethren’s James Connolly (left) is tackled during Friday’s loss to Onekama. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

With 5:04 remaining in the second quarter, Matthews ran in his second score of the night from seven yards out on third-and-goal. Johnson punched in the 2-point try for a 15-8 advantage.

Perhaps the biggest momentum securing drive of the night came with just 1:22 remaining in the half. After a Brethren punt, the Portagers had no timeouts to try to pad their lead before the break. On a quick five-play drive, they did just that. Matthews had a huge 33-yard run to set up Johnson for a 12-yard keeper into the endzone for a 21-8 lead with just six seconds remaining.

“We were really struggling with shooting ourselves in the foot so bad at that point,” Hunter explained, “and then Tyler executed that last drive tremendously. He probably looked as good tonight running the offense as he has all season.”

The teams held each other scoreless in the third, and the quarter ended with a huge roughing the passer penalty on the Portagers which turned an incomplete pass on fourth down into a first-and-10 on the Onekama 18 for Brethren.

“I still told the kids at the end: we didn’t have to make it this hard,” Hunter said. “We had some golden opportunities to put this game away — and that’s not to take away anything from Brethren because I’ve got nothing but good things to say about how they played this game — but we were killing our own drives with penalties and keeping their drives alive with penalties.

“The win is good, but we also probably have some taped evidence of what happens when we don’t play together as a unit.”

Connolly punched in the score shortly into the fourth, and caught the 2-point conversion to cut the gap to 21-16.

Coe, however, broke the hearts of the Bobcats on the first play of Onekama’s drive from its own 38.

Johnson ran in for his second touchdown — a 3-yard sneak at 4:29 — to take a 34-16 lead, and Brethren responded with Richardson’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Pettinato at 1:02 remaining in the game. For Brethren, however, it was too little, too late.

“Our kids are scrappers,” Rischel said. “That’s a tough one to lose, and one we definitely would like to have won.

“I thought they did a good job of capitalizing on our mistakes and we didn’t do as good of a job capitalizing on theirs,” he added. “But, they were never really able to distance themselves, and I don’t think they ever felt comfortable with their lead at any point in this game.

“Someone had to lose, and we happened to come up short.”

 

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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