Portagers top Frankfort to clinch playoffs

ONEKAMA — The Onekama football team is headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2007 after beating the Frankfort Panthers 44-22 for the first time in 19 years Friday night at home.

“I am very proud of these guys, because I have high regard for the Frankfort program. … I think our kids earned it,” said Onekama coach Jim Hunter of a playoff berth. “I told them we come into this game and we need to match the intensity to start with. Then it becomes a football game. I said you have to do that at halftime too. I thought our kids did that well.”

The Portagers (6-3) have essentially been in playoff mode for the last seven weeks, after starting the season with consecutive losses to Suttons Bay and Blanchard Montabella. Six wins guarantees a playoff spot and the Portagers finished the regular season on a 6-1 run.

Onekama’s Jon Acton fights for yards during the Portagers’ playoff-clinching victory over Frankfort on Friday. (Jared Buchholz/New Advocate)

Onekama’s Jon Acton fights for yards during the Portagers’ playoff-clinching victory over Frankfort on Friday. (Jared Buchholz/New Advocate)

It is possible to get in with five wins, but Hunter believes it would have been unlikely.

“We looked at the points and and the 5-4 qualifiers and it would have been a tough road for us, being a class C school, because of the co-op, and point values and stuff, we weren’t going to get in, probably. It really was make or break here,” Hunter said.

The Portagers proved they didn’t want to leave it to chance from the opening drive when Randy Pienta — who had five tackles, including three for loss — intercepted a Panthers’ (5-4) pass at the Onekama 15-yard line to end the Frankfort threat. That meant the ball would be handed over to the Portagers’ dynamic offense, and Jon Acton.

The junior took the ball 85 yards on his second touch to give the Portagers a 6-0 lead, one which they never relinquish.

After a turnover-on-downs, it was Jordan Coe’s number that was called and the senior took a 6-yard dash up the middle for the first of his three touchdowns, and a 14-0 lead.

“Certainly it made it a lot easier, sticking two on them right now, and shattering that whole invincibility thing. There have been times when they beat us that they just beat us on reputation. This time they would to have beaten us. It is a good team, I don’t want to play them again,” Hunter said with a laugh.

Coe would finish with touchdowns from 26 and 17 yards out and accumulate 69 yards.

Acton would add touchdowns of 60 and six yards and pile up 230 yards.

“I really did think the line did a nice job and I thought the backs did as well,” Hunter said. “Together it meshes.”

The Panthers would pounce back into the game with back-to-back touchdowns. Ethan Mills got them on the board with a 55 yard run with 1:41 left in the first quarter, but Portager Branden Hagen climbed a ladder to deflect a pass on the 2-point attempt to keep the score 14-6.

The Panthers scored on a 9-yard shallow crossing route with 6:26 to go in the second half, but it was what happened on the 2-point conversion that will get the attention.

Jacob Mauntler got beat on an end zone fade to the left corner for the 2-point conversion that tied the game, however, the Panthers proved wrong to go after him again, as he ended the game with three interceptions.

“Kudos to the little puppy freshman we had out there. That is resilience right there. He got beat early and he felt horrible about it. Then he had three interceptions. That is quite a night for a freshman,” Hunter praised.

The Portgers had five interceptions total. The other by Jack Coryell, on a pass tipped by Kamryn Farsing, in the third quarter.

“I thought coach (Jeff Wisniski) did a great job defensively. It was hard for them to score. … You try telling the kids that, with this kind of offense, it flies all over the field until you get down here,” Hunter said while pointing near the end zone. “When young get inside the 20, all of a sudden the distances aren’t as great, there is not much space.”

The Panthers would score one more touchdown — a Mills iso from 1 yard out, but it wasn’t enough.

“It was nice. I like the fact that, we could kneel down at the end and enjoy it,” Hunter said.

Despite the separation on the scoreboard, the Portagers were again plagued by penalties, which must be cured to make a run into the playoffs next week.

“We left a lot of stuff on the field that we need to get cleaned up. That’s good, I’ll have a job next week, something that we can work on,” Hunter said.

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