REEDSBURG — With about 40 people on the average high school football team, Friday’s Badger North Conference game between Portage and Reedsburg all boiled down to one player.
After a scoreless four quarters of regulation play, the defensive battle came down to a 30-yard field goal try from Reedsburg kicker Mason McMillen in overtime. With rain pouring down in his direction, the senior kicked one through the uprights to put an end to Portage’s playoff hopes as the Beavers edged the Warriors 3-0 in overtime at Millennium Field.
“I’m very proud of our kids; we played very hard,” Portage coach Bob Hepp said. “They laid it all on the line, and Reedsburg is an outstanding program. Our defense did a heck of a job. Offensively we had opportunities, we made some mistakes and Reedsburg made some nice plays.”
The Beavers won the toss at the start of overtime and elected to give Portage the ball first. The Warriors couldn’t get a new set of downs, and kicker Brett Walker’s 35-yard field goal attempt fell a couple feet shy of the uprights.
With an enthused sideline and crowd on Reedsburg’s Homecoming night, the Beavers fed the ball to junior fullback Jason Walls on their opening play, who plunged up the middle for five yards. Quarterback Nathan Kruser faked a handoff and took the ball himself down the right sideline and barely snagged a first down.
“They just executed and made a nice play,” Hepp said. “The fullback is a good ball carrier; they got a few yards. It was nothing special but they made a nice play.”
Portage’s defensive line, which had a strong showing all game long, stopped Reedsburg’s run attempts from there but McMillen converted the 30-yard field goal despite being ran into after the kick to send the Beavers sideline into an uproar.
It was a rainy, defensive affair from the opening kickoff. Portage senior Justin Sankey converted two first downs in the game’s opening drive, while a pitch from quarterback Erik Isakson to Ryan Schultz brought the ball to Reedsburg’s territory. The Warriors were stopped from there, however, which seemed to be a reoccurring theme from both teams as neither side could get past the opponent’s 20-yard line throughout the contest.
With neither team advancing the ball much further than midfield throughout the first half, the game quickly turned into a punting contest between McMillen and Portage senior Nolan Paul. Both punters had success on six kicks, with Paul punting one to Reedsburg’s 10-yard line early and another to the Beavers’ 13.
Reedsburg running back Ben Horzewski advanced the ball to midfield to end the first quarter, but Portage’s defensive line was reading the triple-option like a book and McMillen punted one to Portage’s 19-yard line. Dale Sheppard Jr. grabbed a first down and Sankey found a hole up the middle but fumbled and Reedsburg recovered to take over at Portage’s 37. Reedsburg was stopped once again, however, with a pass attempt on third down going in and out of the hands of Rafael Rodriguez, leading to a McMillen punt that was downed at the Portage 6.
Sankey and Dylan Golke advanced the ball to near the 30, but Portage was forced to punt. This time Paul landed it on Reedsburg’s 15, and the Beavers ran out of time before the half.
It was much of the same in the second half, with rain coming down even stronger. McMillen punted his best of the night early on, forcing Portage to go three-and-out from its own 1-yard line. McMillen returned the ball to Portage’s 34 and the Beavers were on their way to scoring, but a big stop from Erik Isakson and an incomplete pass brought a turnover on downs.
Both teams traded possessions from there. Portage recovered a fumble to start the fourth but the Warriors were unable to capitalize, while Reedsburg failed to get past the 50 on the ensuing drive to end regulation.
Sankey led in rushing yards with 11 attempts for 127 yards while McMillen carried 13 times for 43 yards. Portage (2-6 overall, 2-4 Badger North) will end the season next week with a road trip to DeForest.
“Right now, we want to kind of get this one out of our system, come back Monday see where we’re at and go from there,” Hepp said.
REEDSBURG 3, PORTAGE 0 (OT)
Portage 0 0 0 0 0 — 0
Reedsburg 0 0 0 0 3 — 3
R — FG Mason McMillen 30
First downs — P 7, R 9. Rushing (Att.-Yds.) — P 43-127, R 49-139. Passing yards — P 0, R 0. Passes (Comp.-Att.-Int.) — P 0-4-0, R 0-3-0. Fumbles-lost — P 2-1, R 2-1. Penalties-yards — P 0-0, R 0-0.
Rushing: P, Sankey 11-50. R, McMillen 13-43.
Passing: P, Isakson 0-4-0-0. R, Kruser 0-3-0-0.