Time and time again this season, the Portage football team has hurt itself with mistakes when moving the ball offensively.
More miscues held down the Warriors Friday night as they committed four turnovers, including two deep in Reedsburg territory, in a 41-6 loss to the Beavers in a Badger North Conference finale at Bob Mael Field. Senior Brett Walker threw for 163 yards on 13-of-25 passing with a touchdown and two interceptions as Portage fell to Reedsburg for the 12th straight time.
“The biggest thing was that we had opportunities in the first half to get some momentum and put some points on the board where we could have kept pushing that game on later in the second half,” Portage coach Shane Haak said.
Portage (2-7, 1-6 Badger North) trailed 14-6 at the end of the first quarter before the floodgates began to open as Reedsburg piled on 19 points in the second quarter. After the Beavers (7-2, 5-2) forced a Portage three-and-out to open the period, Reedsburg churned out a 10-play, 63-yard drive capped by a 3-yard Casey Campbell touchdown run to make it 21-6 with 7 minutes, 22 seconds left until halftime.
The Beavers struck quickly, scoring a pair of touchdowns that took just a minute and a half of possession time. After another Warriors three-and-out, Reedsburg needed just two plays before finding paydirt as senior quarterback Ethan Lee took an option 40 yards to the house for a 27-6 lead with 5:09 left.
It was rinse, lather, repeat as the Beavers forced another three-and-out before against possessing the ball for two plays and score when Campbell ripped off a 66-yard touchdown run to make it 33-6 with 1:59 remaining in the half.
“That’s not what we plan to do with this offense,” Reedsburg coach Brian Pottinger said. “It’s more of a grind-it-out, three or four yards type of offense, but when we have some skill players that can hit big plays like they do we’ll take it as long as we’re putting points on the board.”
With one final chance to score before the break, the Warriors pushed the ball deep into Reedsburg territory and touched the red zone after Walker connected with senior Mason Pate with a 10-yard pass to convert a fourth-and-4 with 8 seconds left. After a timeout, Walker dropped back and looked to find senior Colton Brandsma on a corner route just before the goal line, but Reedsburg senior Danny Kast undercut the route and picked off the pass with 1 second left.
“There were a few other plays too, but that’s a big one there,” Haak said. “We put ourselves in a position to be one-on-one there, but their defensive back made a good play on it. Especially against good teams like this, you have to be able to try to capitalize in those situations.”
With the lead preserved, Reedsburg built off it on its opening drive of the second half as Connor Schyvinck capped off a 54-yard opening drive with a 14-yard touchdown run. The junior quarterback punched in the ensuing two-point run for a 41-6 lead with 9:11 left in the quarter to put the running clock into effect as the teams traded possessions to close out the game.
Momentum swung on a dime to open the game as Portage converted three third downs on its opening drive. The Warriors came away empty, however, as Reedsburg senior Robert Losic ripped away a Walker pass intended for senior Ryan Schultz, who went the distance behind a wall of blockers for an 80-yard pick-six that gave the Beavers a 7-0 lead with 6:39 to go in the first quarter.
Portage dusted itself off and marched back down the field, despite some self-inflicted penalties, and scored on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Walker to Brandsma with 4:12 to go in the quarter. The Beavers blocked the extra point to hold the lead at 7-6 and never looked back.
Portage’s ground game again struggled, as it was held to just 81 yards on 31 attempts, while the Beavers piled up 384 yards on 31 carries. Lee tallied a team-high 139 yards and two touchdowns on just six touches, while Campbell added 107 yards and two scores on five carries. Portage senior Delnato Sheppard Jr. had just 48 yards on 15 carries.
“The whole offense is based off of them and I’m super proud of them and what they’ve been doing,” Lee said of the offensive line.
Despite the loss, Haak lauded the leadership of the Warriors’ 17-man senior class and knows that the group deserves a lot of credit in “helping close the gap” after a winless 2018 season. Meanwhile, the Beavers will now get ready for their first return to the playoffs after a two-year hiatus.
“We have to come back on Monday ready to watch film and start focusing on who the opponent is, but we’ll enjoy it this weekend,” Pottinger said.
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“What’s important is to just keep doing what we’re doing and play Reedsburg football,” Lee added.
REEDSBURG 41, PORTAGE 6
Reedsburg 14 19 8 0 — 41
Portage 6 0 0 0 — 6
R — Losic 80 interception return (Peters kick), 6:39, 1st.
Por — Brandsma 34 pass from Walker (kick failed), 4:12, 1st.
R — Lee 77 run (Peters kick), 0:36, 1st.
R — Campbell 3 run (Peters kick), 7:22, 2nd.
R — Lee 40 run (kick failed), 5:09, 2nd.
R — Campbell 66 run (kick failed), 1:59, 2nd.
R — Schyvinck 14 run (Schyvinck run), 9:11, 3rd.
First Downs — R 7, Por 12. Rushes-Yards — R 31-384, Por 31-81. Passing Yards — R 18, Por 163. Comp-Att-Int — R 1-3-0, Por 13-26-3. Total Yards — R 402, Por 244. Fumbles-Lost — R 1-1, Por 2-1. Penalties-Yards — R 8-85, Por 8-75.
Rushing: R, Lee 6-139, Campbell 5-107. Por, Sheppard 15-48.
Passing: R, Lee 1-2-18-0. Por, Walker 13-25-163-2.
Receiving: R, Elder 1-18. Por, Schultz 7-85.
Follow Sean Davis on Twitter @SDavis_PDR or contact him at 608-745-3512.