MISHAWAKA | Portage’s defense rose to the occasion Friday night against Mishawaka.
A year after giving up 57 points and more than 500 yards to the Cavemen, the Indians held Mishawaka to seven points and 183 total yards in their 20-7 win at Steele Stadium.
“Our kids played very, very well on defense today, making them make snaps and not giving up a bunch of big-play yards,” Portage coach Wally McCormack said.
Two plays after Nathan Johnson gave Portage (1-0) its first lead of the game with a 20-yard, fourth quarter field goal, Kenyotta Rollins picked up a Mishawaka fumble and rumbled 55 yards for a score to put the Indians ahead 17-7 with 7:30 to play.
“I hit (Mishawaka quarterback Evan Fras), I saw the ball, and I just picked it up and closed my eyes and ran and prayed nobody would catch me,” Rollins said.
“Big time players have to make plays at big times in the game, and he’s a Division I player,” McCormack said. “He and Chris Russell and Dylan Kettwig, the down three, were awesome against an offensive line that is tough to play against.”
The Cavemen (0-1) went 64 yards in four plays on the opening possession to lead 7-0. Portage held Mishawaka to 119 yards over the rest of the game.
“We closed down our gaps and tackled the fullback and did our jobs and the linebackers closed out their jobs,” Rollins said.
Portage forced five Cavemen turnovers, including an Aaron Luick interception of Fras on the possession following the Rollins score to put the game out of reach.
“It was good to see our defense get out and get to the ball and get a couple of turnovers,” McCormack said.
Portage outscored the Cavemen 13-0 in the fourth quarter.
Gage Pearman completed six passes for 49 yards. He had a six-yard touchdown pass to Cody Maldonado that tied the game at 7-all in the second quarter.
Nathan Cherry led the Portage rushing attack with 77 yards on 22 carries.
The Indians had four turnovers—two fumbles and two interceptions—in the first half and none in the second half.
Fras led the Cavemen with 67 rushing yards and a score.