MISHAWAKA — Ninety-two combined points and nearly 900 yards of offense.
That's what Portage and Mishawaka combined for in Friday night's season opener at Mishawaka's Steele Stadium. In a back-and-forth affair in every sense of the term, a Mishawaka interception in the final minute sealed a 47-45 win over the Indians.
"One game doesn't define our season," Portage coach Darren Rodriguez said. "We're obviously disappointed, but that's a good football team over there. This loss won't define us."
"We wanted a post route but the protection broke down and Anthony (Maceo) ran around and threw it up). It wasn't how we drew it up, but if he (Angel Sanchez) comes down with it then we have a chance to go for the win at the two-yard line."
The Class 4A No. 7 Cavemen rushed for over 500 yards, highlighted by Chris Harness' 191 and Sam Shively's 118.
"They run their scheme so well and you have to be very disciplined to stop it and we had some breakdowns," Rodriguez said.
Portage took the ball and scored on its opening possession and provided the theme for the night: defense optional. On a third and nine, Maceo tossed it up to Greg Milledge for a 42-yard gain inside the 10-yard line. A pair of plays later, Maceo had his first TD for a 6-0 lead following a missed extra point.
The Cavemen responded almost immediately with Harness busting a 44-yard run to the one on the third play of the drive then punching it in on the next play to tie the game at six.
Following a 17-yarder from Maceo and a 23-yarder from Cody Russell, Portage found itself in the redzone once again. On fourth and goal from the 13, Maceo broke the Cavemen contain to find paydirt for the second time on the night as the Indians led 13-6 after one.
Mishawaka's 11-play drive to tie it at 13-all was capped by a fourth-down play as well as Shively hit Isaiah Evans for a six-yard TD. Again, Portage wasted no time in answering as Greg Milledge broke loose for an 88-yard kickoff return only for the Cavemen to rip off another 11-play drive resulting in an Evans TD run.
After about 20 minutes of play, each team had scored every time they touched the ball.
"It wasn't an effort thing at all," Rodriguez said. "Our guys left everything on the field (Friday)."
Out of the half, Mishawaka tossed its second TD of the night as Shively hit Cam Kahlenbeck in the open field who rumbled for a 59-yard TD and a 25-20 lead after a missed two-point pass.
Russell's 42-yard run on the third play of the ensuing drive snatched the lead right back as Russell ran for 131 yards and a touchdown on 17 totes.
"Cody runs hard and we knew that with him," Rodriguez said. "The biggest thing with him is staying healthy and if he can do that, he gives us another dimension."
Evans added his third TD of the night from 49 yards before Maceo added another TD from 12 yards out. Harness 20-yard score and a two-point run from Evans made it 41-33 Mishawaka, but yet another Maceo TD, this one from 58-yards, brought Portage back within two.
Maceo ran for 211 yards on 17 carries with five touchdowns as the Indians totaled 347 yards in the ground game.
"What matters is what's on the scoreboard at the end," he said. "There's no self-pride here and it's no one's fault, we're a team. I couldn't do what I did today without the lanes made by my guys."
A rare defensive stop from any team, Portage's Jimmy Craven wrapped up Evans for a 5-yard loss on third down allowing Portage to get the ball. It was Maceo, once again, who scored from 12-yards out for a 45-41 lead after another missed two-point conversion.
"We were chasing points. We had to go for two in the fourth once they did because you want to match points then at that point in the game," Rodriguez said.
Harness 57-yard TD with 1:36 to go would prove to be the difference maker as he busted loose for the game-winning score. Portage's last-ditch effort ended up in the hands of Mishawaka on an interception.
"Angel was right there and had the ball ripped from him, it was a nice play by them," Rodriguez said. "We have a lot of things to correct and we'll need to do that. At the end of the day, we want to see how we do as a team getting better week-to-week. This will be the first step."