Portola tops Maxwell to reach section championship game
Klint Williams drags along one of Maxwell’s players. Williams scored three of Portola’s four touchdowns in its Nov. 16 game against Maxwell. Photos by Tiffany Williams
Portola is headed for a rematch against Chester tonight in the Northern Section Division IV championship game.
The Tigers secured a berth in the title game with a 35-25 victory over Maxwell on Friday night at Bob Wise Memorial Stadium.
Portola defeated Maxwell for the second time this season thanks to a solid all-around team effort, and some big-time performances from its key players.
Klint Williams scored three touchdowns, Oscar Romero kicked three field goals, and Zack Martinez had more than 300 yards of total offense on a cold and soggy night in Portola.
Despite racing to a 26-6 lead by halftime, the Tigers had to battle the entire 48 minutes to secure the win.
After Maxwell cut the lead to 32-25 with 9:47 to play, Portola coach Steve Heskett gathered the Tiger players on the sideline and delivered a pep talk loud enough to be heard in the grandstand.
“Do you want to give this thing away?!” Heskett shouted. “Go out and finish this thing … Right now!”
That’s exactly what the Tigers did.
They responded with a six-play, 60-yard drive that ended with a 26-yard field goal by Romero with 6:58 to play.
On defense, Portola limited Maxwell to just 29 total yards the rest of the game. An interception by safety Ricky Lowdermilk clinched the win with 2:31 to play. It was Lowdermilk’s second interception of the game.
“We came out a little flat in the second half with a 20-point lead,” Heskett said. “Hopefully this is a lesson learned. We’ve got to be better tacklers.”
Heskett said better tackling would be the key for the 10-1 Tigers to avenge their only loss of the season when they take on Chester.
The 10-1 Volcanoes escaped with a 21-16 victory over the Tigers when the two teams met Nov. 7 in Portola.
“We are looking forward to the rematch,” Heskett said. “I felt like (Chester) snuck out of here with (a victory). Hopefully, we are going to repay them.”
Heskett may have been upset about the Tigers’ tackling against the Panthers, but he couldn’t complain about his team’s offense. Portola amassed more than 400 yards and 14 first downs.
Martinez accounted for most of the offense with 240 yards rushing on 31 carries.
Portola jumped to a 7-0 lead when Williams rambled 13 yards for a touchdown and Romero added an extra point midway through the first quarter.
Two minutes later, Martinez recovered a Maxwell fumble on the Portola 31-yard line. Two plays later, Martinez raced 55 yards to a TD and a 13-0 lead.
Williams gave the Tigers a 19-0 lead when he broke three tackles and ran 32 yards for a touchdown with 7:52 to play in the first half.
After Maxwell’s Blake Vierra cut the lead to 19-6 with a seven-yard TD run, Portola immediately answered with its fourth touchdown of the half. Williams hauled in a short pass from quarterback Ricky Lowdermilk and ran 28 yards for a score. Romero’s extra point gave Portola a 26-6 halftime lead.
But that was the Tigers’ last touchdown of the night. Romero accounted for all the Portola scoring in the second half with three field goals. His longest was 42 yards.
Maxwell came out fired up after intermission. On the third play of the second half, Panther quarterback George Barajas broke three tackles and raced 62 yards down the sideline for a touchdown to cut Portola’s lead to 26-12.
After a 34-yard Romero field goal pushed the lead to 29-12, Maxwell responded with a 72-yard drive, capped by an eight-yard TD run by Vierra. A failed extra point left the score at 29-18 with 39 seconds left in the third quarter.
Martinez gave Portola excellent field position by taking the ensuing kickoff and running 72 yards to the Maxwell 27.
After the Tigers managed just one yard on three offensive plays, Romero stepped up and blasted a 42-yard field goal to give Portola a 32-18 lead one minute into the fourth quarter.
“The kicking game was huge tonight,” Heskett said. “(Romero) has struggled a little bit lately, but he played big tonight.”
While Romero’s foot was keeping the Tigers ahead, Maxwell kept chipping away with touchdowns.
A 16-yard touchdown run by Barajas made it 32-25, prompting Heskett to have the “sideline chat” with his team.
As the victorious Tigers were walking off the field, Heskett was asked what Portola needs to do to beat Chester and win the section championship. The coach’s three-word response was quick and to the point.
“Be better tacklers.”
Tigers 35, Panthers 25
Maxwell 0 6 12 7 — 25
Portola 13 13 3 6 — 35
P – Williams 13 run, Romero kick, 7-0, 5:10
P – Z. Martinez 55 run, kick failed, 13-0, 2:32
P – Williams 32 run, kick failed, 19-0, 7:52
M – Vierra 7 run, kick failed, 19-6, 4:58
P – Williams 28 pass from Lowdermilk, Romero kick, 26-6, 1:45
M – Barajas 62 run, pass failed, 26-12, 10:47
P – Romero 34 FG, 29-12, 3:03
M – Vierra, 8 run, kick failed, 29-18, 0:39
P – Romero 42 FG, 32-18, 11:08
M – Barajas 16 run, Barajas kick, 32-25, 9:47
P – Romero 26 FG, 35-25, 6:58
Passing: P: Lowdermilk 4-9-1-0, 94. M: Barajas 6-18-0-2, 123.
Rushing: P: Z. Martinez 31-240, Williams 14-88, Lowdermilk 6-5, M. Martinez 1 minus-3. M: Barajas 13-143, Rolon 10-77, Vierra 6-36, E. Rangel 2-15.
Receiving: P: Romero 2-35, M. Martinez 1-31, Williams 1-28. M: Rolon 2-41, Vierra 1-37, Gonzalez, 2-29, E. Rangel 1-16.
Penalties: P: 5-45. M: 1-5.