With a beautiful new scoreboard in use for its first ever game, the Portola High School football team christened it with a thrilling 39-36 victory over Hamilton last Friday.
“We battled all night,” said Portola coach Steve Heskett. “We played four quarters of football.”
Down 36-32 in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, Portola put together a dramatic final drive that ended with a 35-yard touchdown run by Klint Williams.
The winning score was set up by two exciting pass plays in which quarterback Piero Selvaggio was hit just as he got the ball off. The first was a 3rd-and-11 that Mario Rodriguez made a diving catch for, and then Evan Hungerford caught another first down on a 2nd-and-20 play.
Selvaggio completed 11 of 15 passes for 258 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception early in the game.
“As a junior quarterback, Selvaggio played about as good of game as anybody’s played in that position in a long time,” said Heskett.
“He’s getting better every week, which will make us tough down the road.”
The entire night was marked by big plays on both sides of the ball and the lead changed six times.
Kyle Heskett put the first first-ever points on the new scoreboard with a 3-yard touchdown run, but Hamilton answered back with a touchdown and a field goal to take a 10-7 lead.
On Portola’s next drive, the Tigers faced 4th-and-3, but got the first down with hard count that drew Hamilton offside. This set up a 7-yard touchdown pass to Hungerford.
Hamilton responded with a touchdown pass of their own to retake the lead late in the second quarter.
With just eight seconds left in the first half, Selvaggio found Rodriguez for a 25-yard touchdown pass, and then Williams scored the 2-point conversion to give Portola a 22-16 lead at halftime.
The Portola Tigers added to their lead midway through the third quarter, with what turned out to be a decisive 34-yard field goal by Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was also 4-for-4 on his PATs, and four of his six kickoffs went into the end zone for touchbacks, forcing Hamilton to begin their drives at their own 20-yard line.
Late in the third quarter, Hamilton scored on a passing play with a long run around the right side. Portola perfectly mirrored the score on the first play of the fourth quarter, when Hungerford caught a short pass and ran it 65 yards into the exact same corner of the end zone.
This gave Portola a 32-23 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Hamilton refused to die. After reaching the end zone on a 4th-and-10 play that was called back for an illegal block, Hamilton scored on 4th-and-5 with a leaping touchdown catch.
The Tigers were forced to punt on their next possession, and Hamilton scored again with a short pass that was carried a long way into the end zone.
This gave Hamilton a 36-32 lead with 5:06 remaining in the game, but the Tigers put together that dramatic final drive to score the winning touchdown.
With 1:32 left on the clock, a good field goal kicker, and the ball at their 40-yard line, Hamilton had a decent chance to tie or even win the game, until an interception by Heskett dashed Hamilton’s hopes and locked the victory for the Tigers.
Portola totaled 200 yards on the ground. Heskett carried the ball 31 times for 111 yards, and Williams rushed seven times for 76 yards.
Hungerford registered four receptions for 138 yards, and Rodriguez recorded five catches for 98 yards.
On defense, Williams, Rodriguez and Selvaggio led in tackles and assists. Rodriguez and Derrick Lema each earned a sack.
Portola’s junior varsity team also won 14-6, improving their record to 4-0.
For Portola’s homecoming football game this Friday, there will be no JV game, so the varsity game will begin at 7 p.m.