When it comes to preparing his team for a game, Portola head football coach Steve Heskett isn’t a big fan of all the hoopla and distractions of Homecoming Week.
“I hate homecoming,” Heskett said. “It’s usually my least favorite week. Tonight (the players) looked like they were asleep before the game.”
Asleep? The Tigers begged to differ.
They came out and blasted visiting Maxwell 54-20, and made their coach eat his words.“I was wrong,” Heskett told his grinning players moments after the game ended.
Heskett said the Tigers were “anything but asleep.” And they proved it in front of a large and festive homecoming crowd at Coach Bob Wise Memorial Stadium.
The decisive victory improved Portola’s record to 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the Cascade Valley League. Maxwell fell to 2-4 and 0-4 in the CVL.
“I am very happy with the way we played tonight,” Heskett said. “Offense, defense, special teams. … It was a total team effort. Very unselfish.”
The outcome was never in doubt. Portola’s second-half lead was so large that the clock was left running for the entire fourth quarter.
Portola’s offensive line set the tone for the game. Linemen Chase Nielsen, Carver Wearin, Irving Juarez, Xander Loomis and Kyle Green out-muscled the Panthers’ defensive line.
The Tigers’ big guys opened big holes that led to a big night for running backs Shane Curren and Diogo Juarez.
The pair combined to rush for 320 of the Tigers’ 399 yards on the ground. Curren rambled for 193 yards and four touchdowns. Juarez had 127 yards and a pair of scores.
If there was any doubt in the game’s outcome, Curren ended it when he raced up the middle for a 58-yard TD on the first play of the second half.
Dominic Bautista kicked one of his four extra points to give Portola a commanding 40-8 lead.
Portola’s defense kept Maxwell in check most of the game. The Tigers’ pass rush kept the Panthers’ strong-armed quarterback Trent Hendrix on the run.
Although he threw for 187 yards, Hendrix was sacked five times and had two passes intercepted.
Keegan Folchi picked off Hendrix during the Panthers’ first drive when it looked like Maxwell was marching for the first points of the game.
The Tigers responded with an eight play, 66-yard drive capped by the first of Curren’s TD runs.
Portola led 7-0 and never trailed.
The Tigers pushed the lead to 13-0 early in the second quarter when Xavier Avila hauled in an 11-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dylan Gonsalves.
Portola outscored Maxwell 26-8 in the second quarter.
The Tigers’ longest pass play set up their final score in the first half. That’s when Zack Mulhall took a screen pass from Gonsalves and ran 20 yards to the Panthers’ 11.
Juarez finished it off with an 11-yard touchdown run.
Taylor Koski put the exclamation point on the night when he intercepted a Hendrix pass and sprinted 45 yards for the game’s final TD with six minutes to play.
The Tigers are in second place in the CVL. And their chances of a berth in the Northern Section playoffs are looking good.
However, Heskett was quick to point out Portola’s schedule is very tough the rest of the way.
The Tigers host league-leading Fall River on Oct. 18. Portola’s final two games are on the road against Biggs and Etna. Those two teams are currently tied with the Tigers for second place in the CVL.
Score by quarters
Maxwell 0 8 6 6 – 20
Portola 7 26 15 6 – 54
P–Curren 6 run. Bautista kick. 7-0
P-Avila 7 pass from Gonsalves. Kick failed. 13-0
M-Lopez 14 pass from T. Hendrix. T. Hendrix run. 13-8
P-Curren 3 run. Run failed. 19-8
P-Curren 12 run. Bautista kick. 26-8
P-D. Juarez 7 run. Bautista kick. 33-8
P-Curren 58 run. Bautista kick. 40-8
M-W. Hendrix 19 pass from T. Hendrix. Run failed. 40-14
P-D. Juarez 28 run. D. Juarez run. 48-14
M-T. Hendrix 4 run. Run failed. 48-20
P-Koski 45 interception return. Run failed. 54-20
Passing: P-Gonsalves, 5-10-1-0-47.
M-T. Hendrix, 14-28-2-2-187.
Rushing: P-Curren, 15-193; D Juarez, 16-127; Ruiz, 3-15; Gonzalves, 2-10; Mulhall, 2-7. M-Cabrera, 13-109; Valasquez, 8-30; T. Hendrix, 9-17; Gurerrero, 1-(minus 3).
Receiving: P-Folchi, 2-16; Avila, 2-11; Mulhall, 1-20. M-Lopez, 5-74; W. Hendrix, 4-73; Valasquez, 2-24; Galvan, 2-11; Cabrera, 1-5.
Penalties: P-2-10; M-7-35.