Portage rallies from 18-point deficit to defeat Blairsville
Blairsville never has played in the District 6 championship, and the drought will have to wait another year.
Portage (11-1) rallied from an 18-point deficit in the third quarter and ended Blairsville’s superb season, 28-24, in a semifinal Saturday at Blairsville’s Memorial Stadium.
Portage will play in the Class A finals against Bishop Guilfoyle on Friday at Altoona’s Mansion Stadium.
Blairsville (11-1) was on its way to an impressive victory until star running back Deion Robinson, who had rushed for 85 yards in the opening quarter before an injury to his left leg, went down.
“When you lose one of the best running backs in the area, it definitely changed our game plan a little bit,” Blairsville coach Rick Artley said. “We probably would have scored three more times in the first half if he doesn’t get hurt.”
Portage took advantage of Blairsville’s loss, scoring 15 points in the final quarter to pull out the win.
Luke Dividock, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season, scored on a 3-yard run with 1:27 left to cap the comeback.
Portage also was aided by Blairsville mistakes. The Bobcats were penalized 15 times for 171 yards.
Artley thought officials took away from the game. Twenty-five penalties were called, and Portage coach Gary Gouse was ejected midway through the first quarter. He’ll miss the championship game.
“To be truthful, the officials wanted to be the center of attention, and they got it,” Artley said. “They had too much say in the game. They didn’t let the players play. It sounds like sour grapes, but coach Gouse agreed with me after the game.”
Blairsville built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Robinson and a 10-yard touchdown pass to Cam Livingston.
But late in the quarter, Robinson was injured during a long run and was helped off the field. He rushed for 1,522 on the season.
Blairsville got into scoring position, but Andrew Stipcak’s 34-yard field goal fell a yard short.
Portage put together a scoring drive by utilizing running backs Caleb Kephart and Dividock. Then, Cory Bobolsky scored on a 25-yard sweep, but the extra point was blocked to keep the score at 14-6.
Blairsville quarterback Scott Thompson directed a third touchdown drive, hitting Dylan Dirienzo with a 30-yard pass to make it 21-6.
Blairsville extended the lead to 24-6 when Stipcak kicked a 21-yard field goal with 4:30 left in the third quarter.
That’s when Portage went to work, scoring on its final three possessions.
Kephart, who entered with 2,088 yards, scored on a 47-yard run to make it 21-13 with 3:56 left in the third. Kephart finished with 196 yards on 15 carries.
The Mustangs drove 92 yards with Kephart scoring on a 45-yard run to make it 24-21 with 10:24 left.
Blairsville drove into Portage territory, but a fourth-down pass slipped out of Cam Livingston’s fingers, giving the Mustangs the ball at the 42 with 5:54 left.
Portage got a key fourth-down conversion on a run by Kephart at the Blairsville 20. Dividock scored four plays later.
Blairsville didn’t do quietly, driving to the Portage 20 before running out of downs.
Thompson completed 15 of 29 passes for 196 yards, and Livingston, who moved to running back after Robinson left the game, caught seven passes for 102 yards.
Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.