What: White House Blue Devils at Portland Panthers
When: Friday, August 29, 2014, 7 p.m.
Where: Memorial Field at Edgar Johnson Stadium (Portland)
Directions: Portland East Middle School (Click here)
By Kris Freeman for The Portland Leader
PORTLAND – When the Panthers and Blue Devils step on the field Friday night, it could be the final time for a good while that pride is the only result for the winner.
Portland (0-1) hosts White House (0-0) Friday as the Panthers celebrate 100 years of academics and athletics at PHS this season, and the Blue Devils will be playing at Memorial Field at Edgar Johnson Stadium as its opener. Portland lost in week zero at Westmoreland, 19-0.
But with the two teams playing in different classifications, this game will only matter to overall standings. That could – and likely will – change in 2015, when the former playoff rivals will be placed back into a reformatted Region 5-4A following the TSSAA modification to its football playoff pairings.
That means a move down in classification for Portland while White House would stay put. This year, it’s just a battle for a win or a loss.
“This rivalry is more than pride,” said Portland coach Greg Cavanah earlier this year on his introduction to the rivalry as a first-year head coach. “To Portland and White House, this rivalry is a way of life. It’s always going to be a great atmosphere.”
Portland struggled in its opening week loss at Westmoreland, managing less than 150 total yards for the game. The Panthers threatened on the opening drive including a 25-yard run by Devontae House, but when District 9-AA MVP Brad Evans forced a fumble, the Eagles shut down Portland the remainder of the game.
In fact, Westmoreland threw just three passes and rushed for 212 yards in the game of the 294 total yards gained. Another long run by House in the fourth quarter put Portland on the goal line, but the Eagles had a four-down stand to preserve the shutout.
This was the case in 2013 heading into a game at White House. Portland fell 7-0 in week one last year and then lost to White House, 31-0. (See the 2013 game story, here)
Portland shut out White House 28-0 in 1995, and White House shut out Portland by the same score in 1990.
White House does not play a week zero game and is fresh from a week off after the Robertson County Jamboree at East Robertson. White House defeated Fairview, 2-0, in two quarters of play. The Devils struggled with turnovers and were slow moving on offense. White House lost three fumbles.
The only score was a tackle for loss in the endzone on a toss sweep after White House fumbled on the goalline.
“They are going to be ready to play on Friday and we have to make sure that we are getting better every single day,” said White House head coach Jeff Porter. “They will have game experience under their belt and we are hitting the field officially for the first time.”
Stopping White House may begin with all-purpose threat Josh Mullins. The senior receiver was also the Defensive Back of the Year in District 9-AA and returns punts and kicks. White House is expected to shuffle backs as the stable behind new quarterback Steven Rankin is young and inexperienced.
Defensively, the Devils move their second leading tackler, junior Denis Schaffer, from safety to linebacker and have some solid returning players on the defensive line including Emmett Cannon and Blaiz Phillips.
House rushed just seven times for 69 yards Friday for the Panthers, and Ethan Brummett got 23 carries from quarterback but managed just 22 yards.
He completed 4-of-9 passes for 30 with Kemper Dixon catching two passes.
White House and Portland are playing for the 46th time. White House took the series lead last season, 23-22, and has won 10 of the previous 12 meetings.
The two communities will take the field two nights in a row with an alumni game Saturday night on the same field, featuring former players from both schools.