By Craig Harris for The News Examiner (FULL ARTICLE…)
The Portland/White House prep football rivalry is one that may not be what it used to be.
However, the head coaches of those programs feel that it may soon climb back to that frenzied level that it was once perched.
They’ll meet once again as non-district opponents tonight at the Panthers’ Edgar Johnson Stadium.
“I think it’s going to regain it,” Blue Devil head coach Jeff Porter said. “We’re probably going to all be back in the district together next year. It’s probably headed back in that direction I would think.”
This is only the second year that Portland head coach Greg Cavanah has been a part of it. Cavanah was an assistant coach last season, when White House rolled to a 31-0 victory.
“It is White House … that’s a huge rival,” Cavanah said. “It hit me at game time when the ball was kicked off, and I saw the level of play the kids tried to play at.
“Next year, we’re going to be district opponents. We want to play well.”
Cavanah’s immediate concern is playing well now though.
“We’re in the midst of a 13-game losing streak,” Cavanah said. “The kids are trying hard. It’s been a good week of work.”
The Panthers opened their season with a 19-0 loss at neighboring Westmoreland last Friday night, while the Blue Devils are opening their season tonight.
“Everybody within our program, we all realized that we weren’t ready to play last Friday night,” Porter said. “Us being off was a good thing.
“Now, you have to play whether you are ready or not.”
White House lost three players to season-ending knee injuries in the preseason – senior fullback/linebacker Austin Grissom, senior tailback/defensive back Cody Beauchemin and sophomore back-up quarterback/defensive back Hunter Brown.
Porter also expects that he may have other players who will be game-time decisions as far as whether injuries will prevent them playing on Friday.
“We were doing okay until we had a rash of injuries,” Porter said of the team’s preseason progress. “Any time you have those things, one simple injury can maybe affect two or three positions. If you have three or four injuries, it stalls your progress until you get some kids back healthy.
“Hopefully, we can figure out where we’re at this week and maybe make some progress in practice. We’ve been trying to get some kids healthy. We’ve not practiced as long. We actually gave the kids off one day from a mental standpoint. Any time you don’t play in (week) zero and everybody else is, it makes it a challenge to try to figure out how to best get through a week.”
The Panthers have also been battling some injury issues.
Senior quarterback Chris Greer did not play last Friday night due to a concussion, but he is expected to start tonight, allowing junior quarterback Ethan Brummett (who started last week) to just start at strong safety.
“It’s one less player going both ways,” Cavanah said. “Both Greer and Brummett read the option well. We didn’t block very well up front (on Friday). That’s a testament to Westmoreland’s football team. They took it to us.
“That’s one thing we told our kids. They realize they’re going to have to play four quarters instead of one. We played a decent first quarter. After we got down that touchdown, the whole complexion of the game changed.”
Portland senior offensive tackle Tyler Trammel – who stands at 6-foot-7 and weighs 290 pounds – is questionable for tonight’s contest due to a back injury.
Both coaches are impressed by the rival’s size up front.
“Their size stands out,” Porter said. “They’re huge.
“No. 26 (senior tailback Devontae House) stands out. He provided burst of energy the other night (against Westmoreland). He’s probably a guy they like to get in space. He made a nice return on the punt return before half (a 27-yard return that set up a field-goal opportunity).”
Cavanah added, “They’re big. They’re physical. They’re kids who are going to play you a lot like Westmoreland. They’ll play you until the whistle blows. We’re in for another week of smash-mouth football.”
Though the Blue Devils rolled in last year’s contest, the Panthers won the last time the two programs played on their home field, a 28-7 victory in 2012.
“We remember going up there two years ago and getting it handed to us,” Porter said. “They kicked us all over the field.
“It’s not an easy place to play over there … it’s really not.”
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
Westmoreland (1-0) at Macon County (1-0)
Kickoff at 7 p.m. at Pat Parker Field
Last week: Westmoreland captured a 19-0 victory over visiting Portland. Macon County claimed a 27-21, double-overtime victory at Trousdale County.
Last meeting between the two teams: The Eagles defeated the visiting Tigers 29-12 last season.
Westmoreland may have a tougher test on its hands against a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2003.
However, the Tigers pulled off a 27-21 victory at defending Class 2A state champion Trousdale County last Friday, winning on freshman quarterback Seth Carlisle’s third touchdown run.
Carlisle also threw a touchdown pass.
The Eagle defense limited Portland to 145 total yards last Friday and gained 294 total yards, rushing for 212 of that total.
Of Westmoreland’s next seven games, six are on the road.
The Eagles have won the last two contests between the neighboring rivals, a 34-13 win when the two teams last played in Lafayette in 2012.
Westmoreland has won five of the last seven meetings between the two programs.
Sports reporter Craig Harris can be contacted at 575-7138.