By Zach Womble for The White House Connection
PORTLAND – Portland pounded their way to 265 yards on the ground in Friday night’s rivalry win over White House, 48-27. Seniors Micahel Hussey and Boobie Johnson combined for 286 yards and all seven touchdowns as the Panthers extended their win-streak over White House to two games.
“This win means we are 1-0 in our region,” said Portland head coach Greg Cavanah. “We had one breakdown late, but other than that, special teams was great tonight. We had a lot of kids coming in and out of the game. The win is great. It puts us in the top three of our region now.”
Speculation swirled all week long as prized back Johnson was questionable heading into the contest.
“Last week he spent a few days in the hospital with severe dehydration,” said Cavanah. “Our staff and he did a great job of getting him ready to play.”
Johnson made the game’s first splash play when he took his first touch 88 yards to the house on a White House punt, putting the Panthers up 7-0.
Portland PAT man Ryan Smith connected on 6 of 7 extra points.
White House responded on the next kick-off taking the ball all the way into Portland territory to the 20-yard line.
Just a few plays later, quarterback Andrew Nixon found tight end Danny Stout for a 23-yard touchdown toss to tie the game with 6:47 left in the first quarter.
Following turnovers by both teams, Hussey set up the Panthers’ second touchdown with his first interception of the game, bringing the ball all the way into White House territory as the first quarter siren sounded.
At the White House 21-yard line, Johnson took the handoff and scooted into the end zone for the 14-7 Panther lead with 11:51 left in the second quarter.
White House back-up quarterback Hunter Brown capped off the next Blue Devil drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge on third down to bring the Devils to within one point.
Nixon set up the play with a 30-yard run to the one-yard line.
White House failed on their fake extra point attempt and trailed 14-13.
The Devils forced a punt on the Panthers’ next possession and claimed their first lead of the game on a Preston Long three-yard touchdown run for a 20-14 lead.
However, Portland grabbed back the lead just before halftime. Johnson caught a tipped-pass and scooted 50 yards down the right sideline with 39 seconds left in the half for his third touchdown to make it 21-20 PHS at recess.
Neither team found the end zone in the third quarter and, unfortunately for the Panthers, luck did not seem to be on their side when starting quarterback Brandon Meador went out of the game with a sprained ankle.
It turned out, however, that Portland had just the back-up they needed.
Hussey moved to quarterback and ran the Wildcat to perfection as his three fourth quarter touchdowns catapulted the Panthers to a comfortable lead.
Hussey scored on runs of 19, 25 and 11 yards to make it 40-20 Portland with about three minutes left.
“It’s great. This game gets our intensity up and gives us the confidence that we can finish games,” said Hussey. “We came out with more intensity in the second half and a lot of people stepped up tonight to help us get the win.”
White House added their last touchdown when Nixon found freshman Logan Neufield on an 18-yard toss in the back of the end zone.
Johnson scored the final points of the game with a 59-yard run.
“Some people really didn’t want me to play in this game due to safety precautions,” said Johnson following the win. “I drank water, hydrated really well and rested and got back with the team.”
Johnson talked about the importance of beating White House.
“This win makes us 1-0 in region play and gives us confidence,” he said. “We just needed to get a W under our belt and I expect to keep fighting and have a successful season after this.
“When you have a crowd like that you have to play good,” he continued. “There is no better place to play than Portland. You have little kids cheering you on and student body section is just amazing. When you get down and you hear them cheer you just want to give everything you got for them.”
The Blue Devils dropped to 0-3. Jeff Porter has been in this situation just two other times before in 30 years of coaching. Both of those teams (2000 and 2005) bounced back to reach the state quarterfinals. Whether the Devils can do that again remains to be seen.
“We go to work on Monday and nothing changes,” Porter said. “We still believe if we work hard and get better every day then everything will fall into place.”
Portland’s game this week at White House Heritage has been moved to Thursday, Sept. 8.
White House will host Greenbrier on September 9.