The Portland football team wasn't going to let this one slip away.
The Panthers, after two heartbreaking losses the previous two weeks, used a seven-minute drive to eat time off the clock to preserve an exciting 41-29 win over rival White House in a big region and homecoming victory. That important possession, though the Panthers didn't score on it, took momentum away from the Devils after the visitors had scored to close the gap to 12, 41-29 late in the third.
"That was big," Coach Greg Cavanah remarked Sunday. "We told the guys to finish the game. We didn't do that the last two weeks (losses to West Creek and White House Heritage). The kids were focused before the game. We won the turnover battle and stopped making personal foul penalties."
Portland used two more big plays to change momentum of the contest.
The first came on the second play of the second half. White House had scored in the first half to trail 20-14 at intermission. The Blue Devils received the second half kickoff, but Jovie Lugo intercepted a pass off the arm of Blue Devil quarterback Calen Anderson and returned it 38 yards to the 15. The Panthers scored on the third play to give the Purple a 14-point edge.
"I thought that was the turning point of the game," Cavanah pointed out about Lugo's pick. "The punt return for a touchdown by Cade (Box) was also big."
Box's return gave Portland a 35-14 lead. The Blue Devils would counter with back-to-back touchdowns to close the gap to 12, 41-29 with 2:26 left in the third quarter. But Portland took the ensuing kickoff and used nearly eight minutes off the clock to seal the win.
The contest was one of momentum swings though the Panthers never trailed. The Purple jumped out to a 7-0 lead. Mandrell completed a pass to Allen and Gulley ran for 24 to set up Mandrell's one-yard sneak. Braxton Cole booted the PAT at the 10:58 mark of the first period.
White House fumbled on their opening series, but Portland couldn't capitalize. After forcing the visitors to punt on another possession, the Purple went up 14-0. Box and Fuqua each had a carry and Mandrell toss a pair of completions to Bell and Allen. Later, facing fourth down, Mandrell went back to punt but instead found Bell down the sideline on a 35-yard pick up and a fresh set of downs at the 3. Mandrell capped the drive on a three-yard run behind the offensive line. Cole's kick conversion pushed the advantage to 14-0 with nine minutes to go in the half.
After forcing the Blue Devils to punt the football away, Portland took over but fumbled at the 5. White House cashed in as Blackburn went in from five yards out and Harper cut the lead in half with the PAT. Portland answered with a 11-play drive with Mandrell gaining 19, Allen caught a 12-yard pass and runs by Box, Fuqua, and Gulley set up Mandrell's one-yard carry to the endzone. A couple of penalties erased a two-point conversion run by Box and Cole had to attempt the PAT.
The Blue Devils struck back as Neufeld caught a 30-yard pass from Anderson to the 10 and one play later, Anderson hit Blackburn on a nine-yard scoring pass play with Harper's PAT leaving the visitors trailing 20-14 at halftime.
White House received the second half kickoff and ran one play before Lugo picked off an Anderson pass and returned it 38 yards to the 15. On third down, Box took the handoff and went in untouched for the score. Mandrell toss the two-point conversion pass to Allen for a 28-14 edge.
The Portland defense forced a three and out, and on the punt, Box fielded the football at the 30 and raced down the Portland sideline on a 70-yard return. Cole's PAT gave the Purple a 35-14 lead. The Blue Devils answered as Anderson hit a speeding Neufeld for a 54-yard reception and three plays later, Blackburn broke loose on a three-yard run. Harper was automatic on the PAT and the Devils trailed 35-21 with 3:25 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers came back as Mandrel broke a couple of tackles at the line of scrimmage and rambled 55 yards to the endzone. The PAT was blocked but the Purple increased their margin to 41-21.
The Blue Devils struck back as Anderson found Neufeld on another pass play and this time it went for 62 yards and a touchdown. The two-point conversion was successful, and the Portland was trimmed to 12, 41-29 with 2:26 left in the third.
Portland started their next series at their own 26 and marched to the Blue Devil 4 before a couple of penalties on consecutive plays nullified two touchdowns and a fourth down pass fell incomplete at the 6.
The Panthers used seven minutes off the clock on the drive. White House gained a first down but later had to punt and the Purple sealed the win by moving the chains to the nine-yard line before turning the football over on downs with 13 seconds left.
Portland finished with 429 yards with Mandrell compiling 265 total yards and rushing for four touchdowns. Fuqua contributed 91 yards while Allen caught four passes for 72 yards.
The Blue Devils had 274 yards of offense with Anderson passing for 167 and Neufeld making six receptions for 152 yards. Blackburn recorded 97 yards on the ground.