Portland football

Rivals today, Friends tomorrow, Panthers forever, sums up the annual Portland East vs West middle school game. 

The Portland East and Portland West middle school football teams ended their 2019 season Tuesday night as they squared off against one another as cross-town rivals. 

In hard fought defense battle, Portland East came out on top with a 14-0 shutout over West. 

“This was a physical football game tonight,” Portland East coach Hunter Hicks said. “It’s awesome that two middle school teams can get together and play a physical game like that. That’s what I’ve been surprised with all year since I got here. We’ve hit hard in practice and built on that all season long.”

East held a 6-0 lead for the majority of the game. The score came on their opening drive of the game. A 24-yard run from Issac Vega help set up a 12-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Polston to Johnathan Jones.

“Jones got hurt in the first game, so he’s been out all year long,” Hicks said. “He got cleared last week, and I knew they wouldn’t be ready for him. We put him outside where it was easy and I knew we had some things there matchup wise. “

West had several opportunities to take advantage of East miscues throughout the game. A 70-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from Vega to start the second half was called back for a holding penalty. 

East then coughed up the football on their next two drives, but the West offense failed to take advantage of the turnovers and reach the end zone.

“I thought both teams played excellent defense,” Portland West coach Kyle Lane said. “We had some mistakes on both sides. They were able to capitalize on our mistakes and we weren’t able to capitalize on theirs. Hats off to East. They played an excellent game. I’m proud of both sides for playing hard.”

After a West pass from Braden Thornton late in the fourth quarter was intercepted by Vega, East drove down the field and sealed the victor after Polston scored on an 11-yard touchdown run. A two-point conversion run from Vega game East a 14-0 lead. 

With the win, Portland East improved to 3-5 on the season and finished 4th in the east division of the Sumner County Conference. Portland West falls to 3-5 and will finish in 5th in the division. 

The game also marked the final night that both groups of eighth graders faced off as opponents before coming together as Freshmen for next season. 

“We had a large group of eighth graders this year and they continued to get better every week and improve,” Lane said. “We started the year off rough but we faced some really good opponents. I don’t think week one Portland West could’ve played half the game that week eight Portland West did, so that’s a testament to the players and the coaches’ work ethic.’

“Hopefully all of them stay and play together in high school,” Hicks added. “If they do, great things can happen and it would be awesome for Portland.”

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