What was projected to be a mismatch turned out to be a seat-squirmer.
The Division 1 Portsmouth High football team needed a pass interception by junior Matt Greenman with 10 seconds to play to preserve a hard-fought 21-18 victory over visiting Division 2-B Mount Hope High of Bristol Friday night at Kennedy Memorial Field in the non-league season opener for both clubs.
Greenman also made 13 tackles to earn “Player of the Game” honors and quarterback Bobby Chavous tossed two touchdown passes as the Patriots built a 15-point lead midway through the third quarter before being forced to hold on for dear life in the final period.
After narrowing the gap to three points with 3:42 to play, the Huskies’ defense stopped Portsmouth on its next series and forced a punt to the Mount Hope 22-yard line with 2:13 remaining. Aided by a personal foul penalty against the Patriots and an 11-yard, fourth-down pass completion from quarterback Kyle Valenzuela to Ryan Bartell, the Huskies reached their 49-yard stripe with 17 ticks left when Valenzuela’s long pass down the middle was picked off by Greenman to seal the outcome.
Despite the victory, Portsmouth Coach Ryan Moniz said his squad has much work ahead of it.
“Obviously, we’ll take the win,” he said. “We lacked conditioning and we didn’t tackle well, but we made a big stop at the end to win the game. Now we’ll go back to practice and work on a few things.”
In Portsmouth’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense, Chavous completed four of eight passes for 86 yards and also ran seven times for 20 yards. Austin Szczepaniak was the Patriots’ top ground gainer with 86 yards on 16 tries.
Despite the loss, Mount Hope Coach Ron Silva said he was very proud of his team’s performance.
“We didn’t expect this,” he said. “We had a lot of missed tackles tonight, but the heart and effort was there. That’s all we can ask for.”
While many of the Huskies shone, senior fullback Joe San Martin was their stalwart and a serious contender for “Player of the Game” honors. Unofficially, San Martin carried the ball 28 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns and three times ran for first downs on fourth-down carries in Mount Hope’s territory. He was also a defensive standout for the Huskies.
“He’s special,” Silva said of San Martin. “The line blocked well and he ran well.”
On the night, the Huskies out-gained the Patriots by a 278-214 margin, including a whopping 177-59 advantage in the second half.
“I thought we moved the ball well in the first half, but we were on defense for most of the second half,” Moniz said. “We couldn’t stop them and that’s how they negated our offense.”
Sophomore Jesse Raiola electrified the large crowd on hand when he fielded the game’s opening kickoff at his 11-yard line, found a huge hole in the middle of the field, and cut down the left sideline and into the endzone for an 89-yard touchdown return to give Mount Hope a 6-0 lead just 16 seconds into the contest.
Portsmouth reached the Husky 32-yard line on its first possession, but came up empty when Daniel Thorpe’s 51-yard field goal attempt struck the left upright and bounced away. On their next series, the Patriots reached pay-dirt at the end of a four-play, 48-yard scoring drive when Chavous flipped a 24-yard touchdown aerial to Kevin Fitzgerald and Thorpe’s first conversion kick gave the hosts a 7-6 advantage after the first quarter.
Late in the second quarter, Szczepaniak ran 34 yards for a touchdown and Thorpe’s second extra point widened the gap to 14-6 at halftime.
Portsmouth took the second-half kickoff and drove 68 yards in 10 plays for its third score, capped by a 32-yard touchdown pass from Chavous to Dylan Medeiros. Thorpe’s third conversion boot made it a 21-6 contest.
Mount Hope responded with a 13-play, 85-yard assault on its next series to draw closer. San Martin did most of the damage and capped the drive with a two-yard scoring plunge to draw the visitors to within 21-12 after three quarters.
San Martin and Aaron Booth keyed the Huskies’ 15-play, 88-yard drive which consumed most of the final period and San Martin climaxed it with a one-yard touchdown rush to conclude the scoring.
In honor of President Reagan’s 100th birthday this year, all 32 National Football League, 120 NCAA Division 1 football teams and an estimated 14,000 high school football teams across the nation are participating in pre-game coin flips using Ronald Reagan Centennial Commemorative Coins.
A Reagan coin was used for the pre-game flip Friday night in Portsmouth and Greenman was awarded the coin at game’s end by Portsmouth High Director of Athletics Stephen Trezvant for being named “Player of the Game.”