PORTLAND – It’s no secret missing the playoffs last season for the first time in 12 years has fueled the Portland Raiders this time around.
So as soon as the opportunity to get back into postseason play presented itself, the Raiders capitalized.
Portland captured its playoff-clinching sixth win with a 45-0 victory over CAAC White rival Eaton Rapids Friday night and guaranteed itself at least a share of the league title.
“Not making the playoffs last year was very disappointing,” Raiders coach John Novara said, “and they just decided this offseason that they were going to do something about it.”
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Now that the Division 5 No. 2-ranked Raiders (6-0, 4-0) have guaranteed themselves a postseason spot, they can set their sights on winning the conference outright. Novara’s team is the only unbeaten squad in the CAAC White and caps league play next week against Williamston.
Portland last won the CAAC White in 2013.
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“We’re going to stay hungry,” junior running back Gabe Schrauben said. “But we’ve been thinking about a dropoff since the Lansing Catholic game. We want to make sure we stay fresh and don’t fall out (down the stretch).”
The Greyhounds (2-4, 1-3) find themselves at the other end of the spectrum. Heading into Week 6, Eaton Rapids needed to win the rest of its games to guarantee a playoff spot. Now, the Greyhounds must win out to even be considered.
Coach Mike Smith knew coming into the year his team would undergo a transformation — losing 15 starters from last year’s eight-win season — but he’s been happy with the fight he’s seen thus far.
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“It’s just the opposite of last year, we’re in transition this year as (Portland) was last year,” Smith said. “They have a very, very well-coached team.
“In the end, if you can get your kids to play hard and get better the next time, then that’s all you can ask for. My kids are trying their best, they’re not giving up, but sometimes somebody is better than you. And that’s OK. It develops character, and it also reveals character.”
The Raiders got on the board on their second play from scrimmage when Schrauben scored on a 95-yard touchdown run. On the next possession, after the Portland defense grabbed its second consecutive interception, junior quarterback Cole McGregor ran the ball in the end zone from five yards out.
The Raiders also had success through the air. Backup quarterback Nick Spitzley threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Cory Gensterblum — who also scored on a 71-yard punt return in the fourth quarter — with four minutes remaining in the first half. Spitzley connected with Bryant Pettit on the following possession for a 13-yard touchdown.
“Everybody does their part,” Schrauben said. “We have great depth and seniors who know how to lead our team, and juniors who listen to the seniors.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.