Portage Central ground game grinds up Niles

Published 11:11 pm Friday, October 3, 2014

PORTAGE — Niles football coach Antwon Jones could only shake his head in frustration following Friday night’s 35-13 Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West Division loss to Portage Central.

Of greatest concern to Jones, was the Vikings’ failure to execute on offense and the number of dropped passes by a usually sure-handed corps of wide receivers.

“Uncharacteristic for us, our wide receivers were dropping and they normally don’t drop the ball,” Jones said. “It was one of those nights where, for whatever reason, we were dropping.

“We can drive (the football) on pretty near anybody and that’s what bothers me. It’s about execution and we just have to find a way to get consistent with it.”

Sophomore quarterback Alex Harpeneau passed for a pair of touchdowns and 202 yards, but completed just 12 of his 30 aerial attempts. He was also intercepted twice by Central junior Jacob Roth.

Diminutive senior Warren Smith had a monster night for the Vikings. Smith rushed 11 times for a team-high 69 yards and hauled in eight Harpeneau passes for another 104 stripes, including a 10-yard scoring strike during the final minute of the second quarter to pull Niles to within, 14-6, at halftime.

And then the roof caved in.

Portage Central’s defense allowed Niles just 39 rushing yards during the final two quarters, while Harpeneau and his wide receivers never appeared to be on the same page.

Trailing 35-6 with less than two minutes to play, Harpeneau hit a streaking Ra’Quon Glenn down the far sideline for a 68-yard touchdown, but it was too little, too late.

Portage Central rushed for 356 yards on the soggy turf, and got a pair of rushing touchdowns from senior quarterback Sam VerMeulen (1 and 6 yards). Operating out of the veer, VerMeulen rushed for 91 yards on 24 carries.

The Mustangs got a game-high 136 yards on 16 carries from junior Brandon Sturgeon that included a 53-yard TD scamper late in the fourth quarter.

Niles (4-2) finished with 341 yards of total offense.

Two wins away from a berth in the postseason playoffs, Jones has lofty expectations.

“We have three games to win three, in my opinion,” he said. “There’s no team we can’t beat when we’re executing.

“We had a lot of open balls tonight that we need to catch, and if we catch them, we are right there. It is what it is. (Portage Central was) the better team tonight and we just have to get better.”


Niles                              0          6          0          7 — 13

Portage Central         7          7          7         14 — 35

PC – VerMeulen, 1, run (Roth kick)

PC – VerMeulen, 6, run (Roth kick)

N – Harpeneau, 10, pass to Smith (kick failed)

PC – Hatfield, 17, run (Roth kick)

PC – Kuchenbuch, 2, run (Roth kick)

PC –  Sturgeon, 53, run (Roth kick)

N – Harpeneau, 68, pass to Glenn (Myer kick)