Summary: Even though La Porte went through major adversity early in the season with four straight losses to begin the year, it continued to battle. Despite several lopsided losses, it continued to work. Their resolve was on display on Friday night. After almost spoiling a 13-point lead, the Slicers fended off a furious Portage fourth-quarter rally, prevailing 20-14 at home in a contest they never trailed. “I'm very, very proud of our kids,” LP coach Jeremy Lowery said. “I knew we were going to play well because they've continued to practice. They simply got what they deserve because they have gone back to work week after week after week. They haven't blinked.” After building a 20-7 third-period advantage, the Slicers (2-7, 2-5 Duneland Conference) seemed destined for the win. But the Indians (1-8, 0-7 DAC), who had countless penalties in the game, made it interesting in the fourth, pulling within six and having a good chance in the last few minutes. La Porte snuffed out the rally, however.
La Porte's offensive player of the game: Robbie Kiner
While his stats aren't eye-popping, the quarterback was reliable and ran the offense well. He was making his first start since Week 3 and fared well. The junior started in the injured Collin Bergquist's stead, who was out with a left leg injury. Kiner finished 4-for-11 passing for 42 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. "I feel like I did good," Kiner said. "There's areas I need to improve on. Some of the throws I could have completed in tough situations."
La Porte's defensive player of the game: Jaden Browder
The linebacker was at his best with the game on the line. With Portage driving down six late, he earned a sack on third down and 12 at the Slicers' 22-yard line, forcing it into a fourth and 23 from the 31. The next play, LP's defense forced an incompletion in the end zone to turn the ball over on downs to ensure the win. Plus, Browder recovered a fumble in the third.
Stat of the game: 76 yards rushing.
La Porte's robust defense limited the visitors to only 76 yards on the ground, immensely aiding the victory. It was led by Browder, Gavin Zolvinski, Matt Neff and Javant Hodges.
Turning point: La Porte's go-ahead TD.
Following a timeout late in the opening half, Kiner connected with Evan Cizewski on an 18-yard TD pass after a run fake. That gave the Slicers a lead they didn't surrender, 14-7, with just 55 seconds to go in the half. “I just did my normal drop and I saw Evan going right up the middle of the field,” Kiner said. “The safety bit on our fake and I knew from there I had to complete that pass to give us the early momentum.”
Lowery on his team's defensive effort: “They've just prepared hard. Those guys get a good grasp of what our opponents are going to do to us. Then they go out and they execute that plan and they get after it. They play physical. We talked about that a lot. Tonight was about going out and physically controlling the game and I felt like we were the more physical team, and it showed.”
LP linebacker Zach Purnell on stopping Portage on its last drive: “We put in the work every practice and we deserve this win as much as any other team. We deserve this. We've been working hard. Even through the rough times of losing all those games, we still come out and we play our hearts out.”
La Porte at Michigan City, 7 p.m., Nov. 1
The Slicers get a bye this Friday to prepare for their Class 5A sectional opener at the Wolves next week. “If you don't win (the regular-season finale), then you're sitting on a two-week loss,” Lowery said. “And that's awfully hard to do, especially this time of year. I feel like our football team, because of their relentless work ethic and not blinking when things went bad, we actually get to reap the advantages of being a team on the rise going into the playoffs.”