Excitement was in the air as the 2012 high school football season kicked off across the state of Indiana on Friday night, including at Portage High School where the Indians hosted Mishawaka. The start of a new season marks a new era of Indian football as PHS graduate Wally McCormack begins his inaugural season as the team’s head coach. McCormack previously had success at Andrean and Hobart before taking 2011 off while serving as a freshman assistant at PHS.
However, the McCormack era was ushered in with a 57-42 loss to the Mishawaka Cavemen on Friday night. The Indians defense had no answer for a potent Cavemen offense in the shootout. The Portage offense was nearly as productive, matching the opposition punch for punch early on. The two teams combined for an outrageous 99 points in the game.
“I think there’s a ton of positive to take out of the game,” McCormack said afterwards. “I think we did some good things on offense at times. [Mishawaka’s] very, very good at what they do offensively. With their style of offense, when you have a three year returning starter at quarterback, there’s nothing you’re going to do to confuse that kid.”
Junior Gage Pearman passed for 264 yards and two touchdowns in his debut as the full time varsity quarterback. He connected with fellow junior Cody Maldonado four times for 103 yards and one touchdown and hooked up with senior Rashaan Coleman for an 11 yard TD. Coleman has transitioned to his most natural position of running back after bouncing all over the field during his first two years at PHS, including a stint as the starting quarterback as a junior.
“Being that guy that gets the ball is just huge,” Coleman said. “I’ve played a lot of positions, but playing running back tonight is like coming home.”
Pearman has worked hand in hand with McCormack, who stresses the importance of his team having a strong leader at QB.
“I think you saw today he’s pretty dang tough,” McCormack said.
Pearman is soaking up everything he can from his head coach.
“He just said play hard, make smart decisions. He’s really been hard on me in practice and pushing me,” Pearman said.
Perhaps the most impressive play of the game came on a two-point conversion attempt when a trick play resulted in Coleman completing a pass to Pearman, who made an acrobatic grab.
Portage continues a stretch of four straight home games to open up the 2012 campaign next week against Gary Roosevelt. The Indians are looking to put on a show for the home crowd against the Panthers, Lake Central Indians and Merrillville Pirates over the next three weeks.
“It was exciting to see [the fans] out there tonight, and that’s what Portage needs to do,” Coleman said. “As a football team we need to realize that and we need to blow teams out just for them. I don’t know about anybody else, but we play this game for the fans because they come out there and want to see a good football game and we’ve got to give them that.”