Justin Dennett knew Friday night’s game at Portland would be a tall order for his Montague football team.
After all, the Division 5 ninth-ranked Red Raiders are the lone team to defeat reigning Division 3 state champion DeWitt in the last two seasons.
Montague fell to Portland in the regular-season finale, 31-6, but Dennett saw some positive signs that the Division 6 10th-ranked Wildcats can carry into the start of the playoffs next week.
“Overall, I think the game was closer than the score shows. We had a couple turnovers early and didn’t convert in the red zone on offense. Defensively, we struggled a bit early, but once we settled in, we played them pretty tough,” Dennett told CatchMark via text message. “They’re a good football team. We knew we would have to play a perfect game to beat them.
“There were a lot of positives we can take from this. We had some younger guys step up and make some plays. We were able to move the ball offensively, just didn’t finish drives.”
Montague (6-3), which shared the West Michigan Conference title with Whitehall and Oakridge, now sets its sights on the upcoming playoffs.
The Sunday Selection Show is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Sunday on Bally Sports Detroit. The reigning Division 6 state champion Wildcats will learn their first-round playoff opponent and postseason road at that time.
The lone defeats for Portland (7-2) this season have come against potential Division 6 title contender Lansing Catholic in Week 6 (31-29) and 2020 Division 4 state finalist Cadillac in Week 8 (10-7). The Red Raiders toppled rival DeWitt at home, 20-17, in Week 2.
On Friday, Portland jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead. Montague pulled within 14-6 on senior quarterback Andrew Kooi’s 2-yard run, but the Wildcats got no closer. They trailed 21-6 at halftime.
Kooi finished 8-of-20 passing for 161 yards with an interception. Senior Dylan Everett ran 25 times for 89 yards.
Defensively, senior Colton Blankstrom led Montague with eight tackles, while sophomore Paul Olson snagged a pair of picks.
Dennett kept an optimistic attitude after the defeat, the Wildcats’ second straight after falling to rival Whitehall, 34-14, last week.
From here on out, Montague will be punching at its own weight in Division 6.
“We just have to stay positive and focus on getting better for the playoffs,” Dennett said. “Our three losses this year are to two of the top D4 teams and one D5, so we feel prepared to make a run again in 6. We need to clean up some things, but overall there are a lot of positives we can build on.”
CatchMark SportsNet’s Zach Zweigle contributed to this report.
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