Portville Hands Thunderbirds 41-20 Defeat
MAYVILLE — After responding to a disastrous first quarter with two quick scores, Chautauqua Lake/Westfield/Brocton found itself only trailing 21-14 to Portville as opposed to 21-0.
Unfortunately for the Thunderbirds (1-2), the Panthers (2-1) knew how to match the offensive awakening.
Portville closed out the second quarter with two more scores of its own to go up 35-14 at halftime en route to a 41-20 Class C South victory Friday night.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy and it wasn’t,” Portville head coach Josh Brooks said. “We got up 21-0 early and they responded, but then we responded after that.”
The Panthers offense started the game rolling on all cylinders, as both the passing and running game was working against the Thunderbirds. On the opening drive, Mike Stillman connected with Dalton Tobola for a big touchdown reception. After the quick score, the Thunderbirds fumbled in short order on their opening drive and gave the Panthers great field position. Portville was unable to capitalize on the opportunity, because on the first play of that second drive Dakota Planty picked off a would-be Panthers touchdown.
The first-quarter errors did not end there as the next Thunderbirds’ punt was snapped over the punter’s head to give the Panthers field position on the Thunderbirds 5-yard line. Portville capitalized on that opportunity with a 5-yard Jayden Lassiter touchdown. The PAT was blocked, but it was 13-0 Panthers.
Portville finished off the first quarter with another touchdown run that was followed by a successful 2-point conversion, and the Panthers led in hostile territory 21-0.
“Early on we kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” Chautauqua Lake/Westfield/Brocton head coach Bryan Bongiovanni said. “We had some turnovers. We didn’t execute to our potential. From the get-go, I don’t think we matched their intensity.”
Trailing 21-0, Thunderbirds senior running back Ryan Jafarjian knew he needed to spark his team. At the beginning of the second quarter, the Thunderbirds found themselves inside the Panthers red zone and they went to Jafarjian, who found the end zone with a 5-yard touchdown run. He wasn’t done there. On the next Panthers drive, Jafarjian rose to occasion defensively and picked off the Portville quarterback inside the red zone. Just a few plays later Jafarjian was back in the end zone to make it 21-14.
“Ryan just has a constant motor,” Bongiovanni said. “He’s a college football player. No matter what the score is he’s playing hard. His teammates feed off of that and it’s great leadership. He’s a guy that every guy on that sideline can rally behind.”
After two drives with interceptions, Portville went back to Lassiter on the ground and it was the right choice as he marched the Panthers down the field. Another TD pass to Tobola made it 29-14.
“The seniors played really well,” Brooks said. “Dalton — one of our captains — two interceptions on the defensive side then two receiving touchdowns on the offensive side. We had some plays to get Dalton the ball.”
Just before halftime, the Thunderbirds looked to score and make it a potential one-possession deficit. The drive was short-lived when Lassiter picked off a pass intended for Jafarjian and instead gave the Panthers a final chance to score before halftime. Portville took advantage of the field position and Lassiter was rewarded with his defensive efforts as he rushed another touchdown to get the 21-point lead.
The Thunderbirds started the fourth quarter on the right foot with a blocked punt and gave themselves prime scoring position inside the Portville red zone. The offense went to what was working and punched in another score when Jafarjian made it 35-20 — preserving the hopes of a comeback.
Unfortunately for the Thunderbirds, a comeback was not in the plans as the Portville defense locked them down for the remainder of the game. The Panthers’ Luke Smith got the final score of the game on a short touchdown run, putting the final nail in the coffin at 41-20.
“We have a really young team,” Bongiovanni said. “We’ve got some really good athletes. The only place that we’re going to gain that experience is in games. So there’s going to be some bumps.”