PORTERVILLE — The Central Section’s stingiest defense shut down the most prolific offense Thursday night at Rankin Stadium.
And it wasn’t even close.
Behind a defense that recorded four sacks, two fumble recoveries and one interception, The Bee’s Central Section No. 18-ranked Mission Oak upset No. 10 Porterville 27-9 on Thursday in an East Yosemite League football opener.
The Hawks (6-0, 1-0) entered allowing 6.4 points per game while the Panthers were averaging 56.6 points and more than 525 yards of offense.
Something had to give, and it was Porterville’s offense, which was swarmed consistently by Mission Oak linemen Armon Hunter, Brayan Mendez, Michael Webster and Nick Lewis, as well as linebackers Trent Reed, Kaleb Fite, Danny Alvarado and Brock Dias all night while producing a season-low 257 yards.
“They played well. Even with a limited week, the guys were dialed in,” Hawks coach Mark Gambini said. “They were in the film room this week calling offensive plays. They knew what to expect. They are a smart group.”
Mission Oak seized control before halftime when Webster sacked Porterville quarterback Dennis Chester to force a fourth down at the Panthers’ 22-yard line. Mendez then broke through, blocked the punt and recovered the ball at the 4.
On the next play, Elijah Porchia scored the third of his four touchdowns on the night to give Mission Oak a 20-7 lead with 8 seconds left in the second quarter.
“Coach told me to go get it and I did my job,” Mendez said. “That was a really big lift. It got us a touchdown and changed the momentum a lot.”
Mission Oak carried that momentum into the second half, forcing fumbles on Porterville’s first two possessions that were recovered by Reed and Dias.
The Hawks cashed in when Porchia got to the edge and outraced everyone 54 yards for a 27-7 lead with 4:06 left in the third quarter.
“We had to have our defense do whatever it takes, because we knew we could put points on the board just like they do,” said Porchia, who rushed for 240 yards on 34 carries and also had a first-half interception.
Mission Oak entered No. 4 in the State Bowl South Division III rankings compiled by Cal-Hi Sports, which are an influential pool used by the CIF’s 10 section commissioners to determine regional bowl game participants. This was the Hawks’ most impressive victory this season after going 5-0 against teams with a collective 10-17 record to date.
“This is huge,” Porchia said. “We have to stay humble and focus on next week. But we can pretty much do anything we set our minds to.” [TAILMAIL]<SC120,86>
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