Portsmouth pours it on in 2nd half to beat Middletown, 27-19

Jake Letourneau runs for two long touchdowns

Posted 11/28/19

PORTSMOUTH — On a cold, wind-swept field, the Portsmouth High School varsity football team showed plenty of grit in bouncing back from a 7-0 deficit to defeat Middletown 27-19, in the …

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Portsmouth pours it on in 2nd half to beat Middletown, 27-19

Jake Letourneau runs for two long touchdowns

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — On a cold, wind-swept field, the Portsmouth High School varsity football team showed plenty of grit in bouncing back from a 7-0 deficit to defeat Middletown 27-19, in the island rivals’ 55th Thanksgiving Day game.

Senior wide receiver Jake Letourneau, who ended the game hobbling on one leg, was named player of the game for Portsmouth after turning in a monster performance. 

With the Super Bowl runner-ups down 7-0 going into halftime, Portsmouth came out as a different team in the third quarter. On a second-and-10 from their own 31, Letourneau took the ball and skirted down the left sideline 69 yards into the end zone. Andrew Perry’s extra point into a stiff breeze was short and to the right — the strong, eastward wind was a factor all game — to make the score 7-6.

Middletown promptly scored again when Caleb Leys kept the ball for a one-yard touchdown run. A subsequent two-point conversion failed, making it 13-6 Middletown.

The Patriots answered right back, however. After an impressive kick return by Tyree Evans to start Portsmouth at its own 43, Letourneau took the ball on the next play and ran up the middle, 57 yards into the end zone. 

Portsmouth, not wanting to try another extra point into the wind, went for a two-point conversion which paid off when Letourneau took the ball again and dove in, giving Portsmouth a 14-13 lead. Immediately afterward, Letourneau fell to his knees to catch his breath.

The lead was short-lived, however. After starting from their own 39, the Islanders’ running back T.J. Francis (player of the game for Middletown) secured a couple of first downs before tight end Andy Skirzenski ran four yards for a touchdown — a score that was assisted by an untimely offsides penalty on the Patriots. Middletown again failed on a two-point conversion, making its 19-14 with 18 seconds left in the third quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Tyree Evans picked up a bouncing ball and broke tackle after tackle past midfield to give the Patriots great field position.

Beginning the fourth quarter with the wind now at Portsmouth’s back, quarterback Benny Hurd tossed a perfect floater to Henry Gibson, who pulled it in for a 31-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, but Portsmouth had grabbed the lead back, 20-19, with just under 12 minutes left in the game.

On its next possession, Middletown decided to go for it on fourth down and five on its own 48. Middletown’s Francis was stopped immediately by Gibson, however, and Portsmouth recovered on downs.

Now it was time for running back Marcus Evans to step up. He tore off a 12-yard run before taking the ball again down the left sideline for a 30-yard TD run. Perry’s extra-point kick was good, increasing the home team’s lead to 27-19 with 8:28 left in the game.

Despite a big punt by Chris Bulk that bounced off a Middletown receiver’s fingertips and into the end zone for a touchback, the Islanders managed to advance the ball all the way down to Portsmouth’s 23-yard before their drive fizzled. After a penalty on fourth down brought the ball back to the 28 with just over two minutes left, the Islanders decided to go for it, but the pass was incomplete and Portsmouth took over on downs.

The Patriots offense went three and out, however, giving the Islanders one more chance to tie the game with just over a minute left. Another booming punt by Bulk sailed over a receiver’s head into the end zone, and Middletown started on its own 20.

The Islanders lost their composure, however, killing any chance for a comeback despite it still being a one-possession game. Two intentional-grounding penalties were assessed against Middletown, followed by back-to-back unsportsmanlike conduct calls against the Islanders. 

Time ran out a few seconds later and Portsmouth held on, 27-19.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.