By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Dylan Carroll and Adam Goodman knew the request was coming long before coach John Novara asked them to make a big change for their senior seasons on the Portland football team.
The writing was on the scale, so to say. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Carroll was among the three most sizable players on the Raiders’ roster this fall. And Goodman, at a solid 6-0, 200, wasn't far behind.
Still, it’s fair to assume not a lot of players want to trade in the opportunity to carry the ball for a jersey in the 50s. But Novara had no choice but to ask; he needed two new guards, and the best fits were tight end Carroll and the fullback, Goodman.
“At first, it was block, block, block. But after that, you get to pancake guys when you pull. Especially in this offense, guard is one of the best positions that we run,” Goodman said. “At first, it wasn't so exciting. But after that, it’s the best position. I would've played it all four years if I’d had the chance.”
Their one season on the line helped the Raiders produce unprecedented results.
Portland gets a Second Half High 5 this week after finishing a 13-1 season with its first trip to the MHSAA Finals – and first championship, thanks to a 12-9 win over Grand Rapids West Catholic.
The Raiders won in the same way they've made the playoffs every season over the last decade – with a mix of physical play up front, tough running and stout defense. That style often has been made possible by big bodies up front – a standout or two like alum and recently-graduated Eastern Michigan University 300-pounder Bridger Buche have been more the usual than occasional for Portland of late.
Not this season. For the Raiders to win again like they always have, it took the sacrifices of a couple smaller but just as tough seniors to be the catalysts.
“I think that was one of the keys to our success, offensively,” Novara said. “They graciously moved there. Without them moving to guards, I don’t know that we could've done this.”
Portland scored 500 points this season, likely its most ever (Michigan-football.com records date back to 1950). No other Raiders team had scored even 400.
Carroll and Goodman also were two of only three Portland players who pulled double duty, with Carroll also a starting defensive end and Goodman a starting linebacker. They helped key a defense that gave up just 13 points per game.
That defense gave up more than 14 points only once during the regular season – in a 41-32 loss to 2011 Division 5 runner-up Lansing Catholic. It gave up more than 20 twice in the playoffs, but hung on when it counted in a 45-28 win over reigning champion Flint Powers Catholic in the Regional Final and then the next week in a 28-23 nail-biter against Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard.
Portland scored all of its points of the MHSAA Final during the game's first 15 minutes. But the defense came up with three interceptions and two turnovers on downs, plus blocked a field goal attempt. The Raiders ended West Catholic’s final drive with a fourth-down stop on their 12-yard-line.
“The defense had been there all season, and we were just happy to make that one last play to win a state championship,” Goodman said.
And if he and Carroll’s moves to the offensive line hadn't been worth it completely before, they certainly became so that afternoon. As Carroll said after, he and most of his teammates are three-sport athletes who grew up together in their small town midway between Lansing and Grand Rapids. A position change hardly qualified as a sacrifice for an opportunity like this.
“I wasn't going to go out without a state championship this year. Our seniors deserved it,” Carroll said.
“We kept our mouths shut. We did whatever was best for the team, and we still worked as hard as we could this summer. It was well worth it.”
PHOTO: Portland linemen Adam Goodman (52) and Dylan Carroll (54) lead the way for teammate Auston Brandt during Saturday's Division 5 Final at Ford Field. (Click for more from Terry McNamara Photography.)