The Portage Mustangs remained unbeaten in four outings this season by taking control of the game in the trenches during the second half en route to a 42-7 WestPAC victory over visiting Meyersdale Friday night.

A large homecoming crowd saw the Mustangs’ Buck Murphy rush for a game-high 196 yards and three touchdowns to pace a Portage offense that churned out 337 total rushing yards, including 244 over the final two quarters.

“All the guys on our offensive line did a great job,” Mustangs coach Gary Gouse said.

“They were pushing people all over the field in the second half. This group of guys deserves all the credit. Jeremy Chappell, Mike Richardson, Mike Kreutzberger, Zach McCabe, Ricky Biem and Matt Martella were outstanding.”

With starting fullback Wayne Gathers on the bench, Murphy made the switch from halfback and didn’t miss a beat for the high-scoring Mustangs offense.

After snapping a 13-game losing streak last week, the Red Raiders “wanted to see what we could do coming off a win,” Meyersdale coach Andy Stahl said.

“We hoped for a better result. We were able to do some good things, but weren’t consistent and didn’t capitalize on some opportunities.”

The Mustangs jumped out to an early lead, driving 58 yards on eight plays on their opening series. Dan Kowalczyk completed passes of 15 yards to Justin Hutsky and 11 yards to Jared Bilchak, setting up Murphy’s 2-yard touchdown run that put Portage ahead 6-0.

Meyersdale (1-3) answered with a lengthy 17-play drive, picking up four consecutive first downs and moving deep into Portage territory.

However, on fourth-and-goal, Tyler Edwards was stuffed for a loss, ending the Red Raiders’ best scoring threat of the first half.

Portage added to its lead late in the second quarter as Kowalczyk teamed with Bilchak for a 19-yard strike. Ryan Fuller ran in the two-point conversion for a 14-0 lead.

Bilchak snared six receptions for 73 yards on the night.

Murphy opened the third quarter for the Mustangs by accounting for all 58 yards on a scoring march that he capped off with a 1-yard touchdown plunge at the 9:59 mark.

“They took away the outside, and Murphy was able to get good yardage up the middle,” Gouse said.

The Red Raiders briefly got back in the game on the following series, as backup quarterback Ryan Donaldson hit Mike Courtney in stride on a 46-yard touchdown bomb. Jeremy Faidley added the extra point and cut the Mustangs edge to 20-7 less than a minute after Murphy’s score.

Portage responded with a trademark ball-control drive that chewed up 75 yards and over 5 minutes, with Murphy scoring from 16 yards and Fuller running in his second conversion of the night.

Bilchak picked off a pass by Meyersdale’s Matt Stahl on the following series, and the Mustangs then used a 23-yard sprint by Murphy to set up Hutsky’s 4-yard touchdown run.

The Mustangs completed the scoring with just over 2 minutes to play, as Matt Baxter broke loose and raced 28 yards. Nicholas Bem added the two-point conversion to set the final.

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