‘Tiny’ Portola has football credentials | TahoeDailyTribune.com

‘Tiny’ Portola has football credentials

Don’t let the size of Portola High School in Plumas County diminish the perception of its football team.

Even though South Tahoe High is more than four times the size of Portola High, the Vikings should have their hands full Saturday when the schools collide for the first time in a season opener.

Portola put together a dream season a year ago, winning the California Interscholastic Federation Northern Section title with a perfect 12-0 won-loss record.

“We talked about how good they are and have seen them on film. The are well-coached, they get after it and play real hard, ” said STHS coach Kevin Hennessee. “They were 12-0, so somebody in that program knows how to win.”

Although 15 players from that 23-member unbeaten team have graduated, the Tigers have been a consistent force in CIF Division IV over the past decade. During that period, Portola has won two section titles and finished runner-up in 2008. Over the past four years, Steve Heskett’s teams compiled a 41-2 record.

That success has made it difficult for Heskett to schedule nonleague games with schools of similar size. Hence, that is why Heskett is bringing his Tigers to South Lake Tahoe for the 1:30 p.m. season opener.

“North Tahoe and Whittell couldn’t make anything work. I’d like to stay with the schools close to us, but we can’t be too picky,” Heskett said. “This will be a good test for us. We’re really looking forward to it.”

While Portola has established a football identity, South Tahoe is attempting to restore its once-proud program. The Vikings haven’t produced a winning season since 2003, but are excited about the opportunity that the 2010 season presents after being realigned to Class 3A by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association.

Last Saturday, South Tahoe scrimmaged at Golden Sierra and came away pleased with the results.

“We had success, and we thought we did a good job,” Hennessee said.

Portola, which brings a 12-game winning streak to Viking Bowl, will suit up 19 players, including four sophomores.

“We’re very young and inexperienced,” Heskett said. “We’ll get to where we need to be, but it probably won’t be until later in the season.”

The Tigers, who shut out seven of their 12 opponents a year ago, will be led by 6-foot-3 defensive tackle Mario Rodriguez, 5-11 safety Kyle Heskett and 6-1 linebacker Evan Hungerford. All three also play positions on offense. Heskett welcomes back five starters on offense and two on defense.

Like Portola, South Tahoe will be breaking in a new quarterback. Junior Tyler Nesbitt makes his first varsity start behind center on Saturday but will have some experience surrounding him as tailback Jacob Stowell and receivers Rigel Garman and Andrew Contaxis are returning skill-position players.

“We’re looking forward to Saturday to see how everything fits in terms of offense, defense and special teams, how the new pieces of the puzzle fit,” Hennessee said.

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