Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010 | 10:24 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer break down high school football's tough Southeast Division. Five of the league's seven teams are part of the Sun's top-10 rankings.
The Faith Lutheran High football team has arguably the top passing attack in Southern Nevada.
Led by quarterback Joe Portaro, wide receiver Don Pearson and tight end Brett Lubbe, a trio of Division I prospects, the Crusaders have used their successes passing the ball to start the season with two victories.
Portaro completed 33 of 57 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns Saturday in a 37-23 victory against visiting Legacy in the Northwest Division opener for both schools.
Legacy, the defending Northwest champions, only returns one starter from last year’s squad. But the Longhorns still have a deep and talented roster, making the victory that much sweeter for Faith Lutheran.
For a Faith Lutheran squad only in its second year competing in the large-school classification, the victory is was more than a nice way to open league play. It was a confidence builder.
“That just boosted our confidence from zero to 10,” said Portaro, who also rushed for a pair of 1-yard touchdowns and kicked a 39-yard field goal.
Faith Lutheran coach Jake Kothe is making sure his team doesn’t get too confident. After all, he argues, they only have two league wins in two years and still have several games to win before they can be mentioned amongst the league’s elite.
And they are far from a finished product. They gave up two long scoring runs, had a field goal blocked and committed a handful of other errors in nearly blowing a double-digit lead.
“We talk to the kids all the time about staying the course when things don’t go as planned,” Kothe said.
Faith Lutheran, which battled injuries in finishing 1-8 last year in its initial season in the 4A classification, still resembles a team that competes on a lower level. Several athletes play on both sides of the ball and the team’s players are undersized at several position.
But when it comes to pitching and catching the ball, nobody can equal their success.
And it’s not only the threesome of Portaro, Pearson (seven catches for 112 yards) and Lubbe (eight catches for 60 yards).
Devin Dolby had five catches for 45 yards and two touchdowns, including a 5-yard scoring reception with 6:34 to play in the third quarter in extending the Faith Lutheran lead to 30-16.
“We like to pick and choose (which defensive backs) we go up against,” Portaro said. “We scout the film to find who is the weakest link.”
Legacy (0-2) played without junior LJ McMorris, one of the top running backs in the Las Vegas Valley. He is nursing an ankle injury.
But that didn’t alter the Longhorns’ offensive philosophy of running the football.
D'Andre Hughes scored on an 80-yard touchdown run seconds before halftime to even the score at 16-all. Jordan Ireland rushed for 92 yards and one touchdown on 29 carries and also scored on an 84-yard punt return for a touchdown.
“We just have to play our type of football and pound the ball at people,” Legacy coach Dave Snyder Jr. said.
Ireland’s punt return cut the Legacy deficit to 30-23 with three minutes to play in the third quarter.
But with Portaro under center, the Crusaders were in control late. His 1-yard scoring run with 6:31 remaining sealed the victory and put his team somewhere is has never been before — in first place of the Northwest, a league some consider the toughest in town.
“We feel good about our passing game. The kids believe in it,” Kothe said.