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May 19, 2022

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Portaro leads Crusaders to victory

Sophomore quarterback steps up to the plate

Spring Creek at Faith Lutheran

Stephen Sylvanie/Special to the Home News

Faith Lutheran players come together to celebrate the team’s home victory over Spring Creek on Friday night.

Spring Creek at Faith Lutheran

Crusaders wide receiver Don Pearson protects the ball from Spring Creek tackler Marty Shanks during a game at Faith Lutheran High School on Friday night. Launch slideshow »

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Making his first varsity start and filling in for his team’s top offensive player, nobody would have blamed Joe Portaro if he struggled.

But Faith Lutheran’s quarterback looked more like a veteran than the sophomore he is while leading the Crusaders to a 31-21 come-from-behind victory at home against Spring Creek Friday.

Portaro completed 18 of 25 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 56 yards and another score.

“I was really nervous coming into the first quarter,” Portaro said. “But after I had all my teammates saying, ‘Joe, just have fun,’ that’s exactly what I did. I was just having fun and playing the game the way it should be played.”

Portaro filled in for regular signal caller senior David Sperry, who led the Crusaders to a 19-12 win at Campbell Hall of North Hollywood, Calif., Aug. 30. Sperry suffered a cracked rib during practice days before that game but didn’t have the injury diagnosed until Sept. 1.

Faith Lutheran coach Jacob Kothe said Sperry is scheduled to return in three weeks. When that happens, he insists the team won’t have a quarterback controversy on its hands.

Rather, both Portaro and Sperry will be on the field at the same time. Where each will fit in is yet to be determined.

“We’ll be able to put lots of pressure on defenses with both of them out there regardless of where they play and that’s just what we’ll do,” Kothe said. “Even though David didn’t play, his presence was felt throughout the week in practice and on the sideline tonight. And we’ve worked with Joe enough to known what he’s capable of doing, so his performance tonight was no surprise to us. If he stays focused, he’s going to be something special.”

Faith Lutheran received a scare in the first quarter when Spring Creek jumped out to a 14-0 advantage. But the Crusaders scored 24 unanswered points to take a 24-14 lead by halftime, which they would not relinquish.

The Crusaders got on the board with 2 minutes, 38 seconds left in the first quarter on a 26-yard field goal by Portaro, who also is the placekicker. It was set up by a 34-yard pass from Portaro to sophomore Don Pearson.

Faith Lutheran scored its first touchdown with 9:33 remaining in the second quarter on a 31-yard touchdown scramble by Portaro.

On the following series, Faith Lutheran recovered a Spring Creek fumble on the opposition’s 36. Minutes later, Portaro was at it again, tossing a 1-yard touchdown to Pearson for a 17-14 advantage.

“We came out a little sloppy but we didn’t give up and just kept on fighting,” Pearson said. “The whole team really stuck together. When we were down 14-0 we told each other we’re better than this and we worked way too hard for this. This was definitely the best game I’ve ever played in.”

Pearson stepped up defensively as well, picking off a Spring Creek pass with 46 seconds left in the half to give his team another short field. Again, Pearson finished off the drive, this time with an 8-yard touchdown reception from Portaro just 34 seconds after the interception.

A 20-yard touchdown pass from Portaro to Brette Lubbe midway through the fourth quarter put the game on ice for the Crusaders.

Portaro said the comeback win would give his team momentum in the weeks ahead.

“When we’re down and we get back up, it’s the greatest feeling in the world,” he said. “We were a family out there and when you execute those plays perfectly as a family, there is nothing like it.”

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