Ryan Acosta

Fort Atkinson senior wide receiver Ryan Acosta makes a catch with Sauk Prairie senior linebacker Henry Watson (5) defending during a Badger-Small game at Jones Dairy Farm Stadium last Friday. The Blackhawks play at Portage Thursday at 7 p.m.

Fort Atkinson’s football team looks to extend its win streak to four games with a road trip to Portage on Thursday at 7 p.m. in week five.

The game was bumped ahead a day due to officiating shortages in the Badger Conference.

“It’s a short week and we’re going to be facing the best coached team in the conference,” Fort Atkinson football coach Nick Nelson said. “Portage’s guys play fast and low. Told our guys ‘you can’t have any mental mistakes as far as penalties this week.’”

The Blackhawks (3-1, 2-0 Badger-Small) will be facing a hard-nosed Warriors squad.

“The Portage versus Stoughton film (from two weeks ago) was impressive to watch,” Nelson said. “Coach (Shane) Haak has them playing low and fast and with grit. It’s going to be a four-quarter battle. Our guys are going to need to play our best game of the season.”

Portage (3-1, 1-1) suffered its first loss of the season, 29-26, against Mount Horeb/Barneveld last week and knocked off the Vikings 22-20 the week prior.

The Warriors are a run-first offense, one that isn’t the least bit afraid to pound it straight up the gut.

“They line up in a lot of double tights and run right at you,” Nelson said.

Portage’s Erik Brouette (42 carries for 316 yards) and Jordan Starr (44 rushes for 216 yards) make up a formidable two-headed monster in the backfield. QB Gavin Thompson has completed 54 percent of his passes for 494 yards with four touchdowns, five interceptions.

Winning the war in the trenches will be key for Fort’s offense.

“We’re going to need to make sure we get off the ball,” Nelson said. “They reestablish the line of scrimmage with their front four and get that push. If our backs are falling forward, we have a chance.”

Fort’s locker room is a fun place to be right now as team camaraderie is high.

“Right now everyone is gelling together,” Nelson explained. “We’re looking at everyone carrying the load from a leadership standpoint. The seniors have done a great job leading by example. Sometimes you forget who the younger kids are.

“Everyone is holding themselves to high standards. There’s lots of laughing and joking in the locker room. You can tell they enjoy being around each other. Right now, it’s a privilege that these guys call me coach.”

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