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Duchesne powers past Portageville and into semifinals for first time in 17 years

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ST. CHARLES — When Amorion Oliphant took the handoff and hit the afterburners, he knew there was going to be space.

"I put faith in my (offensive line) and the receivers and they got the job done for me and I just punched it in for them," the Duchesne senior said.

That faith paid off as Oliphant crossed the goal line for the third time Saturday and helped drive the dagger home in a Class 1 football quarterfinal game at Duchesne High School.

"I knew that was the game," Oliphant said. 

Duchesne marched past Portageville into the Class 1 semifinal round with a 35-22 victory on Saturday afternoon.

"This means a lot to us, for the rest of our seniors and the school," Oliphant said. "We’re just trying to win it all."

Duchesne (8-4) will travel to play at East Buchanan (12-1) in a semifinal matchup. East Buchanan defeated Gallatin 14-6 in another quarterfinal.

It's the first time since 2005 the Pioneers have advanced to a semifinal round. 

"This is just another step in the process," first-year Duchesne coach Vince Morris said. "We talk about going 1-0 every week."

Oliphant's fourth-quarter touchdown sprint was the second of the half for the senior athlete and the third total for the day. Despite his final touchdown being the one that all but sealed the deal, his first touchdown was his favorite.

With the Pioneers leading 14-6, the defense forced Portageville into its first punt of the day and Oliphant was waiting. After corralling the kick, the senior looked up and saw the favorite sight to any returner.

"Nothing but green (grass)," the Duchesne senior said.

Oliphant sprinted 65 yards to paydirt just before halftime to keep Portageville (10-3) at arm's length. 

Duchesne's defense had bottled up Portageville's Jamarion Smith to just 25 first-half yards, but in the second half, the Bulldogs relied on their senior star to bring them back into the game. 

And he nearly did.

"They got out of the spread set, and we stayed with our original game plan, but they put (AJ Larry) in the backfield and he began leaning on us and he’d (Smith) would pop out of that crowd," Morris said. 

Taking direct snaps behind a brutal offensive line, Smith cut the Duchesne lead to as close as 28-22 early in the fourth quarter. 

But that was as close as Portageville got before Oliphant's game-sealing touchdown.

Smith finished with a game-high 39 carries for 152 yards and two scores.

"Those kids shouldn’t hang their head about a thing," Morris said. "That is a great team over there."

Where Oliphant provided the lightning out of the backfield, Jamond Mathis provided the thunder for Duchesne.

Mathis battered and bruised his way to a team-high 136 yards on the ground on 17 carries and a first-quarter score.

"I’m a big body and I like to run in between the tackles and run someone over," Mathis said. 

Duchesne took its lumps against a stacked schedule, one that featured five district champions and three teams that have advanced to the semifinal round in their respective classes — Cardinal Ritter in Class 3, and St. Mary's and St. Dominic in Class 4.

But to Mathis, it was all worth it.

"People counted us out, but that showed shows that we can hang with the big dogs," Mathis said. "Those were tough games. If you can battle with the best in the state, we can keep going."

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