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Claxton back on track with win at Portal

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Claxton back on track with win at Portal

    PORTAL — In a battle between Tigers and Panthers, only one looked like a fierce predator.
    The Claxton Tigers made quick work of Portal on Friday night, exploding for 31 first-half points en route to a 43-6 blowout win.
    Zachaeus Grant stole the show for the Tigers (4-2, 1-1 Region 3-A). Grant hauled in a 23-yard touchdown pass from Claxton quarterback Tanner Lee to open the scoring before adding touchdown runs of 39 and 15 yards. Grant finished the night with 159 total yards and could have had more if a 55- yard scoring run hadn’t been negated by a holding penalty.
    “He’s a big part of what we try to do on offense,” Claxton coach Patrick Hendrix said. “Zachaeus, along with Trey Hines, gives us a pair of guys that can get to the outside and really test opposing defenses.”
    Hines was held in check early on, but exploded for a 41-yard touchdown run to help build the first-half lead and sat out with Grant for much of the second half.
    Defensively, Claxton was able to dominate the Panthers (0-6, 0-2) up front.
    Portal quarterback Evan Street attempted to run the option game for much of the night, but often found himself being dragged down before he could make a pitch.
    The same held true in the passing game as constant pressure from the Tigers’ defensive line and linebacker came streaming through the middle of the line and chased Street from the pocket before he was able to find a target.
    “With as young as we are up front, that’s something that’s going to happen,” Portal coach David NeSmith said. “With a team as talented as Claxton, there were only so many things that we could do to try and stop the penetration.”
    The pressure forced two of the Panthers’ three turnovers on the night.
    In the second quarter, Street was hit as he tossed, sending the ball out of the reach of Larry Huff (nine carries, 37 yards). The fumble set up Grant’s second touchdown of the night.
    On the first play of the fourth quarter, a similar defensive rush caused a fumble in the end zone, which Claxton pounced on to close out the scoring.
    “I give a lot of credit to our defensive front,” Hendrix said. “They were able to win the line of scrimmage and set the tone all night.”
    Portal’s lone offensive highlight came late in the first half.
    Already trailing 31-0, Street conducted a nearly perfect two-minute drill.
    Huff got things started with a 26-yard run around the right side on a reverse.
    Street got the Panthers inside the Claxton red zone with a quick strike to Marquis Wells, then lofted a perfectly thrown fade route to Corey Reese for a touchdown with 18 seconds to play in the half.
    “We have to find that silver lining,” NeSmith said. “Right now, things like numbers and injuries just aren’t in our favor. What is going well for us is that we keep fighting.”
    Already hampered with a roster of just 26, injury limited the Panthers to just 18 players Friday night, with a few more limping off the field at times. NeSmith hopes that two or three players who sat out against Claxton will be ready to return next week at Savannah Country Day.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.

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