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Portal picking up the pace

Portal picking up the pace

Portal picking up the pace




    PORTAL — With all due respect to Hall of Famer Bill Parcells’ claim that “You are what your record says you are,” the Portal Panthers don’t look or act much like a team still in search of its first win.
    “Honestly, we believe that we should have two or three wins right now,” Portal coach David NeSmith said of his 0-2-1 squad. “We’ve played three good teams, but we’ve been right there in every game. We’ve got some hard-nosed kids playing well out there. It’s just a matter of time before it comes together for a win.
    Last week’s game appeared to be a total mismatch on paper.
    Johnson County entered the game with a 2-0 record and had outscored opponents 83-0. Across the sideline, the Panthers — while they had shown a very capable defense — hadn’t managed to score a single point in their first two games.
    Naturally, Portal took its first possession of the game and marched straight down the field for a touchdown. The defense continued to hold up its end, keeping Johnson County off the scoreboard in the first half.
    Two quick second half scores by the Trojans gave them a 13-7 lead, but Portal bounced right back to tie the game up. Johnson County finally prevailed, scoring a touchdown with 2:47 to play and stopping the Panthers’ last-chance drive.
    Portal won’t make excuses, but the undermanned Panthers held up well against a Trojan squad which sits in the top-10 of a few Class A polls and which had a full offense and defense with backups to spare.
    “There were guys we had out there who played nearly 100 snaps,” NeSmith said. “That’s a lot to ask, but they do it. Physically, I think we held up well.
    “But when you get tired, you make mental mistakes. We made some mental mistakes that cost us late in the game where we weren’t making those mistakes earlier. This was a game that could have been won if not for a few shortcomings on our part.”
    And so, through three games, the bad news is that the Panthers are stuck with a less-than-stellar 0-2-1 mark.
    However, the good news outweighs the bad.
    With the Panther offense finally finding its stride, scoring might not come at such a premium as the season wears on. With just a few healthy linemen and running backs for most of 2012, the Panthers were stuck running the most basic of plays and formations. That conservative play has loosened a bit this season and should only get more creative and effective as the still-young Panthers grow into the system.
    The offensive success should also bleed over to the other side of the ball.
    Portal’s defense has been stingy all season and has handled everything from the Wing-T to the wishbone to the spread. When the Panther defense starts to see some points being put up by the offense, confidence should continue to grow.
    For now, the Panthers will take this week’s open date to focus on themselves and prepare for the upcoming sub-region schedule.
    “I think that our bye week is coming at a great time this season,” NeSmith said. “We don’t have too many injures, but we’ll definitely take this week to get healthier.
    “Most importantly, we’re going to spend this week working on us. If we can erase those little mistakes that have been costing us, I think that we can look forward to more success as the season goes on.”

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

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