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Panthers beat Jenkins County

Panthers beat Jenkins County

Panthers beat Jenkins County

Portal High's Trent Thomas (1) holds ...

PORTAL — Big plays from the offense and special teams and a defense that bent but didn’t break gave the Portal Panthers their first win of the season Friday night, as they defeated the Jenkins County War Eagles 28-16.

Malik Williams ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries to pace the Portal (1-3-1, 1-0) offense, which seemed to find its stride in piling up nearly 300 yards of offense on the ground.

“We did some good things out there tonight, but there’s still a lot we can improve on,” Portal Head Coach David NeSmith said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re blocking the right guys and running to the right holes, but those are things we can work on next week. For now, I’m going to enjoy this win.”

After falling behind 7-0 midway through the first quarter, the Panthers responded quickly. Williams took a handoff from his own 16 and broke to the right sideline. Picking up a key block from Trent Thomas, Williams was able to outrun the defense for an 84-yard score.

Following a three-and-out by the War Eagles (0-5, 0-1), Portal again wasted no time finding the end zone. A 28-yard run by Quantae Williams and a personal foul by Jenkins County set up the Panthers at the War Eagles’ 15-yard line. From there, Malik Williams bounced off three would-be tacklers for a 15-yard score and gave the Panthers a lead they never relinquished.

On its next possession, Portal went to the air as Darius Huff was able to find Thomas over the middle, and he was able to fight off defenders and stretch the ball across the goal line, giving the Panthers a 21-7 lead.

Jenkins County was able to trim the lead to 21-16 just before halftime with a safety and a long pass.

“It was an ugly, ugly win,” NeSmith said. The Panthers committed 10 penalties and turned the ball over twice on the night, but were able to do enough to hold off a determined Jenkins County squad.

In the third quarter, Thomas would wind up blocking a punt and returning it 45 yards for the final score of the night.

While keeping Jenkins County scoreless for the second half, the Panthers gave up large chunks of yardage and had trouble getting the War Eagles’ offense off the field.

“They were able to move the ball on us between the 10s,” NeSmith said. “Give credit to them, they did a good job.”

Portal’s defense took a hit when defensive tackle Jameson Mikell suffered an injury and had to leave in the first half.

“Losing him hurt, but it gave other guys an opportunity to step up and make a play,” NeSmith said. “We’ve got to get better and we’re going to.”

In addition to Malik Williams’ efforts on the ground, Quantae Williams added 55 yards and Casey Jones added 43 for the Panthers.

Despite its overall 1-3-1 record, Portal is 1-0 in sub-region 3A-A and still controls its fate when it comes to making the playoffs.

“Statesboro coach Steve Pennington always told us to cherish every win you get, and here at Portal they’ve been few and far between in the last few years,” NeSmith said. “So I’m going to do that, and we’ll start worrying about Claxton tomorrow.”

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