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Cox takes over new PHS offense

    PORTAL — When the Portal Panthers decided to commit to running the triple-option offense after the 2006 season, they needed a quarterback to run it. All eyes on the PHS coaching staff immediately turned to junior DB/RB Steven Cox.
    “(Cox) was our JV running back,” said Panther coach Justin Chester. “He would take a beating and always get back up and fight. He’s a competitor and he wants to win. That’s why we moved Steven to the quarterback position.”
    The transition has been a smooth one so far.
    As an option quarterback, the outcome of most every play relies on Cox’s ability to read a play and make decisions on the spot. He needs to be able to read a defense, decide where the ball is going after the snap and then execute the decision in order to have a smooth outcome. For Cox, learning the plays was the easy part.
    The passing game out of the option offense is still in its early stages, and Cox feels that that is the part of his game that needs to most work.
    “He’s off to a rocky start. He’ll tell you that,” said Chester. “His mechanics have been getting better every day. Coach (Grayson) Huskins has been working with him a pretty good bit. We’re not going to really throw it that much, but I think he’s got enough arm on him that when we get in a situation where we do need to throw the ball a little bit, we’ll be able to. He’s such a competitor. He’s going to work hard in practice every day.”
    Only one game into the season, Cox has already started getting a feel for the running game. As a leader, he wants to make sure that everybody on the offensive side of the ball stays positive, even when things aren’t going so well.
    “It’s getting there,” said Cox. “Bit by bit, we’re coming together as a family. On the offensive side, they kind of get down on themselves after (bad) plays, and I just try to lift them up. I tell them, ‘Don’t worry about it. We’ll do better next time.’”
    When the triple option is running at its smoothest, the reads by the quarterback become almost instinctual. More reps for an option QB make the reads become easier and more natural. One game into the season, Cox isn’t quite there, so the offense will rely on his being quick on his feet and quick to make the right choice off of the snap.
    Fortunately for the Panthers, he’s been doing a pretty good job of that so far.
    “(The reads) are getting better and better,” said Chester. “He’s doing a good job of picking up on things and he’s starting to get smoother with it. Realistically, it’s just going to take a little time to get things going to where it just becomes like a second nature. On Saturday mornings, we’ll break it down and see how he did and we’ll call him in on Mondays and correct him. It’ll just keep getting better and better.”
    The thing that has been most difficult for Cox in the running game so far has been how to react when a defense holds back and is less aggressive in attacking the line. Sometimes a defense will sit back to react to what an offense is doing and that, at times, has confused the young QB. What do his instincts tell him to do in those situations?
    “Keep it,” he said.
    He hasn’t been playing quarterback for long, but Cox is eager to show an all-Bulloch County crowd what he can do as Portal hosts Southeast Bulloch in the newly renovated Panther Stadium on Friday. The idea of playing in a brand new stadium packed full of the home-team fans, plus another bunch from the other side of the county, has Cox ready to take some snaps.
    “It’s the game everyone’s been talking about,” said Cox. “I’m real pumped up. I’m excited.”

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.

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