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Claxton wins tight region battle, 21-7

            CLAXTON – The Portal Panthers (0-7, 0-3 Region 3-A) came out in a new look with Octavious Rawls and Steven Cox sharing time at quarterback and running a shotgun set to spread out the opposing defense, but it could not stop Claxton from getting its second-consecutive home victory as the Tigers topped PHS 21-7 Friday night.

            Claxton (2-6, 2-2) kept things simple all night long, with running backs Jamalcolm Morgan and Cory Green taking turns running the ball. The pair combined for 48 carries for 238 yards and all three Tiger touchdowns.

            “It helps to be able to have two backs, so they can’t key on one guy,” said Claxton coach Allen Cartwright. “That was evident tonight. When they start to key on Morgan, we get Green involved, and vice versa.”

            Despite the new look, the Panthers struggled throughout the first half. Mixing up the run from the backfield, the Portal running game never got established as the Tigers held PHS to negative first-half yards.

            The Panthers only ran 14 plays in the first half. They carried it 11 times for minus six yards and attempted just three passes for a total of three yards.

            The Tigers, on the other hand, dominated the line of scrimmage from the start. Green and Morgan combined to carry the football 23 times for 121 yards. Green scored both first-half touchdowns for CHS, on runs of eight and 10 yards.

            “We say (Green) in a running back, but really he’s just an athelete,” said Cartwright. “We try to get him out in space so we can find ways to utilize his athleticism.”

            Green spent time lined up as a fullback, wide receiver and in the slot against the Panthers.

Running back Felles Grant helped out with the Claxton ground attack, rushing just four times out of the slot for 35 first-half yards.

Trailing 13-0 in the third quarter, the running game of the Tigers put some more points on the board. After the two teams exchanged fumbles on the Panther 15-yard line, Morgan punched it in from 10 yards out. Chris Bellamy ran in the two-point conversion to put the Tigers up 21-0.

Portal finally got something going on the ensuing possession.

After a botched onside-kick attempt gave the Panthers the ball on the Tiger 45, Rawles took a snap, dodged a tackler in the backfield and took off down the sideline for a 45-yard scamper that put the score at 21-7.

“We have been trying to get Octavious the ball a little bit more,” said PHS coach Justin Chester. “The young man can do good things with it. He’s a hard runner.”

The PHS defense tightened up in the fourth quarter – not allowing a Tiger first down until the closing seconds of the contest – and with 5:19 to go, seemed poised to score again.

The Panthers put together a drive that lasted over four minutes and included a 30-yard run by Cox and a 13-yard completion to Shane Northcutt, and it appeared to stall on fourth-and-long. After a long pass attempt went incomplete, a pass interference call kept the drive alive.

Portal was unable to take advantage, and CHS ran out the clock for the win.

The Panthers return to action when they host Calvary Day for homecoming, and Claxton hits the road to play Savannah Country Day. Both games will take place Friday at 7:30 p.m.

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