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Panthers end season with shutout defeat

 PORTAL — The 2007 season came to an end in Portal Friday night as the hometown Panthers squared off against the visiting Eagles of Jenkins County.

            With both teams having already been eliminated from the Region 3-A race, both squads were playing for pride and a proper sendoff for their seniors.

            The game quickly turned into a defensive struggle, with neither team able to gain a decisive edge. In the end though, Jenkins County was able to wear down the Panthers, capping their season off with a 12-0 victory.

            “It was very disappointing to go out like this,” remarked Portal’s second-year head coach Justin Chester after the game. “We felt like we had made some progress over the last few weeks, but tonight the bottom fell out and we went back to some of the mistakes that we were making early in the year”

            For what it was worth, Jenkins County struggled every bit as much as the Panthers in a first half highlighted by penalties and miscues from both teams.

            Each defense was able to bottle up its opponent’s rushing attack, with the two offenses combining for just 96 total yards in the first two quarters of play. Despite the swarming Portal defense, Jenkins County looked to seize the lead  late in the second quarter as Dontavius Young turned the corner and sprinted 19 yards to the end zone. However, the touchdown was negated by a holding call, one of nine Eagle penalties on the night. The two teams entered halftime deadlocked at 0-0.

            Both teams continued to grind it out in the second half, but Jenkins County seemed to have just a bit more gas left in the tank, and was able to start moving the ball. On their first possession of the third quarter, the Eagles methodically drove down the field picking up four first downs before running back  Boyd Sasser found a hole in his line and sprinted in from seven yards out to give Jenkins a 6-0 lead.

            The Portal offense never could get a consistent attack going and just could not make enough plays to answer.

            Early in the fourth quarter, the Panthers drove inside the Eagles’ 35 yard line, only to come up a yard short on a4th-and -7 pass. The Eagles took advantage of the opportunity, grinding their way down the field once more and chewing up clock as they went. Finally, with just 3:30 remaining in the game, Jenkins County quarterback Houston Bowers snuck in from the one yard line to give the Eagles their final margin of 12-0.

            “We never like to make any excuses,” said Chester following the loss, “but we were really roughed with three defensive starters missing tonight. Jenkins County played very well tonight though, and they deserved to win. They just grinded it out and moved the ball on the ground against us, and that’s how you win high school football games.”

            With the loss, the Panthers end the 2007 campaign with a 1-9 mark. The win elevates Jenkins County’s final record to 4-6.

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