Prep Sports 360

Late drama in Portal

Aug 30, 12:28 a.m.
    PORTAL — The Portal Panthers weren’t about to let a second straight season opener end in a tie.
    With 1:06 to go, Portal forced a fumble by Josey receiver Ennashia Gardner and D’von Moore returned it 20 yards for the deciding score in an 18-12 Panther victory.
    “I saw a big hit and I saw people start to run the other way,” Portal coach Jon Willoughby said. “I wasn’t sure what had happened, but I knew it was good.”
    In a game that saw five combined turnovers, it was Portal (1-0) that was able to play its best football in the clutch.
    The Panthers found themselves in an early 6-0 hole, but Malik Williams (10 carries, 119 yards) found room on a counter trap for an 11 yard scoring run late in the second quarter to send the teams into halftime all tied up.
    Williams struck again on Portal’s opening drive of the second half.
    The Eagles (0-1) held the Panthers to a pair of short gains before Williams took a pitch around the left side, evaded two tacklers, and galloped 56 yards to put Portal on top.
    “We had some guys really step up and make big plays tonight,” Willoughby said. “There are things that we need to fix up and smooth out, but this was a great effort.”
    Josey — looking to win its first game since the 2012 finale — was able to fight back.
    Portal running back Ryan White coughed up the ball at the Panther 23 near the end of the third quarter. The Eagles capitalized as Delijah Singleton found running room off of the right side and went 13 yards for the touchdown. A blocked kick kept the score tied at 12-12.
    Neither team threatened on its next possession and it seemed a tie was possible when Portal punted the ball away with just over two minutes to play.
    Josey tried to play it conservatively, but Donald Jordan’s screen pass to Gardener was closely defended. Gardener lost the ball on a hard hit and Moore quickly scooped it up and ran, carrying an Eagle into the end zone on his back.
    “We told the team we were punting before that possession,” Willoughby said. “We put it on our defense and had faith that something would happen. Our guys played hard for 48 minutes and got rewarded for their efforts.”
    Josey nearly evened the score on its final possession.
    An interception by Portal safety (and quarterback) Evan Street was negated by a Panther penalty and the Eagles reached the Panther 20 with seconds to play, but a desperation rollout throw by Jordan sailed through the back of the end zone as time expired to seal the Portal victory.
    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.

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