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A Claxton crushing
Portal stifles Tigers in region win
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Portal quarterback Brandon Mock sprints past Claxton defenders Chris Bellamy (2) and Tevin Mincey (9) in the Panthers 30-8 win Friday night at the Portal Athletic Complex. - photo by MICHELLE BOAEN/staff
    PORTAL — Homecoming was quite an event for the Portal Panthers Friday night. The homecoming court brought the celebration, the fans brought the party, and the football team supplied the fireworks, making short work of the visiting Claxton Tigers, 30-8.
    Portal’s emphasis on maintaining possession and momentum throughout the game proved a very simple game plan — they can’t score if we don’t let them have the ball.
    The Panthers wasted no time putting their plan into action, holding the ball for all but three minutes of the first quarter while building a 10-0 lead. As the first half wore on, the Claxton defense wore out, allowing 250 rushing yards to a relentless Portal rushing attack and keeping the Tiger offense on the sidelines for all but 6:35 of the first half.
    Late in the second quarter, Portal grabbed the momentum for good. Faced with third and 20 from the Claxton 21 yard line, Panter quarterback, Brandon Mock came through. With all of his receivers covered, the senior gun slinger took to the ground, breaking one tackle and evading two more to pick up the first down and set up another Portal touchdown.
    The pride and joy of the Claxton attack, senior running back Delvin Diggs, had nine carries for only eight yards at the break. All in all, the Tigers had gained just 56 yards on 14 offensive plays in the first two quarters. Faced with a 24-0 deficit at the half, the stunned Tigers were out of the game before they had even gotten their offense going.
    “The only way that I can put it is that we got plain outplayed tonight,” said Claxton head coach, Allen Cartwright. “We lost a couple of starters last week, which hurt us, and because of that we were a little bit out of sync tonight. We just have to put this one behind us. We’re still in the hunt. We still believe that we’re a playoff team and now we’ve got to come back next week.”
    The Claxton offense was finally able to get on track, but a couple of costly turnovers put any chance of a comeback to bed. A fumble and an interception, both inside of the Portal 20 yard line, doomed the Tigers in the second half. By the time Claxton found the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, the game was well in hand.
    The win, which keeps Portal in the playoff hunt despite their 0-5 start, had head coach, Justin Chester, very upbeat.
    “I can’t say just how proud I am of this team right now. We had a rough start, but these kids have stuck with it and we’re playing very well right now. Our defense was outstanding tonight as they have been all year, and our offense was finally able to click and put it all together. We knew that this was going to be a physical game tonight. We went full pads all week during practice, and the defense really executed all night.”
    Next Friday, Claxton attempts to keep its postseason hopes alive as they do battle with Savannah Country Day. The Panthers, with their second win in as many weeks, host the current #1 team in the state as the Emmanuel County Institute Bulldogs come to town next week.