PORTAL — The Carolina Predators struck early and often at the Portal Athletic Complex Saturday night en route to a 52-0 victory over the Tri County Panthers. The one-sided affair ran the Predators’ season mark to 3-2 and dropped Tri County’s record to 1-3-1.
Seven turnovers on offense and more than 400 yards given up on defense was the story of the game for the Panthers.
The first 15 minutes saw an evenly contested bout as the game entered the second quarter with Carolina up 6-0. The only score came on a 19-yard pass from quarterback Darren Holmes. The quick slant saw Carolina receiver Freddie Clark break three tackles before finally crossing the goal line, and became an early sign of things to come for the Panthers.
From the start of the second quarter until the final gun, the game belonged to the team from Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Minutes after a second Holmes touchdown throw, Carolina tailback Gavin Page took a sweep-right 45 yards to make the score 20-0. The run was one of many long scampers for Page, who tallied 146 yards on the night.
Every possession for Tri County ended prematurely due to sacks and interceptions. Panther quarterback Akeem Frison, who was rushed out of the pocket for most of the game, threw four interceptions and fell victim to six sacks.
With less than two minutes to go in the first half, the Predators tightened their grip on the lead with a third touchdown pass from Holmes, who went 11-21 with 201 yards. At the half Tri County faced what proved to be an insurmountable lead of 26-0.
The second half was barely underway when Carolina attacked again. A 42-yard play-action pass set the stage for Holmes’ fourth touchdown toss on an 18-yard cross to Won Mitchell.
Despite a strong effort, and sacks by both Tony McCoy and James Howard, the Panther defense was unable to stop the offensive onslaught.
Holmes added a fifth touchdown pass, backup QB Tramaine Hunter threw one of his own and fullback Nate Batten got in on the action by rumbling 10 yards for a score.
With just seconds remaining on the clock, the Panther offense reached the 10-yard line for the first time all night. With one last chance to ruin the Predator shutout, the Panthers ran a direct snap up the middle with tailback Eric McGlamery. As was the case all afternoon, the play was blown up in the backfield by Carolina’s defensive line.
Michael Scott provided Tri County with a bright spot, running for 80 yards and delivering multiple long kickoff returns.
The 52-point differential is the largest margin of defeat this season for the Panthers and comes on the heals of a 30-3 defeat in their last contest.
Panthers coach Steve Singleton is determined to make a change.
“We have to start over from scratch,” he said. “Something has to change. I’ll look at the film tonight, make some notes and we’ll go on from there.”
As the season has progressed, more athletes from the area have learned about the opportunity to play football in Portal. The Panthers squad grows in numbers each game and according to Singleton, that might be a difference maker in the future.
“We have some new guys; some really good athletes,” Singleton said. “We couldn’t get them in there today, but I look forward to playing them next week.”
Tri County will spend their next two weeks playing games in South Carolina before returning home to face the Middle Georgia Pit Bulls August 1. The game will be a rematch of a tie between the two teams to open the season, and the last chance for the Panthers to play in Portal.