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Collins makes return to Portal
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    PORTAL — For the third week in a row, the Portal Panthers (0-2) will take on a team from a higher classification as Screven County (1-1) heads to Panther Stadium tonight for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
    Coming off of a 34-7 loss to Southeast Bulloch, the Panthers look to cut down on turnovers. Portal rushed for 188 yards, but committed five turnovers in the loss to the Yellow Jackets.
    “Turnovers really hurt us bad (last) Friday,” said Portal coach Justin Chester. “You’re not going to beat anybody if you turn it over five times. It’s very unfortunate that that happened to us, but we keep preaching to our guys the importance of perfect plays in practice. When you do your team time in practice, you want to make sure that the ball control is perfect. When you put the ball on the ground, there’s consequences for that. Our guys know it. They know we shot ourselves in the foot several times against Southeast Bulloch.”
    With a run defense that gave up 261 rushing yards in the SEB game, Portal will have to improve in that area as well. Screven brings a Wing-T attack that has been successful so far this season. They rushed for 333 yards in last week’s 20-6 win against Burke County.
    The main disadvantage Portal has had in its first two games has been a lack of depth. Fielding only 38 players and being forced to have many on the field for a majority of the game has PHS at a disadvantage playing the larger Class AA schools. Injuries haven’t helped either.
    “We haven’t played a game yet,” said Chester, “where our starting 11 on offense is healthy. We’ve had something going on every week, and it’s tough. You’ve just got to make the best of what you have and try to make a bad situation into a good situation.”
    Chester has been pleased with the backups who have had to step up into starting rolls, and feels that the experience will be valuable when PHS begins region play.
    Tonight’s game will be a homecoming of sorts for Screven coach Pat Collins, who coached at Portal before becoming a Gamecock. He is looking forward to taking on his old team.
    “I have very fond memories of Portal," said Collins. "There are some super people up there and I'll always have fond memories of the time I spent there.”
    While a bit apprehensive, Chester looks forward to taking on his former mentor.
    “We know that (the Gamecocks) are going to be well coached,” said Chester. “Coach Collins is coming over here, and he’s done a lot of great things for our program. He was a great teacher for me as a young coach, working under him, and a couple other coaches on our staff as well. They’re going to come over here and just try to pound us with that Wing-T attack.”
    With Portal’s new triple-option offense, one thing Collins is worried about is the speed of the Panther backfield.
     “They’ve got some guys who can really run,” said Collins. “Any one of those backs is capable of putting the ball in the end zone — even Steven Cox, the quarterback — on any play, so we’re going to have to play good, solid team defense and assignment football.”
    Herald Sports Editor Chad Bishop contributed to this story.