PORTAL — The Portal Panthers simply couldn't catch a break Friday night. They lost yards. They lost possession. They even lost the coin toss. By the end of the night, the Panthers were stuck on the short end of a lopsided 31-0 score at the hands of the Hornets from Savannah Country Day.
The two teams began the game in a defensive struggle, trading possessions for the majority of the first quarter. However, a fumble by Portal quarterback Brandon Mock would be the beginning of a long night of frustration for the Panther offense.
The fumble gave the Hornets a short field to work with, and quarterback Craig Novak took it in to get Country Day on the board. When Novak was able to punch it in again at the beginning of the second quarter, the lead was stretched to 14-0 and the Hornets were off and running.
As the Hornet offense was heating up, the defense was quick to put the Panthers on ice. The defensive line of Savannah harassed the Portal backfield, penetrating on almost every play. By the end of the first half, the Hornets had recorded five sacks and had allowed just 16 yards on 19 offensive plays run by the Panthers.
"We put a lot of emphasis on Country Day over the last two weeks," said Portal head coach, Justin Chester. "We wanted to come out and start off strong, but (Country Day) got right to it and we were never quite able to raise to their level."
The going didn't get any easier for the Panthers in the second half. After quickly picking up a first down and finally establishing a passing game, Country Day defenders again wrestled the ball loose, ending Portal's biggest offensive threat of the night. The Hornets would not score in the third quarter, but their defense made sure that the momentum would never change hands. The next two Portal possessions netted losses and the Panthers were held to a total of -10 yards of offense for the quarter.
The game was put away by Country Day early in the fourth quarter when placekicker Jim Allen Schuman connected from 27 yards out to make it a three score margin. Two late touchdowns by the Hornets opened the game up to the final margin of 31-0.
Despite the scoring, there was little doubt that the real story of the game was the Country Day defense. Two more sacks in the second half brought their total to seven for the game. The Hornets held the Panthers' biggest running threat, Clayton Williams, to negative seven yards on eight carries. Of the 40 offensive plays run by Portal, 17 of them were stopped for a loss, and of all those plays, only four of them were run inside of Hornet territory.
"It's really disappointing to have a game like this," said coach Chester of the loss, "Country Day was very impressive in almost every aspect of the game, and we could never really get going out there. They are probably the best team we've seen this year and we've played a number of very good opponents".
Although he was pressed to find many bright spots in the loss, Chester was quick to point out that it was just one game.
"I know it's a tough loss, and it's really tough not having a win yet, but we have to remember that we're only half-way through the season. We've got so much left to play for, so there is no reason for any of our players to get down on themselves. This is only one loss inside of the region schedule, so we just have to come back on Monday and be ready to improve before next week".
The loss drops the Panthers to 0-5 (0-1) on the season, while Savannah Country Day improves to 4-2 (2-0). PHS heads out on the road next week for another region matchup against Bryan County.