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ECI takes it to Portal
ECI defender Reid Jones, left, wraps up Portal quarterback Connor Washington in a File Photo from 2019

PORTAL---Friday night was one that the Portal Panthers will want to soon forget as nothing went right in their 42-0 loss at home to the Bulldogs of Emanuel County Institute. Facing a medley of Bulldog running backs that were only tackled for a loss three times all night, the Panthers had no answers all night.

Senior running backs Eric Dixon and Rejar Rock were constantly able to hit the seam to make something out of nothing. The Bulldogs were slow and methodical in their runs, completely controlling the play clock.  Portal only held the ball for 16:30 of the 48 minutes of play.

It was complete domination from ECI in all aspects, but it could have been worse. The Bulldogs, despite putting up 422 total yards, had more than 120 yards in penalties. 

But Portal wasn’t able to capitalize on any of the Bulldogs’ self-inflicted wounds.

On the opening drive of the second half, ECI was facing a third and 35 after committing two holds, an unsportsmanlike conduct and an illegal touching penalty. But Dixon took the ball to the left side for 39 yards. Four plays and two facemasks on the home team later, the Bulldogs were celebrating in the end zone for the fourth time.

“The guys played hard, they didn’t quit,” Portal head coach Matt Smith said. “They came out in the second half and it would’ve been easy to fold, but they kept fighting.”

 Some positives for Smith’s team were Jonathan Bowen’s punting and the attention to keeping the ball. Bowen was able to pin the Bulldogs back thanks in part to a roll after his punts. ECI ended up scoring on six of their nine drives, but they had to earn the yards.

Not turning the ball over was also a takeaway from the disappointing loss. The Panthers put the ball on the ground just once and were able to recover their own fumble.

The only time the Panthers gave the ball to the Bulldogs unwillingly was on a pooch kick that Portal wasn’t able to recover. It would’ve been a backbreaker if the game wasn’t already over.

“Simplest thing is the difference in size and strength,” Smith said. “They’re bigger and stronger and came out and punched us in the mouth.”

The lack of depth got to the Panthers in the second half with Washington playing both sides of the ball who went down with an apparent sore shoulder.

ECI hit hard, especially senior middle linebacker Hunter Henry who knocked Brian Ware’s helmet off once and hit Noah Adams in the backfield, sending the home side to their feet in disgust.

The Bulldogs entered the game 0-3 on the year, but was certainly the better team against a struggling and hurting Portal squad who is going to take a much needed bye week.

“We have to get healthy,” Smith said. “We’ve played two hard games and guys are beat up. Hopefully a week from now, we’ll be a lot healthier.”