The Portal Panther flag football team has secured themselves a part of history at Portal Middle/High School. Not only are the Panthers the first ever flag football team to participate in the GHSA, but this week they officially advanced to the State Final Four to be played next week at the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
The Panthers defeated Mary Persons in the second round of the state playoffs with a come from behind 12-6 victory. The Panthers trailed 6-0, but came back behind a 48-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Emma Yates to Jozie Motes to tie the game at 6-6. The Panthers then scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Yates to Brianna Melton.
“The girls were excited about beating Mary Persons especially when we had to come from behind to win,” said Coach Jay Reddick. “Scoring the winning touchdown late in the game helped add to the excitement. Emma Yates didn’t have her best stuff early in the game, but she really got it together in the second half and played well. Our defense really stepped up too after giving up that early touchdown.”
Yates ended up throwing for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Motes led the way receiving with 53-yards. Defensively Riley Lamb led the way with five flag pulls.
The news only got better, as the Panthers didn’t even have to play a game to advance to the state semfinals Portal was slated to play Columbus High School this weekend in the Elite Eight, but Thursday they received word from Columbus that the school was forced to quarantine for 14 days, and were forced to forfeit the game against Portal, automatically putting the Panthers into the Final Four.
“We would have rather earned it on the field, but when I told the girls they were heading to the Final Four, their smiles told me everything,’ said Reddick. “In today’s time with COVID you just have to prepare for things like this to happen. I just keep my fingers crossed that things stay okay with our girls. We lost four starters at one point this year, and lost our only game because of it. It is unfortunate that we couldn’t have played Columbus, but we are still excited about making it to the Final Four.”
The Panthers will take on the winner of Saturday’s game between Greenbrier and Dodge County. Portal beat Dodge County 19-0 earlier in the season on the road at Effingham County.
“All four of the teams from our region advanced to the Elite Eight, which shows the strength of the teams we have played,” said Reddick. “I feel like playing that good competition is one of the reasons we have made it as far as we have.”
The semifinal contest will take place December 23 at 4:30 p.m. at the Home Depot Mercedes Benz back field located adjacent to the stadium.