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Montgomery County too much for Portal
Portal Panthers
Montgomery County defensive back Jamun Coglin, right, steps in front of Portal receiver Charles McNeal for an interception at the goal line to snuff out any opportunity for the Panthers to come from behind down 24-15 with just over two mintues left in the game on Friday, Oct. 7.

PORTAL - Trailing by six early in the fourth quarter, the Portal Panthers faced a fourth and 23. Like most teams in that situation, they punted and hoped their defense could get the ball back for the offense.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, Montgomery County proceeded to hold on to the ball for nearly nine minutes as they ran 12 consecutive running plays to go 53 yards and secure the Eagles 24-15 win with a field goal with 2:46 remaining.

“The biggest thing for us defensively was missed tackles,” said Portal Head Coach Jason McEachin. “We didn’t give up many big plays, defensively. We had people in the right spots for the most part. It was just too many missed tackles.”

On the night, Portal (4-3, 0-1) surrendered 253 yards rushing to Montgomery County (4-3, 1-0) as the Eagles ran the ball 44 times as the Panthers gave up the final 11 points of the game.

The Panthers led 15-13 at halftime but surrendered a big kickoff return to the Eagles to open the second half as Montgomery County started the drive at the Panthers’ 23. Four plays later, quarterback Cameron Wallace was able to find space up the middle for an eight-yard score. A two-point conversion would extend the lead to 21-15.

The Panthers’ offense struggled all night, especially in the second half where they only managed 41 yards of offense and were held scoreless in the half. On the night, Portal had 179 yards from scrimmage.

“At the end of the day, we made too many mistakes offensively,” McEachin said. “We would have a good drive going and there would be a penalty or a bad snap or a missed block and we just could not sustain drives and that was the difference.”

On the night, Portal was flagged for 11 penalties for 83 yards.

Portal jumped out to an early lead late in the first quarter. Following a field goal miss by Montgomery County, the Panthers went 80 yards in eight plays. Coleman found Amir Jackson for a 36 yard gain on the third play of the drive. Two plays later, Coleman scrambled for a 33-yard run to set Portal upon the Eagles’ 18 yard line.

The drive appeared to stall following a sack and incomplete pass. However, facing fourth and 18, the Panthers decided to go for it. Quarterback Elijah Coleman was able to drop back and then found Charles McNeal in the front corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

Portal then surprised the Eagles with an onside kick recovered by Lukas Cribbs, but the Panthers were unable to capitalize and were forced to punt. 

The Eagles were able to tie things up midway through the second quarter when the Portal snap was flubbed and in the ensuing scramble for the ball, Tristian Bell scooped up the ball and ran 30 yards to tie the score.

Montgomery County took the lead late in the second quarter when Wallace was able to culminate a 58-yard drive with an eight yard run. The PAT hit off the upright to keep the score 13-6.

However, the lead didn’t last long as Coleman took the following kickoff back 92 yards as he ran up the middle, broke an arm tackle and then outran the Eagle kick coverage team to the end zone.

The snap on the PAT was low, but Cole Shuman was able to recover it and find McNeal open for the two-point conversion for a 15-13 lead.

Offensively, the Panthers were led by Landon Ross’ 49 yards rushing on 11 carries and 47 yards on the ground from quarterback Elijah Coleman. 

Coleman also completed three passes for 82 yards on the night, with Amir Jackson catching two for 56 yards and McNeal adding his touchdown reception. 

“Our kids played hard and I’m proud of them,” McEachin said. “I love them, I’ll go to war with them anytime. We came up short tonight but they’re still my guys and we’ll continue getting better together.”

Portal faces neighboring Emanuel County Institute Friday in Twin City.