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Panthers back to work in Portal
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            The heat of the summer is peaking, students are stocking up on school supplies, teachers are preparing their curriculums, and in Portal, all that can only mean one thing.

            Football’s right around the corner.

            The Panthers suited up bright and early Friday morning for the first fall practice of the 2008 season, and after a rough year in ’07 — PHS made some major changes in offensive philosophy and with some off-the-field issues that ultimately brought the team closer together — they are ready for a fresh start.

            With just 47 players on the projected roster, Portal coach Justin Chester stressed the importance of voluntary summer workouts to have the team ready to play both ways.

            “That’s one thing we’ve preached all summer long,” said Chester. “Five quarters. We feel like if we can get our guys into shape to play five quarters, then we can just about hang with anybody.

            “The guys that made it a priority to come out for those voluntary workouts certainly were doing well with the sprints. We do have some men that are going to be able to contribute on both sides of the ball and help us out — men like Casey Ware, Chase Sheffield and those guys that are committed to turning this program around. It’s pretty exciting when the other guys feed off them.”

            Portal has some spots to fill after losing several standouts — including quarterback Octavius Rawls and offensive lineman Nick Prescott — to graduation, but Chester is optimistic with the players who have stepped up.

            Prescott anchored a young and inexperienced offensive line last season, but it returns four starters this year. Joseph Brown, Parker Goodman, Nolan Clark and Joe Williams return to the line, but that fifth spot has yet to be determined.

            “We have an open spot at tackle where Prescott was, but we’ve got some quality guys we’re going to put there,” Chester said. “May the best man get the job.”

            Rawls, a playmaker at QB and running back, split time at quarterback with returning starter Steven Cox. With Cox recovering from an off-season injury, the door is opened for Nick Boggs and freshman Hunter Ogelsby to take some snaps at quarterback in the early practice sessions.

            Chester was pleased with what he saw from them during Friday’s practice and in seven-on-seven scrimmages over the summer.

            “Those two young men have worked hard over the summer,” said the Panther coach. “We don’t lose much in our passing game from Steven Cox to Nick Boggs and even down to Hunter Ogilsby. We have some options, and we feel like all those quarterbacks are a running threat.

            “We’re certainly ready to get Cox out there and get him back in the mix, because he is a playmaker, but I was most impressed with what Nick Boggs brought to the table (on Friday). … He was leading the offense, making sure the guys were bouncing around and lining up properly (and) getting back to the huddle so we could go through the playlist in a hurry. We had a good two-and-a-half hour practice with the men that were there.”

            Classes begin Monday, so with summer jobs wrapping up and everyone returning to campus, Chester is looking forward to having his whole squad on the practice field.

            Portal will scrimmage Southeast Bulloch at the SEB jamboree on August 21 in Brooklet at 7:30 p.m., and will kick off the regular season at Metter — who was re-classified into Region 3-A at the conclusion of the 2007-08 season — on August 29.


            Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.