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Panthers head to Morgan County
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    For the second straight year, the Portal Panthers will pack up and hit the road to North Georgia to take on Morgan County, a team that kicked off 2006 by knocking off PHS 28-12.
    Not much has changed for MCHS since last season. The perennial playoff team is still strong, still tight and still highly disciplined.
    For the Panthers, on the other hand, things are going to look a lot different.
    Portal unveiled its new offense on Aug. 24 at Metter in a scrimmage, and showed fans what they will be trying out: the triple option.
    Former free safety Stephen Cox is now the signal caller for the Panthers, and while he was not 100 percent against the Tigers, he was able to get a feel for the new offense and try and work out the kinks. Unfortunately for PHS, there were plenty of kinks.
    “We certainly looked terrible last Friday against Metter (in the 24-8 loss),” said Panther coach Justin Chester. “There ain’t no way to describe it. We looked sloppy on offense, sloppy on defense, and we came down pretty hard on the guys Monday in film and we came down on ourselves as coaches.”
    Chester did see some positive things in the scrimmage that were cause for excitement.
    “It was sloppy and the ball protection was not as good as it needed to be,” said Chester. “That has gotten better this week… It’s going to take time for quarterbacks to make all the reads and linemen to get all of the check-offs and get all their blocking assignments down. The one thing about it is, it’s really beautiful when everything clicks. There was a couple of plays against Metter, it was sweet. If we could have gotten a pitch here, or one block there, we would have been off to the races. Hopefully, by the time we get to region play, it’ll all be in sync for us.”
    The MCHS game is the first of four straight games against Class AA teams for the Class A Panthers, and PHS will be out-manned in all of them. With guys playing on both sides of the ball, Chester is worried that Morgan County will try to exploit that weakness with its power Wing-T running attack.
    “We have to push our guys probably more than anybody else, just to get them in shape. We ask a lot out of them,” said Chester, “because they have to study their playbooks on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. It’s tough being a Portal Panther, but doggonnit, you’ve got to love the game and do what you have to do if you want to win it.”
    With three straight playoff appearances, Portal has a lot to live up to, and Chester feels that playing such a tough schedule to start the season will help prepare his team for region play. The Panthers will get to try out their offense for real today as they kick off against Morgan County on the road at 7:30 p.m.

Injury update
    Class A schools need to get the most out of each player, so even the slightest injury will have a huge impact. Joseph Brown, starting DT and OT will miss the opener with a foot injury.
    “We lost two positions with one man,” Chester said. “That’s just unfortunate. But we’ve got some freshmen who’ve done a good job over the summer. They’re going to get a big wake up call going up to Morgan County to play a AA school that knows how to win.”

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