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Panthers keep looking for offense that fits best
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    After all of the changing and evolving the Portal Panthers did on offense during the 2007 season, they finally found something that started to work.
    When PHS decided to swap Steven Cox and Octavious Rawls between quarterback and running back and Rawls landed under center running a variation of the spread option, the Panthers figured out how to maximize the talent of the team.
    Everything came together during homecoming against Calvary Day when Portal exploded for 395 yards and 52 points, not bad after putting up only 36 points in the first seven games.
Why all of the changes?
    “We had to really find a system that worked best for us,” said coach Justin Chester. “At that particular point in the season, we were struggling.     We were having a lot of turnover problems and we said, ‘Gosh, we gotta do something to find a way to get our best athletes the football.’”
    The problem with the offense the team started running in 2007 — the triple option — was that the blocking wasn’t going well and the plays weren’t developing. The ball wasn’t being distributed.
    “We move to a shotgun-spread set,” said Chester. “We ran quarterback iso’s with Octavious and leads with Travis Budgett, Steven Cox and Shane Northcutt — all those guys.”
    What will be the toughest transition for Chester and his staff during the offseason?
    The Panthers lose Rawls and Budgett, as well as wide receiver Justin Raymond and offensive lineman Nick Prescott to graduation. Chester will head back to the drawing board before fans in Portal will know exactly what the 2008 offense will look like.
    “At this point in time, we’ll certainly stick with (the spread) as best as we can,” Chester said. “We’ll find ways to get the ball around much quicker. As much success as we had this year, we’ll look at it in the offseason and take the personnel we have coming back and try to make that work the best we can. We certainly want to get more advanced with it next year.”
    With Cox and, Northcutt and Joseph and Casey Ware returning to the 2008 lineup as juniors and seniors in the backfield, Chester still feels that the strength of the Panthers will be the running game.
    “It’s just a matter of those guys getting a little confidence, getting a little bigger and stronger in the offseason and hopefully coming in, they’ll be just as good as (the seniors) did for us this year,” said the PHS coach. “We’ve got a good idea of what we’re going to do. We’ve got to get better in the trenches. We’ve got to do a better job of getting those guys prepared. We’ve also got to get our numbers up and keep the kids playing football and committed.”