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PHS wants to get back to winning ways
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    PORTAL — Coming off a 1-9 season, the Portal Panthers had a reality check — it’s time to turn things around.
    Coming off three straight playoff appearances in 2004, 2005 and 2006, including finishing runner-up in Region 3-A in ’05, expectations were high in 2007. Turnovers plagued the Panthers throughout the year, and they started to change things up on the offensive side of the ball.
    Trying out the triple-option attack caused some confusion in the backfield, and the young offensive line had trouble setting up the blocks, so head coach Justin Chester, along with offensive coordinator Grayson Huskins, decided to simplify things and run the ball out of the spread.
    Offensive production picked up in the second half of ’07, and the change proved effective.
    Now, Portal is looking for a change in its attitude.
    “It’s just a matter of us trying to overcome some adversity and try to come together each day,” said Chester. “When something does go wrong, is this Portal Panther team going to want to lower our heads and pout, or do we want to just bow up a little bit and say, ‘Hey, let’s get something going now.’
    “We’ve had a hard time bouncing back in the past. Hopefully (with) the things we’ve done — in the weight room in the offseason, the character exercise we’ve done and challenging the guys a little bit in practice in terms about conditioning — I feel like we’ll be ready for what anybody on our schedule wants to throw at us.”
    The schedule is another place the Panthers feel better about in 2008. They started off 2007 with four straight games against teams from higher classifications. With the newly-realigned Region 3-A, all of the games in 2008 will be against teams from Class A.
    “The region is tough,” said Chester, “but we’re just excited about playing schools from our classification. We know that each week we’ve got a chance to be competitive and go against teams that have the same problems we are — having young men playing both sides of the ball.”
    The reclassification also gave the Panthers a lucky break on the schedule. Due to the Region 3-A split, they will not have to face unbeaten state-champion Emanuel County in the regular season. The games that will effect seeding in week 10’s play-in game will be against the other schools from Region 3A-A: Savannah Country Day, Claxton, Calvary Day, Bryan County and Savannah Christian.
    Still, the Panthers plan on giving their best week-in and week-out.
    “We want to play just as hard against Metter as we do against Savannah Country Day — our first sub-region game,” Chester said. “As a head coach, you know which ones you have to win to get into position for a playoff game.
    “We’re just going to do our best to be sure that we put our guys in position to be successful on the field and hope they can do their part in terms of working and making sure they have the right mindset each week. But I say each week you want to do your best and just forget about everything else. If you lose, that breaks rhythm and can tear you down. You just want to get some wins and keep that going.”