The only Bulloch County team to not have a scheduled game this past Friday night was the Portal Panthers. Head Coach Matt Smith knew the Panthers would have to wait an extra week to get the season underway, and they are excited about opening things up Friday at home against Montgomery County.
“September 11th is such a long wait to finally play our first game,” Smith said. “Our kids have really been ready to hit someone in a different jersey for a few weeks now, and we are happy to finally be able to on Friday.”
Most years teams have had a game, or at least a scrimmage or two by this time in the season. With scrimmages being cancelled because of COVID-19 precautions, this Friday will be Smith’s first chance to see his team in action.
“We have so many new players, it would have been so important for us to have had a scrimmage before the first game,” said Smith. “The fact is everyone is in the same boat, as no one had a scrimmage, so at least it’s a level playing field.”
The Panthers biggest strengths are on the offensive and defensive lines. Their biggest question marks come at the skill positions.
“We return all but one lineman up front,” said Smith. “We will be counting on those guys to lead us, especially in the early part of the season. Our skill guys are talented, but just haven’t had game experience. We know they have the ability to make things happen, but it will just be an unknown until they get under the lights.”
While the Panthers strength is up front, the Montgomery County Eagles are a mirror opposite of the Panthers. The Eagles return the majority of their skill position players from last year’s 5-5 team. Where Montgomery County got hit hard by graduation is on the line.
“They are kind of in an opposite position from us,” said Smith. “They know what their skill position kids can do. They have some speed and athleticism, but the big question for them is who is going to fill the shoes of those guys they lost up front.”
The Panthers went 1-9 last year, and have not won more than two games in a season since 2014. Even though the Montgomery County game is only the first game of the season Smith knows what a win Friday night could do for the team’s morale.
“I feel like Friday will be a pretty close matchup,” Smith said. “It will be the first game of the season for both teams. If we can pull out a victory Friday, it could really give our kids such a big boost in confidence. On the other hand we know a loss Friday could snowball in a bad way. It’s only the first game, but we are really going to do all we can to pull out a win.”
Portal will open the season Friday at 7:30 at home against the Eagles. Kick off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.