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Portal gets going at Montgomery County
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The Portal Panthers officially usher in the Jason McEachin era Friday night as the first-year head coach leads the Panthers in battle as they open the 2021 season on the road at Montgomery County.

The Panthers were able to get in plenty of preseason work with their new coach who also had a chance to see them under the lights in a Thursday night scrimmage game with Josey in which they dug themselves an early 18-0 hole before coming back for a respectable 34-20 loss. 

“What I have been most excited with in the scrimmage and in practice is how well we have thrown and caught the football,” said McEachin. “That just goes back to that attention to detail our coaches and players work so hard at in practice. We have also really improved in our run blocking up front.”

“Where we still need some work is just our overall execution,” said McEachin. “We sometimes get 10 guys out of the 11 doing the right thing, but that one that isn’t on the same page can throw everything off. The importance of all 11 players being on the same page and working together can be the difference in winning or losing a football game.”

With as many players as the Panthers have playing on both sides of the football stamina is another concern for McEachin.

“Lack of stamina was definitely an issue in our scrimmage game,” said McEachin. “We had several guys that had issues cramping up. We are game planning this week to try and address that in player rotation to try and keep people fresher in the fourth quarter. We are going to try and play more players earlier in the game. We are down a couple players with injury and a couple are out with COVID, but we are going to do all we can to work more players in to help us out.”

Friday the Panthers head to Mt. Vernon to take on the Montgomery County Eagle who are also opening up their 2021 season. The Eagles knocked off the Panthers 40-15 in the two team's opener in 2020 and McEachin is expecting another battle from the Eagles who went 6-5 in 2020 and advanced to the state playoffs.

“They are a program on the rise and have a couple really special football players,” said McEachin. “Brandon Denmark is someone who will line up all over the field and we have to account for him, and Xavier Brantley is a wide receiver and defensive back who has already committed to Georgia Southern, and we will have our hands full with those guys. They have a lot of speed on both sides of the ball and will be a challenge.”

Coming off a winless 202 season in which the Panthers had to forfeit their final three games McEachin is hopeful to get the season off on the right foot regardless of the final score.

“Getting a win would be huge and go a long way in validating all the hard work these kids have been putting in,” said McEachin. “We have said the final score on the scoreboard won’t define our season or the game. The players know I have their back no matter what happens, and they have my full support but obviously a victory would go a long way.”

The Panthers and Eagles are scheduled for a 7:30 kickoff Friday in Mt. Vernon.