The Portal Panthers are off to their first 2-0 start since 2014. A victory Thursday at the Portal Athletic Complex against Robert Toombs would give the Panthers their first 3-0 start since 2005. That year the Panthers started the season 8-0 and advanced to the state playoffs.
The Panthers racked up nearly 400 yards of offense in shutting out Twiggs County 44-0 in Saturday’s Erk Russell Classic. Head coach Jason McEachin liked the way his offense and defense are progressing.
“On offense we were able to install a few new schemes and I think our guys executed that very well,” McEachin said. “We needed to establish the fullback and I think we did that and still kept our slotbacks working as well. Doing that really takes the pressure off of Elijah Coleman at quarterback and allows him to make big plays.
“Our offensive line really played well the only thing that we feel we really need to work on is taking a step forward in our passing game. Twiggs did a lot of blitzing and that kind of hurt our passing game but we are working on that this week.
“On defense I think one of the biggest things was trying to limit the number of guys going both ways,” he said. “I think our overall effort was great and we tackled well. We held Twiggs to 37-yards of total offense and -6 yards rushing which was phenomenal. Also, our special teams were much improved we were able to create a couple turnovers on kick offs and made 5-6 extra points and two field goals which Jose Sanchez did a great job.”
One other player who has emerged as a weapon for the Portal offense is senior Micah Williams. Williams had an 80-yard touchdown reception and a 28-yard touchdown run Saturday which were his first ever trips to the end zone is his high school career.
“Knowing Micah’s skill set the past few years I felt like if he got the right situations, he could be successful,” McEachin said. “Micah has great speed and when we can get him some room to run, he can really be effective for us.”
This week the Panthers go outside the GHSA for a rare matchup with GISA member Robert Toombs. The game will also be played on Thursday at 6:30 as McEachin continues to try and get the Panthers in front of as big an audience as possible.
“We have tried to do whatever we can in order to let our team play before a big crowd,” McEachin said. “We will be the only football game in Bulloch County and we hope we can get some fans of our other schools to maybe come over to Portal and see some good football.
“After not winning a game for two years we had all kind of phone calls from teams all around the state wanting to play us,” he said. “Coach Jacob Lord over at Robert Toombs was one of the coaches who called me. They have struggled a little bit and have only about 25 guys out for football so they have a lot playing both ways and we know how that is.”
The Crusaders are 1-1 on the season having lost to Pinewood 60-34 in their season opener and then rebounded to beat Aucilla Christian 35-21 last week.
“They have about five really good offensive players,” McEachin said. “JaShawn Powell is about a 6-3, 180-pound receiver who plays both ways and is really good. Their quarterback T.J. Stanley does a good job when they give him time and they have another couple running backs who look good on tape.
“I think their biggest problem is their numbers and having to play guys both ways. We have tried to limit that and hopefully that will pay off for us.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 Thursday night at Portal.