The Portal Panthers entered last week’s game with Treutlen County having been outscored by a combined 76-22. Friday the Panthers actually held a 16-0 lead in the fourth quarter, only to see things spiral out of control, as they gave up 23 unanswered points and fell 23-16.
“We finally put a few quarters together,” said Portal Coach Matt Smith. “We really hurt ourselves there in the fourth quarter. We had a couple fumbles and an interception. One of the fumbles was a scoop and score, and everything that could go wrong went wrong.”
The Panthers had four starting linemen out with injuries, which they were able to overcome for most of the game.
“A lot of those guys play on both sides of the ball, and that was our most experienced group,” said Smith. “We weren’t able to convert key third downs when we needed to. We had first and goal and had to settle for a field goal because we just couldn’t punch it in. We were very hampered on the offensive line.”
One bright spot to come out of the Treutlen County game was the continued impressive play of senior Wilken Washington. Washington blocked a punt, and returned it for a touchdown. He also caused a fumble and recovered it, and came up with an interception as well.
“He had eight tackles on defense, forced two fumbles and had an interception,” said Smith. “He was our MVP from that game and continues to be our spark plug. To block a punt and then recover it and score was very impressive. He is our best skilled guy, and when he is on we have a chance.”
The Panthers were obviously distraught after the game, especially since they haven’t held the lead in too many games over the past few years.
“To have the lead that laet and then end up losing has been tough on the guys for sure,” said Smith. To their credit they came out Monday and we had a good practice, and they seem to be ready for Thursday night.”
The Panthers will travel to 3-0 and second ranked Metter Thursday night. The game was initially scheduled for Friday, but the GHSA is having a shortage of officials, and is asking many teams to move to Thursdays when it is agreeable.
“We got a call from the officials and they asked if we would move the game to Thursday.,” said Smith. Me and Metter coach Rodney Garven talked, and we felt like that would work for us.”
The Tigers come in ranked #2 in Class-A Public. They have beaten Swainsboro, South Effingham and Savannah Country Day by an average margin of victory of 30-3. The Tigers have allowed only one touchdown this year, and Coach Smith knows this will be an uphill battle regardless of what day it is played.
“There is no doubt they are one of the best teams in the state,” said Smith. “They have beaten two teams in larger classifications, and they are athletic and big on both sides of the ball. We know what kind of problems they pose, but we aren’t just going to roll over, we are going to fight till the final whistle.”
The Tigers will host the Panthers in Metter Thursday night with a 7:30 start.