Just a week after gaining just 32 offensive yards in a 56-0 blowout loss, the Portal Panthers showed vast improvement in a 31-7 loss at Emmanuel County Institute.
Despite the lopsided score, the Panthers gained 198 offensive yards and scored their first points in two weeks.
“I’m really proud of their effort, attention to detail and focus,” said head coach Jason McEachin. “There’s a lot of things that are much improved tonight, versus the No. 6 ranked team in the state.”
Unlike last week, the Panthers used strong offensive performances from a group of athletes on Friday.
Wide receiver Tim Ortiz, who accounted for almost all of the Panthers’ yards last week, accumulated 59 yards and the team’s lone touchdown.
“As he’s learned the offense and developed his understanding of the different roles, we’re trying to use him in as many as we possibly can,” said McEachin. “He’s a dynamic playmaker and as much as he can handle, we’re going to put on him.”
In addition to Ortiz, sophomore playmaker Amir Jackson saw a heavy dose of touches on Friday. Jackson, who did not see the ball last week, recorded 67 yards and a handful of chunk plays.
Quarterback Micah Wallace, originally the team’s back-up, put together a strong performance. Wallace racked up 127 passing yards and a touchdown, while gaining just 15 yards on the ground.
McEachin said the team expects to have their starter, Elijah Coleman, back next week, but also expressed a level of confidence in Wallace following his impressive performance.
“I feel confident now if we had to play with Micah again,” said McEachin. “We know he can get some things done.”
The offense was not the only facet of the game where the Panthers showed improvement, as the defense forced two turnovers.
The Panther defense, which allowed 540 yards a week ago, held the Bulldogs to just 327 yards, including just 57 passing yards.
After forcing a fumble on the Bulldogs’ final drive of the first half, junior CJ Braziel picked off a Bryce Kearson pass to begin the second half.
“The times are coming, breaks are going to start coming our way if we keep doing it the right way,” said McEachin. “Doing things the right way gets rewarded eventually and that’s what I keep preaching to them, and it’s starting to fall our way.”
Following consecutive games against top-10 opponents, the Panthers’ schedule becomes much easier as the calendar creeps into October.
The team will return home next week as they host Jenkins County in their third region game next Friday. The War Eagles sit at just 1-3 on the season following a blowout loss to Metter on Friday.