This time last season, the Portal Panthers were a struggling 0-5 and 0-1 in region play. They rallied to win four out of the last five and made the playoffs.
Right now, they find themselves in the exact same predicament. Last year when they were down, one of the players noticed a shirt worn by Panther coach Justin Chester.
The shirt sported a quote from scripture which has become sort of a team motto in Portal.
It read; “Whatever you do, do it with your whole heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. (Colossians 3:23)”
The team rallied around the motto and used it to end the season with the third Panther trip to the playoffs in as many years.
This time around, Chester hopes the team can recall the “no quit” attitude inspired by the quote and limit the mistakes, especially the turnovers, that have plagued the team all season.
“We’ve got to start playing 48 minutes with our whole heart,” said Chester. “When we have some adversity, we’ve got to be able to deal with it, move on to the next play and make something good happen for Portal.”
In last Friday’s game against Savannah Country Day School, Portal held on to a 9-2 lead in the fourth quarter. After a fumble that gave SCDS good field position and allowed them to tie the game, another Panther fumble was scooped up and gave Savannah Country Day a 16-9 win.
Portal lost four fumbles in the contest, putting the turnover tally at 22 throughout the first five games of the season.
“As a coaching staff, we are ready for these guys to start playing like they are capable of performing,” Chester said. “They have not showed that for a complete ballgame yet this year, and now it’s do or die time for them. You don’t want to start 0-2 in your region.”
Portal snapped last year’s five-game losing streak with a win at Bryan County, and today in Portal, they hope to do the same.
Bryan County will attack the Panther defense out of the wishbone, relying on a smash-mouth running game to get the job done.
With linemen that out-weigh Portal on both sides of the ball, the Panthers will have to rely on speed and execution to get their first win of 2007. It looks to be a game fought mainly on the ground, with Portal’s option used to try and counteract the power running game of Bryan County.
“That’s going to be the key right there,” Chester said about the BCHS matchup. “Who can grind it out the best and show the most grit down low.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Panther Stadium.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.