For the first time since the 2014 season the Portal Panther football team has opened up the season 2-0 as they looked impressive in a 47-0 shutout of Twiggs County in the opening game of the annual Erk Russell Classic Saturday night at Paulson Stadium.
The game was delayed about 45 minutes due to weather in the area. The Panther scoring was delayed a bit as well as they opened a 6-0 first quarter lead and then rolled to a 33-0 halftime lead before having a running clock in the victory before a good crowd.
“I am just so glad our kids, our community and everyone here got to experience this tonight,” said Portal coach Jason McEachin. “Our coaches and these kids put in so much work during the off season. Just to see it pay off on the field is just amazing.”
The Panthers started the game strong as a pooch kick was fumbled by Twiggs and recovered by Dylan Poole at the Panthers at the 38-yard line. Elijah Coleman capped the scoring drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. The extra point failed and Portal led 6-0.
The rest of the first quarter saw the Panther defense go on lock down as they didn’t allow the Cobras past midfield and Portal led 6-0 at the end of the first.
“The defense with a shutout tonight was huge,” said McEachin. They really flew to the ball and tackled well. The one time it looked like Twiggs might score C.J. Braziel did a good job coming up with the interception in the end zone. I’m really proud of those guys.”
The Panther offense took off in the second quarter. Ivan Washington took off on a 53-yard run inside the Twiggs 10-yard line. That would lead to a 33-yard field goal by Johnny Sanchez for a 9-0 lead. On the ensuing kickoff the Cobras fumbled again and Portal took over. Coleman took off on the very next play for a 41-yard touchdown and a 16-0 Panther lead.
Micah Williams scored the next point for the Panthers as he took off outside for a 23-yard field goal and a 23-0 Panther advantage. Twiggs finally got across midfield and threatened to score but C.J. Braziel made a leaping interception and returned the ball to the Portal 20. On the very next play Coleman rolled out and found Williams just past a defender. Williams hauled in the pass and went 80-yards for a 30-0 Portal halftime lead.
The Panthers added touchdown runs by Coleman and Williams in the third to go up 44-0. With a running clock in the fourth Sanchez added another 33-yard field goal for the final points of the game.
“We found a few things that were working with our run game there in the second and we just stayed with it,” said McEachin. “Our guys did a great job of executing what we asked them to do.”
Elijah Coleman led the way for the Portal offense once again with 11 carries for 89 yards and three touchdowns. Coleman also connected on an 80-yard touchdown pass to Micah Williams.
“Elijah made some really good decisions tonight,” said McEachin. “I thought he did a great job once again running the ball, but he also showed some nice touch on a few passes. It is so nice to have him healthy so far this year. He has also shown great leadership.”
This week the Panthers will look to move to 3-0 for the first time since they started off 8-0 in 2005. Portal will host Robert Toombs Thursday at 6:30 p.m.