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Portal recap: Turnovers still costly
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    The Portal Panthers continued their sluggish start to the 2007 season on Friday night, falling to Screven County by a 32-0 margin. The loss was their second shutout defeat in as many weeks and dropped the Panthers to a record of 0-3 with the Region 3-A schedule looming ahead.
    Friday’s game, which was delayed for over an hour due to heavy thunderstorms in the area, brought up quite a few concerns for head coach Justin Chester.
    “Overall, I thought that our effort tonight was pretty good. The same problem continues to hurt us though, and that’s the turnovers. We keep putting the ball on the ground and that’s something that is frustrating to deal with, but we’ve got to just keep working to improve.”
    Those turnovers certainly played a large role in the outcome of Friday’s game. While the Panther defense was able to stall Screven for most of the second and third quarters, the Portal offense, which threw two interceptions and coughed up two fumbles, all in Gamecock territory, could never capitalize on opportunities to get on the board.
    Despite the early struggles, Chester remains confident that his team will be able to turn things around.
    “We’re just not going to accept [the turnovers] anymore. We’re going to get things right and we’re going to find a way to get the job done and get the ball in the end zone. We’ve got Steven Cox who is going to be a real good quarterback for us and we’ve got a defense that did a great job of stopping a very good wing-T attack by Screven County tonight.”
    Another concern for Chester is the depth of his team. With several key players dealing with injuries, many Panther players were forced to play both ways for much of Friday’s contest.
    “When you’ve got some offensive linemen that are defensive linemen and some running backs are playing defense, they’re going to get a little bit tired. That’s just being realistic and that’s just the way it is, but we’re going to work hard and preach the importance of conditioning and commitment , and we’re going turn this thing around.”
    Before counting this year’s Portal team out so early, just keep in mind last year’s squad. The 2006 version of the Panthers started out at a similarly slow pace. However, as the year progressed, both offense and defense started to click. By the end of the year, the Panthers had earned a trip to the playoffs for the third straight year, and that success serves as the mold for what this year’s team must now strive for.
    “We were able to do it last year, and this year’s team has the same mentality and the same kind of character to do it again this season. We’ve got some tough opponents here at the beginning of our schedule, but I only think that this is going to help us in the long run. We’re playing some teams that are a little bigger and faster and have more depth, but hopefully that will make our team play a little harder and will prepare us for some tough games later in the year.”
    The Panthers will try to take their first steps in the right direction this Friday when they travel to Baxley to take on the Pirates of Appling County.