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Portal suffers another loss in final moments
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PORTAL - For the second straight week, a late score by the opposition handed Portal a loss.

Last week it was Screven County scoring with roughly four minutes remaining to eke out a one-point win over Portal.

On Friday night, the Panthers played Bryan County to a draw until the last minute when an Austin Clemons touchdown with 54 seconds remaining gave BCHS a 22-14 win over the Panthers.

“It’s tough to lose one that way but it’s really tough to lose a second one that way,” said Portal Head Coach Jason McEachin following Friday’s game. “But we’ll rebound.”

Defensively, despite giving up 350 yards rushing on the night, Portal (2-2) was able to keep the Bryan County offense in check through forcing turnovers or having the BCHS offense commit penalties that put them in long yardage situations. 

However, the relentless rushing attack worked to wear down the Panther defense, leading to the late score on a drive that started at their own 34 yard line. After a holding penalty left Bryan County facing a first and 20, BCHS ran the ball on nine consecutive plays to go 76 yards. 

Clemons, who ran for 144 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries, rushed four times on the drive, accounting for 30 yards and the game’s final score.

“We didn’t really do anything different,” McEachin said of the defensive game plan. “We played our base defense a good bit. We had one adjustment where we played with an extra defensive lineman, but just being well coached on defense and we were fitting in the right spot and trying to make tackles. 

It appeared that Clemons was going to score one drive earlier. Bryan County had the ball near midfield and Clemons was finally able to break free for a long run. Near the 20, Portal’s Amir Jackson swung his hand upward at the ball, knocking it into the air. Clemons managed to regain possession, but as he was being tackled, he fumbled and Portal was able to scoop up the ball.

As the Portal defender started to run upfield, he lost control of the ball and fumbled it as well. Fortunately for the Panthers, they were able to recover the loose ball, but were unable to get anything going offensively.

Well, they almost did.

Portal was able to get a first down out to their 37 and then, facing a second and 10, quarterback Elijah Coleman was able to find Jackson with one-on-one coverage. His deep pass was a little underthrown, but Jackson was able to work back to the ball and make an impressive catch for what appeared to be a big gain.

However, an illegal shift penalty negated the play and Portal was unable to get a first down, forcing them to punt the ball back to Bryan County for what would be the game winning drive. 

Portal’s offense struggled in the second half as they were unable to put any points on the board.

On the night, Portal was held to 187 total yards of offense. 

Coleman finished the night with 124 yards passing while receiver Charles McNeal had two receptions for 56 yards. Jackson had three catches for 31 yards. 

Bryan County took the opening kickoff and after a good return to midfield, marched 50 yards in six plays to take an early 6-0. Austin Clemons capped off the drive with a two-yard plunge but the big play was a 32-yard pass from quarterback Sean Hill to Kris Martin to get the ball down to the three.

Portal wasted no time answering, going 77 yards in five plays, aided by a pass interference call on third down to give the Panthers a key first down. 

After beating his defender, Florida commit Jackson hauled in a 23-yard pass that quarterback Coleman dropped in perfectly for the Panthers to tie the score at six.

Bryan County’s solid ground game was able to move the ball fairly easily on their next drive, but after going 39 yards on just  three plays, the Panther defense was able to strip Hill as he scrambled and recovered the fumble to halt the drive.

After trading punts, Portal took over early in the second quarter on their own 31. The Panthers were able to advance to midfield when the drive stalled out and they were forced to punt. 

The punt went only 10 yards and most of the Bryan County players scattered. However, one of the BCHS players chased after the ball, touching it as it was rolling along the ground, making it a live ball that Portal recovered. 

Portal then went 38 yards, including a 20 yard screen pass from Coleman to Samari McBride that had an additional half the distance to the goal penalty for roughing the passer added to the end of the play.

Two plays later, Coleman ran around the right side, racing to the corner for the touchdown. His two-point conversion gave Portal a 14-6 lead.

Bryan County took the ensuing kickoff and, again utilizing their powerful ground game, went 48 yards in just four plays, with Clemons capping off the drive with a 14-yard run up the middle. A successful two-point conversion tied the score at 14-14 

Bryan County ran for more than 200 yards in the first half, with Clemons and Erin Greene combining for 188 yards and Clemons’ two scores over the first two quarters. That duo finished the night with 304 rushing yards.

Meanwhile, Portal focused on the aerial attack in the first half as the only player other than Coleman to run the ball in the first half was Jackson on a reverse on Portal’s opening offensive play.

McEachin said the coaching staff liked the matchups they had in the first half and as a result called more passing plays. However, as the game wore on, especially in the second half, he looked to shift back to a more run-focused offense to manage the game and potential fatigue of players who were playing a lot on the night.

Portal returns to action Friday when they travel to Irwinton to take on Wilkinson County.