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ECI pounds Portal
Bulldogs' ground game too much for Panthers
W 091214 PORTAL FOOTBALL 03 bw
Portal's Malik Williams, left, slips a tackle attempt by ECI's David Durden on the way to a touchdown run in the second quarter Friday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    ECI’s Michael Sutton entered Friday’s game with 378 rushing yards in two games. He showed no sign of slowing down against Portal, racking up 162 yards on 22 carries.

Box Score
ECI    7    14    14    7 — 42
PHS    0    7    7    0 — 14

First Quarter
ECI_Sutton 26 run (Durden kick). 4:33
Second Quarter

PHS_Williams 13 run (Aubrey kick). 9:45
ECI_Gay 3 run (kick failed). 6:20
ECI_Sutton 6 run (Gay run). 2:16
Third Quarter
ECI_Griffin 23 pass from Gay (Durden kick). 11:44
PHS_Thomas 44 pass from Street (Aubrey kick). 4:29
ECI_ Sutton 5 run (Durden kick). 2:12 kick
Fourth Quarter
ECI_ Durden 19 run (Durden kick). 4:34

    ECI    PHS
First downs    17    11
Total Yards    303    159
Rushes-Yards    45-265    32-46
Passing    38    113
Comp-Att-Int    2-6-0    8-16-0
Turnovers    0    2
Penalties-Yards    4-40    5-25

RUSHING_ECI, Sutton 22-164. PHS, Huff 8-65
PASSING_ECI, Gay 2-6-0-38. PHS, Street 8-15-0-113
RECEIVING_ECI, Griffin 1-23. PHS, Thomas 5-98

Three keys to ECI's victory over Portal...
The ECI offensive line seemed like an unstoppable force at times. Portal boasts a solid core of experienced linebackers, but they were forced to shed just as many of their own defensive linemen moving backwards as ECI blockers, allowing Bulldog rushers to find huge running lanes.

The Bulldogs’ defensive line was just as impressive. Portal was able to register a few big plays, but many sweeps were tracked down in the backfield and most passing plays ended with Street scrambling to buy time.

Rhett Gay wasn’t asked to do much with his arm, but his touchdown pass to Griffin put the dagger into Portal. If not for a pair of drops, Gay could have approached 100 yards passing.

    PORTAL — The Portal Panthers suffered their first setback of the season, falling 42-14 to Emanuel County Institute Friday night in the 36th meeting between the rival schools.
    ECI senior running back Michael Sutton continued his blazing start to the season, rushing for 164 yards and three touchdowns to help his Bulldogs improve to 3-0 on the season.
    Portal (2-1) showed plenty of fight early on, but key miscues and a bit of fatigue allowed ECI to pull away in the second half.
    “That’s just a really good football team that we played,” Portal coach Jon Willoughby said. “We knew that coming in and they proved it tonight. I’m proud of the effort our guys gave, but it just wasn’t enough to beat a very good team.”
    ECI seemed to take control from the start.
    Portal forced the Bulldogs to punt on their first possession, but ECI stormed downfield on its second chance. Sutton capped the drive, breaking through the center of the line and racing 26 yards for the game’s first score.
    The Panthers quickly answered as Darius Huff slipped past the ECI front on a dive play and covered 42 yards. Three plays later, Malik Williams rushed off the left side and broke a pair of tackles for a 13-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.
    “That’s what we were hoping to do,” Willoughby said. “I think we were confident that we could score. We proved that we could, but (ECI) had a little too much.”
    ECI counterpunched, taking the lead for good on a drive that took just 2:58.
    Twice on the drive, quarterback Rhett Gay took advantage of holes on the Portal defensive line for sneaks that gained multiple yards. The second was a 3-yard plunge to put the Bulldogs back on top.
    With Portal’s offense struggling, Sutton doubled the ECI lead before the half with a 6-yard run off the left side.
    The big blow came on the opening kickoff of the second half.
    No Panther could get to a short kickoff and Ronnie Gordon dove on it for ECI. On the Bulldogs’ next play, Gay pulled a play-action fake and connected with Trevor Griffin for a 23 yard touchdown strike.
    Summoning its little-used passing game, Portal closed within 28-14 as Evan Street found Trent Thomas for a 44-yard pass-and-catch.
    “We’re glad to see that we can do that,” Willoughby said. “We aren’t really a passing team and we didn’t want it to get to that point, but it’s good to see us execute when we need it.”
    Unfortunately for the Panthers, even the second dimension of the offense wasn’t enough.
    ECI stormed down the field on its ensuing drive and Sutton scored his third touchdown of the night — this time from 5 yards out.
    David Durden connected on four of his five extra point attempts for ECI and scored the Bulldogs’ final points as he took a sweep 19 yards to the end zone midway through the fourth quarter.
    Portal will hit the road for the first time next week. The Panthers will take on Johnson County, which figures to be ECI’s toughest competition for the title in the teams’ sub-region.
    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.