It was an up-and-down rollercoaster ride for the Panthers in a sub-region matchup against Savannah Country Day Friday night.
The Panthers started the game strong, however, it was the option run game of the Hornets that would be the difference maker as Savannah Country Day rolled to a 21-14 victory.
The Panthers (1-5, 1-1 Region 3-A) dropped to .500 in the sub-region while the Hornets (2-4, 1-1) picked up their second win of the season after a 34-7 loss to Emanuel County Institute.
The Panthers put the first points of the game on the board with an eight-yard touchdown run from Darius Huff. On the Panthers’ opening drive Portal used the tandem of Huff and Malik Williams to drive down the field.
However, the Hornets would answer just four plays later. On a read-option play, SCD quarterback Bryce Dunn would run the ball up the middle for a 55-yard touchdown run.
Head coach Matt Smith said blown assignments were the difference in the game. On Dunn’s first touchdown run of the game, Smith said a blown assignment allowed the Hornets’ leading rusher to break free.
“The week off not being in school hurt us. Anytime you take teenagers and change a routine it’s going to affect them,” Smith said. “We blew some assignments on defense, especially reading the quarterback.”
Dunn rushed for 160 yards against the Panthers.
In the second quarter, Adam Bycke gave the Hornets the lead for good, scoring on a five yard touchdown run midway through the quarter.
The Panthers had a chance to tie the game before halftime, but the Hornets defense came up with a goal line stand.
“We were in position to tie the game up but we got stuffed at the goal line. That really hurt,” Smith said.
It seemed as though the Panthers were able to drive the ball effectively against SCD’s defense, but couldn’t quite capitalize with points on the board.
The Panthers didn’t have a punt the entire game, relying on converting key fourth downs.
In the third quarter the Hornets ran the ball up the middle, gashing Portal’s defense for big gains. At the 25-yard line with 9:05 left in the quarter, Dunn connected on his first pass of the game to receiver Clay Dekle for a touchdown.
All hope seemed to be lost for the Panthers as the Hornets played the time of possession in their favor. Up 21-7 with less than two minutes left in the game, SCD sent out their backup quarterback to ice the game. On the ensuing play the quarterback fumbled and Portal’s Craig Ware scooped up the ball and ran it into the endzone to cut the score to 21-14.
Portal’s onside kick failed and the Hornets, on their second try, sealed the game.
Portal will travel on the road next week to take on powerhouse Calvary Day.