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Panther football coaching staff growing this season

    The Portal Panthers will have a few new faces on the sideline this football season after the school approved the hiring of additional coaches for the 2016-2017 year.
    Matt Smith, who was named as interim head coach last season for the Panthers, is now officially the team’s head coach this season after going through the application process.
    Smith said the school interviewed around six coaches for the head coach position, but in the end, Smith was selected.
    Along with Smith, Portal approved the hiring of assistant coach David Hodges. Hodges said he was notified May 13 of his new coaching job.
    Last season, the Panthers had just three coaches. Now, PMHS will have  five, something Smith said he’s excited about.
    “We’re really looking forward to getting started. Our numbers are up and we’ve had 10 or 15 more kids express interest in playing football. We’re looking at having 40 to 45 kids. One of the battles we’ve fought in the past is having low numbers,” Smith said. “Having more coaches gives you the ability to do more things in practice. It helps you concentrate more on fundamentals and breaking it up by position.”
    The Panthers finished with a 2-8 record last season and will be without running backs Darius Huff and Malik Williams, who will graduate this spring.
    Smith said he’s still confident in the abilities of running back Craig Ware — who will carry the load more this year — and also expressed some excitement over up-and-coming sophomores.
    Hodges, who will coach defensive backs and quarterbacks this season, said he’s still adjusting to Portal after coming in from Warner Robins High School.
    “I’m excited for a new opportunity. Going from a big school like Warner Robins High School to Portal will be a bit of a culture shock. But it’s a good opportunity to learn and grow with some different coaches,” Hodges said. “I can learn different coaching styles, so I think it will be a good thing.”
    Hodges comes from a “coaching family,” he said. His father and brother are both coaches.
    “I couldn't imagine doing anything else. It’s a family trade. That’s the best way to explain it,” said Hodges, smiling. “I can bring a lot of the tradition aspect (from WRHS) here to Portal. Some of the schemes and stuff like that. I think I can bring that to the table and help out if everything works out.”
    The Panthers have opted to skip spring practice in order to play an extra scrimmage game in the fall, per new Georgia High School Association rules.
    “We have an opportunity for some young guys to step up. We will see who can do the best job. There’s going to be plenty of opportunities. Last year we started and played six or seven freshman by the end of the season,” Smith said. “We’ll be young again, but those 10th graders are going to be in key roles.”
    Hodges said he’s looking for players that are “coachable.”