The Portal Panthers came up short once again Friday night, falling to Jenkins County by a count of 28-7 at the Portal Athletic Complex.
The Eagles (3-0) scored three touchdowns in the first half and - leaning on Portal with its triple-option running attack - was able to grind out yardage and clock to cap off the win.
"For the most part, I thought our defense played well on the night," Portal coach Matt Smith said. "They played well for 40 or 50 snaps, but you see what can happen when you don't play well on a handful of plays. Jenkins County has a good team and they made the most of it when we didn't do our job."
Unfortunately for the Panthers (0-3) a familiar pattern reemerged in Friday's game.
Portal turned the ball over on each of its first two possessions.
Jenkins County capitalized on both. Tyjay Lee opened the scoring with a 22-yard touchdown run before Robert Coney scored on the ensuing two-point conversion. Portal drove well into Eagle territory before losing a second fumble and Jenkins County responded on the very next play with a 72-yard run by Desmeion Robbins.
Coney added an 11-yard touchdown run to give the Eagles a 20-0 lead at halftime.
"It's unfortunate that we keep shooting ourselves in the foot," Smith said. "And we keep on doing it at the most inopportune times. Those mistakes make it hard to stay in games when you're playing good teams."
Portal's defense held tight for most of the second half, but the offense couldn't make up any ground and Stefan Robertson raced in from 19 yards out for an Eagle touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Panthers seemed primed to finally make a mark on the scoreboard when Austin Hayes stole away a pitch and set up the Portal offense on the Eagles' 2 yard line. Portal recovered two of its own fumbles before falling short on 4th-and-goal and turning the ball over on downs.
In the end, Portal's only offense came from its defense.
Following its goal line stand, Jenkins County fumbled into its own end zone and Grant Schuman dove on the ball to get Portal within 28-7.
"One thing we've seen all year is that we keep fighting," Smith said. "Our guys don't give up. We have more tough games ahead and we need to get better, but it's good to see that we're still fighting on every play."
Portal threatened again late by finding some life in its passing game, but an interception by Jenkins County ensured the Eagles' win.
With the win, Jenkins County enters the toughest portion of its schedule with a much-needed cushion in terms of staying in the state playoff picture. Portal will have the luxury of an off week before regrouping and trying to notch its first win of the season Sept. 23 as the Panthers travel to Wheeler County.