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PHS healthy, seeks 1st win

    PORTAL — Cherard Freeman knows players can be successful even while playing on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Still, he’s awfully glad to be getting his quarterback back.
    Freeman, Portal’s head coach and a former slotback at Georgia Southern, played his high school football at Lincoln County, a Class-A powerhouse. While there, he worked on both sides of the football through a high school career that included a 30-0 stretch.
    “I didn’t come off the field until halftime,” Freeman said.
    With the experience of two-way football under his belt, Freeman believes he can coach his Portal squad—among the smallest GHSA football teams in the state in terms of numbers—to play effectively with limited numbers. On Friday night, he’ll need his team to stay strong and healthy as the Panthers take on the Claxton Tigers.
    Game time is 7:30 at Portal.
    Claxton and Portal share identical 0-2 records early in the season, but Freeman says both teams lost games they could have won. One team will remain winless after Friday night, making the contest a key point in the young season.
    Also key to the season is the health of Portal quarterback Hunter Oglesby. After running through, past and around Southeast Bulloch to the tune of 138 yards, Oglesby went down in the second quarter of last week’s 13-7 loss to Metter and did not return. The Panthers were not the same without him.
    As always in Portal, it is a numbers game.
    With Oglesby out, Corey Walker moves to quarterback. The domino effect is to thin the ranks of the slotbacks and remove Devon Spells’ primary backup at fullback. On defense, moving Walker to quarterback affects linebacker play.
    With Oglesby in, Freeman can use his quarterback and fullback on offense only, saving the legs of the two most important components of the spread option offense popularized by Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech.
    And Oglesby looks ready to be under center.
    “He did everything the doctors told him and took care of himself,” Freeman said of Oglesby. “He’s going to be ready to go. He’s an important part of what we do, and although he might not say it, he’s one of our leaders.
    “The guys look up to him. This week, they were laying off and not hitting him, trying to make sure he was healthy for this week.”
    Oglesby’s teammates know how demanding the life of a Portal Panther can be.
    Freeman believes in making his players work very hard early in the week before backing off on Wednesday and Thursday as his team draws closer to a game. The coach offers plenty of empathy—he knows what they are going through from his own experience—but little sympathy.
    “I think as the season goes along they are going to get used to playing both ways,” Freeman said. “They will get stronger and in better condition and I think it will show in how we play.”
    Freeman admits that he hasn’t been able to show the entire offense yet. He still has counter options and reverses to unveil as well as other wrinkles. But his players are excited and the offense is getting better, he said. The Panthers were even calling out plays and formations at Georgia Southern’s opener against Savannah State.
    “Some of them have even started to like Georgia Tech,” Freeman joked. “That’s tough here with the (Georgia) Bulldogs.”
    If the offense is in gear and the players physically ready to go, a tough Claxton squad still awaits Portal. Freeman said he expects a physical team that only consistently plays about three players on both sides of the ball.
    Claxton quarterback Michael Peel is known for his arm, but the Panthers did lose Jamalcolm Morgan to graduation. Morgan had rushed for over 1,000 yards the last three years at Claxton.