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Portal, BA fight through weather
Bulloch Academy defensive back Daniel Hendrix works hard at BA's iron man competition earlier this summer. - photo by MARSHA HAGAN PHOTOGRAPHY/Special to the Herald

    It’s hard to say just how much time and effort goes into preparing a football team for the long and grinding road of the regular season.
    Unfortunately for Bulloch County teams, Mother Nature seems pretty unimpressed.
    Teams throughout the coastal region always have the lingering threat of hot and humid summer weather forcing them out of pads or off the practice field altogether. A nearly continuous stream of rain over the past two months has served to throw another wrench in the grand scheme of things.
    “We’re a week behind,” Bulloch Academy coach Ronnie Hodges said. “There’s no way to get that back. We’re a week away from starting the season and we’ve only had a few days of practicing in pads.”
    A preseason scrimmage against Mount de Sales was cancelled last week. Bulloch Academy hoped to get at least some head-to-head competition in on Wednesday, but another round of thunderstorms washed away a scrimmage against Frederica.
    As a result, the Gators have gone through full contact drills just a few times since the first week of fall practice — and now the season opener against St. Andrew’s is just seven days away.
    “I know that other teams are in the same situation,” Hodges said. “But the simple fact is that we aren’t where we need to be right now. That’s not an excuse. That’s just the situation we’re in right now.”
    Portal had just one scrimmage scheduled for its preseason, but field conditions in Twiggs County forced a cancellation last Friday.
    Desperate to get in some live competition, the Panthers were able to squeeze in a controlled scrimmage against Wheeler County Wednesday evening.
    “That was huge for us,” Portal coach David NeSmith said. “We really needed to see how our guys would perform against an opponent before the season starts.”
    Battling through spongy field conditions, the Panthers looked to be a much improved team over last year’s 1-9 squad.
    Evan Street — now in his third season as the Portal quarterback — showcased both his arm and his legs, hooking up with receivers on some effective passes while commanding the Panthers’ run-heavy game plan.
    Even with the constraints of the scrimmage limiting the number of plays each team ran, Portal was able to find the end zone a handful of times.
    Of course, there is always room for improvement.
    “We learned a lot about what we’ve got,” NeSmith said. “We have to get stronger and we have to build up our stamina. A lot of these guys are playing both ways and we have to be able to stay strong for four quarters.”
    Above all else, the Panthers — with a roster hovering just over 30 players — got through the night without any injuries.
    It’s been a muddy, murky preseason for everyone in the area. Everyone is still scrambling for high ground and dry spots to get in a few extra snaps of practice.
    The wet weather seems content to stick around, but opening night waits for no team and it’s coming up quickly over the horizon.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.