The Portal Panthers have been through a lot this season.
A small squad, brutally tough region and hurricane-affected schedule conspired to send the Panthers to eight losses in their first eight games, but Portal rallied in its season finale, clinching a 27-6 victory at Claxton Friday night.
“This is great for our guys. I’m so happy for them,” Portal coach Matt Smith said. “There’s no doubt that it’s been a rough season with all we’ve had to go through. But these guys never let down. They’ve been playing extremely hard and got a win that they deserved.”
Facing off against a Claxton squad that also entered the game at 0-8, the Panthers were hopeful for a win, but found themselves in a fight.
Fred Holloway broke loose for a long touchdown run early in the contest, but turnovers and solid defense from both sides left Portal hanging on to a 6-0 lead at halftime.
The Tigers were never out of contention, but Portal — which struggled on offense throughout the season — saved its best performance for last.
Craig Ware added to his already stellar season with a touchdown run and Ryan Ware provided the game’s biggest highlight in an unlikely manner. Portal hadn’t had much success through the air in 2016, but Connor Washington found Ryan Ware downfield as a Claxton defender narrowly missed making a play on the ball. With no one left to stop him, Ware sprinted downfield, notching a 94-yard touchdown reception.
Billy Drummer added a late touchdown run to seal the win for the Panthers.
“We’re really happy for our seniors to go out with a win,” Smith said. “This is also huge for the younger guys. We’ve worked hard all year and this is something we can use to help us moving forward.”