PORTAL — The second week of the season brings another opponent from a higher classification as the Portal Panthers travel to Reidsville to take on Tattnall County tonight.
Much has been made of the Panthers’ youth heading into the season — nearly two-thirds of the roster is comprised of underclassmen — and some of that inexperience showed in their 21-6 loss to Southeast Bulloch in the season opener.
Things won’t get any easier tonight as Portal hits the road for the first time.
“We know that we’ve got a big hill to climb and a long way to go,” said Portal coach David NeSmith. “The key is to just stay determined and continue to improve with each practice and each game.”
The Panthers (0-1) should get a welcome boost tonight with the return of quarterback Evan Street. The sophomore field general was knocked out of Portal’s preseason scrimmage with a head injury and was held out of the SEB game for precautionary reasons.
Ironically, it was a Week 1 injury to former quarterback Hunter Oglesby that thrust Street into the starting role last season.
“Getting Evan back will definitely help us out,” said NeSmith. “Even though he’s one of those young guys, he did well for us last season and has a lot of experience in leading this team.”
Overall, the health is looking better for Portal this week, but after dressing just 22 players in the opener, depth will continue to be a concern no matter how healthy the Panthers are.
The Warriors showed tight wishbone looks as well as various spread formations last week, meaning that the Panthers will have to prepare for just about everything.
“Tattnall is going to be a big challenge,” said NeSmith. “There are a lot of different things that they can do well. We’re going to have to execute a little better than last week.”
Because of a shortage of size on the offensive line, the Panthers have added to their double-tight wishbone attack from last season. Portal passed for 80 yards against SEB and will also look to expand on its option game.
“We still like our power game and need it, but we also have to find other ways to move the ball,” said NeSmith. “This is still a non-region game, so our plan is to go out there and try to improve on last week. Obviously we want to play well (against Tattnall), but we also want to keep preparing for the region schedule.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.