The Portal Panthers started the year with back-to-back wins, but they knew the schedule would get tougher as the year went on.
Did it ever.
Six consecutive losses have the Panthers at the bottom of the Region 3A-A standings with a 2-6 overall record and 0-5 in region play. They’ll look to get their first region win of the season tonight when they host the War Eagles of rival Jenkins County (5-3, 1-3).
“This is my first experience with the Portal/Jenkins County rivalry,” said first-year Panther Head Coach Jon Willoughby. “They don’t like us and we don’t like them.”
Portal, which is giving up an average of 36 points per game during their slide, faces a Jenkins County team that, statistically, has struggled to put points on the scoreboard. The War Eagles have scored more than 21 points only once on the season and are averaging just 16 on the year. The Panthers, meanwhile, have only averaged scoring 14 points a game.
“They’re a lot like us,” Willoughby said. “We run a similar offense. They’re going to try to get their speed guys in to space on the perimeter and we’re going do the same thing. We’re two evenly matched teams.”
Offensively, the Panthers will continue to rely on their running game that features Malik Williams carrying the load behind the offensive line and rely on their defense to slow down the War Eagles.
“Rivalry games are a whole lot more fun,” Willoughby said. “It’s not just another nameless opponent. Our kids know their kids and their kids know all of ours. It means more to them, it means more to the members of the community as well because we’re so close to each other.”
The game will also feature a reunion of the first teams in Portal football history as members of the 1974 and 1975 squad will be on hand at the Portal Athletic Complex.
“We’ve talked a lot about that,” Willoughby said. “I think it’s awesome those guys are coming back. They could have done it for homecoming, but chose to wait until we played Jenkins County. We want to make those guys proud that is what they started.”
Kickoff is set for 7:30.