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Josey (0-0) at Portal (0-0)
7:30 p.m., Friday
KICK ‘EM WHEN THEY’RE DOWN: Solid play in the first quarter could grab the momentum for Portal. Josey’s seniors are just 5-25 in their careers. If the Panthers can get ahead early, the Eagles will be hard-pressed to claw their way back
WHERE ARE THE POINTS?: Portal’s defense figures to make life tough for most opponents. Much less clear is how the Panthers will get ahead on the scoreboard. Portal scored 10 points or fewer five times last season and must improve on that mark if it wants to take on the top teams in Region 3-A.
A FAST START: Despite Portal missing out on the playoffs in each of the last seven years, Willoughby hopes to continue one trend. Five of the last six head coaches at Portal have improved the team’s record in their first year onboard.
PORTAL — The Portal Panthers ring in a new era as they host Josey tonight at 7:30 p.m. in their 2014 season opener and their first game under new head coach Jon Willoughby.
The Panthers finished at 3-6-1 last season and return plenty of talent, but — as has been the case for nearly a decade — once again face a tough schedule in one of the toughest Class A regions in the state.
While sub-region play will be a challenge, the Panthers are hoping to get off on the right foot tonight when they square off against an Eagles squad that failed to win a game last season.
Intense heat, occasional storms and a small squad have limited the Panthers a bit during their fall camp as they try to install their entire playbook.
Progress has been steady as scrimmages in each of the last two weeks have Portal ready to hit the field tonight.
“Being able to scrimmage other teams helps us a lot,” Willoughby said. “We’ve had a couple of scrimmages for the varsity and a JV scrimmage. It lets us get all of our guys some experience and lets us work on specific things we need from them.”
The coaching staff has changed, but Portal’s main game plan will be similar to years past.
Evan Street returns for his fourth season under center and will direct a run-heavy offense that will try to control the clock and maintain possession with speed and misdirection in an option attack.
Behind Street will be running backs Malik Williams and Fred Holloway.
Both have experience, but the key to success will be how well the Panthers can block.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-4908.